Seeking Answers After the Boston Bombings

The blogosphere reacts to the attack at the Boston Marathon.

Medical workers aid an injured woman at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon after a bombing.
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Details are still murky on the Monday bombings at the Boston Marathon that caused chaos and panic at the finish line of the city's iconic sporting event. Three are confirmed dead and the 176 reported wounded are being treated at Boston-area hospitals. As more information gradually emerges, the blogosphere reacts:

Massimo Calabresi of Swampland said despite the desire for immediate answers, we may have to wait awhile to figure out "Who?" and "Why?":

By Monday evening, there was still no claim of responsibility for the attacks, and no indication of a culprit. Even when a suspect does emerge, figuring out whether he had accomplices and who the prime mover was will be an ongoing investigation for local, state and federal authorities. According to the Boston police commissioner, Edward Davis, there had been "no specific intelligence that anything was going to happen" at the marathon. A senior FBI official tells TIME the bureau is starting cold on the case.

With the FBI starting with few leads, the investigation into the Boston bombing may not move as fast as Americans are used to: foreign terrorist organizations have been quick to take credit for attacks in recent years, but domestic terrorists often don't seek the spotlight. At a press conference Monday, President Obama declared, "We will find out who did this." He didn't say when.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the Boston Marathon bombings.]

As no group or individual has yet come forward to take responsibility for the bombings, Brad Plumer of Wonkblog speculated on whether or not it was terrorism at all:

[T]here's a lot we don't know – including who did this, or why.

"Any event with multiple explosive devices – as this appears to be – is clearly an act of terror, and will be approached as an act of terror," the White House told reporters on Monday. "However, we don't yet know who carried out this attack, and a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned and carried out by a terrorist group, foreign or domestic."

The FBI says that there "is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism," but the U.S. federal code defines it as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." We still don't even know if the Boston blasts qualify – or if they were the work of a person with no goals except death.

Dan McLaughlin of Red State said the blasts don't need to qualify for a definition of terrorism at all, because the fact that bombs were detonated in a crowd makes it terrorism:

We do not yet know who launched yesterday's attacks, what their motive or cause was, whether they had any outside assistance, or even whether they believed they were acting for or against any political, religious or social cause at all. And I recognize that standard governmental definitions of terrorism often demand that these things be present. But in my view, this is mistaken, and part of the confusion that has plagued us for years, especially since September 11.

By definition, setting off bombs in a crowd of civilians at a peaceable event should be regarded as terrorism, regardless of what kind of terrorism it is. Of course, terrorism by a lone domestic nutjob with no coherent political ideology and no real allies presents different issues and requires different solutions than terrorism committed by an international organization with money, ideology, know-how and a recruiting and logistical apparatus. But both meet the essential criteria of terrorism: they seek to spread fear and horror by mass violence directed at society at large.

[PHOTOS: Deadly Explosions Hit Boston Marathon.]

Society at large, said Ezra Klein of Wonkblog, was in fact the true target of the bombings:

The finish line at a marathon is a small marvel of fellowship. Everyone is there to celebrate how much stronger the runners are than they ever thought they could be. Total strangers line up alongside the route to yell encouragement. Bands play. Some hand out cups of water, Gatorade, even beer. Others dress up in costumes to make the runners smile. The fact that other people can run this far makes us believe we can run that far. It's a happy thought. It makes us all feel a little bit stronger.