'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, April 21st, 2013
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
April 21, 2013
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Katon Dawson, Zaheer Ali, Dan Gross, Dean Baker, Carmen Wong Ulrich, Dorie Clark, Lisa Cook, Amy Palmer
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Do you
feel safe now?
And what happens when who you are makes you a suspect?
Plus, congress`s epic fail in addressing what really terrorizes our cities.
But first, the crisis is over. Let the politics begin.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
This has been quite a week. Monday`s tragic bombings at the Boston
marathon finish line set off an extraordinary and unprecedented set of
events that ended with a surprisingly subdued ending on Friday night.
26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev was pronounced dead after a dramatic shootout
with law enforcement early Friday morning. His 19-year-old brother,
Dzhokhar, escaped on foot precipitating a shelter in place order for the
entire Boston area.
But the much sought after armed and dangerous teen was found wounded and
incoherent in a boat parked in the backyard of a suburban Watertown home,
discovered not by the hundreds of armed officers who had been searching for
him for hours but by the home`s owner, reportedly out for a smoke.
With one assailant dead and the other in police custody, the people of
Watertown and the entire Boston area expressed their enormous gratitude and
sense of relief with spontaneous cheers and applause on Friday night.
The crisis is over. Now the politics begin and this is where our
responsibility in the media shifts. In the heat of the crisis, media take
on the job of informational clearinghouse, keeping the public up to date,
sharing critical information and doing our best to get it right and get it
out fast. Granted, those are goals that can contradict at times.
But now, we must step back from the incessant drumbeat of breaking news to
the more deliberative effort of making meaning. No longer are we asking
what is happening. Now we ask what happened. Now, that shift is subtle
but it`s important. What do we think happened in America this week?
Because what we think happen and what we say happened makes all the
difference to what will happen next.
OK, we know two brothers who were born outside the United States are
believed to have detonated two bombs at the finish line of the Boston
marathon on Monday. And we know they tried to evade police and we know
they were captured. But we don`t know why. And because we don`t know why,
we`ve started to guess. And those guesses are informed by our prior
experience with things that seem to be like this thing. We ask, is this
like 9/11? Has our country just suffered a well-coordinated attack by
foreign extremists targeting particular symbols of our national identity?
Then we ask is this like Oklahoma City? Have we witnessed a disaffected
American citizen no matter how new his citizenship, violently protesting
the overreach of the government? Then we ask is this like columbine, a
sociopath seducing a young man into unthinkable violence, two young men who
simply target a location that is most convenient, most proximate? Should
we be reading up on Chechnya or about adolescent angst? Should we blame
radical Islam or hip hop music? Who is our enemy?
And while states of emergency are not good incubators for responsible
reactions to these questions, there are plenty who are willing to offer
Take Republican congressman Peter King from New York who told "Politico,"
near days after the bombing, obviously the main international base, the
terrorist threats are coming from, the Muslim community. We are at war
with Islamic terrorism. It`s coming from people within the Muslim
community, by the terrorists coming from that community just like the mafia
comes from Italian communities.
King was one o four Republican lawmakers that released a statement
yesterday applauding the suspension of Miranda rights for the teenage
suspect. He even suggested we haven`t gone far enough and advocated for
labeling the suspect an enemy combatant.
By defining this week`s events as terrorism, we endow the violence with
political meaning. When we call their homemade bombs but not Adam Lanza`s
Bush master XM 15 rifle weapons of mass destruction, we sent out a
trajectory for the prosecution when we focus on months that one suspect
spent overseas rather than the years that both spent in the U.S. We assume
a limited geography for the incubation of evil.
So here we go. The crisis is over and the politics begin. And folks, this
is actually the most dangerous part.
With me at the table today is MSNBC contributor and Georgetown University
professor, Michael Eric Dyson, Valerie Kaur, a writer and filmmaker and a
fellow at seminary, Ari Melber, co-host of MSNBC`s "the Cycle" and Robert
Pape, director of the project security and terrorism.
Thank you all of being here.
So Bob, let me start with you. What do you think happened this week?
ROBERT PAPE, DIRECTOR, PROJECT OF SECURITY AND TERRORISM: What I think
happened this week is we had homegrown terrorism come to the United States.
Since 9/11, this is the first time a homegrown terrorist bomb has gone off.
Naturally, that`s come as a surprise. I think since 9/11, it`s not quite a
shock. 9/11 was the real shock. But it has come as a surprise. Of
course, it went on for days because it was an ordinary bombing, not a
suicide attack, therefore, the perpetrators were able to move around and
possibly carry out another attack. Therefore, fear and concern grew last
Now, we are in a period of relief. But Melissa, I think you`re absolutely
right. The coming months are the most dangerous time. We saw this after
9/11. Just after 9/11, only tiny fraction of Americans were really afraid
PAPE: By 18 months later, 45 percent of all Americans thought half of the
1.4 billion Muslims around the world wanted to kill them.
PAPE: No surprise. It was easy to go into ride.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, this is the moment, right? The kinds of
decisions we make about how we talk about this event now have then have the
implications for civil liberties questions, to have implications for
potentially foreign policy questions.
I want to listen for just a second to President Bush immediately after 9/11
just as a reminder sort of where we were as we were talking about what
happened in that moment. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On September 11th,
enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Our war on
terror begins without data. But it does not end there. It will not end
until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So this set out the parameters, Ari, that we have been
working under for the past decade or more.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Yes. That was the global war on
terror. An there was a big gap between that rhetoric we just heard and the
legal authority that the president actually had, which under the 2001
authorization of force was to only pursue al-Qaeda, the Taliban and groups
directly found responsible for 9/11. We will continue to have that legal
friction that we have at this times, both on civil liberties and foreign
policy questions. And the first instinct, I think, we have to combat is
oldest one in the book which people are rightfully outraged at these
killers. And part of what they want to do is shut down the thought process
and the constitutional system that we rely on because I see a lot of
liberals saying, forget it, get rid of them. Do whatever you got to do.
MELBER: It`s an understandable feeling because of the horror we saw this
week. It can be understandable and be wrong. And so, just as there was a
gap in the foreign policy platform there, we are going to see gaps between
the feelings and the rhetoric that is out there you alluded to some of what
some Republican and democratic members of Congress have been talking about.
That`s a big gap from what our laws require.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And so, I really appreciate how you put that. Because
I do think -- it`s absolutely reasonable to be afraid, particularly to be
afraid over the course of this week in part because we as news media, we`re
giving you, this is happening and it felt very scary.
You know, my daughter normally travels with me on the weekends. There was
no way I was letting her travel to New York when I didn`t know what kind of
terrorism, you know, we were experiencing, whether or not of scare it is.
So, on the one hand, it makes perfect sense to be afraid. On the other
hand, we know that bad policy making happens in that context.
VALERIE KAUR, WRITER, FILMMAKER: That`s right. You know, this week, I
experienced as a crisis in two different ways. I was north of Boston when
the explosions went off. I lived in the city of Boston for three years. I
was terrified, as were my friends and family held up in Watertown on
Friday. I was breathing a sigh of relief as with all Americans when the
terror finally ended.
But, like millions of Muslim, Arab and Sikh Americans, I have been waiting,
praying, hoping that we won`t see the fear and violence and hate that we
have seen many times before.
After Oklahoma City and after September 11th, regardless of who the
perpetrator was in those moments. What we are seeing today was a family
friend, a Sikh American who was murdered in the hundreds of hate crimes
that erupted across 9/11, across America in the week of 9/11. I mean, the
stakes are real and already we have heard of at least two accounts of
retaliatory violent hate crimes. We had seen racial profiling of innocent
bystanders. We have seen public officials call for counterterrorism
measures that would single out our very communities.
But, when I take stock of this last week, the one thing that gives me hope
is that we are not the nation we were in 2001.
KAUR: That President Obama has come out asking our nation to stay true to
unity and diversity, words we did not hear after 9/11. Deval Patrick,
governor of Massachusetts id if we are to heal and recover as a nation, we
need to turn to each other rather than on each other. I`m going to hang on
that hope, I believe there, as we navigate the next few months.
Mike, I`m confused too. As soon as we come back from the break there, I
keep saying nobody else had to have commercial this is week, but we do.
So, we are going to come back to you as soon as we are back from the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier this week, my colleague, Ari Melber wrote this for
MSNBC.com quote "the federal response to the Boston marathon bombings is
already debunking one of the persistent myths about counterterrorism
policy, the idea that terrorism should not be confronted with the tools of
There were plenty of other terrorism myths that came tumbling down this
week. But we were so tied to analyzing this horror in such a limited
framework that we may have missed those lessons.
