On the evening of the 15th April social media networks suddenly became flooded with innumerable links to reports of an explosion during the Boston marathon. Images of emergency services aiding the wounded, sectioned off roads and crude shots of injured runners propelled the soon-to-follow gust of ‘prayers‘ and ‘thoughts’ that came from anyone who had access to a smartphone, laptop or radio. However as with most things American there was a huge backlash that emerged from those whose families were and are still forced to live under this constant threat and terror that stems from American war agencies.
This is not a piece of writing aimed at negating or casting superior rank over certain lives, nor is it intended to suggest that what happened in Boston doesn’t fall under the wide rubric of tragedy. However what astonished me throughout the coverage was the almost immediate references to Islam and the terrorism the west feels it so convincingly to engender. As I watched the sequential events unfold I began to notice a common thread in the syntax. All media stations from the BBC, The Independent, Sky News and the Huffington Post began to included the words bomb, terrorist and 9⁄11 in their reports. It doesn’t require a genius to decipher how such phrasing would begin to influence people’s thinking because lo and behold it so very soon did.
Now, all this was quite reassuringly being disseminated across global media platforms with not one stitch of evidence to suggest that an Islamist group were behind the incident. A torrent of indignation was sparked over the fact that on that same day 55 people had died in an explosion in Iraq yet there was no mention of that specific loss of life in any newspaper or news site. A friend of mine on Twitter quite aptly stated, ‘That won’t have been the first bomb to go off somewhere today. It will be the only one you’ll read about though.’
As reports came in of 3 people dead things grew more intense with various people taking to the social networks to express their disdain for those who can attack the innocent and helpless. People running for charity. The good people of our world. Yet while all this was taking place I sat back wondering what then would they classify the civilians of the global south who wake each day to go buy their groceries but by 4pm they’re laying in a make-shift hospital bed with a missing limb after a car explosion left 30 people dead and hundreds of others injured. Do they not get regarded as the good people of our world? The innocent and helpless? Or does the fact that circumstance drafted them to try and make life out of war render them unclassifiable? Even among the ranks of those who could empathize with people that live in conflict zones (propagated and sustained by American foreign policy) it still signifies that we have quite lamentably become conditioned to regard some life more precious than others.
To my knowledge humans by nature have the incapacity or find it more challenging to empathize with people that differ from them in appearance. If we see a picture of a young boy being beaten by police and in that caption we notice parts of ourselves, our brother or cousin we are more incline to feel compassion for that person. The same could be said here, or in this case it’s more a matter of national identity as oppose to racial affiliation as pictures of the deceased weren’t circulated. Yet the argument can still be applied in a similar way. For those born and raised in Britain it can be said that we were in a sense raised on American music, film and culture. We also share a linguistic relationship with the US plus dozens of British sub-cultures were born out of those that were initially American. So our partial bond with the United States shouldn’t come as something of a surprise, after all we are products of a social condition, regardless how we respond to incidents such as these is what requires a closer bout of inspection.
To continually use 9⁄11, Islam and terrorism in the same article is very clearly demonstrating where certain media groups want people’s thinking to remain. The very fact that there is nothing to suggest this was a response to America’s obsession with terrorizing countries in the middle east, yet still suggest it to be so, irrespective of subtlety, is highly erroneous. What led me in part to write this article was something I read in the Huffington Post this evening. It was written by Andy Ostroy and titled What The Boston Attack Means For America. The article was quite frankly disgusting. Littered with jingoistic references to the September attack in 2001 with sentences such as this which caused me to break from the reading and return more composed. ‘The attack was a stunning surprise. No prior warnings had been received nor had the typical pre-attack terrorist cell chatter been evident..’ He went on, expounding upon the hysteria that is constantly thrust upon us. In the latter part of the article he even presupposed, ‘Will America eventually become like Israel, whose hardened citizens face each day knowing it could very well be their last at the hands of a terrorist and his explosive-filled backpack?‘ Such crass and misinformed claims are the very reason people of a different faith are targeted daily in the western world. He ends the article with, ‘In the end, while it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Taliban-support al-Qaeda cell or an unaffiliated malcontent, our ultimate fear and loss of innocence is just the same.’
People of Islamic faith are forever being stigmatized in a society that is so far removed from the ethos of the religion that in essence it has no real right to comment or speculate on it. However it does, and it does so quite crushingly. I am not a religious man but I can see when an ideology is being portrayed unfairly. That has always been the case here, a plethora of secular Christians and atheists attempt to comment on Islam when their only point of reference is a right-wing tabloid newspaper, or a clergyman with a grudge.
What the events showed is that life unfortunately is categorized and the death of certain people from a particular nation, however small, are valued more than others. There are multiple factors at play here for the simple reason there are multiple agendas for wars being fought over multiple countries. If tomorrow they discover that it was some ‘unaffiliated malcontent’ who decided to express his feelings of animosity I can guarantee you that he won’t be portrayed as a ‘terrorist’, on the contrary his actions will be regarded as an irremediable act of insanity, he will be linked to having sociopathic tendencies and the world will compartmentalize him along with all of his forgotten predecessors. If on the other hand the person happens to be of a darker complexion, of a different faith or the nature of his English isn’t satisfactory enough to qualify him as a true American, then you can be assured that he will be deemed a true terrorist, an anti-American, fanatical, extremist, fundamentalist and the spin doctors will paint their grandest masterpiece, because what America does best is to help shoot the innocent man, wipe down the gun and shove it into the hand of the dead man’s brother while its citizens watch on oblivious.
Special thanks to Anthony Anaxagorou for this piece. For more of his works, please visit his website http://anthonyanaxagorou.com/