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April 23, 2013

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If the Thought of Chairman P.T. Barnum was the currency of international political theory, we would be the suckers born every minute.

Some (yes, you know them) would point out that we are not alone in this regard, and I would reply, "So why are we following the crowd?"

Good one, Doc.

But the performative aspects of a terrorist act can tell you so much about what motivated it, what it was really about, sometimes even more than knowing if there was a group behind it or if there was religious thought involved.

OK, I'll bite: what exactly do the performative aspects of the marathon bombing tell us about the motivations and what it was really about? I mean, I'm specifically looking for explanations that we've all overlooked.

All of those things are stops along the way to the occurrence of an act of terror; but the how of such an act can’t be separated from the why.

Isn't that statement true for all classes of human acts, not just terrorism?

"Performative" means that terrorism is an act conducted to communicate a message to an audience, usually a specific one. The choice of target, for instance, is important.
When Barend Strydom rampaged through Pretoria shooting black people at random, he was indicating not only his racist beliefs, but also the fact that he did not discriminate among blacks and wanted to kill them all (and therefore was implicitly criticising the apartheid government's attempts to co-opt some blacks).
When Robert McBride blew up Magoo's Bar in Durban, he was attacking not only the middle-class white leisure community, but also trying to attack a watering-hole for the local police (he couldn't find parking for his carbomb, however, and blew up the wrong place, thus sending the message instead that he wanted to kill all whites, which wasn't the case).

Also, of course, weaponry is important. The ANC tended to use military weaponry in order to demonstrate that they were able to import limpet-mines and automatic rifles. The PAC, incidentally, preferred not to use AKs because these were associated with the ANC, so they mostly used Czech Scorpions.

Of course there's a lot more, including the question of how you go about taking responsibility, and how far you are out to frighten people and how far you are out to dynamise your support-base, but does this help?

"I find no virtue in braying over the capture of a teenager whose" age was sufficient that he could register to vote, join the military, get married without parental permission. Who was, despite the Travon Martin style release of very dated childhood photos, an adult.

Can we stop pretending this adult murderer is some kind of "kid", with diminished responsibility for his actions?

Anyway, nobody around here, (S.C.) has panicked over this. That, frankly, seems to be more a problem in the political and media classes, not the general population.

Rare point of agreemen with Brett. "Teenagers" of that age are old enough to die in combat and old enough to vote. Also: old enough to stand trial as an adult.

Can we please stop referring to him as if he were a kid? Because under our laws, he isn't.

i'm going to agree with Brett, too. the only panic i've seen has been in the media and in certain Southern Senators. ordinary people (excepting those who were right there when the bombs went off, of course) have not been panicking.

we've been interested, outraged and impatient, but not panicked.

A 19-year-old (as in, "nineteen") is a teenager, since we're being definitional. And who's "we," Kemosabe?

"Can we please stop referring to him as if he were a kid? Because under our laws, he isn't."

Except for drinking.

Still, the hysteria was primarily a creation of the media, may they all die from hyperventilation.

Even the bedwetting politicians would calm down and shut up if their antics provoked a media response of "Oh, really?" (with raised eyebrow).

Can we refer to him as a 19-year-old college student?

And another thing!

I think the point of the use of the word "teenager" is to emphasize the tragedy of someone essentially throwing his entire adult life away, along with all the rest of the it, none of which is anything to be happy about.

If someone were suggesting the "kid" (or teenager) not be tried as an adult, that would be something. But I'm not seeing that.

And frankly, if I want to refer to 19-year-olds as teenagers or kids, I'm going to. I might not, but it won't be because anyone else decided that I shouldn't. I'm pretty sure almost everyone has used the phrase "college kids" at some point or another. I've taken in the last several years to the habit of my forefathers in referring to younger professional athletes, people mostly in their 20s, as "kids."

(So can we all stop pretending this is some silly liberal meme?)

Saw a montage of media refering to him as a kid, just yesterday, and found it annoying, especially given how frequently I've seen out of date photos of him used in news reports. I suppose the media are doing it to play up the 'tragedy of a wasted life', but he's the bad guy here, it's the other lives ruined that's the tragedy.

I think the politicians are not so much panicked, as they were trying to get out in front of a mob they hoped would form, so they could yell, "Follow me!". Politicians typically have a very low opinion of the average voter, and why not? They got elected, after all.

