To the editor:
The tragedy in Boston on Patriots Day is, as of this writing, without confirmed suspects or motives.
Nonetheless, headlines of “terror in Boston” span the tops of newspapers and flash on the screens of news channel.
While the description is technically apt, the media knows what and who Americans think of when they read the word “terrorism.” They know the feeling it invokes: one that turns headline browsers into purchasers.
In this fearful vein, speculative stories about how safe we were and are abound. September 11th is referenced almost ubiquitously as an anchor date for when people started feeling unsafe. A good deal of this is attributable to scale; 9/11 was an attack on American civilians the likes of which had never seen before.
However, it was hardly the first terrorist act against the United States, from sources either foreign or domestic. The key psychological factor is 9/11 was the date when the “War on Terrorism” began.
Terrorism changed from a background effect of our poor policy choices to the focus of those policies. Terrorism became the bogeyman of the 21st century. It lent justification for expansion of the police state through the PATRIOT Act and TSA, the latter of which has been shown to be a failure in stopping criminals bringing contraband items on flights.
The ability to propagandize with fear enhanced state worship, an effective tool to silence dissidents through social pressure. If you criticized Defense policy you were “un-American” and if you called for peace and an end to illegal wars you didn’t “support the troops.”
The poor policy implemented by successive administrations have made us less rather than more secure. Security analysts said as much before the invasion of Iraq. Common sense says now that bombing civilians might just be extremely unpopular with those societies.