The thriving metropolis of Boston was turned into a ghost town on an otherwise lovely Friday afternoon. Nearly a million Bostonians were asked to stay in their homes – and willingly complied. Schools were closed; business shuttered; trains, subways and roads were empty; usually busy streets eerily resembled a post-apocalyptic movie set; even baseball games and cultural events were cancelled – all in response to a 19-year-old fugitive, who was on foot and clearly identified by the news media. While Boston officials appeared to be acting out of an abundance of caution — and it’s appropriate for residents to be asked to take precautions or keep their eyes open — by letting one fugitive terrorist shut down a major American city, Boston not only bowed to outsize and irrational fears, but sent a dangerous message to every would-be terrorist. If you want to wreak havoc in the United States, intimidate its population and disrupt public order, here’s your instruction booklet.
In April, I wrote a piece for the Guardian arguing that the reaction to the Marathon bombing was dramatically at odds with American inertia over arms control. The infographic below illustrates some of my main points.