New York bomb attack exposes Western nerves

Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor: ‘Whoever placed these bombs .. will be brought to justice’. © PA

Nobody was killed. All the injured were released from hospital. Yet the shock waves from Saturday night’s explosion in Manhattan continue to divide opinion and dominate the news cycle. Why?

This weekend a bomb injured 29 in Chelsea, a gentrified area of Manhattan known for its art galleries and thriving gay scene. Another device in a pressure cooker was found about four blocks away and safely removed.

None were killed and by now all of the victims are back home after hospital checks.

Yes, it should be called a terrorist act, officials say, but no links have been found to global groups. And yes, the bomber is still at large as The Day went to press early this morning but nothing is known about the motivation.

Today New York is on high alert as heads of state from all over the world converge on the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the refugee crisis. Early today it seemed five more explosive devices were found near a train station in New Jersey.

There is no underestimating the degree to which the explosion on Saturday night has set nerves on edge throughout the USA and its western allies.

The story is still leading the news on major news channels all over the world.

Politicians scrambled to react. Presidential candidate Donald Trump told a rally: ‘Boy, we are really in a time – we better get very tough, folks. It’s a terrible thing that’s going on in our world and in our country and we are going to get tough and smart and vigilant.’

And on social media thousands assumed an Islamist attack.

Nerves are raw. In recent months the USA has suffered ISIS attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando. Last week New York marked the 15th anniversary of 9/11. On Saturday evening, eight people were stabbed in an ISIS-inspired attack in Minnesota. And US troops are currently advancing on Dabiq, where ISIS believes an apocalyptic battle will herald the end of the world.


We are too jumpy, say some. This was nasty for the injured but nobody died. There are bigger global stories daily: yesterday, for example, Pakistani militants killed 17 Indian soldiers and edged two nations with nuclear weapons closer to a possible war. Since 9/11 Islamist terror in the USA has been fairly limited. The country should be more concerned about mass shootings. And excessive fear encourages people to blame or even hate innocent Muslims.

This was a major incident, others respond. Fear can be a healthy reminder of the need to take action against a significant global problem. Events like this in the USA can have serious geopolitical consequences, especially in a volatile election year. And attacks on New York create huge shockwaves: it is after all the greatest city in the nation known as the leader of the free world.

You Decide

  1. Is Donald Trump right to advocate ‘getting tough’?
  2. Is the political and media reaction to Saturday night’s events justified?


  1. Watch the responses of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to the bombing under Become An Expert. Discuss in fours which you think is better. Then write in two sentences what you would say about the attack if you were running for president.
  2. Find five stories which are in the news for different reasons. Return to class and explain why each gained attention and how newsworthy you think each one is.

Some People Say...

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

What do you think?

Q & A

Explosion in New York. Nobody dies. Not a big story surely?
This incident will inform the way the USA — and the world — handles many important issues. Terrorism, particularly Islamist terrorism, kills many around the world each year. The way the public, and the politicians who represent them, handle it has an impact on all of us. It may make us more or less likely to suffer its consequences, and it may also undermine or promote values we care about.
I do not live in New York. Why are events there so important?
New York is home to more than eight million people and the financial hub of the USA — the world’s most powerful country. Its military, economic and political response informs those of nations elsewhere — and can be more significant than that of many others combined.

Word Watch

Of the injured, 24 were taken to hospital; one suffered a serious puncture wound, most had scrapes and bruises.
Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence in the pursuit of political aims. Yesterday the governor and the police commissioner of New York disagreed on whether the blast was a terrorist attack.
One person tweeted: ‘We can point fingers at Muslims and Islam... they are inevitably involved’.
San Bernardino
On December 2nd 2015, a married couple who had pledged allegiance to ISIS shot 14 people dead at a Christmas party.
In June an ISIS-inspired gunman shot 50 dead at a gay club.
A village in northern Syria.
According to the Mass Shooting Tracker, there were 372 mass shootings in the USA in 2015, leaving 475 people dead.

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