I think the point of the use of the word "teenager" is to emphasize the tragedy of someone essentially throwing his entire adult life away, along with all the rest of the it, none of which is anything to be happy about.

yeah, this.

it doesn't absolve him. it just adds a touch of "well, that was a waste" to his image.

especially given how frequently I've seen out of date photos of him used in news reports.

Has it occurred to you that these might be the only photos that are available (and for which rights have been cleared)?

I think that sometimes the medium is the message: terrorists want to be all over the news, the center of attention. I think that's the point of the articles above. Some appear to want attention more than anythig else, as much as motives can ever be determined.

As for "freak out and break stuff", well that's a pretty good summary of how some politicaions and quite a few "journalists" respond. It's a tail wags the dog situation--they either assume that they ahve to freak out and break stuff because we are, or they freak out and break sutff to incite us to freak out and support the breaking of stuff.

But aprt from being inerested I don't think your ordinary American freaks out over terrorism unduely.

This isn't the first time that media people and politicans have used the claim that the rest of us feel a certain way to justify their own behavior.

Actually, in terms of teh media, I thinnk it happens a lot. Most news coverage is sensationist, shallow pap on the assumption that the viewers are stupid and want sensationalistic shallow pap, rather than real news.

Yeah, it bugs me too that whatshisname gets called a "kid". Nineteen year olds drink, drive, enlist, vote, get married...he's not a kid.

Of course not every TV personalit/journalist (the fact that personlities and journalists are so often indistinguishable is part of why I don't watch TV news) assume their viewers are stupid. I was at a client's house and she happened to watch Rachle Maddow for a little while. Mostly my client watches Animal Planet, but just for a while she tuned into the news and hit the jack pot: Rachel did a backgrounder on the history of Chechnya and its relationship with the Soviet Union and Russia. A hisotry lesson. She didn't draw conclusions ro sugget that the history was the motivation. She just put it out there so people would know on teh assumption that her viewrs are not stupid and would like to knw background information.

I suppose the media are doing it to play up the 'tragedy of a wasted life', but he's the bad guy here, it's the other lives ruined that's the tragedy.

It would be easier to talk about something specific, like the use of the word "teenager" in a specific quote, such as the one you might find in, say, the post we're discussing.

I don't think "the media" is a singular conscious being, having decided to "play up" the kid tragedy. (If not, is a montage even a representative sample of "the media?")

But it is a waste of a young life, and whatever tragedy that represents isn't mutually exlusive of any other of the tragedies resulting from the Boston bombings.

Can we please stop referring to him as if he were a kid?

If the complaint here is that somebody, somewhere is saying that Tsarnaev's youth should somehow excuse his actions, I have to say I'm not seeing it.

There are folks, including me, who note his youth and think, "Crap, what a waste". Or, maybe, "How does someone with their whole life ahead of them get involved in something like this?"

But "poor young fellow", not so much. Maybe we read different sources.

I do share Almond's distaste for, or discomfort with, the sense of, for lack of a better word, triumphalism that accompanied the younger brother's capture. I.e., the "braying".

It shouldn't be something remarkable, or some kind of demonstration of our great strength and resolve, for the combined law enforcement resources of more or less the eastern half of MA to kill or capture one guy in a boat.

Not detracting in any way from the performance of law enforcement, IMO they handled the entire episode almost perfectly.

Just saying the elevation of two guys with guns and bombs into some kind of supermen, or some kind of extreme threat to the nation, is extraordinarily overblown.

What it is, is sad, and a waste.

I live about 15 miles from Watertown, as the crow flies. My experience of the whole week was approximately the same as somebody living on the other side of the country. It was on the news, and on the TV, and on the radio.

On Friday morning, they still didn't know where the younger Tsarnaev was, so when I left the house I locked the door. My wife works at home, I usually leave the door unlocked when I leave for the day. That was the extent of my being "under siege".

I agree with Doc Science, that a very significant aspect of acts of terror is performative, i.e., intended to be publicly seen and to provoke a public reaction.

The best response is to treat it as the stupid, sad, wasteful criminal act that it is, help the folks who were harmed, and carry on with our lives.

Also, too: my own personal favorite variation of the "keep calm and..." thing.

I think I like it because so closely describes my normal state. :(

Can we please stop referring to him as if he were a kid? Because under our laws, he isn't.

