Meet the Press   |  April 21, 2013

Violent tragedies create culture of suspicion

A Meet the Press roundtable of experts examines how tragedies like the one in Boston create suspicion among Americans and endanger the public’s feeling of safety.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> tom brokaw , the images of people rushing to help in the immediate aftermath, only, i think, draws us into the emotion of this week, to the anxiety of this week. and i wonder as you have reflect ed on it, whether you think this has changed something, the nature of the attack. has it rekindled a sense of vulnerability as we think about bringing our children to an event like this or keeping them safe in their schools after a mass shooting?

>> i don't think any of us are any more insulated for this kind of violence because it's on televi television 24/7. my wife and i were getting ready for dinner friday night when they finally began to find him and capture him and i said to her, this is a reality show we're going to be living with for a long time. we went through it in newtown with the mass shooting of the youngsters there. i remember so vividly oklahoma city and how that bound us together. there are a couple of things to remember, david, i think for all of us. with the death of bin ladosama bin laden , islamic rage did not go away. in fact, in some ways it's more dangerous. this is a perfect example. you can't get intel on the lone operate aror. there's a lot we still need to know about what motivated him, obviously. he's a chechen, but their beef is with russia not with us. he's also a muslim. and the fact is that islamic rage is still out there. we saw it in times square . we were very, very fortunate under those circumstances. so there has to be more vigilance obviously. but what boston also told us, we have added 30 million surveillance cameras to this country. we have more than doubled our private security budget in this country to now almost $50 billion. the saying is, if you see something, say something. but the other part of that, of course, if you do something, someone will see you doing something. and that's at once a relief, but it also makes me a little uncomfortable. there is no privacy left in our so society.

>> jeffrey bloomberg, you have chronicled how society reacts to terrorism, particularly in israel, and in all your reporting in the middle east , there's a lot to what tom says about islamic rage, about how society has changed, and how this potentially changes us.

>> the slogan is see something, say something. but i think that's honored theoretically by most people in train stations or at ball games or at marathons. i think we're moving into a new era, actually. i call it the era of the suspicious package. which is from now on -- and we'll see this over and over again, when you do see something at the next marathon, someone leaves a gym bag , it's going to cause a response that didn't happen before. tom is right. we're moving into the area of cctv, closed circuit tv. in london today , you really can't walk down the street in london without being filmed by someone, by the police or private security . we are moving definitively in that direction and that should cause discomfort and these things don't stop events from happening necessarily. you can't be 100% vigilant on every package, every bag that's left on the street. so we are moving into a new phase. the other thing is, this is the most successful terror attack since 9/11. there's been 12 years between these two attacks. so it's important not to overstate how dangerous this moment is.

>> peggy?

>> oh, lots of thoughts. i was in penn station yesterday, and there was a heightened sense of watchfulness. there were a lot of police, some military fellows in camouflage with dogs, a few dogs bark iing. so there was the heightened sense of anxiety. it is also true we're not only in the era of closed circuit tv, we're in the era of everybody has a cell phone that is taping everything else that was part of this. to doris ' point, in a funny way these things remind places. we always say communities. i say towns. towns and cities are real. they are a place. they're full of people who care about each other and engage with each other. they're an entity and they act together. there's something really valuable about that.

>> it's interesting, the columnist for the " boston globe " wrote something and at the end of it he said, this loss of innocence really boils down to a feeling that we'll never be totally safe in the city again. and there's a sense, i think, doris , people are still shocked at some level that it could happen to them where they live, and in some ways you thought we would move past that after 9/11 but you think not to you.

>> we empathized so much with new york when it happened to new york yet it was in boston and now it's boston and others are empathizing with us. i'm not sure i'll agree we'll never feel safe again. look at the numbers of people that poured into fenway. again, another potential target, just two days after they just had caught the character the day before. and they were just exulting in being together. they were singing, usa. i think peggy's right. the other side of this, it brings out the best in us, even as these terrible guys bring out the worst in themselves, and that has to be understood and it has to be used and we have to figure out how to use it. together we can undo most things that happen if we work together.

>> when i first heard about what had happened in boston , i was in europe in a different time zone , my first thought, i was told bomb. my first thought, i'm embarrassed to say, is radiological dirty bomb , trouble. i have to tell you, there was a certain relief in finding out it was a crude jerk bomb. do you know what i mean ? that it -- for a long time we've been waiting for something more terrible than this. in a way, for all the troubled that you outlined earlier in the show, all the incidents, we have also been lucky. and not just lucky but on the case. that's good.

>> to come back to something doris said, the fascinating thing is in the israeli example, for instance, i prefer the word defiance to resilience. i find defiance is one step above. and i'll never forget this. i was in jerusalem ten years ago. there was a suicide bombing in a cafe one evening. seven people killed. the next day i went back to kofrp t cover the aftermath, the cafe was open and people were defiant defiantly drinking coffee. you can try to kill me but i will still go to my cafe and drink coffee. i tend to think the most important thing boston could do was finish the marathon.

>> and they will.

>> run it next week. keep going.

>> when britain was being bombed and they put signs in the window saying, come right in. more open than usual. that's what you need.

>> that's the best you can do.

>> exactly.

>> i think there's something else that goes beyond the event that we've all been riveted by in the last week. we have to work a lot harder at the motivation here. what prompts a young man to come to this country and still feel alienated from it, to go back to russia and do whatever he did did? i don't think we've examined that enough. there was 24/7 coverage on television, a lot of newspaper print and so on, but we have to look at the roots of all this. it exists across the whole subcontinent, in the islamic world . the united states is involved in drones and innocent people are killed in pakistan, afghanistan, and in iraq. and i can tell you having spent a lot of time over there, young people will say we love america. if you harm one hair on the head of my sister, i will fight you forever. and there is this enormous rage against the presumptuousness.

>> and the portal is so clear, to act on that rage or to build on it, to further educate it.

>> alienation of young males is not a new phenomenon. they are alienated and sometimes violent. what you have on the internet in particular is a brightly lit pathway to an answer.

>> exactly.

>> not only an answer but a recipe for response. and so this is the question when you talk about what's going on in the muslim world and we have to remember the primary victims of jihadism are other muslims , muslims who don't agree with the more jihadist elements, and so we have to ask ourselves and muslims have to ask themselves, you know, what are we doing to provide counter programming even on the internet? and this is not something that the u.s. can fix or the west can fix. it has to come from within islam.