More Links on the Boston Terrorist Attacks

Max Abrahms has two sensible essays.

Probably the ultimate in security theater: Williams-Sonoma stops selling pressure cookers in the Boston area "out of respect." They say it's temporary. (I bought a Williams-Sonoma pressure cooker last Christmas; I wonder if I'm now on a list.)

A tragedy: Sunil Tripathi, whom Reddit and other sites wrongly identified as one of the bombers, was found dead in the Providence River. I hope it's not a suicide.

And worst of all, New York Mayor Bloomberg scares me more than the terrorists ever could:

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the country's interpretation of the Constitution will "have to change" to allow for greater security to stave off future attacks.

"The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry," Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. "But we live in a complex world where you're going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change."

Terrorism's effectiveness doesn't come from the terrorist acts; it comes from our reactions to it. We need leaders who aren't terrorized.

EDITED TO ADD (4/29): Only indirectly related, but the Kentucky Derby is banning "removable lens cameras" for security reasons.

EDITED TO ADD (4/29): And a totally unscientific CNN opinion poll: 57% say no to: "Is it justifiable to violate certain civil liberties in the name of national security?"

EDITED TO ADD (4/29): It seems that Sunil Tripathi died well before the Boston bombing. So while his family was certainly affected by the false accusations, he wasn't.

EDITED TO ADD (4/29): On the difference between mass murder and terrorism:

What the United States means by terrorist violence is, in large part, "public violence some weirdo had the gall to carry out using a weapon other than a gun."

EDITED TO ADD (5/14): On fear fatigue -- and a good modeling of how to be indomitable. On the surprising dearth of terrorists. Why emergency medical response has improved since 9/11. What if the Boston bombers had been shooters instead. More on Williams-Sonoma: Shortly thereafter, they released a statement apologizing to anyone who might be offended. Don't be terrorized. "The new terrorism" -- from 2011 (in five parts, and this is the first one). This is kind of wordy, but it's an interesting essay on the nature of fear...and cats. Glenn Greenwald on reactions to the bombing. How a 20-year-old Saudi victim of the bombing was instantly, and baselessly, converted by the US media and government into a "suspect." Four effective responses to terrorism. People being terrorized. On not letting the bad guys win. Resilience. More resilience Why terrorism works. Data shows that terrorism has declined. Mass hysteria as a terrorist weapon.

Posted on April 29, 2013 at 10:27 AM • 54 Comments

Comments

SimonApril 29, 2013 10:45 AM

Not sure about references to 'olden days.' During WWII they were constantly worried either Japan or Germany was getting ready to attack the mainland, land troops on the coast, bomb cities, etc. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable precaution at the time. During the Vietnam War many in Australia harbored fears that if the Communists succeeded in Vietnam they would be next. It made sense at the time because many then still had memories of the aggression of the Empire of Japan, and if only they had been confronted sooner. Similarly, it is not implausible that the Boston bombers although seeming to act alone and independent, are not the tip of some larger wave - a sort of "where's there's smoke there's fire" thinking.
And I'm not sure this is all about terror, as though the only problem is that everyone is afraid. That might fit well in some book on the subject, but a lot of people there, they're not afraid or terrorized, so stop saying that's the problem. A lot of people are just plain angry.

BrettApril 29, 2013 10:47 AM

We can hope that the death of Sunil Tripathi is in no way related to something the was said by Reddit be it suicide or anything else.

Mayor Bloomberg scares me also but what is even worse is how many of the general public believe it and would welcome it.

DougApril 29, 2013 11:01 AM

"Max Abrahms has two sensible essays."
Which require an account on Foreignpolicy.com to view.

AlanApril 29, 2013 11:07 AM

> Sunil Tripathi, whom Reddit and other sites wrongly identified as one of the bombers, was found dead in the Providence River. I hope it's not a suicide.

You'd rather his death was a homicide? Cause I doubt it was an accident.

timApril 29, 2013 11:09 AM

@Doug

Which require an account on Foreignpolicy.com to view.

I don't have an account and was able to read both stories by just clicking on the links that were provided.

ProhiasApril 29, 2013 11:11 AM

Sunil Tripathi died many days prior to the Boston bombing. Investigators found a highly decomposed body and took a few days to confirm from dental records that it was him. He was missing since March 16th.

