• Sara Rimer

    Senior Contributing Editor

    Sara Rimer

    Sara Rimer A journalist for more than three decades, Sara Rimer worked at the Miami Herald, Washington Post and, for 26 years, the New York Times, where she was the New England bureau chief, and a national reporter covering education, aging, immigration, and other social justice issues. Her stories on the death penalty’s inequities were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. Her journalism honors include Columbia University’s Meyer Berger award for in-depth human interest reporting. She holds a BA degree in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Profile

    She can be reached at srimer@bu.edu.

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There are 8 comments on BU’s Jessica Stern on Why January 6 Attack on Capitol Was an Act of Terrorism

  1. I agree the public have lost faith on the traditional news outlet because of the myriad cable channels that called themselves news station. In reality they are opinion shows that smear the definition of what constitute is news.

    News is defined by the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why). These so called opinion news programs should NOT allow to be able to called themselves or associated with the word “News”.

    By having a clear definition and label that these programs are not NEWS, then perhaps viewers will not get confuse with what is fact and what is their respective opinion comments.

    There’s only News, good or bad. But no such think as “fake” news.

  2. Professor Stern defines terrorists as those who commit a “violent act, or threat of violence, aimed at attaining a political, economic, social, or religious goal, with the objective of conveying a message to a larger audience beyond the immediate victims”. This equally defines Antifa and BLM (vandalizing police cars/stations/federal courthouses/historical statutes to tear down a “racist system”) and “far-right” groups (breaking into capital buildings to “stop the steal”). Were there navel-gazing Q&A articles in BU Today labeling as terrorists the groups who burned police precincts and police cars, attacked federal buildings and looted businesses over the summer? If so, I must have missed them. Perhaps it didn’t fit the preferred narrative about the danger posed by “angry Christian white men” that is so popular among the intellectual set these days. Truth is, anger and violence in our society is building steadily on both sides. Perhaps leaders like Prof. Stern should spend less time trying to throw fuel on the fire by labeling, stereotyping and blaming based on race, gender and religion and more time trying heal the divisions and relieve the pressure that seems to be building steadily toward an explosion. A wise person once said, “seeking an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind”.

    1. Actually, @Glass Houses, the biggest difference between the terrorists that attacked the Capitol and the Black Lives Matter protestors, is that Black Lives Matter organizers didn’t take credit or responsibility for rioting and looting that occurred this summer. Many even condemned and discouraged it, unlike those (proud boys, qanon and other white hate groups) organizers of the attack at the Capitol, who boldly came out and accepted responsibility and continue to encourage more attacks. And lets not forget the former president, trump, who continues to speak of these terrorists as good people whom he loves, but still refuses to admit defeat and condemn this attack as wrong. Its not a bias or throwing fuel on the fire, its really just pointing out the truth of the situation. How can you heal without treating and acknowledging that there’s an issue? A patient has to recognize they have a problem, the doctor identifies the problem, then treats the problem before the patient can be healed. If this never happens the only thing the patient does is put a band-aid on an open wound. It becomes infected, festers, gets worse and sometimes results in an infection that leaves the patient with a worse problem than before. If people like Prof. Stern don’t point out the issue we cant treat it and heal. Sorry you can’t skip that step.

  3. This fascinating opinion piece mentions whites 24 times, blacks once, and jews twice. It is statistically skewed and unbalanced. The references to Serbs are taken out of historical context and flows with the current narration. How about a striving for balance in coverage, BU Today? How about some civil honesty and insightful commentary on leftist terror and cancel culture? What about journalistic courage and honest description of destruction of public buildings and monuments by antifa and other criminal elements? Enough of constant Trump and right-bashing! Stand up and provide unbiased coverage for a change.

  4. Trump did say “fight like hell,” as quoted in the article above. Before that he had said, only 18 min in: “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” And after “we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give…our Republicans, the weak ones, … the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” (heavily edited for blather)
    The crowd also chanted Fight For Trump. Search ‘Fight’ in the transcript it’s in there 23 times.

    But politicians exhort us to ‘Fight’ all the time.

    I’m going to pick the low-hanging fruit and quote AOC:

    Sept 19, 2020
    “to fight for our future, and to fight for our democracy, and to fight for something more just”
    “Because this election has always been about the fight of and for our lives.”
    Same day, twitter: “I want to make one thing clear: we can, and must, fight”

    Sept 20, 2020
    “We need to make sure that we realize and fight this fight with the weight of every person who sacrificed for voting rights, every person who sacrificed their wellbeing and their lives”

  5. Many thanks to Professor Stern for her enlightening comments on the forces behind the storming of the U.S. Capitol by (yes, overwhelmingly white) insurrectionists. Perhaps the failure to pay attention to our own homegrown terrorists is caused by the fact that doing so is less profitable than paying attention to the foreign variety (i.e., as defined by the US government). Distinguished journalist James Risen has done an excellent analysis of what he calls the “homeland security industrial complex” in his book entitled “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War” (2014). The so-called “war on terror” has been highly profitable for a range of U.S. businesses and private individuals. Perhaps the “homeland security industrial complex” can now think up ways of generating profit by concentrating its attention on our homegrown terrorists, who are actually a much greater threat to our “homeland security” than the foreign ones.