So Ari, as we are responding, talk to me about this public safety
exemption. So the public safety exemption says that the public safety
exemption is triggered with police officers have an objectively reasonable
need to protect the police or public from immediate danger.
Is that what was happening in the context of choosing not to Mirandized
this young man?
MELBER: The short answer is we don`t know yet. The public safety
exception comes from a very good place. The idea that some things are even
more important than what will ultimately happens at the trial of an accused
One of those things is stopping the emergency. So, the longest time that
we`ve seen the public safety exception upheld is about 45 or 50 minutes.
That`s the kind of thing of the police saying, where is the gun, do you
have any co-conspirators, trying to get that basic information? It has not
traditionally been understood to span for hours or days.
Now, what we are seeing here is a special question, right? This is an
unusually complex long-range crime. And so, in my article in Reuters
today, walking through the analysis of the law here, one of the arguments
that the Obama justice department seems on the verge of making is we have
crimes that went over several days. We have a suspect that as of this
point, NBC News hasn`t confirmed the medical condition and there may have
been a long lag before the suspect was really able to be interrogated.
And so, as long as the investigators and the justice department are
meaningfully applying that exception and saying we really are trying to get
that actionable information and it may have been delayed by the medical
conditions, they will be on strong legal ground even break new president
and go pass 50 minutes.
The other point though, and again, this goes to what we were discussing
previously is, if that all becomes an excuse of making a mockery of it, and
I`m not saying that is happening. As I wrote here, we don`t know yet.
But, if it does, it`s our job as citizens and the press to keep a close eye
on that because a lot of what we saw under the prior administration, under
George W. Bush, was the argument that terror makes everything different,
i.e., you have less rights and in the spring of Supreme Court`s decision in
Rah Suel (ph) and (INAUDIBLE) and Hamdi (ph). We saw a relatively
conservative Supreme Court ultimately tell President Bush, no, you can`t
twist like that just because it`s terrorism.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And Michael, that seems to me like the danger in
calling it terror, right? There was an immediate impulse, make sure
President Obama is calling it terror. But then, we also see Lindsey Graham
tweeting out on April 19th, the last thing we may we want to do is read the
Boston suspect the Miranda rights, telling him to remain silent. And
apparently that is the reason that would be the last thing is because
somehow terrorism makes it fine, right?
We don`t really know if this is terrorism. We don`t know if there is
political motivations here.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: We don`t know. No. Look. We
have to distinguish between the generic establish the definition of terror.
Everybody was terrorized. But, the political definition of terror is
something yet again. So, we have to be careful.
Secondly, you know, John Ralston`s theory of justice said hey, just imagine
if you are the guy or the person who is going to be subjected to the
recriminations you want to put forth. So, be very careful of the fact that
if something happens in your family and your kid does something and now all
of the sudden, your kid is on the terror list and the no-fly list, that`s a
different kettle of fish.
Bu thirdly, I think, it`s unfamiliar evil versus familiar evil. See, we
don`t, you know, when you made the point about we`ve incubated in our own
culture a homegrown terrorist now; that strikes terror at the heart of
America. But guess what? Hey, ask the minority people, we`re familiar
with homegrown domestic terrorists. And of those terrors we have been
familiar with isn`t Muslim, they`re Christian and it is twisting the cross
and doing things.
So, I think, we have to be very careful about assuming that immediately
this was an act of terror, what motivated them. We are filling in the
blanks because we have such a desire for knowledge. But, what we don`t
realized is that we have generated some of these same pathological
behaviors that now we see as extraordinary and exceptional and really
they`ve grown out of the context. They`re not foreigners, they`re
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I thought, Bob, that`s what I wanted to ask about
is the sense that like somehow we need to know about Chechnya and we need
to know about the relationship between Chechnya and Russia. I was like,
wait a minute, as far as we know, at least the still living prospect, as
far as we know, at least at this time, spent his entire childhood and
PAPE: Exactly right. And in fact, from other cases of homegrown
terrorism, not just in the United States, but in Britain and in Europe, we
probably can say some things are likely to be discovered here. Such as the
particular Chechen issue is not about the pro-independence movement in
Chechnya. It may not even be about any connection with a terrorist --
Chechen terrorist organization.
And why do I say that? I say that because for actually 15 years, the
United States, if anything, has been on the side of the Chechens, not on
the side of the Russians. If you look at the statements by the Chechen
rebel leaders, they have singled out targets for death, not Americans,
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
PAPE: If you look at the statement by the pro-Chechen independence Web
site, the main Web site, which is the one most linked to the Chechen
rebels, they have distanced themselves from the Boston attacks because, if
anything, why wouldn`t they want us to be more pro-Chechen. You see, this
is just cutting against their political interests.
That said, what we have seen in other homegrown terrorist plots, such as in
the London suicide bombings in July 2005 are individuals who basically have
social bonds first. In that case, they were friends first, terrorists
later. Here, they appear to be brothers first, terrorists later.
And then, if you look more closely and we look at the London bombers, we
say oh, my God, they were long time and good standing members of the local
community. The ringleader took his class to the houses of parliament just
a year before. Well, that`s hardly the kind of image that -- but it
closely matches what we`ve seen about the brothers.
What we found in the London case is that there was deep anger at perceived
injustices that Muslims were facing around the world, not just from the
areas the individuals were from and that perceived injustice seemed to
spiral and spiral into political activism gone wrong.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we may learn more from their biographies than we do from
their geography of origin.
When we come back, we will talk a little bit more about this two-sided coin
of the surveillance state. Do you feel safer knowing that the government
HARRIS-PERRY: After seeming to simmer quietly for a couple of days, the
manhunt for the suspects in the Boston marathon bombing rose to a boil
Thursday evening when the FBI released these blurry images showing two men
carrying backpacks near the finish line at Monday`s race.
Authorities also released surveillance footage showing the men who we could
-- we have come later to find out were 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev and
his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar.
On Friday, after a homeowner in Massachusetts contacted police about a
possible suspect being in the boat behind his home, authorities used what
they called a forward looking infrared device to produce the thermal you
see here, James Bond like gadgetry. It allowed Massachusetts state police
to confirm that a person was in fact in the boat.
It`s hard to see how the police could have found the suspect this quickly
without the use of this incredible surveillance power. But, it`s exactly
that power, Valerie, that begins to give me some pause.
KAUR: That`s right. And this entire debate, we must remember, is
happening as we are living out the consequences of the counterterrorism
measures that our government put into place after 9/11. Right now, the
city of New York is debating whether their police department needs
independent oversight after it was exposed that and engaged in the largest
state surveillance program of innocent Muslims for more than a decade.
This week, a nonpartisan commission released a report that unanimously
concluded that the United States did in fact torture.
KAUR: -- detainees after 9/11. As we speak, 63, at least 63, detainees at
Guantanamo are on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention,
the largest protest to date.
This is really concerning. We can`t have another post 9/11 decade. The
fact that already representatives like Steven King are asking to us rethink
immigration reform, just as we were about to make headway, as if all
immigrants are now automatically suspect or potentially terrorists is
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to underline your point about the torture report
because, I think part of it was key here is that the torture didn`t occur
sort of accidentally. It occurred as a result of policy. And so, the
torture report that was released this week tells us there`s no evidence
that there of ever before been the kind of considered and detailed
discussion that occurred after September 11th directly involving a
president, his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality on
inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in their custody.
And that feels to me, Michael, like, in other words, what we were saying is
OK, now that it`s terror, we are going to be willing to do this. And I
wonder, given how quickly we found the brothers, they were like good, put a
camera up on every corner. Let`s just submit to the surveillance.
DYSON: Yes. But, here`s the point. How the guy was found was some old
gumshoe stuff. Like I got out of my house, I wanted to take a smoke, you
HARRIS-PERRY: I saw some blood.
DYSON: I saw some blood. I called the cops. That isn`t nothing about
MELBER: But Michael, you`ve always been pro gumshoe.
DYSON: Or remove the gumshoe or Stephen King or Peter King.
But, what`s interesting is that now is the old-fashioned stuff that worked.
I`m not, you know, so I`m very, very skeptical as Valerie has already
indicated, the police department, not only in terms of Muslims, but in
terms of how they said, you know, arrest more black people, hold them in,
you know, abeyance and so on. I think we have to be skeptical about
rushing to judgment. That this is the thing that will solve everything.
Because as you said earlier, Melissa, what is in the offing here is
suspension of civil liberties and rights which are the ostensible reason
for us fighting the war on terror to begin with.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, I want to be careful. SO yes, it was ultimately
the guy smoking who sees the trail of blood and is truly very brave and
goes up and checks and sees the whole thing. But on the other hand, he
wouldn`t have been in the boat except that the pictures were released. And
as soon as those pictures were released, it was the break.