The reddit rumor mongering hurt his family and friends deeply, but didn't affect Sunil Tripathi or influence his life. He had died many days prior to the bombings.

dbCooperApril 29, 2013 11:16 AM

Fortunately Mr. Bloomberg is not a member of the judicial branch, thus having no say in how the constitution is interpreted.

He also is man apparently given to hubris, recall he skirted the mayoral term limits in NYC. His stated reason, no one else could do the job.

JKaniarzApril 29, 2013 11:32 AM

"We need leaders who aren't terrorized."

I think "refuse to be terrorized" is the better catch-phrase. If everyone repeats it enough hopefully it will come true.

DavidApril 29, 2013 11:46 AM

I don't think the Williams-Sonoma thing is the ultimate in security theater simply because I don't believe it has anything to do with security.

It's (misguided, maybe) PR, coupled with business sense - why use shelf space for something that's not going to be selling much for a while?

That said, I haven't been following super closely - if anyone supporting the action claims it has any bearing on security they need to be laughed out of their job...

Ken HaglerApril 29, 2013 11:48 AM

We have "leaders" who aren't terrorized. Unfortunately the politicians are perfectly happy to seize on any excuse to attack a Constitution which they all want to be permanently rid of anyway.

UkabuApril 29, 2013 11:52 AM

"In the world of 1787 the United States could not defend its sovereignty as an independent nation." (Wikipedia article on the constitution)

So I guess that if they wrote the constitution back then to allow US to defend its sovereignty when it did not really had one, it should still be good today as it can defends it way beyond its frontiers.

The world is a much safer place today than it ever was. Mr Bloomberg words aren't based on facts, they really are based on fear.

Eugeniu PatrascuApril 29, 2013 11:57 AM

It's so easy now to terrorize the US. I mean with one cooking pan and some off the shelf explosives you can inflict so much economic damage and obliterate the rights of the people that probably 10-15 years no one thought it would be possible.

Yes, living in a democracy has it's price but it seems no one is willing to pay it. Oooh, let's give up privacy, if you have nothing to hide there's nothing to fear, right ? :))

AlanSApril 29, 2013 12:06 PM

Abram's writes: "Rather than attracting supporters, terrorism actually reduces them, starving the organization of essential manpower. Ironically, the best antidote to terrorism is terrorism itself -- not hardening targets or invading foreign countries. The lesson to terrorists is becoming ever clearer. Lay down your arms and you stand a better chance of prevailing politically."

I think you could argue that the IRA and Sinn Fein were successful using an "Armalite and ballot box" approach. (Forget where they got the Armalites....)


AApril 29, 2013 12:20 PM

Bloomberg ought to keep his opinions to himself. Here in Boston, where the attack actually happened, we're doing just fine. With our rights and freedom intact.

Wendy M. GrossmanApril 29, 2013 12:27 PM

Despite what the Kentucky Derby press release said, I'd bet the real reason for banning removable lenses is to retain control of high-quality photographs of the event to make the news media that cover it happy. "Removable lenses" seems to be code for "professional-quality cameras", and I've seen these listed among banned items for entry into pro-level US tennis events for some years now.

wg

MarkHApril 29, 2013 12:30 PM

@Bruce:

"I wonder if I'm now on a list."

With your history of publicly speaking truth to power, I've no doubt you are already on many lists.

xyzzyApril 29, 2013 12:33 PM

where you're going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days

You mean back when we had Indian attacks and massacres? Or perhaps he's thinking of any of the many wars that have been fought on American soil? (Civil War, the war of 1812 including the burning of the white house, etc.)

Yeah, a lone nutcase with off the shelf cookery certainly demands more change than we've seen in the past.

PaulApril 29, 2013 12:49 PM

What creeped me out was that it happened on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The photos of armed paramilitaries from two different eras enforcing a crackdown on city streets looked disturbingly similar. Of course there is no comparison between murderers on the run and the innocent victims of Nazi brutality. But one might have expected the U.S. authorities to at least be alert to the irony of what they were doing and saying.

pegrApril 29, 2013 12:49 PM

A: "Bloomberg ought to keep his opinions to himself. Here in Boston, where the attack actually happened, we're doing just fine. With our rights and freedom intact."

So did you have your home in Watertown searched at gunpoint and without a warrant?

