No Rush to Judgment in Boston

Exclusive: Three people died and scores were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, part of the annual celebration of the Patriots who drove the British back from Lexington and Concord in 1775. For once, the U.S. news media didn’t rush to judgment about who did it, Robert Parry says.

By Robert Parry

The U.S. news media appears to have learned some painful lessons from past experiences about jumping to conclusions after terrorist incidents, and most pundits as well as journalists demonstrated more professional restraint in their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday, the Patriots Day holiday in Massachusetts.

While there was speculation about a possible attack by Middle East terrorists, spurred by the questioning of a Saudi national, there were also timely observations about the significance of the date for American right-wing extremists.

Shortly after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, people help remove the injured from the scene. (Photo credit: Aaron “tango” Tang via Wikipedia)

Not only is April 15 known as Tax Day because of the federal filing deadline, but Patriots Day in Massachusetts honors the Minutemen who battled the British on April 19, 1775, the start of the Revolutionary War. Some right-wing extremists have hijacked such patriotic symbolism to justify violent attacks on the federal government.

Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City was on April 19, 1995, which also was the second anniversary of the fiery conclusion of the Waco siege which began 50 days earlier when a heavily armed Christian sect engaged in a deadly shootout with federal agents arriving to serve a warrant to search for illegal guns.

Given the intense passions about gun control and the other significance of Patriots Day, the hesitancy to immediately blame “Muslim terrorists” represented an improvement over the recklessness that was common at such moments, especially in the 1990s when some “terrorism experts” regularly pointed their fingers in the wrong directions.

In flipping the channels on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, I did encounter some silly chatter criticizing President Barack Obama for not immediately condemning the twin bombings in Boston as “terrorism.” Obama apparently was being circumspect in his brief speech to the nation on Monday evening and did not want to enflame the situation with speculation.

The definition of terrorism is a violent act directed against civilians to achieve a political goal. While the Boston bombing was clearly a violent attack on civilians, it wasn’t immediately clear what the motivation was since no individual or group had credibly claimed responsibility for the attack.

In the absence of known motivation, one could not rule out the possibility of a single perpetrator acting out of personal rage or simply insanity, which might fall outside the rubric of terrorism. So, Obama’s caution appeared well-placed, since a presidential declaration prejudging some act as terrorism could have legal ramifications.

The pundit chatter over his choice of words, therefore, represented an example of a contrived “controversy,” sadly the sort of silliness that the news media seemed to be avoiding with its more careful handling of the tragedy in Boston.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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19 comments on “No Rush to Judgment in Boston

  1. “The definition of terrorism is a violent act directed against civilians to achieve a political goal.” Sort of like drone strikes against wedding parties and family reunions?

  2. Dave R on said:

    Rush indeed. Did you know the police were doing ‘drills’ concerning bombs in that area, same for JFK library?? Also, the OK City McVeigh bombing was due to explosives planted inside the bldg!! No shock wave from a truck explosion in front can cause that kind of damage. Same for 911 pulverizing of the towers (no body or furniture debris; not pancaking) and classic demo of bldg 7. Our govt and its shadow orgs are behind most of this stuff; it’s good job security for them. Wars are started on lies too. See this link;
    http://www.activistpost.com/2010/12/13-lies-abbreviated-history-of-us.html#more

    Wake up Sheeple!! and Good Luck, Dave

  3. miriam on said:

    I happened to pick up on blast reports early–then put the telly on…to see the image of a location that was very familiar to me, Copley Square library.
    Having lived in that city from birth I knew well the level of domestic violence endemic to that city. It’s a key reason why I packed and moved as soon as I was old enough to move out of state on my own.
    Skinheads, racists, townie & southies gangs, neofascists, anti guvmint types are old news here; they made themselves known especially during the 60s when we struggled to end segregation in public schools. This long week end holiday, called PATRIOTS’ DAY has been celebrated for decades with a marathon straight thru the heart of outlying towns like Lexington & Concord where the first ‘shot heard round the world’ in 1776 was fired–the initiation of the American Revolution-an auspicious date in US history…also the Okla bombing, Waco’s fiery conclusion, Virgina Tech massacre..& the universally hated “Tax Day”…Certainly fodder for the many angry rightwing/teabag/take ‘merica back types with a cowardly attack on celebrating marathoner civilians.

    The usual bigots were immediately ready with their “kill the muzzies” nonsense.
    I acknowledge that it seems I too have jumped to conclusions…perhaps its just residual PTSD from harsh life experiences in a violent city which is still sold to the world as the “Hub of education and culture.” But gut instinct /intuition dominated my own analysis based on experience.

  4. elmerfudzie on said:

    I’m trying to understand the underlying cause of this ghastly event. It would be easier to explain had the targets been associated with our war machine or political right wing hawks who promote the war effort, even perhaps some rally or event sponsoring such efforts. But joggers? long distance runners? these folks direct their energies into nothing short of, play or just staying physically fit and competitive. Why Boston? it hardly represents the melting pot of America. The Irish still live on the south end while the Italians and new monied geek professionals stay to the north. In any case, how can this rather narrow slice of the USA be perceived somehow as a desirable target by malcontents, enough so, to carefully plan for a violent act? The placement of the bombs didn’t seem to focus on any particular ethnic, religious, military or government group. This act seems to suggest that we have another psychotic on the loose. If however the police uncover a plot by usual suspects, a Jihadi Mujahideen group, then it behooves the journalistic world to ask the perpetrators a logical question, why didn’t you bomb the bombers?