MELBER: I think that goes --look. What`s the good part of surveillance?
It`s getting the bad guys without hurting other people, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: There you go.
MELBER: It is generally considered in law enforcement a more lightweight
and less invasive way to do a manhunt. We`re not knocking on your door.
Although, I would be the first to obviously remind you that we did have a
lockdown. But, if we are going to focus in on the policy question of
surveillance, it doesn`t usually involve a lockdown. And that`s why people
think it is good. The CIA talks about the mosaic theory of intelligence,
the idea that little bits of meaningless and innocuous information, you put
enough of them together and you get this mosaic, this picture that can
actually help you solve crimes or hand --
HARRIS-PERRY: But, if they more they asking for people`s iphones pictures
MELBER: Exactly. So, that`s the crowd sourcing. And the crowd sourcing
is less of a concern from the civil liberties perspective because the
people are involved. They flip the switch and we submit up and hopefully
it`s used the right way.
I think this week was a good example of that. So, what`s the problem? The
problem is when all of this becomes government only, right? If the
government, through its reach or subpoena powers or patriot overreach can
basically turn and deputize Lord and Taylor and you`re in my iphone and
sweep and vacuum it up, that`s more concerning because we know in countries
that have overwhelming surveillance, there tends to be abuse.
HARRIS-PERRY: We actually saw that happen this week, right?
PAPE: But, there`s more than just simply the legal issues here, Melissa.
There`s a security reason why we have to be concerned about over
The key issue here in the short term, surveillance gives us a picture of a
perpetrator. In the long-term, it allows racial profiling. What happens
is the public almost automatically begins to look at that picture and then
think, anybody who looks like that person is somehow a suspect. There`s
millions who might fit that bill.
And let me go further, what did the terrorist organizations do with this?
This is a source of the perceived injustice against Muslims that terrorist
leaders use to whip up anger against Americans to come back, blow back to
hurt us. So, the core issue isn`t just simply that it`s morally wrong to
racial profile or that it`s legally wrong. There`s a security reason why
we have to be very --
HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to take a quick break. We are going to take
exactly on this issue of surveillance, but also the fact that even as a
state is watching people, the people are watching the state. It`s
fascinating, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week we marveled at the speed of evidence produced by
cameras watching the public. At the same time, the public was listening on
what authorities were doing with that evidence. Fuelled by social media,
tens of thousands of ordinary citizens listened live to Boston police
scanner trying to make sense of the fragmented bits of information.
Mostly, they made a mess. Amateur sleuth ` misidentified potential
suspects, drew false conclusions and broadcasted information that was
better left private. All this reverse surveillance led the Boston police
to demand via tweeter, do not compromise officer safety by broadcasting
tactical positions of homes being searched. So, the state is watching us
and we are watching the state and does any of that make us any safer?
DYSON: I don`t think it does. Look, you know, we need more Andy Griffith,
not Barney Fife (ph) and Barney is out there messing up. Andy, we`re down
here and you`re messing the whole deal up, man. And the thing is, is that,
you know, it`s good to have the democratization of information is critical
in hands that deploy it with care and regard and regard for other citizens.
Just my individual right to know has to be counter balanced against what
have to put out there as we pursue people who were deemed as extremely
dangerous and terrorists.
So, I think that in that sense, we want to hold the state accountable,
that`s for sure, but the misuse of information that is flooding the
airwaves, the digital arena is potentially harmful because it reinforces
the very stereotypes you`re speaking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: When the brown student who is missing, Sunil Tripathi was
identified by twitter, basically, right? And so, this is a student who is
missing, whose parents are in agony still don`t know where he is and he`s
identified as a potential terrorist.
PAPE: What ironic to me, the biggest danger with overreaction is from the
media. Your quote just from the Boston police shows that the authorities
are more educated than they were right after 9/11.
And with the FBI, just to give you an example, I`ve given many talks to the
FBI and I have also given talks the very next day to CARE, that`s the main
public Islamic group here in the United States. And what`s striking is how
the head of the FBI and the local region talks to the head of CARE in the
local region and I often joke. I say well, you must know what I`m about to
say because they just eavesdropped on you. They joke about this among
But, when you talk to the heads of the FBI, they understand that working
with the Muslim community is the best way to ensure the security of
Americans and it`s really quite interesting how the media is much, much
more sort of pendulum swinging, whereas folks who, again, inside the
authorities who are responsible, they seem to be educated.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, on the other end, we don`t want to creed it all to the
authorities, right? I mean, you know, it was an interesting moment when
there was sort of, we saw in new media which often makes very reasonable
complaints about mainstream media. And yet, they were doing the same sort
of rushing to get the information. So who do you trust in this story?
Pete Williams who is doing what? Calling people on the phone and talking
to sources. Again, back to your, sort of gumshoe way.
KAUR: Look. We are the twitter generation. We are not satisfied just
watching events unfold. We are participating in those events. And that
means that many of us are participating in those events in bad ways. We
are profiling innocent bystanders, we`re profiling based on the color of
their skin. We are using social media to spread hate and suspicion. FOX
commentator Eric Rush tweeted after the bombing, Muslims are evil, let`s
kill them all. I mean, they are really -- social media been used in this
way. But many more people I have seen have found community and unity and
expressed a commitment to diversity online.
MELBER: I want to take one step back and say, look, the crowd sourcing of
this operation was very successful. And the big risk when you surface
pictures, you will have vigilantism that we talked about that. We don`t
I have to say, the people of Boston and largely around the country, were
very responsible on that. So, on the big things, not the rumors online,
but on the big things, I would say a big success here. And the old saying
online is information wants to be free. People never remember the end of
that quote which is actually "but it also wants to be valuable."
And spreading things without confirming them obviously is much less
valuable. Your signal to noise ratio fades. But, I would make a strong
distinction between what`s a relatively small, maybe influential but small
group much people that are really big on power users on a couple social
media platforms versus the people in Boston, the people who called who did
the gumshoeing, that helped to make it successful.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, in the end, having the pictures, making them available,
it`s still a net gain even if we have a sense of anxiety about that
surveillance or even about our surveillance of the surveillance. Maybe
it`s in part this notion with the new technology then, also come new social
Bob, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it.
We have much more coming up. And you should also know that we have some of
Robert Pape`s insights up on our online source MHPshow.com. Go and learn
more about Bob Pape`s insights there.
Also up next, collective sigh of relief. How Boston and the nation are
recovering after one incredible week.
HARRIS-PERRY: The crisis is far from over for the victims of the Boston
bombing and the aftermath for the families of 8-year-old Martin Richard,
29-year-old Krystle Campbell, 23-year-old graduate student Lingzi Lu, 26-
year-old MIT officer Sean Collier and the dozens of injured spectators.
The long and agonizing process of healing has just begun. But, with the
suspected assailant`s identified in either dead or captured, the city and
country are beginning to recover. The cheering crowds at yesterday`s Red
Sox games were a visceral symbol that Boston was back. In fact, Boston
actually didn`t stay down long after the initial bombings. I mean, before
the dramatic events of the week`s end, many in Boston, across the country
had returned to business as usual with a kind of defiant resilience in the
face of violence whose source at that point was still unknown.
But then on Thursday, the terror returned. That the late-night shootout
and the unprecedented lockdown over the entire metropolitan area, the
militarization of quiet suburban streets and unrelenting news cycle of
speculations and fear ripped and the scab off the still fresh wound.
Now, if we weren`t terrified before, then, suddenly we were. And the
spontaneous cheers of Watertown residents on Friday night upon the capture
of the suspect showed the almost giddy relief that it was all over so soon.
But even as we cheer in relief, it is worth remembering that we are a
nation that has responded to collective terror by compromising our own
civil liberties, by pursuing preemptive violence and by assuming that
entire groups of fellow citizens are potential enemies who must be
monitored, which leaves me wondering, is there another way to recover from
Joining us now is Zaheer Ali, researcher and lecturer on history. He is a
commentator on Muslim American issues.
So, is there another way, a better way for us to respond than the ways we
have in the past?
ZAHEER ALI, LECTURER, AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY: Well, I think one of the
things that struck me as this whole thing unfolded was, and of course, you
know, many Muslims around the country, before the identities of the
suspects were known said please don`t let them be Muslim. I mean, I
remember growing up, we said please don`t be black, right? It`s like
because you don`t have as a community, the kind of privilege to declare
individuality, to say this is a plural community, this is diversity and
we`re all not the same.
