A week ago, a twin bomb attack at the finishing line of a marathon in Boston, Massachusetts killed three people and injured more than 180. A tragic event and given much press coverage. You would never know, if the British media is your window on the world that there were other victims of terrorist attacks on that same Monday. 55 people died in Iraq, 7 in Afghanistan, 30 in Somalia and 4 in Pakistan. These deaths were lost in the media overkill on the Boston bombs. Why is an American life more newsworthy than these others? Owen Jones has put forward “cultural proximity” as a possible explanation. We share a language and a similar way of life, we empathise with Americans but seem unconcerned about Iraqis dying in similar circumstances. The press coverage serves to reinforce these unspoken prejudices.
The news since last Monday too has focused on the hunting down of the suspects who planted the bombs. We are supposed to have a sneaking admiration for the over the top way that the police dealt with this affront to American liberty and security. Many liked the heavy-handed tactics, closing the city down and telling everyone in Boston to stay in their homes. Armed police descended on the town, complete with tanks, and as one correspondent pointed out the SWAT force looked like something out of Star Wars. One letter to The Independent quoted the Irish poet Brendan Behan, “the terrorist is the one with the small bomb.” President Obama praised the response which ended with one of the suspects being shot and hospitalised.
The US media has indulged in scaremongering, terrorising the population causing them to live in fear and then unwittingly relinquish personal freedoms in the name of their country’s security. One only has to remember the reaction to 9/11 to realise that acting in this way kills many more innocent people in the long-term than ever the terrorist bomb could. When in Norway in 2011 Anders Breivik killed 77 people, justice was done by the Norwegian judicial system not by the worlds media, not by a governments knee jerk reaction and certainly there was no great change to the Norwegian way of life. On the day this outrage in Boston took place there were approximately 11 murders in the USA, and by the time the manhunt had concluded with the arrest of Dzhokar Tsarnaev and the death of his brother Tamerlan 4 days later, another 38 Americans had died at the hands of their fellow citizens, one has to ask the following questions firstly will America declare war on a country as it did after 9/11? And secondly, surely the real question has to be, is it better to die at the hands of a fellow citizens gun or a terrorists bomb? To the victim it makes no difference, to the media, society and government at large it makes a massive difference, as it allows them to channel the public’s fear into a singular terrorist threat. However, the real terrorist in the USA today is not the Tsarnaev’s, abhorrent as they are, but your neighbour’s son with an interest in assault weapons, such as Adam Lanza the young man that killed 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook primary school, Connecticut USA in Dec 2012.