Boston Marathon Bombing

Tom Friedman Writes a Post-Boston Bombing Op-Ed Straight Out of 2001

We may tell ourselves we don't let terrorists change us, but history indicates otherwise


tell me more about how we don't let terrorists win, tom

The bombing of the Boston marathon is yielding the usual post-tragedy op-eds. The most important message after incidents like this is to not be terrorized. As Jesse Walker noted yesterday about the sociological aspect of tragedy response, the popular idea that people panic at the scene of a catastrophe but stay calm further from it is actually backward; it's the people far away from the immediate effects that are prone to panic. And with panic comes bad decision making. Witness the U.S. reaction to 9/11: a war in Afghanistan with no end-game that's lasted longer than the retributive mission for which it was started, a war in Iraq that had nothing to do with 9/11 (even though a significant percentage of Americans still think they're related), the PATRIOT Act, waterboarding, warrantless wiretapping, TSA body scanners, border checkpoints miles away from any border, stop and frisk, extrajudicial killings, and other erosions of our civil liberties. You'd have to be living under a rock or in your own security bubble not to notice these things. Enter Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist:

We still do not know who set off the Boston Marathon bombs or why. But we do know now, after 9/11, after all the terrorism the world has seen in the last decade, what the right reaction is: wash the sidewalk, wipe away the blood, and let whoever did it know that while they have sickeningly maimed and killed some of our brothers and sisters, they have left no trace on our society or way of life. Terrorists are not strong enough to do that — only we can do that to ourselves — and we must never accommodate them.

This column is about 11 and a half years too late. Terrorists have profoundly changed America; the popular conception of rights, how wars are fought, our outlook at the rest of the world (books have literally been written on the subjects). Already the tragedy in Boston is being used by politicians to stop everything from the sequester to immigration reform.

Nevertheless, Friedman doubles down, continuing:

And while we are at it, let's schedule another Boston Marathon as soon as possible. Cave dwelling is for terrorists. Americans? We run in the open on our streets — men and women, young and old, new immigrants and foreigners, in shorts not armor, with abandon and never fear, eyes always on the prize, never on all those "suspicious" bundles on the curb. In today's world, sometimes we pay for that quintessentially American naïveté, but the benefits — living in an open society — always outweigh the costs.

It's as if he's writing about another country in another world. "We've been through 9/11. We probably overreacted then, but never again," Friedman adds, almost as an aside. But little of the post-9/11 reaction was rolled back. We may run in the open on our streets, for now, but we already have to take our shoes off and run a security gamut just to get on a plane. The TSA is now part of our Super Bowl tradition. New York City's famously liberal residents allow hundreds of thousands of stops of young black males to get a couple hundred guns off the streets (a rate much lower than 1 percent); meanwhile the consistent, long-term drop in the violent crime rate doesn't move us toward criminal justice reform, but a mass shooting will drive politicians to abrogate more of our rights. The NYPD gets twenty-something odd calls a day about suspicious packages, virtually always harmless. After the bombings in Boston, that number tripled. I'll agree with Friedman that American naïveté drives U.S. policy, but not the kind that embraces abandon and lacks fear but the kind that embraces fear and lacks abandon. 

NEXT: Islamic Militants Expelled From Mali Regrouping

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  1. 9/11 nostalgia is a ugly thing.

    1. Does MLB still foist “God Bless America” on people during the 7th inning stretch?

      1. Yes. As they are free to foist.

        1. As we are free to criticize feel good group think vacuity.

          1. Yeah, good for you and Major League Baseball.

      2. God, I hate that song.

    1. Replacing Islamophobia with Patriotophobia will not make us any more free. But that seems to be what he is advocating.

      1. Islamophobia is a progressive and maybe a libertarian myth. There is no such thing.

        1. Bullshit, I have met plenty of people who fear Islam thinking that the goal of Muslims is to take over the world, impose Sharia Law (itself misunderstood) and eventually impose a Califate. I don’t believe it, but there are too many people out there who do to dismiss Islamophobia as a myth.

          1. Do they fear or are they acknowledging the fact that al Qaeda exists?

            There are in fact Islamists who want to take over the world. That’s what they say.

            I’m not afraid of them, but they exist and they can be really violent.

            Recently a group of them tried to take over the country of Mali. And they killed some fellow Americans working at an oil and gas facility in southern Algeria.

            It’s not like they aren’t really out there. It’s not like they weren’t behind 9/11 or London or Madrid. Right?

            Should we be afraid of them? No. But we shouldn’t also pretend that they don’t exist. Do you comprehend me?

