Don’t look for reasoning behind Busby’s bomb threats

Although the bomb threats at the University of Pittsburgh stopped in April, the FBI pursued the perpetrator to set an example for others who would seek to voice their discontent in the same way. Finally, on Aug. 15, District Attorney David Hickton announced the indictment of 64-year-old Adam Busby of Dublin, Ireland, for emailing some of the threats.

Busby’s arrest discourages future threats by demonstrating the consequences and the lengths to which the government will go to punish those offenses. However, attempts to give Busby a motive in this story will likely not only be fruitless, but will also undermine the FBI’s efforts and unduly validate the anonymous bomb threats as articulate statements of protest.

Without any demands, attempts at coercion, or even opinionated writings, the bomb threats were not statements, but only inarticulate expressions of aggression. This fact is poetically illustrated by Busby’s foreign background and lack of connection to Pitt. Perhaps he never had any reason to care about Pitt at all. But even if he wasn’t foreign and had a connection to Pitt, his actions were still anonymous and without purpose or motive.

Yet still, reporters at the FBI press conference and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette have attempted to discern Busby’s message. These efforts to, as the Post Gazette puts it, give Busby a “face” not only validate the bomb threats as articulate statements of discontent, but also implicitly shift the responsibility of articulating the statement away from the perpetrator and to the victim and the media. We applaud Attorney David Hickton for rightly declining to join in on the speculation.

In a previous issue, we had expressed how we feared that the bomb threats’ success at provoking reactions would popularize and encourage others to use bomb threats as outlets for aggression over other, more articulate, forms of communication.

Although it comes as a relief that the perpetrator was arrested, it would be a mistake to recognize anonymous bomb threats as one of these forms of communication by attempting to discern meaning from the threats.