And as a result, Muslim victims tend to be invisible, right? So, you had a
case that at the Boston marathon where a young 20-year-old Saudi was
running like everybody else from the, you know, the bombing and he was
tackled because he was suspected as being one of the bombers. And so,
being Muslim in American post 9/11 is being both, you know, afraid of being
victim of terror and also being afraid of being a suspect of terror.
And so, it`s very difficult for Muslims when we see these kinds of events
happen. Like, yes, we want to join in the celebrations too, right? And
so, there are only two rose, it seems, that they offer Muslims, either you
are apologizing like that`s not us or you are waving a flag. And I think
that isn`t the only thing because in any of these, the Muslim tradition in
America, and certainly the African-American Muslim tradition in America has
rooted in part in the tradition of protest, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. You know, so, I`m so glad that you made that point
about sort of being simultaneously victimized and then defined as the
Valerie, I know your work after the Oak Creek shooting of a Sikh temple,
one which many people believe who have been basically a case of American
ignorance, misunderstanding about the Sikh religion versus Islam, right?
Gets right at that core. What can we learn about how to recover?
KAUR: Well, let`s remember that the Oak Creek mass shooting was actually
the last incident of domestic terrorism in this country. And it was
committed by a white supremacist who walked into a Sikh house of worship
and opened fired. In the wake of that tragedy, we did not hear calls for
white people to be profiled, we did not hear Christianity denigrated, we
did not see Christians living in fear. The way that our country diagnoses
a problem when it`s a white perpetrator, it`s an individual problem. When
it`s a person of color, suddenly an entire community is deemed dangerous.
But that said, I want to speak to this issue of how we have recovered. The
kind of love and outpouring that we experienced Sikh and Muslim and South
Asian Americans across the country from all kinds of Americans of all
backgrounds was so overwhelming. It was an experience where our fellow
Americans were not looking at us as foreigners or suspects, where they were
seeing us as neighbors, as colleagues as friends, as patriots. And that is
the kind of hope, that`s the kind of vision of unity that I`m hanging on to
in the days to come. That`s our higher self.
DYSON: Well, it is a higher self. I mean, this is why to me, Martin
Luther King, Jr. is the greatest American who ever lived. He forgave evil
in advance. Therefore, depriving it of its consequence on me. I`m not
going to allow you the prerogative to define my response to you. I`m going
to settle that score in advance so that the injuries I endure and the
bloodshed that is occurring is redemptive not because we are sickened
pathological but because we refused to allow your vision of the world to
prevail. And this is what it means to be black in America as well as many
other religious minorities.
The evil stuff, the bad stuff we do is seen as representative. The great
stuff we do is seen as exceptional. So, the exceptional people can never
be representative of the group and the evil people are the only
representatives or the people who do quote "bad things" are the only
White Americans don`t have to bare that if Tom Cruise goes down, you got
Brad Pitt and whole other people. Denzel goes down, we are done.
So, the reality is that we don`t have that kind of representational
authority to say to America no, this is not what defines us. In America,
part of the privilege of whiteness is not to understand the person who does
something wrong, you don`t have to go on television. Black people
apologize for, apologize for apologize for, even the president has to
apologize for black people.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to go specifically to the non-violence argument
though, the arguments you made. Because I think, you know, I had this
opportunity to sit down with Diane Nash, who is, you know, one of the
founding members Sikh, just an absolute, the philosopher of non-violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s amazing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it was so useful to me in the context of this week and
everything going on, because of the argument you just made that the
response to violence is the thing that defines who we are, that it`s not
being victimized by the violence, but it is how we respond.
And so, this is our moment as a nation to figure out who we are, how we
respond to these.
And you know, that`s such a great point. Because, think about it, if
African-American people specifically, black people had responded with
vicious, violent rhetoric or assaulted the dominant culture, we would have
had a chaos there.
What we did was not only good morally; it preserved the fabric of the
nation. The nation should remember that when it seeks revenge against
these other victims. That nonviolence is not only a method of logical
approach, it preserves the civic unity upon which we ground all of our
And I think Diane Nash is right and the Martin Luther King, Jr., and all
those great people -- folk understood that Ali Baker, that we preserve the
soul of the nation to give in to -- so that the greater aspect of our
culture can be amplified. That`s what king did. That`s what the civil
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right there because we are going to talk more on this
issue, particularly as we look at how other countries have responded.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2011, Anders Breivik carried out a bombing and a shooting
spree in Oslo, Norway, that killed 77 people, most of them young people at
a summer camp. In response, the Norwegian justice system sentenced him to
21 years in prison. You heard me right, 21 years. In a three-room cell
with a TV, exercise equipment, and IKEA-style furniture. And though it`s
possible for Brevik`s sentence to be extended if he`s deemed to longer be a
threat, he could be released in 2033, yes released, even though he killed
The philosophy in Norway may seem incomprehensible to us in the U.S.
Norway, after all, has no death penalty and the Norwegian people believe in
a system they called restorative justice, emphasizes healing for the
victims, society and the criminal as well.
The result? According to 2010 data from the United Nations office on drugs
and crime, the homicide rate per 100,000 people in the United States was
4.8. In Norway, it was 0.6, less than one in 100,000.
So Ari, I don`t mean we ought to go to a Norwegian system. But it does beg
the question, is there a different way to think about crime and punishment
and is this, maybe, a moment for us to start doing it?
MELBER: I think this is not the moment, partly because this crime is not
representative. If you look at the breakdown of the modern justice system
in America, what we know is that African-Americans for the same crime are
likely to get six times as much time in prison.
MELBER: And we know that we have a deal basically that usually prevents,
jury trial that says go to the jury, get your day in court, the vast
majority of domestic criminal cases are done by plea, that means your
defendant never actually gets that trial or gets that day in court. That
is where I think and where I`ve written the big reforms are need.
This is a fairly unusual situation. This is much closer to what we did in
Nuremberg where we said here are these people who have done the worst
things imaginable, you know, killing children, genocide, declaring some
kind of war on the United States, even if it`s not a legalized organized
war. And there is not evidence at this point that the suspect was directly
linked to the Taliban or al-Qaeda, which is what would be legally required
to go into that. So, I think the justice department from what we know is
right to go into the domestic criminal system.
Now legally, he will be up for capital crimes, including terrorism, use of
WMDS, and explosive device against people. killing of an officer, pursuing
the investigation. There is a multiple capital crimes. So, the justice
department will have authority to pursue the death penalty at a federal
level. Separate from Massachusetts if they want to.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s hard to imagine that we wouldn`t, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, given our sense of terror, given the kind of attack
it was, given there was a child killed, given the kind the maiming
injuries. On the other hand, that revenge that we seek doesn`t seem to
make us a safer country.
MELBER: It doesn`t -- well, it safer and we don`t want to think about it
as revenged. I mean, that`s the point. That`s why I mentioned and rarely
do I talk about Nazis on television, it is difficult to do. But it`s
relevant because you`ll hear every time like this comes up, people say does
he even deserve a trial, does he even deserve his fifth amendment rights or
Miranda rights. These are all a bundle of the same question that we`ve
fought so many times. When we answered in the answered in the affirmative
in the worst crimes against humanity, we answer that`s what makes us
different. That goes to process. As to penalty, we have to wait. We have
to see if that penalty is meeted out within the justice system. The fact
that we want this person dead is not the point in how our constitutional
system works. We may want it but we have to step back and wait and let the
justice do its ford the justice system to work.
DYSON: That`s the difference between revenge and justice. I mean, revenge
is seeking to, you know, XP, the guilt order satisfy our blood lust to get
somebody caught where justice says render unto this person who is coming to
him or her. Which is why, I think, Melissa`s impulse is right. Even if
the application as you have been indicated is to the wrong part of the law,
because all those black men who are going to jail for nonviolent drug
offenses and overpopulating the prisons have as equal a claim to the
protection of a society that has demonized them as others in the
exceptional case of terror.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, when we come back, we are going to continue
to ask this question about how do we recover. But in this case, we are
going to talk about how do you recover when you are part of the community
that is considered the terrorist community when we are back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
This week, before we know anything about the suspects in the Boston
marathon bombing, some began making links between terrorism and
immigration. It started with the post-9/11 American tendency to conflate
acts of terrorism with the dangerous, foreign, brown others who live among
Among the worst media offenders this week were "The New York Post" who
misreported that a Saudi national was taken into custody as a suspect and,
of course, the now famous image of -- or infamous of two perfectly innocent
marathon spectators who were splashed across the front page as potential
And then, there was John King of CNN who cited multiple sources on
Wednesday when reported the Boston suspect was dark-skinned. We know now
this description is entirely inaccurate.