            1. Lyle, these idiots fear Islam qua Islam, not just extremist groups like al Quida.

              Equating al Quida with Islam is like equating the Christian Identity movement with Christianity.

              1. Salafism and Wahhabism are very much a part of Islam.

                There are Salafist and Wahhabist mosques in the United States.

                They also say Allahu Akbar! way too much.

      2. replace with Sirotaphobia?

    2. Remember when privilege was a real word with real meaning? Now it just signals to me that I can stop paying attention.

      1. The words Progressive and Liberal once had real meanings too. They too, were hijacked by the left.

        1. Let them have “Progressive”.

          1. Personally I’m all for them labeling themselves that way. That’s basically my cue to stop to listening to anything else that comes out of their mouths.

            At this point it’s practically a reflex. Anytime I hear “I’m a progressive…” the rest of the words from that point on just sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to me.

            1. “…rock drummer.”

        2. Progressive always meant authoritarian asshole that wants to transform society.

          1. Yeah, progressive used to mean socialist and it got a bad name.

            So they moved to liberal. Until liberal started to become synonymous with socialism.

            So now they want to be called progressives again.

        3. Unintentional humor…

          1. aka your life.

    3. White men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings, except by clowns like this one. So basically, they’re proving their own points wrong.

    4. I am hoping its a pre-op transsexual who is having doubts because he/she’s multiple personality disorder is flaring up.

      This way everyone can blame their own personnel bogie man/woman.

    5. What. The. Fuck. I couldn’t come up with a parody of a stereotypical progresso-tard that’s half as stupid as the real thing. This is just pathetic. It’s beyond self parody.

      1. Were you not aware of the rampant anti-Muslim bigotry that followed 9/11?

        1. ram?pant (rmpnt)
          1. Extending unchecked; unrestrained: a rampant growth of weeds in the neglected yard.
          2. Occurring without restraint and frequently, widely, or menacingly; rife: a rampant epidemic; rampant corruption in city government.
          a. Rearing on the hind legs.
          b. Heraldry Rearing on the left hind leg with the forelegs elevated, the right above the left, and usually with the head in profile.
          4. Architecture Springing from a support or an abutment that is higher at one side than at the other: a rampant arch.

          I remember some white co-workers asking my brown skinned ones (some of whom weren’t middle eastern but looked close enough to be mistaken for one) if they were OK, had any problems with people giving them shit, if they needed anything, etc and them saying “no, no problems”. I remember white people in my apartment complex offering to go to the stores in case any of their brown skinned neighbors were worried about going out, and most of them feeling safe enough to decline the offer. I remember stories from my alma mater holding an inter-faith vigil that included several muslim students, with no incidents of violence on campus.

          I also remember hearing about some rare and isolated incidents, but “rampant” is hardly the word I’d use to describe it (see definition above).

          Short answer: no.

          1. But it occurs to me that perhaps you lived someplace more rife with racism than Prescott, AZ (where my alma mater is) and Houston, TX (where I worked at the time).

    6. David Sirota is a really stupid man.

      1. this weeks winner of the GIANT DOUCHEBAG prize…

    7. Yes, because as a white male I’m not lumped in with all Tea Bagger Rednecks if I speak out about guns, the last two elections, or both. Come on… white males certain have become a “group” that is often denigrated.

      1. *certainly

      2. Yeah, I’m not sure what rock David Sirota has been living under, but people like him have been lumping people into groups and then denigrating pretty much anyone they identify as an “other” for quite some time now. Like, since the beginning of human history.

        1. Like the murderer of the TX prosecutors must have been a white supremacist… until it wasn’t

    8. I have just checked my privilege and found it to be less than David Sirota’s.

    9. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings ? even though most come at the hands of white dudes.

      “White men are not denigrated as a group, even though I’m denigrating them as a group this very instant.”

  2. I have the misfortune of living with someone who watches Fox and Friends when I am getting ready for work. I saw Brian Kilmeade interviewing a Navy Seal about the attacks the day after the Boston Marathon. He seemed to be truly enjoying it. He was in his element. I could tell he was thrilled about doing an interview about death and destruction – the ghoul.

    1. Why do you hate our wounded warriors?

    2. Yeah don’t those assholes know that you should only celebrate the death of innocents to push gun control, or a bigger budget.