AlittleMandelbrotianApril 29, 2013 12:52 PM

@A

I wouldn't consider a place where a spectacle such as this: http://www.dailypaul.com/283151/death-sentence-for-looking-out-window
occurs can be considered "keeping your freedom and rights intact". It looks like the streets of Falluja.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. You have been occupied by federal troops. You have no freedom to the eyes of the state.

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength!

The constitution mentions nowhere "exigent circumstances" nor "martial law". It is blatantly illegal. If we cannot keep our civility and laws intact during times of stress, they don't really exist. You have no freedoms, other than the ones you take.

JasonApril 29, 2013 1:24 PM

"Sunil Tripathi died many days prior to the Boston bombing. Investigators found a highly decomposed body and took a few days to confirm from dental records that it was him. He was missing since March 16th."

Yes. Bruce, may I suggest you edit your post to reflect this? This story's tragic and sensational enough without the implication that Reddit killed a guy.

Clive RobinsonApril 29, 2013 1:35 PM

@ Ukabu,

So I guess that if they wrote the constitution back then to allow US to defend its sovereignty when it did not really had one, it should still be goo today as it can defends it way beyond its frontiers

Unfortunatly within a few years this supposed lack of ability to defend their Sovereignty led factions in the US to start a war of economic expansion against the English held lands to their north.

The war of 1812 was quite deliberatly started on the false premise of "Liberation" with the US invading over the border, whilst the English amongst many others were fighting Napolean in Europe.

The claims of "Liberation" were quickly proved false with significant looting and other war crimes against those living north of the border.

Many of those against which these war crimes were committed were actually born and bred US Citizens who had simply moved north and were living peacfully amongst those in the English teritory. These crimes resulting in nearly all re-assessing their loyalty and turning against the US and thus forging the nation of Canada.

The 1812 war came to an uneasy conclusion. The US appeared quite incapable of winning "hearts and minds" even of their own citizens they were there supposadly to Liberate and were also quite weak militarily and incapable of consolidating any teritorial gains they might otherwise have made. With the conclusion of the war in Europe the English returned and attacked the Eastern seabord of the US and pushed up into Washington causing the then President to run away leaving his wife family servants and staff behind.

The English then gutted and burnt most of the political buildings in Washington as a reprisal and reminder, including what was then called "The Presedential Palace". However sick and tired of war after the events in Europe with Napolean and with the US very much on the run the English offered cease fire terms that were in effect quickly accepted, and the US agreed to acknowladge the original borders etc.

However the US seat of power Washington was a compleate mess, "The Presedential Palace" was so badly scared by the fire that the masonary etc had to be painted over. The colour chosen was that associated even then with the flag of truce, and thus the Presedential Palace became the "White House" and even today if you know where to look bullet scars in the buildings fabric can still be seen.

So less than 200 years ago the US was incapable of defending it's borders from being invaded and even through to the middle of the last century with WWII they still could not defend their borders. The Germans had U boats regularly well within US waters looking for and attacking shipping, they also flew a bomber to the US and back to France as part of an assesment of mounting air raids on the US. Both Germany and Japan were developing long range aircraft to attack the US at the times of their capaitulation and we now know that the Germans were developing rocket and nuclear technology and were more advanced than the alies in most parts of the technology. Also Japan droped one or two bombs on the US during WWII and killed six people in Oregan in May 45, in what might be considered the first unmaned aerial intercontinental balistic weapon. They did this with the Fugo ballons and the then unknown to other nations Jet Stream, of 1000 or so ballons launched around a quater made it to the US. The intent of the baloons was to cause forest fires with inceduray devices. If any such fires were started by these devices they certainly were not significant enough to be news worthy.

Arguably in this century the US is incapable of defending it's borders from terrorists, hostile invaders (drugs and other criminals) and what is sometimes portraid as hords of economic invaders stealing US jobs and technology.

The simple fact is that technology and comerce has reached a point where all countries borders can be invaded including those of North Korea. And as the drug runners know only to well despite the high tech defences it's a numbers game which the defenders are currently and for the foreseable future going to lose more often than they are going to win.

flatbedApril 29, 2013 1:50 PM

We need leaders who aren't terrorized.

Agreed. We also need leaders who aren't opportunistic.

SpellucciApril 29, 2013 1:54 PM

Foreignpolicy.com seems to use Javascript to post messages requesting registration. No JS, no message.