The media had helped in this kinds of racializing what happened in Boston.
They got help from the elected officials.
Here`s Republican Congressman Louis Gohmert of Texas on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LOUIS GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: We know al Qaeda has camps over with the
drug cartels on the other side of the Mexican border. We know that people
are now being trained to come in and act Hispanic when they`re radical
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Not to be outdone, Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa had this
to say at Friday`s judiciary hearing on immigration reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Given the events of this week, it`s
important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration
system. While we don`t yet know the immigration status of people who have
terrorized the communities in Massachusetts when we find out, it will help
shed light on the weaknesses of our system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Actually, Senator, maybe the weakness is in trying to tie
terrorism to immigration.
At the table, MSNBC contributor and Georgetown University professor,
Michael Eric Dyson, Ari Melber, host of MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE", Republican
consultant and former South Carolina GOP chair Katon Dawson, and Zaheer
Ali, a lecturer on African-American history.
Katon, I want to start with you, because "gang of eight" in the midst of
all this, "gang of eight" puts out the immigration report. Marco Rubio
does a kind of here`s the talking points from it. And border control --
border control is the fundamental thing that we hear coming out of what is
meant to be an immigration change, something new. And yet, the language is
still primarily this language about border control.
KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, I think it goes back to the
Republican primary for president. Certainly, Rick Perry probably had it
right. It`s 1,400 miles of border from El Paso to Brownsville in Texas
that needs help and has continued to need some help.
Whether it`s the drug cartels or however these politicians want to define
it, certainly, I think what`s going to be brought to the forefront is, in
the immigration debate is, where there are pitfalls in the laws now and is
the American public willing to pay for border security. That came down in
our primary. It truly what sunk us in certain communities because we
seemed heartless and cold as Republicans to other communities.
With that being said, I guess they`re going to have to have -- Senator
Graham and McCain and the others are trying to have a thoughtful discussion
over a very emotional topic that this happened this week but mind you, it
will come next week, Eric, as you know. It will be the topic of discussion
especially in Republican circles of what`s going to happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels insidious to make the link, right? So, yes, it
happened in this week, right, so things that happened in this week
sometimes got framed in this way. For here, these are the two individuals
who are the suspects right now: one is dead, one in custody, are literally
Caucasians -- literally from the Caucasus, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re here on the kind of status, one is an American
citizen, the kind of status that wouldn`t be impacted by immigration
ZAHEER ALI, MUSLIM-AMERICAN: Yes, I mean, part of the immigration debate,
of course, is rooted in how America sees itself as a white nation, right?
So, you look at the language used as part of redeeming and protecting
whiteness. Even now, they`re talking about the arrested suspect as an
ethic Chechen, right?
ALI: A kind of racial othering that white people get to do to exclude
people they don`t included in term of their group, right? And so, dark-
skinned male. I mean, I think one of the things we have to do is like
revisit the hunting for the dark-skinned male that took place last week and
it`s part of the racialization of Muslims. But it`s also part of a longer
history of racialization in crime and terror in the United States, right?
I mean, last week, Ken Burns` documentary of the Central Park 5 aired on
PBS. It was a perfect example of how it`s entangled to great destructive
effect. So, I think, you know, part of this has to do with how -- they
were called dark-skinned. If they`re dark-skinned, I`m jet black, right?
So, I mean, part of why they were called dark-skinned, and part of why we
imagined the threat to be dark-skinned, the threat to be foreign is because
we want to think of or some people want to think of and continue to think
of America as a white nation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, the language will be heard from the elected official,
people are being trained to come over and behave like Hispanics, to somehow
pass as this kind. But then we had -- it`s still this idea that immigrants
constitute not the very thing that is America but somehow a threat.
ARI MELBER, THE NATION: I just -- we`ve had such a serious day, I was
wondering if I could quote Lil Wayne for a second. I have Michael next to
me. He can revoke my authority. You can revoke my authority.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I grant you authority. Go
MELBER: Lil Wayne said, women lie, men lie, numbers don`t lie. This is
that kind of conversation. The numbers are available and the reason why
Senator Grassley, whatever he meant to say, the reason why what he said was
built on a fallacy is that we have the data nationally. U.S. born
individuals are not twice as likely, not three times as likely, five times
more likely to be imprisoned for crime per capita basis.
In California, 10 times more likely, where they`ve done more studies,
because there is such a question about all the undocumented individuals
that are in California.
So, we know that people who come to this country by an overwhelming degree,
like I got to emphasize it, not by a little bit, but by an overwhelming
scale are not doing major crimes. It is felonies and violent crime that
are most likely put you in prison. I should say felonies, violent crime
So, we know that. We know that is not what`s happening. We all want to
make sure that, quote, "the right people get in, if by right people we mean
not terrorists and we have an immigration system to do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: But these would have been exactly the right people, right?
These are young boys who come over with a family from the Caucasus, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, if we didn`t want to spend time on thinking
about right here, folks -- I mean, there are places in the world where
Chechen are very racialized in the way that African-Americans are.
But Boston is not of them.
DYSON: Boston ain`t one of them. But to your point earlier, which is so
important. You`ve got one generation of immigrants trying to block another
generation of immigrants coming. Think about what happened in late 1800s
and the wave, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Jews, Italians, Poles and
the like, Irish, who came here and populated the states. And they couldn`t
by the litmus test they invoked now have become American citizens.
The very litmus test that they invoke now to become an American citizen not
only (INAUDIBLE), which is an Italian ethnic slur, it also meant without
papers. So, the very people who invoke this litmus test for authenticity
as American couldn`t themselves, their grandparents couldn`t pass it. And
I think that`s part of the problem here.
And secondly, when you begin to demonize, I hear his point, which is
extremely, important, you`re point about literally being Caucasian, it`s
beyond the pale literally of the imagination of America to conceive that we
could incubate within whiteness a terror so deep it would destroy
That`s a very critical point. The nation and whiteness have become
indivisible. And this shows is you got to fracture whitesness. Poorer
whites versus rich whites. Whites from the South versus whites from the
In other words, whiteness itself is a race. White America is not often
asked to think of itself as a racial formation. These things force it to
ALI: I think it`s also important, though, that we don`t conflate immigrant
with Muslim. These 40 percent of Muslims in America are African-American.
And so, the using of Islam as a kind much shorthand for foreign or
immigrant as a shorthand for Muslim is completely --
DYSON: But Latinos got the same argument. They`re saying, look, we`re
here. You`re calling us immigrants, we have been here for three and four
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s interesting to me, Katon, is -- I mean, on the
politics of it, to extent that the Republican Party seemed to be having
angst about its immigration discourse, it was around the Latino vote,
right? It was the idea that our immigration discourse will be problematic,
picking up particularly western states.
But then this happens, and all of a sudden, the thing that is immigrant
becomes bigger and therefore, potentially, the problem for the Republican
Party becomes bigger.
DAWSON: Well, it`s certainly a challenge to get the right immigration in
the mix. Much like at gun control issue we`re sitting with right now. I
mean, these are challenge for how it`s going to define itself. And we lost
in the last election, President Obama won. He did won one --
HARRIS-PERRY: Sometimes I think he feels he didn`t.
DAWSON: He might not have --
HARRIS-PERRY: Given that you have to have 60 senators to get anything
DAWSON: He might well, you know? That is what it is. But he did lay the
DYSON: He`s quoting Lil Wayne, too.
DAWSON: I`m not a Lil Wayne fan yet.
DAWSON: He did and I applaud him. I mean, he brought some calm over this
And he did what a commander-in-chief did. And he called them terrorists.
Now, he didn`t call them domestic terrorists, foreign terrorists --
terrorists. That`s what they were.
And the name that I want to remember is Martin Richard. That`s it. I
don`t want to know these guys` names. That`s the little boy who is dead.
And that`s the sadness here. The greatness of America is, we`re having
this discussion today on a very sad week in America of a treacherous thing
and the number of soft targets out there in America will continue to be
These opportunities are there. So, whether it`s illegal immigration or
whoever wants to use this -- really sort of shame on them using Boston as
an excuse to get anything done.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what`s fascinating, I want us to remember Martin
Richard. I want us to remember both the people who died in both of the
blast and the MIT officer who was killed on the night of the shootout. But
the thing is, I guess what I want to be careful about is our assumption
that these children are so fundamental -- particularly a 19-yead, so
fundamentally different than Martin Richard. They grew up in the same
Like it`s easy for us -- I mean, they`re fundamentally different in that
Martin Richard is holding a sign that says no more hurting people, and
these are people who maimed and murdered, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: But they very well -- we may very well find out that the
neighborhoods and communities that they grew up in are not so drastically
different. And that strikes me as something very different than the border
More on this when we come back, because I do want to talk about a fear of a
different kind when it comes to the wake of terror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSLAN TSARNI, UNCLE OF BOMBING SUSPECT: He put a shame, he put a shame on
the Tsarnaev family. He put a shame on the entire Chechen ethnicity.
