In the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing, there was a premature rush by both liberals and conservatives to try to paint the murderous scumbags who carried out the attack earlier this year as being extremists for the other side. Liberals wanted to paint the Chechen terrorists as conservatives and vice versa. Frankly, I found the whole exercise to be kind of disgusting, at least while victims were still being treated and the manhunt was still on for the younger of the two homicidal assholes. I always felt that there would be time to do a forensic investigation and figure out the “why” at later date. As it turns out, the investigation into what led the two bombers to perpetrate their evil on the people of Boston has in fact turned up some clues as to what helped reinforce the violent and anti-populist rhetoric that gave fuel to the fire that burned all vestiges of humanity from the Tsarnaev Brothers.
It’s recently been reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older and deceased half of the pair, had some heavy right-wing extremist propaganda in his possession, and that he’d read it often. He followed sites and publications that preached white-supremacy and government conspiracies. Now let’s be very careful here because it would be very tempting to use this information to indict the whole of conservatism, but that is truly unfair. Just as the whole of liberalism shouldn’t be judged by the violence of The Weather Underground in the sixties and seventies, all of the conservative movement cannot be lumped in as potential terrorists.
That being said, it’s not at all hard to draw a line between someone like Timothy McVeigh — a right-wing extremist if ever there was one — and the two assholes in this case. That line isn’t hard to draw because they were exposing themselves to the same kinds of “the government is out to take your guns and imprison you for you not following their commands” rhetoric, just about a decade and a half apart. Clearly both McVeigh and the older bomber were pumped so full of anti-American propaganda that they felt the need to attack America on our own soil.
Sure, maybe McVeigh would have called himself a patriot, but he was just anti-America as any terrorists are. Despite our historically violent way of handling conflicts, the fact remains that we are ostensibly a society of law and order. Of course there are lesser-evolved beings among us who still prefer to use a bomb or a firearm to prove a point, but by and large most of us just want to live in peace and settle any differences as amicably as possible. Timothy McVeigh and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were cut from the same dispassionate, almost-assuredly sociopathic cloth, at least once they both were fully radicalized, and that at the end of all of this is the most crucial element of this story.
The point at the end of it all is that the kinds of things that McVeigh and Tsarnaev filled their head with — the stuff that Infowars founder and mega-douche Alex Jones profits most from — are extremely dangerous. No, not everyone who consumes the bile that people like Jones spews become terrorists. The problem is we can’t tell who will take the bullshit to heart and who will have the sense to know that violence and barbarism are not the answer to 21st Century problems. Since we can’t tell who will be the next one to snap, it becomes imperative to fight the misinformation, conspiracy theories and crazy talk to with as much factual refutation as possible.
There’s one more point here that I feel needs to be made about the discovery of right-wing extremist propaganda in Tamerlan’s possession. There’s a virulent strain of Islamaphobia in this country, rooted in our time-honored tradition of outright xenophobia and racism (just ask Chinese and Irish immigrants from bygone eras how they were treated) and exacerbated by the “War on Terror.” That Islamaphobia comes out in right-wing talking head columns and TV segments where they play-up any ties to radical Islam. Ironically these are the same people who bitch when we point out that a murderer was a right-wing extremist, but I digress.
Radical Islam was just a crutch, an excuse for Tamerlan’s anti-humanistic rage. According to a spokesperson for the mosque that Tamerlan attended, his faith in Islam seemed superficial at best. “As far connecting with the Islamic community here, to actually praying, being involved, doing acts of charity….all of those were pretty much lacking. I would say he was just a Muslim of convenience,” she said. It’s just as important that the anti-Islamic narrative be expunged from this discussion as well.
The point is that there are no differences between McVeigh, the 9/11 hijackers, the Shoe Bomber, the Fort Hood shooter or the Tsarnaev brothers. In each case, it was radical, fundamentalist propaganda that played up each murderer’s antipathy to their fellow man, convincing them that mass murder was an acceptable act of war. They see themselves as soldiers for their greater cause, and even though they call their Gods by different names, and even though their attacks are not identical, the motivations behind them are. Acknowledging that connection is the best thing we can do to marginalize these violent forces in society, which is about the best we can hope for.