It’s the business of reporters to report on events like the Boston bombings, and the business of commentators to explain them. But since we don’t have enough evidence, yet, about who did what, all commentators can do is speculate . . .
And that’s not very illuminating. Anyone can speculate.
Instead, let’s take a step back.
“Terrorism” is old. Anarchists at the end of the 19th century began their “propaganda by the deed” campaigns, eliciting from the U.S. government a vast repressive effort against anarchists (even peaceful, non-terrorist anarchists) and syndicalist unionism.
Striking out and terrifying a populace tends to unite that populace, making people more supportive of their government and its policies, not less. This has been observed from time immemorial. So anarchist terrorism was probably the dumbest terrorism in history.
An earlier bout of terrorism was the mob of “democrats” in France, during the late French Revolution. The furor to kill and dispossess got so out of hand that the French were prepared for a tyrant, Napoleon.
Not very effective there, either.
The most common form of terrorism in the last century was state terrorism, where governments brutalized their citizens, the better to solidify power. These regimes seem to succeed, sometimes for long periods. But people eventually turn on such tormenters, preferring peaceful life under a rule of law.
As Bostonians reel from the bizarre bombing, we should remember: the rule of law is better than terrorism. It’s plodding, yes. It is never ideally just, since it is run by human beings. But refusing to resort to indiscriminate violence to “obtain justice” or “make a point” or “get/maintain power” is the basic idea of civilization.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.