Because everyone now names, they play with work Chechen. So, they put that
shame on the entire ethnicity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was the uncle of the suspects, on Friday before the 19-
year-old suspect was captured. His anger and embarrassment for his family
and community are palpable.
And make no mistake, there`s also a fear that you hear in his voice. Fear
that there will be an implied suggestion that other Chechen Americans will
commit terrorist acts. If you think he is wrong, ask a Muslim-American
community how they were treated after 9/11.
Or better yet, ask Hiba Abdulan (ph), a young doctor of Palestinian descent
in Massachusetts. On Wednesday, she claims a man punched her in the left
shoulder and screamed, F you Muslims. You`re terrorists, I hate you,
you`re involved in the Boston explosions.
That alleged incident occurred in the presence of her infant daughter.
So, Zaheer, I can remember how I felt when we found out the D.C. snipers
HARRIS-PERRY: And that sense that somehow there is a collective shaming
that becomes part of it. Part of the immigrant narrative in the U.S. has
been this we come and we build and we love the country, perhaps even more
than domestically born Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I could just, I could feel and hear that from the uncle.
ALI: Yes, I mean, I understand, I understand what he was saying. Because
he sees how things happen in this country. How whole groups of people get
blamed for the acts of individuals, especially when you`re in a minority
Now, interesting about this particular case, of course, because I don`t
hear Peter King wanted to conduct surveillance of Chechen communities,
right? And that in case, Islam becomes the one drop. We have a one drop
rule. If you have that one drop, you`re now a suspect. This is how you
became a dark-haired person, right, dark-skinned person because you had
that one drop.
So there is -- I`m looking interestingly to see if there will be an attempt
to redeem or make separation. So, it`s the older brother who was the
Islamist who dragged the younger brother who was, you know, the assimilated
American, the older brother was swarthier looking one, and the younger one
called the light-skinned male on the police scanners, right?
I mean, I`m interested to see how we will do this. So, even with this kind
of distancing that has to take place, where people feel they`re put in a
position to say I`m a good Muslim, not the bad one.
Well, isn`t Muslim that`s the common thing here. It`s people who are
alienated, people -- their whole families were not even in touch with them.
They hadn`t talked to their families in years or months. Their parents
weren`t here. They were basically raising themselves. There were a lot of
HARRIS-PERRY: We don`t really know. The younger brother, we get all
tweets from his friends. He seems pretty is simulated.
Like I think part of the answer is it`s still an open question. It does
worry me when even as we still have these open questions, we are already
beginning to talk about it as a policy matter.
DYSON: Well, see, that`s the important point here, because they don`t have
the privilege of being anonymous. Speaking of people of color or other
minorities, we don`t know yet but we fill in the blanks. We fill in the
blanks with the stereotypes, we fill in the blank with the profilers, we
fill in the blanks with what makes us feel most comfortable that this is an
exceptional extraordinary case that happened because they are this.
So, you take one part of the element that he`s Muslim. But he also might
have listened to classical music. He might have some Lil Wayne. He might
have also gone to -- listened to a lecturer.
HARRIS-PERRY: I keep wondering, is it possible that there would be a
discussion of this is because of Ben Affleck and the connection between
Boston and movies about violence? And of course, the answer is no. Of
course, no one will think that this is about those things.
But at the same time, there`s something -- I appreciate the way that you
framed that as the one drop, like because given that they`re Chechen, given
that they are literally Caucasian, our very sense of connection to them is
this framed up notion of like Islam making them into something that is non
DYSON: It is not us. The point is, it`s important to say that`s not us.
You know, this is not American, this is not who we are because we couldn`t
potentially do when what they did.
But if they`re more like us, the point you were making earlier, if they`re
like us, they grew up in the same neighborhoods, listen to the same kind of
HARRIS-PERRY: By then, it`s scarier.
DYSON: It`s scarier because then what has metamorphosized here to become
who they are. What evil lurks among us? And so, we want to demonize the
other. We have to distance it from the dominant --
HARRIS-PERRY: We did this on columbine, right? As much as we talk about
race and ethnicity, religious identity, the other thing we did in the
Columbine case, we decided it would be Goth kids or kids who presented as
And, of course, the vast majority of alienated adolescents never commit
acts of -- I mean, alienation and adolescence is like, you know, hand in
MELBER: And that point goes to the violation of the social contract.
That`s what violent crime is. It`s a fundamental violation.
And so, we have seen generally throughout history, long before this
incident, two reactions. One is to perform an otherization of the
MELBER: Because that actually makes us feel more safe psychologically,
that this could be cordoned off. There`s another thing we often do with
traditional crime, although we don`t do it with terrorism. But it relates
to that same extinct, which is also we otherize the victim.
And you see that often in terrible cases of rape and sexual abuse, where
people go and they talk about how the victim dressed or how the victim
acted. It`s wrong but I believe it also comes from a place of trying to
think about why we or our family members would never end up as the victim
because that violation is very scary.
DYSON: There was a great piece on that.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Amish did not do this. In 2006, when there was an act
of what we have to understand is terrorism and violence against the Amish
people, the shooting in the school, the response of the Amish community was
fundamentally -- there wasn`t an othering. There wasn`t -- even though the
person was not Amish who did it, it was a sense of our inherent
vulnerability. There`s a political question here I want to ask you, Katon,
that`s tough. Part of what -- we`re going to talk about guns in a bit.
But part of what we`re talking about we`re talking about anti-terrorism or
about immigration and crime or about the guns question is an inherent human
It`s possible that these kids, nothing is claimed by their Chechen identity
or their identity any of those things. If we`re going to live in a free
society, where you run 26 miles outside, we`re vulnerable.
DAWSON: We are vulnerable. We`re in a society now that once you start
taking those freedoms away, you`ll watch everybody start raising hell.
Once you start taking the soft target, your marathons and everything that
we enjoy as Americans and get insular, you`re going to have an outrage on
your individual freedoms and liberties.
What used to be, they blamed it on drugs. They`re on drugs and they`ve
been on drugs. These are just mean guys. That`s what they are.
At the end of the day, they were mean, deranged chicken killers who went
out there --
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re murderers.
DAWSON: They`re murders. And the only thing about gun control, I tell
you, is that the young man is still alive, better be glad he wasn`t in
Louisiana, because he would have got a shot if he`s getting in his boat, he
wouldn`t have been gotten back there --
MELBER: But that`s what would have happened.
HARRIS-PERRY: And let me also say, it`s interesting that the family who
owns the boat where he hid are also immigrants. I also want to point out
that they too are an immigrant family as, of course, we know the history of
Boston as you pointed out -- it is a city of people immigrants from all
over the world.
ALI: As were some of the doctors who treated --
HARRIS-PERRY: We got to take a quick break. I want to thank Zaheer Ali
for joining us this morning. The rests are staying for more because
actually Katon, he`s going to have say more about guns. He can`t be just
the one thing because the violence that is regularly terrorizing our cities
is about guns. And yet, we`re not doing anything, nothing about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week when two young men allegedly committed a callous
and calculated act of mass violence that resulted in the loss of American
lives, we didn`t know right away what caused them to do it. But many
decided almost immediately what to call it. We called it terrorism.
And we use the word "terrorism" to describe events like Monday`s Boston
marathon bombings. And when we do, we`re not just categorizing an act.
We`re enabling a catalyst to provoke the state into action.
Because we called them terror suspects, two men brought the country`s tenth
largest metropolitan area to a complete standstill, because their actions
met our benchmark for terrorism, the state responded with no fewer than 20
different law enforcement agencies and more than 1,000 officers, because a
suspected terrorist was arrested in a suburban backyard Friday night, the
full force of the federal government will be deployed to bring him to
And only days after the attack the act that we called terrorism has already
gown influence debate over policy in the U.S. Congress. But this is the
very same week when we watched the final round of the political tug of war
that began with another callous and calculated act of mass violence
committed by a young man in Newtown, Connecticut, just four months ago.
