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The Boston Bombs: Why Are Western Lives Deemed More Important Than Arabic Ones?

by Harry Paterson
18 April 2013 13 Comments

The events of Monday were tragic, but no more tragic than the 55 lives lost to IEDs in Iraq...


By now most of the world will know that two bombs were detonated close to the finishing line of the Boston Marathon. So far the fatalities number three with approx 176 injured. Tragically, the severity of some of those injuries does not rule out the final death toll finishing somewhat higher. By any criteria, a horrific and shocking act of callous barbarity rendered, possibly, even more so by it’s ostensibly indiscriminate and pointless nature. With the overwhelming majority of the runners taking part on behalf of their respective and chosen charities, it’s difficult to discern any logical reason, however twisted, for such an attack.

Depressingly, with brave and honourable exceptions, the world’s media have reacted in typical fashion; oh-so predictably, the American deaths have all but obliterated any coverage of the wave of bombings that swept Iraq just 24 hrs earlier. So far, the coordinated wave of IEDs has claimed 55 civilian lives, some of whom, too, are children. Understandably, many have viewed the gross imbalance in coverage as yet further proof that white, Western lives are deemed far more important than brown-skinned Arabic ones. One Tweeter acidly commented, “Today, a wave of bombings across Iraq killed at least 33 people. But who cares? We don’t watch their sitcoms.” In reality, of course, the death of any child at the hands of a bomber is a tragedy and all should be held in equal regard. You’d never know it, though, if European and American media are your only guides. Fortunately for US citizens, and in stark contrast to the lives of the blighted Iraqi people, such horrors as those which befell the runners in the Boston Marathon are, thankfully, not their daily lot.

Sadly, the sheer human toll exacted by the US in their armed campaigns to achieve political dominance in the Middle East means there will be little sympathy for the victims of the Boston bombs. One Palestinian contact remarked grimly, “We’ve lived with these sorts of atrocities every single day of our lives. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year; year-in, year-out. All of it actively funded and supported by America. They’re experiencing just a tiny, tiny taste of what it’s like to be a Palestinian. Or an Iraqi or an Afghan. When will they realise that doing what they do will only mean there will be more of their innocent children dying like ours?”


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Of course, there’s a huge, possibly mistaken, assumption of the part of our Palestinian commentator. Currently, details are few or at least the details the relevant law enforcement agencies are making available to the wider public. The official position is that, as yet, authorities have no idea who might be responsible. At the moment, contrary to the anti-Muslim ravings of bigots like Pam Geller and her co-ideologues at the repugnant Faux News, there is no evidence at all to suggest Al-Qaeda, or similar Islamic group, might be responsible. In fact, the Pakistani Taliban has explicitly stated they are not responsible. Given their proudly proclaimed war of holy martyrdom against ‘The Great Satan,’ that’s the US to most of you; it’s unlikely they’re telling lies.

However, although it would be foolish, at this early stage, to rule out Islamic involvement, the view of counter-terrorism expert, Richard Barrett, speaking to, is that the bombs are most likely to have been the work of domestic right wing extremists. Barrett, a former United Nations co-ordinator for the al-Qaida and Taliban monitoring team, as well having stints with MI5 and MI6 under his belt, is now senior director at the Qatar International Academy for Security Studies (QIASS). You might consider him a fella that knows a bit about that of which he speaks.

It’s a sickening irony that while the USA’s neocon foreign policy ensures no shortage of Middle Eastern and North African groups as suspects, the breathtaking trampling of own its citizens’ civil liberties, ostensibly to aid prosecution of ‘The War on Terror,’ has afforded any number of its hill-billy wing-nut neo-Nazi militias with a grudge and a motive, too. Irony of an even sicker quality can be found in President Obama’s revolting platitudes regarding the loss of American life and limb. Drone strikes authorised by him have already claimed more lives than two bombs at every Boston Marathon for the next ten years could hope to equal. Frankly, he’s an atrocious hypocrite and should be viewed with little more than contempt.

For the victims and their families, such speculation and finger-pointing pales into insignificance next to the human suffering they are experiencing. For the rest of us, however, the prospect of America succumbing to the sort of hysteria seen post-911 is terrifying. For all our sakes, we can only hope that the detonators of the Boston bombs turn out to be home-grown US terrorists; the prospect of the USA thrashing around the Middle East or North Africa and cynically exploiting this human tragedy in yet another immoral quest to bring ‘democracy’ to some poverty-stricken outpost is too terrible to contemplate.