  6. I think this piece does a good job of illustrating the complexity of these issues, their deep history, and the challenges of dealing with them. I appreciate the work Professor Stern et al. are undertaking, and I hope that research like hers will help us find constructive answers to the problems posed to all societies by hate groups like those who participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol building on January 6.

    I also take note that in the comments below there appear some of the distressing tendencies towards
    “whataboutism” and the use of non-equivalent (or superficially equivalent) examples in an effort to suggest bias and impute a lack of legitimacy to this reporting. Perhaps we here at BU need to do a better job of instructing ourselves on the toxicity of these tactics, which are easy, misleading, and destructive to rigorous thought and analysis.

    For starters, there are qualitative and quantitative differences that can be discussed when evaluating the violence perpetrated by groups on both Left and Right. Both sides include radical elements, but the violence instigated by Right-wing radicals is demonstrably greater, more deliberate, and more targeted than activity on the Left. It is also, as Professor Stern and others point out, widely discussed and actively fomented in plain view over social media platforms that effectively reward such content by pushing it out to more users in order to build revenue streams with no regard for the potential cost to society.

    Furthermore, some of the comments below offer a false equivalency between violence that arises out of social justice protests and the deliberately violent and seditious “protests” of the radical Right. The violence witnessed at many social justice protests over the summer frequently developed as a result of aggressive tactics on the part of police – the same police who typically stood back when heavily-armed White “protestors” showed up in Michigan, Kenosha Wisconsin, and elsewhere, whether to demonstrate against wearing masks or as self-appointed “defenders” of property (that frequently didn’t belong to them or anyone they knew) from BLM protestors. In addition, violence wasn’t the point of the BLM protests, while for radical Right groups, influencing policy through violence or the threat of violence is the whole point; thus the legitimacy of referring to them as terrorists. There simply isn’t an equivalence between the two, and a strong argument can be made that part of the reason for police inaction against the radical Right is the fact that they tend to come heavily armed and may even bring more firepower and better armor than the law enforcement personnel on the scene. One dangerous potential lesson here is that if BLM protestors started showing up with the same kind of arms and armor as the radical Right, police might show greater restraint with them too. After all, we know from the reported testimony of at least one Capitol police officer that the reason he never drew his service weapon on January 6 was the simple calculation that he and his fellow officers would be heavily outgunned and the result would be a slaughter. On the other hand, there were insurrectionists on January 6 who actively advocated for executing another officer with his own weapon.

    In any case, as this interview with Professor Stern points out, there are many factors involved in what’s happening, and we face complex and daunting challenges in our quest for effective responses that also respect the rights that most of us hold dear. Regrettably, holding honest discussions about these issues in our triggered age also presents real challenges.

  7. It’s puzzling how people get away with talking about extreme right wing violence that took place over the course of several hours in one day – admittedly abhorrent but widely condemned violence – and not mention a word about MONTHS of often deadly riots by left wing extremists just a few months ago.

    Was the summer violence a figment of people’s collective imagination? It is surreal to hear this much hysteria about the Capitol riots from the same people who excused a hundred times this amount of violence just a few months ago. How is it that the incredible amount of property damage (in the billions) and over 30 lives lost NOT widely reported while we hear uninterrupted breathless coverage of ONE day of similar violence from politically incorrect extremists. Where were Jessica Stern, mainstream news media and liberal politicians during the summer months of almost daily political violence? People (and there were many) who excused, apologized or were silent about the violence lack any credibility. Where were liberal calls to use the National Guard to protect life and property of average citizens? Are the only one deserving of National Guard protection political elites in Washington DC?

    I would listen to Jessica Stern now if I had heard her talking about the horror perpetrated on city after city in the summer months. Please look up this well-hidden report by the left leaning news outlet Axios back in September:


    Rather than harping endlessly about white supremacists, why not show some intellectual integrity and talk instead about American extremists in general. They both cause serious damage to American democratic values. It would indeed be a unifying message to point out that white supremacists share some important characteristics with BLM and Antifa.

    Until we get past the absurd hypocrisy that political violence is only un-American when right wing extremists use it, we will have this mess of a country we have now.

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