Clive RobinsonApril 29, 2013 2:15 PM

@ Jason, Alan,

Bruce, may I suggest you edit your post to reflect this? This story's tragic and sensational enough without the implication that Reddit killed a guy

I don't think Bruce intended there to be an implication that Reddit did cause Sunil to commit suicide, though what those on Reddit have said has caused additional significant and totaly unwarented harm to Sunil's family and friends.

However a young person is dead in unusual circumstances the cause (as far as I'm aware) is still unknown. What is known however that once you remove death by illness statisticaly suicide is one of the major killers in the young in the US, each and every one of which is a significant tragidy not just for the person but for their family and friends but society in general.

Investigations of such deaths usually throw up that the person was being bullied in some way and often had tried to get help but those in general society responsible for their safety had taken a blind eye aproach for what in effect are at the end of the day finacial / commercial reasons.

Also high on the list statisticaly of deaths in the young is being a victim of direct violent crime, which again is often an issue of general society failing the person.

All such deaths cause those left behind who were close to the person significant mental harm that sometimes never heals.

I hope that Sunil's death was just an unfortunate or unpredictable accident simply because the alternatives are not what should happen in a civilised society.

AApril 29, 2013 2:24 PM

pegr: It's easy to make declarations like that. I don't live in Watertown, and I did not have my house searched. Prior to last week, I had also never considered that a trip to the Arsenal Mall might be accompanied by explosives thrown from a moving vehicle. It's unfortunate that any of it happened, but do I think there is a major constitutional issue at this point? I do not. If it happens again, there might be.

supersaurusApril 29, 2013 4:05 PM

"...Kentucky Derby is banning "removable lens cameras" for security reasons..."

what about prosthetic limbs?

ElysiumApril 29, 2013 4:18 PM

I forgot to note, NY is the forefront of constitution killing legislative activity for some reason. Remember Shumer trying to make it illegal to unlock your phone? I have no idea what's up with NY but they seem to elect complete fascist idiots there.

pfoggApril 29, 2013 5:30 PM

Max Abrahms makes the point, "Rather than attracting supporters, terrorism actually reduces them, starving the organization of essential manpower. Ironically, the best antidote to terrorism is terrorism itself -- not hardening targets or invading foreign countries. " This makes it sound like terrorism burns itself out by itself, but he uses this example:

Take al Qaeda, the most salient example. Osama bin Laden stated in his 1996 and 1998 fatwas that the purpose of the violence was fourfold: 1) to eject the United States from the Persian Gulf; 2) to end U.S. support for pro-Western apostate regimes; 3) to sever U.S.-Israeli relations; and 4) to end "Crusader" wars that kill countless Muslims.

In response to 9/11, though, the George W. Bush administration did the exact opposite. It increased U.S. military personnel in the Gulf by a factor of 15. It strengthened U.S. relations with pro-Western leaders in Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, all in the name of counterterrorism. The U.S.-Israeli special relationship blossomed, with President Bush granting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unprecedented leeway to occupy the West Bank. And, of course, 9/11 led to battles throughout the world resulting in greater -- not fewer -- Muslim deaths.

It sounds here like it was the fact that terrorism led to these particular (controversial) policies which rendered the terrorist approach undesirable. That is, they may inspire 'radicalization', but he seems to suggest the net effect was one of negative feedback rather than positive. There were even a couple foreign invasions, which he says are unnecessary, but which led to some of the effects he's suggesting are the inevitable consequence of terrorism, and help extinguish it.

In contrast, Al Qaeda appeared to be growing in size and effectiveness in the years prior to triggering this response.

Is he arguing that the policies initiated under the Bush administration were an effective choice (without committing himself on whether they were an efficient one)?

And he's implicitly assuming that terrorists are goal oriented, whereas other analyses (referenced in this blog) suggested that the stated political goals of terrorists are more of an excuse. Is he saying the latter is wrong, or does his argument work regardless?

FigureitoutApril 29, 2013 8:09 PM

@Doug
--Try this. Just the 1st one. It's really not worth making an account, but Bruce is being nice. BTW, Foreign Policy website tells me "123fuckyou" is secure pw lol. I hope someone hacks my account and reaps the benefits of their wasted computations lol.

Williams-Sonoma stops selling pressure cookers
--So you go somewhere else to buy one...