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Ryan 6:11 am, 18-Apr-2013

Excellent & Valid points. 16 people also died in a blast in Bangalore, India the next day but you wouldnt know it. There is an excellent article in the same vein on on how diminishing returns from terrorist acts due to Indians (sometimes absurd) non reaction to these events has actually led to a drop of over 90% in lives lost through terrorism

bnd 6:20 am, 18-Apr-2013

yup yup - sad but true. im gonna trivialise it best i can now - if wayne rooney gets a haircut its headline news. if a guy in the third division dies on the pitch its local news. thought i had a point there but lost my thread hahaha

JimmyC 8:15 am, 18-Apr-2013

Spot on. The media is becoming more and more manipulative. Virtually everywhere you look there's an agenda being thrown at you. Switch off the news I say.

bnd 9:47 am, 18-Apr-2013

@JimmyC - I say keep it on and attack it like this guy has! spread the knowledge

Joshua Danton Boyd 9:54 am, 18-Apr-2013

While there maybe something in the idea that we consider white American lives more important than foreign ones, you've missed a major point as to why this news is getting more coverage than bombings elsewhere. Events get given more weight when they are rarer. You can't just simply compare a bomb in Boston and a bomb in Baghdad and say they're the same thing. Their similarities end at the use of a bomb. Bombings in the USA are very rare, so that makes them more interesting. Along with the fact that America is a world power who pride themselves on their ability to defend and protect their citizens in the face of countless people who hate them. Despite that, a bomber still succeeded, again that makes this event different. As sad as it is, a bombing in Iraq is no surprise. It's a post-war country filled with sectarian violence, poor security, a weak government and flimsy borders. It would be big news if there no bombings. While both events are just as sad as each other, that isn't how the news works. A bombing in America is bigger news because it means something completely different. You can't sentimentalise the news because then it would fail. It's just another spin on the complaint that it doesn't talk about all the good things happening in the world.

Phil 11:10 am, 18-Apr-2013

I was reading some of the horrific details of the injuries sustained at Boston when it occurred to me similar injuries are a regular occurrence in Syria, Iraq etc. I then felt guilty but I wasnt sure why.

CraigLondon 9:49 pm, 18-Apr-2013

I gave up watching TV and reading papers a few years ago.It's all bollocks anyway.Now people no longer talk to me about 'celebrities' and 'personalities''s pretty fucking good :)

Vincent Vega 11:08 pm, 18-Apr-2013

Before I say anything, let me point out I detest much of the media, news outlets most certainly included. Biased, vague, sensationalist and pointless are just a few words I generally associate with any given news broadcast. Now, you claim the world's media have reacted in typical fashion. I agree, but not for the same reasons. I think this article is as typical as typical can get. The first thing I strongly disagree with is your statement about "white, Western lives" being deemed far more important than "brown-skinned Arabic ones". To me, that means you're implying there's some sort of global, racist rule media outlets use to decide how important a news-item is. That is absurd. It has nothing to do with colour of skin. It has all to do with situation. Besides, I'm down right certain the coverage of Boston's bomb attacks would've been just as extensive had the deadly victims been black, brown, white or purple for that matter. In fact, if you were to get a list of all the victims of the Boston attack, I'm pretty sure you'll find many are not white. One victim who sadly died as a result of the bombing was a Chinese student. Situation, that's what it's all about. Bringing in race to this is pathetic and desperate. It's just absurd to think a bomb going off in Iraq will be as shocking, as news-worthy or as disturbing to Westerners as a bomb going off in Boston. That's a fact. Sure, the result of each bomb will be just as dreadful, horrible and tragic for the victims because, as is the case with terrorism, they are innocent people who do not, in any way, deserve the suffering and misery caused by such cowardly attacks. However, the event itself is completely different. Especially when it comes to covering it. Compare the last decade of Iraq to that of Boston and you might understand why it's more newsworthy to, extensively, report a bombing Boston than it is to cover a bombing in Iraq... sad as that might be. Nobody expects a bomb to go off in Boston. Why? Because it is deemed safe. A place far away from the terrorism and extremism that Iraq, along with many other Arab/muslim nations, have suffered the last decade or more in most cases. The United States hasn't witnessed terrorist/extremist groups killing people left, right and center purely because of their religion or heritage. Iraq, and a lot of other Arab or muslim countries, have. Without going in to why or how Iraq and other Arab or muslim nations got into such a mess, because that isn't the point of this comment, it is therefore understandable that a bomb going off in Boston would attract much more attention. It has happened close to home, somewhere you don't expect it to, a place you can associate with, somewhere you should feel safe. These factors don't apply to a bombing in Iraq or Syria or Palestine. That is why the Boston Marathon bombing is covered more extensively than a bombing in other regions of the world. I'll leave it at that as the rest of the article is pretty boring and so typical and generic it almost hurts. This isn't criticism of the media, it's just politics with a thin cover over it.

