ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN The Huntington News, April 18, 2013
By Sara Tucker, News Staff
Students at Northeastern held hands, huddled around televisions and fought back tears when the news of the explosions at the marathon finish line broke Monday afternoon. Work was put aside, celebrations ended abruptly and prior commitments were cancelled or forgotten as the community came together to try and understand why this happened.
As the waiting game continues, residents have formed their own conclusions about Monday’s events. Boston’s finest sweep the evidence left in Copley Square with a fine-tooth comb, but residents are already sick of waiting, and speculations are forming left and right. The News talked to Jack Levin, a Northeastern sociology and criminology professor, to reflect and to better understand the events of Marathon Monday.
Levin teaches courses on violence at Northeastern, and is an authority figure on issues such as hate crimes. Levin is the co-author of numerous books, has appeared on television shows such as “Oprah” and “48 Hours” and also won Massachusetts Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Professor of the Year.
“[The bombings] brought acts of terrorism very close to home, literally, and there were many victims as a result of this crime, far beyond those who were physically injured,” Levin said. “There are many people in Boston who identify with the city who felt victimized, myself included.”
Students, tourists and residents have come together in the last few days as “One Boston,” the popular hashtag on Twitter started by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and “Boston Strong,” a trend started by the Red Sox.
Photos, clips, videos and stories dominate social media and the Boston community, and the national community as well, have come together to pay tribute to those hurt in the bombings.
Levin said the media’s response is an important aspect of the tragedy.
“I am always concerned about the excessive attention that is given to these hideous crimes. I felt that the Newtown tragedy was given excessive publicity by the cable news stations,” he said.
“The reason that I’m concerned is that the excessive attention is what fuels the copycats. The more publicity a crime gets, the more likely it is to be imitated. But at the same time, this was a very personal act of terrorism for people who live in the Boston area … so I can understand why there was bumper-to-bumper coverage of this crime over the last 24 hours. It’s understandable. For a short period of time, it really deserves all of our attention.”
The bombings are getting just that — the local community and the whole world’s attention. Flags all over the city fly at half-mast and vigils, memorials and races are being held all week. Eyes are turned to the Boston Police Department and the FBI, who continue to investigate the tragedy.
“In the US, we have far fewer acts of political terror than in most other countries, but we do have a different kind of terrorism, and I think this qualifies as one of those… My guess is that this could have been terrorism for personal reasons, not for political reasons,” Levin said. “I can speculate on a statistical basis, having studied acts of mass violence and murder over the last 30 years … I am going to speculate that this is either one or two individuals who may be survivalists, they may be a member of a civilian militia group, or some other right-wing extremist organization, but I think they operated alone.”
Levin said that based on statistics, the methods by which the attack was carried out and the failure of the culprit to take responsibility for the crime, there is little evidence that points to an international terror group.
“I know the first thing everyone will think of is a terrorist from the Middle East, or Asia — well, the vast majority of terrorist acts are domestic,” he said. “They are perpetrated not by foreigners, not by immigrants, not by people who come from other countries, but by United States citizens.”
But regardless of the theories and the speculation, the city of Boston can do nothing but wait and try to move on.
“I think [Boston] is already [moving on.] There are vigils, at Northeastern and around the city, and so far I think that the city and the state have handled this pretty well, by holding press conferences quite frequently,” Levin said. “I think that’s pretty much all they can do for now.”