Re: Bloomberg & other politicos
--Lol, a little late to be scared about this, it's already happened. But, I know you have to keep putting on your "professional face" and act like the world is a series of democracies and dictatorships. Anyway, they have to rely on a techie to secure their email who can then read and make copies of it lol....Little Techie's always watching haha Guccifer

Chris WApril 29, 2013 8:15 PM

@JKaniarz

When a politician says "refuse to be terrorized", it's a PR stunt.
When people say it, it's more like "I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid, I'm... whaaaaa sooo afraid!"
When a military leader thinks about it, he'll call it "proportional response" (assuming he isn't also a politician)
When a security expect says it, he call for a rational response.

So if everybody just yells "I refuse to be terrorized", the expression will likely lose it's original meaning.
Just ask 10 different people about what the word 'terrorism' means to them. Ask one of those military guys, or a politician. You'll get a bunch of fundamentally different answers.

nobodyspecialApril 29, 2013 11:21 PM

@pfogg
"Rather than attracting supporters, terrorism actually reduces them"

Especially ironic in Boston - home of support for the brave IRA 'freedom fighters'

Wesley ParishApril 30, 2013 5:06 AM

From the Salon page:
"But the real news here is the unusual charge he faces: Possession of a weapon of mass destruction. George W. Bush’s imaginary Iraqi nukes have come back to life as a pressure cooker filled with nails."

In the words of OMC's one hit wonder: how bizarre!

We really need some chemical engineers on this job. The target is to reduce the high-rise reinforced concrete city centre of Boston to the condition of Stalingrad, Hamburg, Cologne, Leningrad, Dresden before the post-WWII rebuild. Or the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... in effect the target is to emulate the effect of a 15 to 40 kiloton atom bomb. The tool we have is a pile of black powder. And some pressure cookers. What quantities are we talking about? And we must these quantities be placed, to achieve these goals?

I fervently hope the judges in the courts chosen to hear this case will do as I did and almost die laughing. That way they can lay charges of attempted murder through provoking uncontrollable fits of laughter by reason of insanity against the dorks in the relevant departments of the US government who would lay such an inane, overblown and idiotic charge. And charges of trivializing such a momentous case.

Erich SchmidtApril 30, 2013 7:50 AM

Here's one from Bloomberg that really gets me, a nice false choice argument regarding stop and frisk:

Bloomberg says… “Nobody likes to get stopped, but you have to do something and it’s a question of stopping and annoying you or saving your life, I know which one we’re going to do.”
I first heard him saying that on NPR in my car; I'm fortunate I didn't get in a wreck! I don't know why there hasn't been a big stink about that. I guess we're all just too used to the BS that our politicians say.

Oh, and as for the Foreign Policy links, if you use Safari just use the Reader capability to skirt the login (or disable JS).

No OneApril 30, 2013 9:10 AM

Erich Schmidt: From what I understand, Stop and Frisk in NYC is almost exclusively used among ethnic populations. Therefore, excepting a few cases where that fact is brought up and then shoulders are shrugged and hands thrown up, it is mostly ignored.

KenApril 30, 2013 10:45 AM

For anyone interested in the fundamental underlying motivations for why someone joins a terrorist organization--or any other mass movement--read: "The True Believer" by Eric Hoffer.

While a particular person's motives will vary on specific, the overall reasons Hoffer observed remain valid (e.g. a close family member of the Boston Marathon bombers remarked they were 'losers' & the older one couldn't relate to Americans -- Hoffer noted those inclined to radicalism are "frustrated" ... essentially the same exact overall underlying dynamic, among others).

Wesley ParishMay 1, 2013 6:20 AM

We can see the real genius of the NRA in one hypothetical scenario - imagine for a second, everybody lining the Boston streets is armed with M16s and AK47s. In the surprise and panic everybody starts firing. And only stop when they run out of ammunition.

In order to cause this effect the terrorists buy a set of perfectly legal tom-thumbs and other deadly firecrackers, and some smoke bombs, and set them up next to microphones connected to PA systems which they tell people, are there for information purposes.

Due to the widespread panic, and the fact that everyone is loaded with assault rifles, the slaughter defies comprehension. Battle-hardened veterans vomit at the sight.

Now that's one terrorist film scenario that Hollywood will never produce.

NobodyMay 1, 2013 7:34 AM

The politicians are making the same sort of bullshit excuses for going to war against the public that they make for going to war against other countries.

