Joan Walsh argues that the perps of last week’s attack at the Boston Marathon must be thought of more like domestic mass-murders than “terrorists” with foreign ties:
We still know comparatively little about the Tsarnaev brothers, but they seem to have more in common with other American mass murderers than with al-Qaida terrorists of any race and ethnicity. No less an expert than former CIA Deputy Director Phillip Mudd said on Fox News Sunday that they have more in common with the Columbine killers than with hardened al-Qaida terrorists. Likewise, Columbine expert Dave Cullen compares the “dyad” of apparent mastermind Tamarlan and follower-younger brother Dzhokhar to the Columbine pair of disturbed plot architect Eric Harris and follower Dylan Klebold.
It also must be noted, while we’re on the subject of profiling, that this is a problem of American males roughly between the ages of 18 and 26: Harris and Klebold were 18; Virginia Tech mass-murderer Seung-Hui Cho was 23; more recently, the Aurora, Colo., theater shooter, James Holmes, is 25; Clackamas, Ore., mall shooter Jason Tyler Roberts is 22; Newtown’s Adam Lanza was 20. We may well learn that radical Islam drew the alienated 26-year-old Tamarlan Tsarnaev toward violence – right now we have no evidence that 19-year-old Dzhokhar had any connection to Islamic militants — but we should also acknowledge his alienation is a common trait among American men his age.
Our confusion about whether the Tsarnaevs are “white,” and the right wing’s determination to say they aren’t, just underscores the eternally silly project of racial categorization anyway. Race is a social construct, mainly used to establish invidious hierarchies and scapegoats. Despite the persistence of racism and white advantage, these lines are beginning to blur in our increasingly mixed, multiracial society – but right-wingers are going to police these lines as long as they can.
This is what struck me last Friday as I followed the news from home about Boston in lockdown: once again, we have young, white men in the U.S.A. who feel entitled to enact their rage randomly and murderously on an unsuspecting public. Does anyone know yet how and where these guys got the guns they used to kill an MIT campus police officer and to injure others while on the lam? Is anyone talking yet about the fact that the elder brother had a record of domestic violence against his girlfriend/wife? Would the background check law shot down by the U.S. Senate last week possibly have prevented him from getting his hands on firearms? Why aren’t these questions being asked? Instead, people are debating whether or not the suspects in Boston are “white,” and few question the application of the noun “terrorist” to them because they are Muslims.
I guess violent masculinity and the daily terrorism some women suffer by it just ain’t newsworthy. But it’s still terrorism. Violent misogyny and/or alienation from women seems to be a shared data point among all of the mass-murderers listed above by Walsh. (Be sure to also read Chauncey DeVega on whiteness, terrorism, and who gets called a “terrorist.”)