      1. The Fox and Friends crowd DOES push for a bigger budget …. for the Military and the Department of Homeland Slavery.

        1. Still not the sure the point – he was trained to analyze and deal with situations such as these and then when called on in a national way to express his opinion he does so openly…

          I didn’t watch – so maybe he was happy people died, but somehow I doubt it…

  3. And who cares if it doesn’t quite make sense when Friedman says that Iraq is like a “vase we broke in order to get rid of the rancid water inside?”Who cares that you can just pour water out of a vase, that only a fucking lunatic breaks a perfectly good vase just to empty it of water? You’re missing the point, folks say, and the point is all in Friedman’s highly nuanced ideas about world politics and the economy?if you could just get past his well-meaning attempts to explain himself, you’d see that, and maybe you’d even learn something.

    My initial answer to that is that Friedman’s language choices over the years have been highly revealing: When a man who thinks you need to break a vase to get the water out of it starts arguing that you need to invade a country in order to change the minds of its people, you might want to start paying attention to how his approach to the vase problem worked out.Thomas Friedman is not a president, a pope, a general on the field of battle or any other kind of man of action. He doesn’t actually do anything apart from talk about shit in a newspaper. So in my mind it’s highly relevant if his manner of speaking is fucked.

  4. I made the mistake of flipping through the “news” channels yesterday, and it was obvious how desperate the vampires from the news business are to turn this Boston thing into another full bore national panic like the glory days of 9/11 fearmongering. And of course, the usual suspects are out there pushing their pet projects for the Total Authority State.

  5. This column is about 11 and a half years too late. Terrorists have profoundly changed America; the popular conception of rights, how wars are fought, our outlook at the end of the world (books have literally been written on the subjects).

    The frog has been quietly bathing in the pot for over a decade now. There is no one person or faction turning up the heat, but our collective reactions to outside stimuli keep leading us to reach for the knob and ratchet it up ever so slightly at times, and at others, by just enough that the frog gets a little anxious. But he always calms down when there isn’t an immediate disaster brought on by the minute change. Meanwhile, the perpetrators of the actions inciting our reactions sit back and watch, laughing, as we abandon the ideals we used to hold dear.

    1. And fools like Friedman fail to see the sea change in our society and write dreck like this as if we still have principles left to abandon.

  6. Boston Is Flat

    –Thomas Friedman

    Yesterday’s news from Boston is earth-flattening, and it raises questions about whether there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. What’s important, however, is that we focus on what this means on the street. The media seems too caught up in spinning the facts to pay attention to the important effects on daily life. Just call it missing the fields for the wheat.

    When I was in Boston last June, I was amazed by the variety of the local cuisine, and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of Boston have no shortage of courage, and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in Boston are just like people anywhere else on this flat earth of ours.

    Speaking with a local farmer from the large Irish-American community here, I asked her if there was any message that she wanted me to carry back home with me. She pondered for a second, and then smiled and said, Fuckin’ Mondays, which is a local saying that means roughly, “Four things drive a man out of his house: too much smoke, a dripping roof, filthy air and a scolding wife.”

    I don’t know what Boston will be like a few years from now, but I do know that it will remain true to its cultural heritage, even if it looks very different from the country we see now. I know this because, through all the disorder, the people still haven’t lost sight of their dreams.

    1. Magnificent. When Thomas Friedman finally decides to outsource his job so he can watch cat videos on YouTube, the gig is yours

    2. So I’m brave for living near a Thai restaurant? Cool, got that going for me.

      1. No, you’re brave for eating at a Thai restaurant.

    3. Oh shit, don’t make me laugh this hard at work!

      1. Pad Thai come out your nose?

    4. Wow. That second paragraph in particular is gold.

  7. Terrorists are not strong enough to do that ? only we can do that to ourselves ? and we must never accommodate them.

    While Friedman might well be a decade late, his basic sentiments seems to be on target here. So, while Thomas Friedman is a moran, I don’t think he should be slammed too hard for this.

    1. It would have been nice if:

      A) people had heeded advice like this in 2001
      B) people would notice that we have done anything but heed advice like this since 2001

      1. Heeding that advice would have required Americans to not be pussies.

    2. Ed wants to try and tell you that he and his fellow travelers are the smartest guys in existence.

  8. How did we get so fucked up since my youth? In the 70’s and 80’s we reacted to terrorism by figuring out who did and then beating the shit out of them. We dropped bombs on Khaddafi after the Lockerbie bombing. After Beruit, we blasted the fuck out of the Bekaa Valley with a battleship. Then we went back to normal (and maybe had the original SEAL Team 6 visit their bosses very discreetly). I can’t remember any law passed as a reaction an 80’s act of terrorism.

    The earlier attacks by groups like the Weather Underground were just treated as law enforcement events.

    Now every kind of shooting and bombing is an opportunity to give the State more authority and the People less. If the goal of the terrorists is to transform the U.S. into a totalitarian dictatorship, keep it up – you are succeeding.