Harry Paterson 10:52 am, 19-Apr-2013

On the surface, your remarks seem like a perfectly reasonable alternative critique. On the surface, that is… When one looks a little deeper the realisation that the point has been spectacularly missed becomes apparent. The media coverage, proportional to a bomb in the Middle East versus one in the USA, has very little to do with the relative rarity of the latter or any of the other reasons you posit. It has, though, *everything* to do with a process which seeks to provide a moral justification for some acts of terror (those of the state) while conditioning people to blindly condemn those of ‘terrorists’ (indigent combatants resisting foreign invasion). An essential part of which is the dehumanisation of ‘terrorists.’ Which in this context means ‘Sand-Niggas’ ‘Camel-Jockeys’ ‘Rag-Heads’ and all the other epithets with which US Tweeters bombarded Twitter immediately following the explosions. Coverage, *truthful* *accurate* coverage of the victims of Drone strikes, of the depth and detail afforded the Boston bombs, would seriously impact on the USA’s dehumanisation project. The media is an essential weapon in America’s ongoing ideological offensive and while such ‘politics’ might be distasteful to you, it’s breathtakingly naïve to imagine any critique of the media could possibly avoid politics. The two are so inseparably joined and co-dependent as to render your critique, with respect, ridiculous.

bnd 5:07 am, 21-Apr-2013

@indeed the key is in the last paragraph - the fact that a few American deaths could lead to thousands in the middle east is behind the medias attitude, although it is somewhat veiled.

Joshua Danton Boyd 3:34 pm, 29-Apr-2013

I'm sorry Harry, but I don't so easily veer off into near conspiracies of a mass media attempt to dehumanise foreigners to the Western people in order to sedate us in regards to armed campaigns and drone strikes. If that were true massive things like Red Nose Day would utterly fail nor exist. This idea that the media all acts as one organism bent to the will of the US government is ludicrous. Each major news outlet has differing views on the world and present the news in different ways. Unsurprisingly enough, a bomb on US soil is going to get a lot of coverage by US news stations in the same way a bomb in Brazil will get more coverage there. There is of course a direct link between the media and politics, but it is much more intricate and complex than what you suggest. I'm unsure as to how you can say with such certainty that is hasn't nothing to with rarity, but is in fact all to do with the Obama Administration pulling the strings of the entire media. As much as you might like to think the West lives under shadowy tyrannical governments, it couldn't be much further from the truth. If anything the media holds more sway over politicians than the other way round and while it's possible something like Fox News might want to dehumanise Arabs and other foreigners, I'm not so sure with other stations.

Harry Paterson 6:38 pm, 29-Apr-2013

You've misunderstood me, mate. There isn't so much a conscious conspiracy (and if I gave that impression, well, that's a failing in my writing. Dammit)as a kind of drip-drip process while the narrative is shaped. I think the easiest way to put it is to quote Marx; "The ruling ideas are ever the ideas of the ruling class." Of course, there *are* conscious neocon elements in the media that do calculatedly push a vile line in dehumanisation (Fox News, for sure)and add that to the "...ruling ideas" means a kind of political hegemony for those ideas is created.

TAA 2:50 am, 23-Jul-2013

A "conscious conspiracy", no you didn't give that impression at all. Some like to build straw man fallacies when they have misunderstood what was said or it disagrees with their beliefs. I’ll explain it from my Australian perspective. In the land of Oz Rupey owns 70% of the media and Fairfax is not much better anyway. And even our beloved ABC is right leaning now. Nearly every time you turn on your TV and watch a commercial news channel, pick up major newspaper you’re on the Murdoch brick road. It has a definite right bias and those that follow it (many Australians) are subjected to a sheer avalanche of bias on a daily basis. It has nothing to do with free speech but has everything to do with power and influence. For this very reason you won’t switch on your TV and watch Green Left Nightly News, but instead you’ll be subjected to right-winged pundits like Alan Jones (who helped fuel race riots) exercising their “freedom of speech” to have their racist opinions heard constantly year after year. So there’s no actual conspiracy it’s just that the filthy rich bastards own and control the main stream media, and the vast majority of people accept the outright lies of the poisonous and extremist Murdoch empire and mainstream media in general. Such media control in Australia does really equate to "white, Western lives" being deemed far more important than "brown-skinned Arabic ones", just ask the average reader of the Sun Herald ant they will reflect this view.

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