Shapiro responds to Sirota on Boston suspect article

In debate hosted by Salon, Breitbart's Ben Shapiro mixes it up with David Sirota about the Boston terrorist's race

Published April 17, 2013 7:31PM (EDT)

Ben Shapiro       (Simon & Schuster/Yehuda Remer)
Ben Shapiro (Simon & Schuster/Yehuda Remer)

Responding to David Sirota's Salon piece called "Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American," Breitbart editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro debated the article with Sirota in an online salon hosted here.

Here's a key excerpt, from the conversation between Shapiro and Sirota:

I thought that David's piece was silly and rather inappropriate. I'm sure he's felt the same about many of my pieces. But hoping for a perpetrator to be a certain race to uphold particular views on political correctness seems counterproductive.

I think that's a misdirect, Ben. It has nothing to do with political correctness. It has to do with how we respond as a nation to different perceived threats. The reason I'm hoping it is a white American is because we have tended not to OVERreact to white American terrorist threats. That is, we haven't blamed whole groups for the actions of white American terrorists and we haven't done bad stuff like the Patriot Act, preemptive wars, unsustainable defense spending, etc. in reaction to those threats.


On the other hand, when the threat is non-Americans and/or Muslims, we have tended to overreact with bad policies like mass surveillance, warrantless wiretapping, the Patriot Act, destructive preemptive wars, etc.


We haven't blamed whole groups for the actions of white American terrorists because not all white American terrorists believe in the same thing. We have had neo-Nazis and Timothy McVeigh types and leftists like Bill Ayers. Islamist terror groups, however, are worldwide in scope and share an agenda, an aim, funding sources, staff and targets in many cases.


We can argue the value of all those measures (and I don't agree with all of them), but hoping for a white terrorist so that we can act as though there is a uniform white terror threat is asinine.


So my point is whether or not you are white or a person of color, if you don't want civil liberties further encroached, if you don't want more preemptive wars, if you don't want more unsustainable Pentagon spending, then you should hope that the assailant ends up being a white American, because that will better ensure that the reaction to the Boston atrocity doesn't involve those things and is instead far more measured and appropriate.


How about arguing that Americans should stop reacting in ways you don't like to reality, rather than hoping for an alternative reality in which all threats are created equal?


If you really think that the threat to America's security and the security of her allies is the same whether we're talking Joe Stack or al Qaeda, and that our reactions should be identical to attacks from either, that represents a complete break with reality.


No, I never said that. I didn't say we should act as though there is uniform white terrorism. Not at all. What I said is that even though our own government's security apparatus has identified white domestic terrorist groups as a major threat, we tend to treat white domestic terrorism as requiring individual prosecutions and law enforcement, rather than requiring a full-scale mobilization against whole groups of people and whole nations. And as someone who cares about civil liberties and about fiscal responsibility, I'd prefer us not to overreact in the way we tend to when it is a non-white/non-American terrorist. 

Which foreign or domestic state is funding a white terror network?


And the uncomfortable fact is that the double standard in how we react to perceived terrorist threat comes from our double standard about race/religion/ethnicity in America. As I said after Sandy Hook when some were mentioning trying to profile possible killers, one main reason that won't happen is because while America is basically fine with racially/ethnically profiling people of color, it is not fine with racially/ethnically profiling white men - most of whom are at the center of mass shooting events.


I don't believe America is as nasty and xenophobic a place as you do. I think our variant reactions to Timothy McVeigh and Osama Bin Laden are reflective of the reality that Bin Laden was funded by foreign states (including Pakistan and Afghanistan), that he had a significant terror network, and that September 11 was the culmination of a vast organized and ongoing effort.


First off, David, everyone went directly to "white male crazy person" in Sandy Hook. I don't know anybody who went to Islamist threat.


Second, there is no double standard on the terrorist threat. Not all threats are created equal. Please describe the enabling state, the funding sources, the vast network backing Timothy McVeigh from "white" America.


You likely don't believe America is as nasty or xenophobic because you are white and you don't have to face it everyday. That's the definition of white privilege. But talk to people of color living in New York City about stop and frisk, or talk to Muslims about surveillance, or talk to Latinos here in Denver about police brutality, and you might see things a bit differently.


A clarification question: Does it make a difference to you whether this white terrorist you hope for is a leftist or a conservative, btw? Or is this just about race?


Racism exists. But it is not the dominant force in American life.Speaking of which, I do find it odd that Jews are considered members of the white privileged class when less than two generations ago, whites wouldn't let us into their country clubs. 

To your question about Islamic terrorism - I obviously believe it is a serious threat. I am happy to acknowledge that. the problem is that on the right, conservatives refuse to acknowledge the threat of home grown anti-government terrorism to the point that conservative backlash to DHS even reporting on the latter form of terrorism resulted in DHS having to reduce its work against that kind of threat. 

RE: your clarification question: no, and my articles were written very precisely. I think the double standards in this part of national security policymaking tend to be about nationality/religion/ethnicity.

Re: Jews - as one, I agree on that point. 

Read the full conversation here.

By Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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