Under our laws, nobody is a kid, except for a goat. Under my understanding of people's maturity level, a 19-year-old is often a kid. I'm not saying that the law should treat him as a juvenile, or that his age should even be a mitigating circumstance. But, like others who've said this, I think it's a huge separate tragedy that he followed a course of action that killed people, broke so many people's dreams (or harmed them - I hope very deeply that the victims who were maimed are able to rebuild their lives), and destroyed his own life and future.

It's fairly common knowledge that males' brains aren't mature until their mid-twenties, which accounts (in part) for the fact that men in their late teens and early twenties are more likely to commit crimes, have car accidents, etc.

Again, I'm not excusing the lad, by any means. I wouldn't know what to offer up instead of convicting him of the heinous crimes he committed. And I can't even imagine how I'd feel about him if anyone in my family had been victimized by him. But that doesn't diminish the fact that someone who seemed to have so much potential for good did so much bad.

I had been working on a post in this vein but now wondering if it would be redundant, given Doc Sci's post and other points made in the comments. Maybe I'll throw it up tomorrow.

"Lad," sapient? Now you've gone too far....

I find no virtue in braying over the capture of a teenager whose toxic grievances, and misguided loyalties, led to such senseless ruin.

I don't know about "braying" but I am quite happy he was caught, first of all because he murdered some people and very seriously injured a lot of others, and second because he apparently intended to do more of the same. Hence, "We got the SOB," doesn't seem like an inappropriate reaction.

I do have a sense of what feels to me like anger that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did something so incredibly stupid, as well as evil. That's not unique to this case. I often feel that way when I see someone ruin their life through completely idiotic behavior.

It's kind of a "What were they thinking, what good thing did they expect to happen?" reaction.

Hence, "We got the SOB," doesn't seem like an inappropriate reaction.

Agreed.

I'm with you that it's not an inappropriate reaction. During the manhunt, that was what I wanted, and I am glad that they got him.

"Thank God they caught him"

as opposed to

"U S A! U S A! U S A!"?

A 19-year-old (as in, "nineteen") is a teenager, since we're being definitional. And who's "we," Kemosabe?

True, he is 19, and nineteen is still a teenager.

Maybe it's just me that has teenager represent a barely-of-driving-age person, at oldest.

This "can we please stop" formulation gets used here a LOT, but not much by me. I haven't noticed you squawking about it before. But maybe that's my noticer malfunctioning.

If the complaint here is that somebody, somewhere is saying that Tsarnaev's youth should somehow excuse his actions, I have to say I'm not seeing it.

Not quite that, just that it seems that his youthfulness is being exaggerated. I don't speculate as to why it's exaggerated, or why it seems to me as if it is.

As most or all of seemingness, YMMV.

Reality terrorism.

We're presented with tender interludes of youthfulness in between hysterical Coulterian ravings about immigration and now, what's this, one of them was on welfare?

There go food stamps, just to [email protected] the otherwise innocent but swarthy [email protected] among us, on principle, despite the fact that many are perfectly white members of the irritable 27 percent.

American show-biz.

Maybe the surviving perp will show a little leg to sell it.

Lindsay Graham has already dropped trou for the "why, we oughta ..... crowd in his district.


This "can we please stop" formulation gets used here a LOT,

I suppose the annoying part of it is that it can come across like the person doesn't want to commit to saying what they think ('I don't think he should be referred to as a teenager') and more like 'I'm not doing it, so I think you should stop as well'. At any rate, I haven't noticed this popping up a lot lately (though we certainly don't have a lot of volume lately as well), but I'll try to be a little more diligent.

Of course motives are always hard to determine, but I wonder if the "kid" or "teenager" term is used to counter the "enemy alien/associated with known terrorist organizations" designation. In oother words, not so much a matter of sympathizing as of trying to keep a sense of porportion, pushback agaist the voices-- like Lidsay Graham's--that were trying to make him out to be more than he was.

He was a young man. He has blown up his own life. That is sad, but to me, not as tragic as his decision to blow up other people's lives.

To me, the interest in discovering his motivation is to see if underlyig causes can be addressed to prevent future icidents. That's probably a faint hope.

There is no 'safe zone' as far as age goes, neither in reality nor political speech. RW demagogues fantasize about 'terror babies' (sired to be born in the US so they can be used 2 decades later as Trojan terror horses) and demand to change the constitution from ius soli to ius sanguinis (If possible with a 'Christians only' condition), primary school age kids are seen as military age in several countries (iirc there was at least one in Gitmo), in the past teenagers have successfully led armies. There have also been some spectacular cases of primary school age kids committing murder (e.g. the James Bulger case in the UK).
Nothing more cruel than a bored child as the cliche goes.