Only the events of that day fell short of the mark for what we call
terrorism. And the state`s response in this case could most accurately be
described as inaction -- after a Senate vote that could have reformed gun
policy instead left us pretty much exactly where we started. It was enough
to provoke our ordinarily calm and measured president to lose his cool.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody talked about how
we were going to change something to make sure this didn`t happen. Again,
I`m assuming our expressions of grief and our commitment to do something
different to prevent these things from happening are not empty words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, more on why the word that had the most meaning for
gun policy this week was "no".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It came down to politics -- the worry that that vocal minority of
gun owners would come after them in future elections. They worry that the
gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second
Amendment. And, obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but
Democrats had that fear, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama on Wednesday pulling no punches
when assigning blame for the failure of a Senate amendment requiring
background checks for the 40 percent of commercial firearms sales that slip
through that loophole, 40 percent?
The bipartisan proposal received 54 yes votes from 48 Democrats, four
Republicans and two independents. But it was the minority of 46 no votes
that ultimately prevailed because the amendment fell short of the 60 votes
it required to advance.
Back with me: Georgetown University`s Michael Eric Dyson, MSNBC host Ari
Melber, Republican consultant Katon Dawson, and joining us now is Dan
Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Dan, how mad are you about it this week?
DAN GROSS, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: Every bit as angry as
the president is and the American people are.
You have a situation where 90 percent of the American public supported this
measure, the majority of gun owners. That doesn`t happen any anything, no
less legislation, no less gun policy. We were betrayed by our government.
We were betrayed by the people that we elected to represent us.
Every one of the people who voted no, the overwhelming majority of their
constituents supported this. And it comes down to holding them
accountable. That was reflected in president`s tone, and that`s the
disconnect we need to close in order to finally create change on this
HARRIS-PERRY: Explain that to me. That`s the part that perhaps more than
any other thing makes me desperately nervous here. It`s one thing if we`re
having a debate in this country about a policy and then it doesn`t pass.
OK. But we seem to not be having a debate about this policy.
GROSS: You got it.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have absolute uniformity of opinion basically.
GROSS: You got it.
HARRIS-PERRY: You have 92 percent. In fact, many Americans thinking it`s
already the law.
What is the disconnect in our democracy that allows this?
GROSS: It`s not even the will. Let`s remember, it`s the safety of the
American public. I mean, we can demonstrate how this will save lives.
Right now on armslist.com, there`s 73,000 guns available for sale, 94
percent of them are under this guise of private sales, so they don`t
require background checks.
So, every day that this goes on, lives hang in the balance. It really is
just that. It`s not any deeper. There`s a pure disconnect between what
the American public wants. And what our elected officials are doing about
I think there are things to take heart in and take inspiration from.
Several months ago, there would have been a filibuster on this. But these
guys knew when the Newtown families visited, when Americans started calling
their Congress people, they knew that they were being watched and they knew
they at least had to have the conversation.
There was a bipartisan agreement with two A-rated NRA senators. Six A-
rated NRA senators voted in favor of this. So, we are making progress.
The original Brady Bill that pertains to 60 percent of gun sales, it took
five or six times, five or six efforts to get that through the legislature.
So, let`s take inspiration, but let`s not let it quell our outrage.
MELBER: I want to echo one thing Dan said, which is that there is progress
here, and because we didn`t get over the line. It doesn`t feel like
progress, people are upset that we have had this murder of children and a
common sense basic widely supported program is not being implemented. The
most basic thing you could do to literally prevent the next shooting of
innocents of children. So that`s very frustrating.
But there is progress here. Larry Summers said the thing about Washington,
the line between the impossible and the inevitable is very thin. When I
worked on the Hill, I saw that. Campaign finance reform from Feingold and
McCain was never supposed to pass. Lobbyists laughed at it.
And then something happened. Enron and it passed. Here we need -- sadly,
we need more ground action in response to what`s happened.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it`s such a good example, in part because now we live in
a citizens united world and you shrug your shoulders.
Katon, I got to say, obviously, what happened in Boston this week was not
gun violence, right? But the vast majority of violence, the thing that
actually terrorizes our cities, the thing that actually keeps people in
their homes day in and day out, that keeps children from playing is gun
And this isn`t hard. This was background checks. We`re not talking the
magazines. We`re not talking assault weapons. We`re talking background
I don`t want to do the screaming cable news thing. But I got to feel
there`s blood on the hands of every person who voted against this, Dems and
DAWSON: It was both of them. It goes back to policies. I mean, there are
pro-Second Amendment states that have good organizations that you`re aware
of that put a lot of pressure on elected officials and politicians that
have a conspiracy theory about guns.
And it did make sense and it did --
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s the conspiracy theory?
DAWSON: Well, the conspiracy theory is that -- taken from your house.
That`s what you hear in town hall meetings. I`ve been there.
And they raise their hands. It`s an honest question they ask. They
usually give a good answer.
But that`s the fear put into them, whether it`s justified or not. When you
HARRIS-PERRY: Ninety-two percent support -- I hear you.
DAWSON: I got it, 92 percent of them. But then once the rhetoric starts,
the fear and the misrepresentation comes also.
DAWSON: The amendment made perfect sense.
DYSON: This fear that politicians have, that if I side with the American
people or my conscience against the gun lobby of the NRA, I`ll be kicked
out of lobby. That`s been disproved empirically.
So, the point is, you have no refuge except for mythology that they invoke
in times of crisis because they are gutless.
MELBER: And the politicians don`t care about the 90 percent. They care
about what`s the percent of people that are single issue voters who are
coming after me on this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right, this matters. On the one hand we talk about
the valance, the direction, so that everybody is in the same direction.
The fact is that the few who don`t are the vocal, they`re the organized,
they` the well-financed.
But look, there`s a moment when you have to -- again, we`re talking
background checks, Katon. How is the Republican Party over time going to
be able to stand and say oh, yes,this makes sense?
DAWSON: Well, the Republicans weren`t by themselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no.
DAWSON: We had a little cover this time. And the anti-gun lobby failed.
And the pro-gun lobby won. But it was bigger than that.
I think you`re giving a lot of credit to the NRA and their money. I do. I
think there was a lot more working in the hinterlands than just one
organization and their money.
GROSS: I have to clear up a misperception here when you talk about anti-
gun lobby versus the pro-gun lobby. There is no anti-gun lobby. There`s a
lobby trying to prevent gun violence.
DAWSON: I understand that.
GROSS: Time and time again, this is not about taking anybody`s guns away.
This is not against the Second Amendment. That`s why 90 percent of the
American public supports it.
Now, how vocal that support is, is an important issue. There`s a lot of
misperception there as well. I mean, we did a poll just prior to this that
shows that more than 50 percent of the American public is willing to hold
their elected officials accountable on this. They`re more likely to vote
for an elected official that supports background checks.
Only 9 percent of the American public said that they weren`t. There`s a
mythology in Washington, D.C., that we have to break.
BERMAN: We usually disagree. I have to agree with Katon.
There`s a bunch of Democrats who are on the wrong side of this issue. I
grew up in a house with a gun, sounds like you have guns around. This is
not about whether you can have a gun around.
None of these --
GROSS: That`s exactly right.
BERMAN: -- proposals were doing anything.
And the confiscation has never been on the table.
So, what we`re talking about whether we`re going to find any political
impact out of this. That`s the next question. Not whether people go home
But, look, Harry Reid, I`m sorry, he may have worked with you guys recently
and I`d love to hear about those efforts. But he`s a long-time NRA person.
There`s a lot of Democrats who are. The last big NRA bill was giving
immunity to the gun manufacturers so no one could ever take them to court
when people are murdered.
HARRIS-PERRY: What if we called it terrorism. We spent the whole show
thus far talking about terrorism in the context of Boston, right? And we
don`t know what this is, but because of that, there are all kinds of things
we`re willing overnight to move into action.
This is what is terrorism. This is what is terrifying.
DYSON: Right. And the point you`re making here is that we`re more
affected and impacted by this slow terrorism, let`s call it that.
HARRIS-PERRY: More people dead. More children dying.
DYSON: It`s more concentrated. It`s much more effective, and much more
pervasive, because it is the banality of evil. It`s accepted.
It`s just -- look at the base line. I have a gun, you have to say, not you
individually, but you have to say I have a gun. Look at how sick we are.
There are societies that don`t have guns that are safe. We have guns,
we`re unsafe. We`re unwilling to dislodge those two things and we`re
unwilling to say in America it`s the Second Amendment, not the Second
Commandment. This is not God speaking from on high that we should possess
Guns have destroyed us. People who use guns have destroyed us, and the
gutless politicians who defended them this are to be shamed. Like the
Chechen uncle said, this is shame. This is a shameful moment in America
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Dan Gross is not coming for your guns. It`s possible
Michael Eric Dyson is.
But up next --
DYSON: I grew up in a house with guns on the record player.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, up next, Katon is exactly right. There are in fact
Democrats who were on the wrong side on this. In fact, I want to have a
little conversation about one of them as soon as we get back.