This has not changed since they could invade the public's privacy. Just as bullshit excuses for wars have not changed since the first wars.

There is no good end to the government warring against the people.

Michael BradyMay 1, 2013 11:02 AM

@ supersaurus

"...Kentucky Derby is banning "removable lens cameras" for security reasons..."

What about prosthetic limbs?

For the horses or the jockeys?

NobodyMay 1, 2013 11:42 AM

camera lenses:

So I take it they have information people are using a gun (maybe dart considering kentucky derby to cheat on the game) disguised as a camera.

security poll:

That question doesn't mean anything until people realize their own privacy and not their next door neighbor's privacy is whose privacy will be invaded.


Darned good quote from someone on slashdot on how measures like the patriot act get through and how hopeless this situation is:


http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3703949&cid=43596831


by amiga3D (567632) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @09:05PM (#43596831)
This is why Libertarians are hated so much by both sides. The corps run
both the R's and D's and use social issues to divide the population into
these two camps. Divide and conquer works today as it always has. Blacks
against Whites, Gay against Straight, Religious versus Atheists, etc.
You'll notice shit like the patriot act gets full bipartisan support though.
When will people wake up? I think only when they get hungry. As long as the
bread and circus acts keep going it will never change.


Dirk PraetMay 1, 2013 1:14 PM

@ PrometheeFeu

"We know there are people who want to take away our freedoms."

I believe the good mayor is spot on. They are called senators and congressmen. As for his remarks about a new interpretation of the US Constitution, I sadly have to refer to Orwell's Animal Farm again.

Mark J.May 1, 2013 3:30 PM

The K-Derby just doesn't want commercial quality images out there that are not licensed by them. Tough to get high quality images from a point and shoot. But use the all-purpose security excuse to ban high end cameras, and you're all set.

I've suggested to gun rights supporters that any mass murder carried out with guns will never be called terrorism, because then guns would be considered terrorist weapons, and we can't have that. They scoffed at me, of course. I'm still waiting for them to tell me how the Newtown incident and the Boston incident are fundamentally different other than the weapons of choice in each.

PeteMay 3, 2013 4:41 AM

@Mark J. I'm still waiting for them to tell me how the Newtown incident and the Boston incident are fundamentally different other than the weapons of choice in each.

I presume it's because the Newtown shooting was the work of a person with serious mental health issues rather than someone trying to make a political point.

Most of the definitions of "terrorism" boil down to "the use of violence for political purposes". Someone committing a violent act because they're crazy doesn't mean that they're a terrorist or that their acts were terrorism, even though people may be rightfully terrified by the act.

Although the details are still sketchy on the motivations of the Boston bombing suspects, the incident does not seem to be the works of deranged madmen.

Guns are certainly weapons, as are swords, grenades, bombs, missiles, etc. How could any weapon be a "terrorist weapon"? The person using a weapon may be a terrorist, but the weapon itself has no will, intent, or motivation.

As an analogy, anonymizing services like Tor are often used for nefarious purposes (sale of illicit goods, child pornography, etc.). Does this make Tor a "child pornography service"? Where is the line drawn? Is there a certain ratio of good:bad users that makes a service good or bad? What about with weapons?

Mark J.May 3, 2013 10:33 AM

@Pete

Some good points, although I'm of the mind that anyone who commits or tries to commit mass murder has a serious mental health issue. The "political motivation" is merely an excuse to justify the act in the killer's mind. What if the Newtown killer had been Chechan? Would we have assumed a political motivation then and called the massacre a terrorist act?

My point was not to label guns (or anything else) "terrorist weapons." I think such labeling is ridiculous, as is saying the Boston bombers used weapons of mass destruction but the Newtown killer did not. Semantics run amok. My point is that using explosives to kill can elicit non-partisan calls for wide reaching controls on the bomb's "ingredients" while using a gun to kill will elicit calls both for and against gun control. The gun lobby claims the answer is to gun violence is to put more guns in the hands of the population, yet those same folks would never claim that the answer to bombings is to put more explosives in the hands of the population. Why is that? After all, explosives don't kill, people do.

JayMay 3, 2013 10:47 AM

I present to you: Security Theatre

http://www.500festival.com/MiniSafety

No backpacks or duffel bags are allowed at tomorrow's 1/2 marathon in Indianapolis. So, only suitcases, grocery bags, and diaper bags then? Is a fanny pack a yes or a no?

