The Boston Bombings: 18 Perspectives

The Boston Bombings: 18 Perspectives

13. What Not To Do As a Journalist

As an intern journalist who is watching changes in the industry unfold, it seems to be easier to find examples of ‘what not to do’ lately, and especially in the case of the recent bombings in Boston. My first source for news is usually CBC, whose web coverage comes through the RSS on my Google home page. I will be changing this following the Boston bombings, however, following several glaring grammatical errors in their coverage. They also had a headline that echoed CNN’s mistake, which suggested the suspect had been arrested when he had not, and the article itself just gave conflicting accounts from other sources. You could tell it was rushed for publication.

I usually go looking for additional perspectives after getting the general story, but unfortunately, I do not think that these perspectives would be easy to find by the general public, who often just generally want to know what is happening. That or, the now-famous mistakes by CNN and the ever-changing and confusing coverage by the other big networks, could be the thing that drives more people towards other, smaller but more reliable, and now professional news or opinion sources.

I came across a quote, in one of the many articles, which read “Now is the time for patience, now is the time for professionalism…” following the arrest of the bombing suspect. I found myself asking: when is it ever excusable to not take be putting those into practice, especially as a journalist?

Vanessa Gallant, Moncton, CANADA

Freelance Journalist

14. America Needs a Better Brand of Journalism.

“They seem pretty cocky…just sort of walking through the crowd like nothings going on” remarked Wolf <a Blitzer, while providing his critical analysis of the surveillance video showing the two suspects. He and his news team went on to debate whether or not the two people shown in the video “looked American” or not. While mildly jingoistic musings, inane chatter to fill time when news isn’t happening, and grossly inaccurate reporting for the sake of “exclusive” are CNN staples, the reporting during this tragedy cements the fact that Americans deserve better and should demand better. That CNN acts as the main source of current events information for a larger number of Americans is a depressing fact, and fuels a downward spiral best described by Mike Judge as an “Idiocracy”.

Jesse Gainer, Montréal, CANADA

Digital Specialist, Rogers Media and drummer for Talk-sick

15. Is this the American Dream?

Dzhokar Tsarnaev is unable to speak due to a gunshot wound to the throat and was deprived of his Miranda Rights. A prominent American politician, Senator Lindsay Graham has  suggested treating Tsarnaev as an ‘enemy combatant.’ The hypocrisy is telling. The Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, wounding over 800. He was, however, read his Miranda rights.

Maybe this is that American dream.

Voris Cunningham, UNITED STATES

Activist and Writer
Blog: Voris Cunningham

16. Responsible Media, Responsible Citizens

Like clockwork, hate crimes quickly followed the media’s insinuation of blame around South Asians, Arabs, and Muslims. A hijab-clad woman in Boston was assaulted, a Bangladeshi man in Queens was beaten up outside a restaurant, a Pakistani friend of mine was told “hope you don’t blow us up!” as she was on her way to work. Would the frequency of hate crimes occur had the American media been more sensible in their reporting? The mainstream media’s quick blame game directly links to the emotionally overzealous and racially charged sentiment of certain segments of the American public. In times of mass confusion, such as last week, it is the responsibility of the media to provide the American public with fair and transparent reporting. Instead, we received racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic laden insults, conspiracy theories, and minute by minute sensationalism. Whereas America is argued to be the world’s greatest “melting pot” — proudly displaying its ethnic, racial, and religious heterogeneity — its mainstream media speaks of a different story.

Sania Sufi, Chicago IL

Blog: Sania Sufi

17. Pathologizing Islam and Pax Americana

In the aftermath of a week of mainstream media coverage and elite political figure’s statements related to the Boston Marathon bombing, the ongoing processes of pathologizing Islam and its significance for Pax Americana are made evident. Initial questions about whether this bombing was the work of domestic or foreign terrorists or the work of “lone” wolves quickly turned to claims about Arab individuals, international students, and dark-skinned men with foreign accents as “persons-of-interest” and “suspects.” The specter of dangerous foreign “others” in Boston overshadowed the likely homegrown white-supremacist-Christian terrorism lying behind the eerie fertilizer factory explosion in Waco, Texas close to the 20th anniversary of the FBI massacre of the Branch Davidian “cult.” Fourteen dead, scores injured, and an entire town left demolished; however this devastating event was hurriedly pushed out of the news cycle and political rhetoric without any answers for why this blast occurred. The irrationality of this differential response became even more apparent after the FBI released and posted pictures of two suspected bombers and the subsequent massive military mobilization of forces and technologies to corner, capture, and kill these young men. As their identities as Muslim Chechens became known, the media began to speculate about their links to international terrorism and their presumed religious motives.

Meanwhile, the unprecedented military mobilization of armed units, tanks and helicopters, and declaration of Boston as a No-fly zone culminated in the killing of the older brother and eventual capture of his injured teenage sibling. Although, the apparent lack of organization, exit strategy, and funds suggested to some that they were “lone wolves,” most media began to depict them as brainwashed followers of a “cult”: Islam. In contrast to white-supremacist-Christian terrorists, who whether as “lone” perpetrators or group members, are cast as pathological individuals equipped with a marginal ideology, the Tsarnaev brothers, like others before them, were cast as followers of a pathological religion. As the story goes, first the older brother, Tamerlan became more pious—praying and asking his wife to wear a headscarf—and was brainwashed by Chechen terrorist groups and he in turn indoctrinated his younger brother. In both instances, they are depicted as passive believers in a pathological ideology. These mental representations and fears of “Muslim others,” not only motivated initial speculations, massive mobilizations, violent political rhetoric, and jubilant post-capture celebrations, but also justified the stripping of rights from the arrested Muslim suspect. Dzhokhar, a naturalized US citizen, was not read his Miranda rights with the Obama administration evoking the “public safety exception.” Several US Senators are calling for him to be “legally” categorized as an “enemy combatant.” These misrepresentations of Islam and reproductions of irrational fears of Muslim “others,” also animate excessive acts of violence against, and denials of rights and personhood to, Muslims overseas under Pax Americana.

Timothy P. Daniels, New York

Associate Professor of Anthropology at Hofstra University

18. Whataboutery, Dissent and Mourning

I used to resent Boston because I mainly associated it with Irish-Americans who paid for bombs in Northern Ireland during the Troubles without going through the inconvenience of living there. I grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. I am still trying to get my head around it all.

When I was growing up, it was people who looked and sounded like me who were the default terrorists. That shorthand never went away, it just got transferred to others. The way the world talks about it now, you’d think terrorism was only invented in 2001. But one thing has not changed: how acts of violence are expanded to implicate entire communities, the scrutiny having merely shifted from Irish names to Muslim ones.

A friend online urged us to spare a thought for the 55 people who died in Iran on the same day [as the Boston Bombings], which shocked me until I realized she had meant to say Iraq, where it seemed not unusual at all. Some online commentators were questioning why lives in the USA were more important than lives elsewhere, and I wonder this too. But then I recalled whataboutery, a term coined in Northern Ireland, one of its definitions being “protesting at inconsistency; refusing to act in one instance unless similar action is taken in other similar instances.” I do not want to engage in whataboutery. I can question the scapegoating of communities, the disproportionate attention afforded to American losses, and the lack of legal rights extended to a teenage suspect, but I must also mourn.

Nine, Lyttelton, NEW ZEALAND

Writer and Editor


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