The Kymer Rouge cadres were post-pubescent teeny-boppers given to fads in eyewear.

Highly judgemental and prone to self-absorption.

It had to be said.

Who was, despite the Travon Martin style release of very dated childhood photos, an adult.

i should have seen that one coming.

This "can we please stop" formulation gets used here a LOT

...and it should be noted that I have at least once responded with the same kind of who's-we-kimosabe that I got when I said that.

What goes around, etc.

Anyway, I agree that it's serving to dilute the power of whatever declaration it's attached to, so can we please stop doing that?

;)

"This is real life: Limbaugh compared media coverage of Boston Marathon Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the media coverage of the murdered unarmed 17 year old Trayvon Martin–since they’re described as kids and younger pictures were posted. Obviously this is some sort of huge attempt to show the innocents of these 2 criminals!

Except for that pesky being stalked & killed for no reason thing that happened to one of them."

Except for the pesky fact that Zimmerman's account has Martin doing the whole stalking and attacking bit, which is kind of consistent with the evidence, unless maybe you think Martin beat the crap out of him after being shot to death.

So, yeah, I think there's a lot of similarity in the coverage.

i will not climb down that tempting rabbit hole.
i will not climb down that tempting rabbit hole.
i will not climb down that tempting rabbit hole.
i will not climb down that tempting rabbit hole.

I believe Brett argued that the media coverage had the hidden agenda of subverting the Stand your Ground laws. In this case, the media coverage is aimed at subverting what precisely? Or is it that the media just hates our freedoms?

what is the line between freedom and fetish?

Ugh:

You should certainly post your post, which I see lurking there in the queue. Edit if you like, don't if you don't.

There's a queue?

Thanks, just put it up.

Any photo is better than no photo, including a dated one. The sooner, the better, to boot. And no one here, I don't think, would deny that a large swath of our national media tends toward whatever is more sensational.

Then there's the meta-sensationalism market. Let's overhype how sensational everyone else is being to be sensational ourselves.

It's all cheesy and stupid. Fine. I'd like to move on, myself. There must be a real conspiracy, liberal or otherwise, going on somewhere that is more worthy of discussion.

I remember when I turned 19, after classes I walked from my dorm to the nearest liquor store to make my first alcohol purchase. A year and a day before that I would have been listed as a "17-year old" if there had been an unfortunate event that landed my name in the paper.

Aside from one year of college under my belt, I felt like pretty much the same person, I was just on the other side of some (relatively) arbitrary lines. I also had a brother five years older than me that I looked up to a great deal. I can easily imagine that I might have followed him into some trouble that I would not have instigated on my own. I'd like to think that we wouldn't have blown up people and things, but who knows? KAL 007 had recently been blasted from the sky and there were non-trivial worries that Andropov/Reagan were going to nuke the world, so going nihilist was a plausible option.

Putting a shoe on a different foot, there is a strong push in many jurisdictions to ignore the age of juvenile defendants, as if the physical capacity to commit a terrible act is connected to the mental development and maturity of the actor, thereby rendering the juvenile justice system pointless. I have not seen any DAs suggesting that the defendants be given a provisional right to vote or buy booze pending the outcome of a trial as an adult that could send them to prison for life.

Better stop before I start infringing on the Count's territory.

There's a simple standard that works for both Trayvon and Dzhokhar - if you would approve of them fathering and raising a child, they're adults, not children.

I actually became an adult twice, by virtue of the state drinking age being raised after I turned 19. (I thought it hilarious, in that I didn't drink anyway, but some of my friends were annoyed about it.) In retrospect I was rather a fool until my late twenties at least, but how high are we going to set the bar? I was mature enough to know I shouldn't murder people before I got into my teens.

And THAT, IMO, is the relevant consideration here. Not, was he old enough to make wise retirement investments, but was he old enough to know he shouldn't be murdering people. And he was damned well old enough to be regarded as an adult in THAT context.

Can you point me to a single example of anyone, anywhere saying that Tsarnaev should not be treated as a adult?

Or a single example, by anyone, anywhere saying that his relative youth in any way reduces or mitigates his responsibility for his participation in the bombings and everything that came after?

If you have a point, I'm failing to see it.

File under : the art of threadjacking.

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