What I need is a bunch of volunteers with 5 minutes of 'recognizing a backpack or duffel bag' training telling me what is and is not a backpack or duffel bag.

Nick PMay 3, 2013 12:14 PM

@ Mark J

"The gun lobby claims the answer is to gun violence is to put more guns in the hands of the population, yet those same folks would never claim that the answer to bombings is to put more explosives in the hands of the population. Why is that? After all, explosives don't kill, people do."

There's probably a lot of reasons. For one, bombs are indiscriminate. Their area of effect makes them dangerous to everyone in that area, including person deploying it. Most attacks happen in relatively close range. Bombs are more like the .50 rifles or 30-round magazines of gun debates: they're almost never necessary in practice, but have theoretical uses.

Another reason is damage control. A gun in hands of a trained user can selectively damage persons or property. A bomb can damage a whole building or parking lot. The cost of repairs, lawsuits and injuries of a bombing is much higher than the average self-defense shooting.

Usability and safety are other issues. How do you deploy a bomb? Do you use a homemade time-delayed fuse? Do you use a blasting cap? On a wire with a detonator on you? Radio controlled? What's the odds that it will detonate prematurely? With guns, you draw from holster, flick safety switch (optionally), and apply 1-3lbs on trigger. Simple, predictable and easy for muscle memory. Gun safety mechanisms + proper holster = almost never accidentally explode on user.

The last point is psychology. In minds of a population, not all weapons are created equal. Certain Middle Eastern countries are comfortable with AK-47s. People in United States are comfortable with pistols. They just seem like a sensible weapon for self-defence, have many decent tradeoffs and don't shout "i want to kill as many people as possible." Unlike a bomb, rocket launcher, machine gun, etc.

So, your comparison between bomb and pistol here in gun control debates is foolish. They're in different categories which have totally different debates. Look up "destructive device" if your curious.

As for this...

" My point is that using explosives to kill can elicit non-partisan calls for wide reaching controls on the bomb's "ingredients" while using a gun to kill will elicit calls both for and against gun control. "

A sensible comment. I think ban bomb ingredients part is covered under Bruce's observation that people get scared and try to ban tactics. It's a bad reactions, but well understood. The 2nd part is, as I said, covered by established culture, law and psychology. It's the status quo, if nothing else.

Mark J.May 5, 2013 8:46 PM

@Nick P.

"So, your comparison between bomb and pistol here in gun control debates is foolish."

I guess it's all in one's viewpoint. I find the statement "Guns don't kill, people do" to be foolish. Guns allow one person to indiscriminately kill many people. Granted, they're not as unpredictable as bombs. The shooter knows who he/she is shooting at in most cases, whereas most bombers don't know which of the people around their bombs will be victims. But the thought that the Boston bombing was somehow on a higher level of evil than the Newtown shootings (or any other mass shooting) is misguided. Still, the Boston bombings will have far greater reaching consequences because the perps were Muslim immigrants and they used explosives instead of guns. The gun lobby is more than happy to see the issue of gun control take a back seat to the headlines from the bombing and its aftermath.

But you're right, comparing guns and bombs isn't fair, especially considering the death toll caused by their use. Look up "gun related deaths in the US" if you're curious.

Nick PMay 6, 2013 12:36 PM

@ Mark J

"But the thought that the Boston bombing was somehow on a higher level of evil than the Newtown shootings (or any other mass shooting) is misguided."

This I totally agree with. I think all cases of murder should be treated as murder. We should judge them on intent, actions, damage caused, etc. The particular tool of murder isn't important. I mean, let's say we eliminate every unnecessary, scary tool there is. A crook can still throw a lit container of gasoline at a crowd of people. Let's see them ban that. So, as you've alluded to, evil is evil and murder is murder. The extra attention that bombs get isn't rational: it's a weakness in American psychology.

"But you're right, comparing guns and bombs isn't fair, especially considering the death toll caused by their use. Look up "gun related deaths in the US" if you're curious."

A huge swath is suicides or accidents. Ignoring those, the amount attributed to murder still goes way beyond what "bombers" or "terrorists" accomplish. Yet, a few people are killed by bombs and America goes crazy. Maybe they're just not so desensitized to those news reports, you think?

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