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How Absurd: 8 Crazy Reactions, Ridiculous Conclusions, and Dumb Media Behavior Coming out of the Boston Bombings

Not a shining moment.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Oleg Golovnev

 
 
 
 

The manhunt is over with the arrest Friday of a second suspect in the Boston marathon bombing. But manhunt will live in infamy in the history of American civil liberties. 

The city where the American Revolution began its fight against governmental overreach surrendered to the most outsized and disproportionate display of paramilitary policing in America in decades. One must ask if the manhunt that shut down an entire city to catch one 19-year-old on the run—who was found hiding and cowering in a backyard—did more to terrorize Bostonians than the attack on the Boston marathon itself.

There are many places in the world where terrorism is a real problem. But the U.S. is not one of them. Since the Sepember 11 attacks, the country has been very lucky and avoided blowback from its foreign wars. Think about it. One guy is loose, in one neighborhood, and an entire city is shut down. A total curfew is imposed. The transportation system is shut down. Police wielding their fiercest weaponry sweep home after home.

Bostonians were shocked and allow it to unfold—because what individual can stand up to such totalitarian power? And media organization after media organization called for more of it—embracing the security state mentality and its huge overreaction. A lone nineteen year old is on the run—not a foreign army or team of undercover Al Queda operatives. Nonetheless, police and political leaders disrupt and control the lives of millions.

Let’s look at some of the crazy reactions, ridiculous conclusions and dumb media behaviors that came out of Boston in the past 48 hours.   

1. Unbelievable overreaction.An entire city was shut down and stayed shut in a massive manhunt for a skinny teenager in a grey hoodie. Yes, he may have had bombs and guns. But by Thursday night, when the first bomber—his brother—was killed by police, this paramilitary operation knew its targets were closer to the shooters from Colorado’s Columbine High School massacre, not foreign terrorists.

More than a million people were ordered to stay home and lock their doors, allowing no one but uniformed officers in. A public transit system serving 1.3 million people was shut down. Amtrak service between New York and Boston stopped. The Red Sox and Bruins postponed their Friday night games. Businesses were shut. The list goes on and on.

2. Massive display of military might. Every SWAT team and paramilitary vehicle from southern New Hampshire to Cape Cod descended on Boston. It’s one thing to surround several blocks and sweep through back yards and homes—without search warrants. But this was far more extensive. And when the second bomber was found—it wasn’t even from the police manhunt! It was by a homeowner who saw the canvas flap on a boat stored in his backyard had been untied. The suspect was cowering inside, wounded.

3. Then Dumb Politicans Weigh In. But media stampedes like the manhunt egg on the most ridiculous statements, such as Texas Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert’s assertion that the lockdown showed that new federal gun controls were wrong and instead that homeowners needed to be more heavily armed. “How many rounds do you want to be limited to in your magazine as you sit in your chair and wait?” he said.

Not to be outdone, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, tweeted, “Don’t read Tsarnaev his rights, if you catch him alive.”

4. Meanwhile, the security state missed suspect No. 1. The FBI said Friday that they had interviewed Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, after a foreign government alerted officials of possible extremist ties. Federal officials told CBS News that they vetted the Chechen refugee but found no incriminating information.

5. More Government Surveillance Is Called for. When the going gets cynical, the cynics turn pro—or lobby Congress to expand the surveillance state. As Salon.com reported, “Stewart Baker, a senior Department of Homeland Security official in the administration of George W. Bush, argues that the Boston Marathon bombings prove that surveillance cameras are awesome and Congress should pass CISPA — the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.” Wonderful.

6. The Internet and social media take over. Maybe the expectation of privacy is so 20th century, as is the legal doctine of innocent until proven guilty. One very creepy aspect of the manhunt was how people on social media platform became amateur detectives and started posting inaccurate information about innocent people—just like the New York Post’s frontpage. As Salon reported:

“Remember how thousands of Reddit users and 4chan people spent the days after the bombing combing through every available photo and frame of video of the site of the bombings, searching for the perpetrators, and they found a bunch of guys with backpacks — so many guys they made a spreadsheet! — and (inadvertently) allowed the New York Post to identify, on the front page, two innocent people as the bombers?”  

Andperhaps epitomized by the faulty reporting by John King on CNN, theTV news reporters went way too fast.  

7.   All the crazies come out and get far too much attention.Of course, the right wing echo chamber bellowed. Michael Savage spread ludicrous and wildly dangerous conspiracy theories about Muslims in America. Alex Jones claimed the suspects revealed in FBI photos looked "Israeli." Glenn Beck wouldn't let go of his own pet conspiracy theory about a Saudi Arabian.

8. Allegations of hate acts against apparent Muslims.All this misinformation and police overreach has dismaying consequences, including encouraging vigilante actions that are hate crimes plain and simple. As Amanda Terkel explained for the Huffington Post

[T]hen there was news that a man in Bronx, N.Y., who was born in Bangladesh was beaten up for supposedly being "a f*cking Arab" by a group of men who wanted retribution for the marathon bombing.

A Palestinian woman near Boston also reported being the victim of a hateful assault on Wednesday, when a man hit her and yelled, "F*ck you Muslims! You are terrorists! I hate you! You are involved in the Boston explosions."

 

 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, the low-wage economy, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

 
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