Radical Islamists or tea party: Does it matter who set the bomb?

Radical Islamists have committed some of the world's most vile terrorist attacks. What if Boston isn't their fault? Photo: AP

LOS ANGELES, April 17, 2013 — Amid conflicting reports of an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing, the FBI is still unable or unwilling to say whether this act of terrorism was domestic or foreign. The pair of bombs set off at the Boston Marathon killed three people and wounded over 170 more. President Obama called it an act of terrorism, but noting the lack of information at this time, did not specify who the terrorists were.

While Obama said that we should not jump to conclusions, within hours the internet was abuzz with conclusions blaming everyone from radical Islamists to radical tea partyers. Obama was the “good cop” to the “bad cops” in the liberal media, who were quick to speculate that this was a tax-day protest by tea party extremists. MSNBC and CNN happily offered wild speculation about people attending peaceful anti-tax day rallies across the country, and Hollywood intellectual Jay Mohr drew a link between the bombing and the Second Amendment, which he says “must go.”

It would be as incorrect to assume that Islamists did it as to assume that tea partyers did, but if we were playing a game of odds and looking at their histories, which would be more likely? More to the point, why is it politically acceptable to speculate that this was an anti-tax protest and imply that right wingers did it, while the main-stream press are falling all over themselves to avoid unwarranted speculation about Islamist involvement? Is it, as Salon writer David Sirota claims, that white privilege comes into play, and the press is simply anxious to avoid defaming a group that isn’t insulated by privilege, hence needs greater protection from free speech?

Consider the argument for assuming Islamic terrorism: Since 9/11, Islamists have been searching for an encore to Osama Bin Laden’s 2001 horror show. While 9/11 gets significant attention, radical Islam has probably been responsible for more of the west’s terrorist attacks since the 1970s than any other group. (There’s some subjectivity there; some people would call Columbine and Newtown terrorist, and some terrorists get promoted to “freedom fighter.”) Some would argue that virulent strains of Islam have existed over the entire 1,400 years that Islam itself has been around. 

Most recent major terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe have been motivated by radical Islam, from Shoe Bomber Richard Reid to the Fort Hood shooter. 

When liberals caution Americans against a “rush to judgment,” what they seem to be saying is “don’t blame Muslims.” Sirota fervently hopes that the bomber is a white American, and would probably add “Christian,” if asked. According to writer Tim Wise


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“White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for your group to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening or threatened with deportation. … White privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas.” 

According to Sirota,

“Because of these undeniable and pervasive double standards, the specific identity of the Boston Marathon bomber (or bombers) is not some minor detail — it will almost certainly dictate what kind of governmental, political and societal response we see in the coming weeks. That means regardless of your particular party affiliation, if you care about everything from stopping war to reducing the defense budget to protecting civil liberties to passing immigration reform, you should hope the bomber was a white domestic terrorist. Why? Because only in that case will privilege work to prevent the Boston attack from potentially undermining progress on those other issues.”

If a Christian or right-wing extremist turns out to be the perpetrator, leftists will dance in the streets as Palestinians did on 9/11. Liberals don’t just want the killer to be a conservative; it’s essential for policy reasons that the killer be a conservative, white American.


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People like Sirota and the commentators at MSNBC need terrorists like Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh gives them cover. Because of men like McVeigh and the Unabomber, we can never assume that radical Islam is to blame for a terrorist attack. Islamists are not always guilty. They are only much more likely to be guilty than any other group you can think of.

This politicization of the way we look at terrorism delays news coverage, and it can even slow the gathering of information by those who have a political stake in the outcome. At its worst, it makes us blind to what we don’t want to see, or makes us see what isn’t there. The political preference that the bomber be an Islamist or an white American is a precursor to lynch mob mentality. Some people were quick to assume that a Saudi student tackled at the site was the perpetrator, and if the police had followed suit, they would have wasted resources and time focusing on a man who turns out not to be of interest. The same can happen in reverse; if we don’t want the perpetrator or perpetrators to be Muslim, we might wast time looking everywhere else first. 

Many of us seem to be operating on two standards of guilt here — beyond any doubt if the evidence points at Islamists, and a simple preponderance of evidence if it points at the tea party.

It is painful to issue retractions, and it makes editors upset. So we are instructed to be extremely careful with stories like this, and to blame no one without evidence. That memo has not been universally issued or received at all media outlets, though. Yet isn’t speculating about radical Islam just as harmful as speculating about tea party killers? How is it in any way permissible that journalists would express a preference about who set the bomb?

It is not, unless you believe that it is more dangerous to speculate about one group than another. If you believe that it is more dangerous and less acceptable to speculate about Islam, you focus on right-wing extremists, and take a dig at the tea party in the process. Yet those blaming the tea party have zero evidence that there has been any tea party violence anywhere in the United States at any time. Crazies exist all over the spectrum, but not one person has committed an act of terror specifically due to tea party philosophy. 

In spite of the arrest, we have no idea yet who is responsible for the Boston bombing. If we are going to speculate, then speculation about Islamic complicity is as reasonable as speculation about tea party complicity, and from a purely statistical perspective, probably more so. Perhaps the issue should be whether journalists should ever speculate at all. But we do, and always have, so why should we walk on egg shells when it comes to speculating about one possibility? Even if Islamists turn out to be innocent in the Boston Marathon bombing, is it not worth asking, “what if?”

The Obama Administration’s ban on using the term “radical Islam” shows an unwillingness under any circumstances to consider the possibility that people who commit the most acts of terror have done it again. While the liberal media blame conservatives with reckless abandon and simultaneously preach caution, can we at least stop with the politically correct self-censorship?

Is there absolute, concrete proof at this moment that Islamists bombed the Boston Marathon? None that has been made public. Now that an arrest has been reported, we might expect to see some evidence one way or another soon. Yet should we, and most especially the police, still consider possible links to radical Islam? Of course. 

The murders of four Americans at Benghazi were committed by radical Islamists. The Obama administration vowed swift justice, which never materialized, even when we knew what motivated those killers. Time went by, and many Americans lost interest.

That could happen again with Boston, especially if finding out the truth could cause harm to the beliefs of those at the top of the “investigation.” For the sake of a swift and definitive conclusion to the investigation and punishment of this crime, the families of the Boston Marathon victims should hope a tea partyer or other conservative detonated the bombs. That way at least the American media and government will publicly ensure justice is carried out. This is what happens when justice is not only blind, but deaf and dumb as well.


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Eric Golub

Eric Golub is a politically conservative Jewish blogger, author, public speaker, and comedian. His book trilogy is “Ideological Bigotry,” “Ideological Violence,” and  “Ideological Idiocy.” 

He is Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and has lived in Los Angeles since 1990. He received his Bachelors degree from the University of Judaism, and his MBA from USC. A stockbrokerage professional since 1994, he began blogging on March 11th, 2007, the three year anniversary of the Madrid bombings and the midpoint of 9/11. He has been inflicting his world view on his unfortunate readers since then. He blogs about politics Monday through Friday, and about football and other human interest items on weekends.

 

 

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