HARRIS-PERRY: There are only a handful of Senate Democrats who represent a
red state. Senator Heidi Heitkamp is one of them, which might explain why
she joined 41 Republicans and three other spineless Democrats in opposition
to the only paltry piece of legislative action this Congress has managed to
eke out in the wake of deadly gun violence in our cities and schools.
And while the senator has a responsibility to represent her constituents,
she also has a responsibility to lead. Given that she has nearly five
years before reelection, she could have taken a stand and then made a case
to her district about the value of background checks. Instead of standing
with the families of Newtown and aurora and Chicago, she stood with the
NRA, in a week when so many sacrificed so much to keep Americans safe.
It is embarrassing that the senator was willing to risk so little for the
So, Dan, I -- aah! I mean, look, I have my disagreements with Mary
Landrieu, but she got on board on background checks, right? I have my
disagreement with Kay Hagan, but she got on board in terms of background
checks. They`re facing reelection much sooner.
GROSS: And that may actually be why they got on board because they know
the reality of this issue. We flooded calls into Mary Landrieu`s office.
We organized in Louisiana and we demonstrated to her that her constituents
were behind her. We demonstrated kind of this mythology around being held
accountable for acting against the whims of the gun lobby.
We demonstrated that we`re going to hold these elected officials
accountable for acting against the will and the well-being of the American
MELBER: I just want to ask you, when the Club for Growth and a lot of
conservative groups have a problem like this, we know right away who is
going to pay. We know who is the target.
Is your group or your allies looking at any individuals, should people
watching know who you perceive to be the political targets?
GROSS: I`m glad you asked that question. What people can do right now to
make this outrage, Melissa, that you feel, that reflects the outrage on the
American public is text "My Voice" to 877877. We`ll do one better. We`ll
connect you with the office of one of those senators who voted no so we can
make the voice of the American public heard.
GROSS: Holding accountability, there is a very inspiring kind of coalition
that`s forming around this issue. You have a lot of old players like the
Brady Campaign that is going to train our sights on holding these people
accountable. You have Mayor Bloomberg, you have Gabby Giffords and Mark
Kelly and their organization, you have the president being outraged and
focused on this.
GROSS: Not yet. But we will.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it feels to me like -- Katon, your point was -- as we
were talking about Boston, the only thing I want to remember is the names
of the victims. That`s what I want to remember.
The Newtown families were in the building. Hadiya Pendleton`s mother has
been -- if we`re going to remember the victims. Let me make the same point
about gun violence. Isn`t about your Second Amendment rights and you`ll
have them and background checks will not keep you from having those rights.
I`m less interested than in these names, these victims.
DAWSON: I understand.
DYSON: Do you agree?
DAWSON: Well, I do. This was a complex argument where there`s a lot of
pain and pressure.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not --
DAWSON: It came completely political. In an election cycle coming up,
these are politicians on both sides of the aisle that know the Second
Amendment rights is important and got confused.
The one thing, it`s coming back. This will not be the last conversation we
have about this legislation. I mean, there was not enough momentum to get
it over the edge. The majority leader, the leader of the Senate, Harry
Reid, folded his hand on it. Now there will be pressure to bear.
But going after a lot of politicians --
DYSON: Can I ask this question?
DAWSON: They`re pretty tough guys.
DYSON: If it`s been proved you don`t suffer the negative consequences as
bad as people say, what are the politics involved when, look, I can side
with the right here, the right side, not the right politically, and do the
good thing and as Melissa said, I got wiggle room here, I can re-jigger my
formation and I can talk about what I had to do and give them a wink.
Why not that? Why not that kind of compromise? Why they`re so solid and
DAWSON: Well, you know, I can`t answer that for every individual
politician who did what they did. I can just tell you that the end of the
DYSON: This is politics.
DAWSON: At the end of the day, I think this procedure will go on. You
made the point, Ari did as well. This will not be the last time --
DAWSON: I can answer that question.
GROSS: This entrenched mythology that it`s unsafe to do the right thing on
this issue. The only way it`s going to change is if the American public
demonstrates we`re willing to hold them accountable. I also want to make a
quick point, Melissa, on victims and the families that went to Washington,
Yes, there was incredible poignancy around that and effectiveness. I mean
that`s the reason why there wasn`t a filibuster vote, because the spotlight
that the victims, the Newtown families were able to shine on this. What
this moment represents is an opportunity to cross that chasm from this
being about sympathy for others, of being about victims, to being about the
outrage of the American public at our Congress that is actually doing the
wrong thing on this issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me -- I`m glad you brought us this, because -- Ari, are
we being naive? As we talk about this as a policy issue and issue of
reelection, is this just about the fact that Barack Obama did in fact win
reelection and the one place where he could be stopped and stopped and
stopped is in the U.S. House of Representatives, is in the U.S. Senate
where they simply can say, we`re not going to stand with the president?
Because, what we heard about Senator Heitkamp as troubling it is, if it had
been the 60th vote, she would have cast it. Whether that`s true or not,
you know, I just got to have to take her on her word on that. But because
we weren`t going to get to 60, and that`s the new baseline about governing,
in other words, it`s just about stopping the president dead in his tracks.
BERMAN: Well, we know that`s an animating principle of the Republican
Party, even when safety is a cost. I do think it`s true for both parties,
being the 58th vote on something difficult doesn`t make a lot of sense.
People say that`s why a lot of times you`re like eight votes short or 10
votes over and call it log rolling. That is a part of the --
HARRIS-PERRY: But Mary Landrieu did it.
BERMAN: And some did it, although I think Dan makes a point that he`s
leaning into the notion that she did it precisely because there`s an
And the other ones --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had cover.
BERMAN: They have other kinds of cover. What I want to hear and the
question which was not rhetorical, maybe it`s not this week, maybe it`s
next week, maybe it`s next month, who is going to lose their seat over
I work for Maria Cantwell who in the House at one point was perceived to
have lost in `94 partly over the wave and partly over her courageous vote
for the assault weapons ban in an outer area of Washington state where a
lot of people feel that was too far, OK? And she made that vote, she lost
the seat. Some people say she lost it for other reasons.
But that mythology obviously had a huge impact. And, again, politics,
sometimes we make it really complicated. It`s pretty simple. If you`re at
home, think about your job and think about that list of things that you
know could endanger your job, things you might say at work, things you
might do, those are things you avoid.
And this is an issue for members that they think they`re going to lose a
job over. And so, the first thing that the gun safety groups have to do is
figure out who`s going to lose their job for the other reason.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, because that`s always the key. Democratic
accountability only works if people are held accountable.
And so, the only way to counter the mythology is to kick the rascals out
for doing the other (INAUDIBLE).
Dan, and the work that Brady Campaign has just been doing and doing and
doing in the context of this environment that just refuses to budge is
astonishing. And so -- but I think you`re right. The people have got to
move in order to make accountable.
DYSON: But you raise something about the Obama thing that has to be talked
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Thank you to Michael, and to Ari and Katon and Dan.
My folks are like, do not let Michael speak! There is not enough time!
HARRIS-PERRY: We are not done. Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe you heard that a Mississippi resident was arrested for
sending ricin laced letters to the president and a Republican senator.
Perhaps you heard about the explosion in a fertilizer plant that killed 14
But it was genuinely difficult to get news on anything other than Boston
this week. And here are a few of the things that happened while our
attention was riveted on the manhunt.
Pulitzer Prizes were being announced just moments before the first bomb
exploded. The prize for reporting on national affairs was awarded to Lisa
Song, Elizabeth McGowan and David Hasemyer of "Inside Climate News" for
their exceptional reporting of our nation`s failed regulation of oil
A federal judge temporarily granted reprieve to Mississippi`s only abortion
clinic by blocking a new state law from taking effect while litigation
continues. So, women in Mississippi can still exercise their
constitutional right to reproductive choice a little longer.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 288-127 in favor of the
controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. The act will
allow Internet companies to share personal information more freely with the
government without needing to obtain a warrant. The bill now moves to the
On Friday, the Boy Scouts of America unveiled a plan to allow gay youth
members. The compromise plan still bars gay adults from scout leadership
positions, ensuring that gay scouts can expect equal treatment, but only
until they turn 18.
And on Saturday, a massive earthquake rocked China`s southwestern Sichuan
province leaving at least 180 people and more 11,000 injured.
All of these stories reflect the complex world we live in. The triumphs
and the struggles and tragedies that we face every day. As the nation
comes together in the wake of the Boston marathon bombings, remember that
even the stories that don`t make the headlines should make us aware of just
how connected we really.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
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