Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts on the vicious attack in Boston: reckless speculation, responsible reporting, and the humanity that binds us together

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With information still coming in and speculation running wild, I don't have a great deal to say about the attack -- criminal and possibly terrorist, but it is premature to comment -- that occurred in Boston on Monday, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (It's a city, and larger metropolitan area, that I love a great deal and feel a deep connection to, from my four years at Tufts.)

I spent much of the day and evening on Twitter, reading my feed and also tweeting myself, and re-tweeting others. Say what you want about it, Twitter is a great tool especially during challenging times. Sure, there's a lot of reckless tweeting in response to any such situation, much of it quite disgusting, and there's a lot of unsubstantiated commenting, much of it fearmongering, but all that is going on everywhere, not just in the Twitterverse. For me, Twitter is a place to hear from some truly thoughtful people saying truly thoughtful things, providing helpful links and otherwise coming together to share information and ideas. It has its limits, but it's very useful, and while I'm not as avid a tweeter as many others, I like to join in, and especially today, as we were all trying to formulate our thoughts, it was a better place to post than this blog.

If you want to see what I tweeted and/or if you wish to follow me, go here (@mjwstickings). I'll just single out this one:

Okay, that's strong language, but I meant it. There has been all manner of speculation -- there were five other packages with explosives, there was a third explosion at the JFK Library, a suspect is in custody -- but really we know almost nothing beyond the obvious. I assume that law enforcement agencies, led by the FBI, know a lot more than we do and for obvious reasons aren't going public, and apparently there's something going on in the Boston suburb of Revere right now, but to me it seems irresponsible to take any of this speculation or any unsubstantiated reports seriously, even more so to participate in spreading them. This is not to say the media shouldn't be doing their job, just that there isn't much most of us can add to the story right now.

And by the way, at some point it's important to turn away, if only temporarily, from Twitter, other social media, and even most traditional news outlets (the New York Post was especially awful in its reckless and irresponsible coverage, but I found CNN's coverage lacking as well; MSNBC was fine; I didn't bother with Fox News or any of the other right-wing media outlets -- I read enough about their various transgressions on Twitter) and hear from the few news outlets that actually do their jobs really well and have the resources to provide excellent (and sober) reporting, and today, for me, that was The Boston Globe and The New York Times, as well as NBC, which aired an outstanding one-hour special from 10 to 11 hosted by Brian Williams -- really well done.

Don't get me wrong, we're all entitled to our opinions, and to sharing them. I just think we should wait before drawing conclusions -- makes sense, no? After all, it makes a huge difference whether al Qaeda or some homegrown right-wing group was being this attack -- or some other group entirely, or even a lone individual. Because right now we don't know anything -- who it was, the motive, anything.

This was a vicious attack on innocent civilians, "an assault," Derrick Jackson wrote at the Globe, "on our civic life." It took place on an important day in Boston -- the day of the marathon, Patriots' Day, a civic holiday in Massachusetts (as well as Maine). And as President Obama said, "make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this, and we will find out who did this, we'll find out why they did this." Those responsible will "feel the full weight of justice."

That time, hopefully, will come. Fow now, let us focus on the victims and their loved ones, and on the heroic first responders and others at the scene who bravely rushed to help the victims, now knowing what else might be coming, even as our thoughts turn to the search for those behind this attack, and to the reasons for it, as we try to make sense of what seems to have been so utterly senseless.


I generally do not post editorial cartoons, out of respect for the artist's right to his or her work, but I wanted to post this one, by the Globe's Dan Wasserman, which is making the rounds and which so beautifully captures the essence of this horrendous incident and the incredible response to it in Boston -- even with so much bloodshed, one can see in the response the humanity that binds us all together. Amid such ugliness, it is a truly wonderful thing.

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  • Well it did not take long for CNN to lay blame without any evidence "it was either Al Qaeda or Right Wing Extremists" will the media ever learn to just report the news instead of reporting baseless theories without facts

    By Anonymous Rahul, at 11:02 AM  

  • Without reckless -- and endless speculation, the 24/7 newsvendors would have to spend money on reporters and acquiring news. Talk is cheap and so is speculation.

    Nobody can compare with the Reverend Phelps though. His Westboro Baptist "Church" has informed us that we should not pray for America since God hates us for tolerating gay people and that because God bombed Boston, he will be picketing the funerals of anyone killed there.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 12:56 PM  

  • The vicious attack in Boston was a very cruel act. No doubt its the reckless speculation by responsible reporters has to be taken care of.
    So instead of reporting false allegations on baseless thoughts its worth to spend on quality reporters.

    By Anonymous Galib Mirza, at 2:36 AM  

  • Its really terrible and cruel what happened in the city of Boston.May God Bless all the affected public.

    By Anonymous Desi Lover, at 12:07 PM  

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