    1. Ed Krayewski thinks you’re a fool to believe in intervention.

      Ed and Reason don’t support ass kicking terrorists if they live abroad. Abroad ain’t America to them… unless they’re talking about immigration.

    2. Also… there weren’t any major terrorist attacks in America in the 80s. Qaddafi and the terrorists in Lebanon killed Americans abroad.

      1. Sure there were. Perpetrated by state actors.

        How about a kick ass attitude toward every state actor who participates in a SWAT raid?

        You break in to another’s castle in the name of the state without the express written consent of the owner, you die.

        You kill a property owner’s dog during the SWAT raid, you are crucified.

        How about that?

        1. You’re on another planet that I’m not going to travel to friend.

          That said, I’m with you on there being way too much SWAT. And I don’t like it when the police kill a dog just because it is a dog. What do you want me to do about it? You want me to fly my stealth bomber over some Police Department and bomb it?

          1. I’m on the planet of reality.

            80,000 SWAT raids per annum.

            How many thousands are maimed and / or killed each year due to the WOD?

            On the planet of reality, an American is far more likely to be a victim of state sanctioned violence than any other bogeyman.

      2. There were domestic attacks in the 60’s and early 70’s. Pan Am Flight 103 was en route to New York. It would have been “domestic” if the timing had been a little later.

    3. Kasim Reed has said Atlanta security will be raised for the foreseeable future, and MARTA police will deploy more K-9 units, which tells me that recreational drug users, just trying to discreetly get from A to B on public transportation, will find themselves paying for this latest pretext.

  9. I made the mistake of watching “Around the Horn” on ESPN yesterday, all the way through to the end where Bob Ryan used his face time to advocate for more security everywhere and to mock anyone who is concerned for their own privacy.

    What a disgusting shitsack that guy is.

    1. I get all my political insights from drunk Irish sports writers.

  10. There is no one person or faction turning up the heat

    I have been thinking about this exact point recently, in the context of local police behavior. We have reached a point where there are so many overlapping local, state, and federal “initiatives” in play that there is no longer anyone, no entity or individual, in charge. Any pretense of citizen control of the apparatus has been abandoned. If the people actually wanted to apply political pressure in order to get the cops to back off, it would be almost impossible to find an effective pressure point.

    This is not accidental.

    1. That seems to be the case with the foreign policy establishment, as well, regardless of who’s in control. Most of the comments I’ve seen today, about Rand Paul’s “considering” a run for president, seem to suggest that most partisans are indifferent to the status quo.

  11. Aww… Ed Krayewski has such a thoughtfully high opinion of Americans.

  12. The Thomas Friedman column generator

  13. Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.

    1. wolves…no wait, that’s a pack animal…what’s the dividing line between a pack and a herd, and what about a pride? you’ve got to be more definitive and precise

  14. We run in the open on our streets ? men and women, young and old, new immigrants and foreigners, in shorts not armor, with abandon and never fear, eyes always on the prize, never on all those “suspicious” bundles on the curb.

    Oh come on. He writes like this on purpose, right? He has to be in on the joke.

    He just… he has to be, right?

  15. No offense, but this whole event is getting way more news coverage, and commentary, than it deserves.

    They killed a whopping total of 3 people. If this was Al Qaeda, it’s such an embrassingly pathetic body count that I can understand why they wouldn’t claim responsibility. To do so would show just how weak they are compared with 2001.

    If this was some domestic group, well, they would have had more luck with a machine gun and a movie theater.

    To be waxing nostalgic about 9/11 is absurd considering nobody was babbling about resisting terrorism after Jared Loughner shot a few people in a safeway. People thought he was a Tea Party person for a few days, but nobody was out there writing poetic screed about resisting the fear that the evil Tea Parties are trying to spread with their terrorism.

    I am so unpanicked I am bored. I want people to go back to writing articles about the Hakkens, or at least some subject that involves something that I actually should be afraid of.

    1. Yep. I’m already at the point where I’m openly telling people I don’t give a shit about it, which is usually met by some kind of horrified puritan gasp, at which point I demand they tell me exactly what the percentage chance that they’ll be victims of a bombing have risen as a result of this, and how many people they think will meet an unfortunate early end in some unremarkable event during the next few weeks that this dominates the sensationalist media.

      Seriously, when did everybody in this country become such whacked out, over-emotional moonbats? Three people died. That sucks for them, I get it, but that’s exactly .0000000001% of the population. Do we really need all this as a result?

  16. What if Iran was behind these bombings?

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