  5. Fox News remains the primary place I’d never turn for “news”:

    On the morning of the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, Sean “Henny-Penny” Hannity was on TV proclaiming the cause of the disaster to be associated with “Liberals, Democrats, and Bill Clinton.” While the rest of the country were concerned of a possible role of terrorists in this disaster, Sean was out doing his shtick of blaming anything bad on the opponents of Bush. It doesn’t surprise me now that some right wingnuts are trying to score political points in implying Obama is soft on terrorists. It also doesn’t surprise me that some gun huggers have already tried to exploit this atrocity by pronouncing it another reason we need freer access to more guns.

    These attacks have brought out the best in Bostonians, while revealing more of the true nature of many in the American right.

  6. Tom Coombs on said:

    The bombing yesterday in Boston was despicable. It was a criminal act planned to create terror and to gain worldwide attention. It succeeded. The sad is the lack of attention paid to the bomb blasts earlier yesterday in Iraq. Twenty-six Iraqi civilians were killed in indiscriminate bombings. No mention of these victims are being reported on TV. Are we so enured to killings in the mideast that their deaths don’t matter? Daily blasts around the world are ignored. Are American deaths more important than those of lesser nations. The Iraqi families are devastated, but their grief is not newsworthy.

  7. Hillary on said:

    What excellent comments today.
    I am presently abroad and BBC + CNN are completely saturated with this dreadful bombing in Boston.
    .
    The poor sheeple are being terrified to “death” but I wonder if that will be investigated as a possible motive ?

  8. meremark on said:

    -

    Motivation“, yes, exactly. Judgment must suspend until and unless motive in the behavior is considered. ‘They hate us for our marathons‘? Not really.

    Motive = Why. It’s an aspect in Journalism’s ruin today. The 5 W‘s are changed now, and How is forgotten. Why is omitted from news stories, replaced by Will or Would (Won’t or Wouldn’t). So news Journalism today amounts to Who What Where When and Will happen.

    Our Government announced today we Would invade Iraq in 8 months. The War drumming beats slowly and Will increase in rapid intensity. Regular programming and normalism Will be right back after these messages.

    Maybe War has become the 6th W. Or 7th or 8th, I’ve lost count.
    But I sure miss Why.
    yadda yadda yadda

    I’m just saying my sense is, about suspects and culprits in crime, the times when the cops shrug, stare clueless and don’t catch anyone it proves, (like the case of the anthrax letters to Congress from Fort Detrick), it’s one of them.

  9. rosemerry on said:

    55 killed on the same day as the 3 killed in Boston. whose fa

  10. rosemerry on said:

    ult is the endless massacre in Iraq? We don’t care about them-just Arabs. What about the thousands of suicides by guns in the USA each year, or the suicides of veterans of the USA’s wars, driven to take their own lives as a result of their experiences? The thousands dying from lack of health care availabiliy or the high cost. The 12000 industrial accidents a year because of lack of laws or their implementation (Ralph Nader fact).
    Three killed in a sport, and it is big headlines.

  11. rpdiplock on said:

    My sincerest sympathies are extended to ALL those who have been affected by this tragedy.

    If … and only ‘if’ – there were bomb-squad-dogs present at the start and finish sections of this marathon – which – on the face of it – would appear to be highly unusual to say the least, it would indicate that there could be a ‘black ops’ operation taking place. This could be happening to ensnare a larger pre-planned target of one sort or another – or distract attention from something really big which is about to occur soon.

    • markyrgh1 on said:

      LOL You seriously don’t believe the false flag crap do you? If the government wanted to use this as an excuse to start a war they would stage a fake attack on our troops and by the time we heard what happened we would already be fighting. This was probably right wing extremists

  12. The bombs are most like those used in the 1976 Sheridan Circle murders of Orlando Letellier and Ronnie Moffat. Cooking pans and timers were the signatures. Brought back terrible memories.

  13. Kietryn on said:

    I was immediately struck by the similarity to the 1996 Atlanta bombing at the Olympics — international sporting event, bomb intended to harm spectators– Eric Rudolph was eventually found and convicted (after Richard Jewel was falsely accused.) That device also had nails in it to create shrapnel wounds. He was a nut job protesting abortion, the “gay agenda,” and John Lennon’s socialist song “Imagine,” having been chosen as a theme for the opening ceremony?

    According to local press reports, this year’s marathon was called 26 miles for 26 victims and some of the Sandy Hook parents were at the finish line. Here’s a quote:

    “The Newtown Strong group was not alone in remembering the students and teachers who lost their lives. The BAA announced that Mile No. 26 would be dedicated to the town. A specially designed marker will stand tall for all marathoners to see just before the final dash to the finish line with the green colors of Sandy Hook school splashed on it with the Newtown municipal seal on the bottom. There is also 26 stars circling the town emblem, one for every life lost.”

    The bombs were placed in that last mile.

  14. HISTORICVS on said:

    The first deadly armed clash between colonists and Royalist forces took place at Alamance Creek in North Carolina in May, 1771, but there was no Sam Adams or John Hancock there to portray an illegal act of violence as a blow for freedom. Adams is reported to have gleefully clasped his hands together when informed of the bloodshed on Lexington Green and said, “now we can have our revolution!”

    The men who founded the United States were members of a privileged Anglo-American aristocracy which was anything but democratic in its beliefs or its actions. Unlike their counterparts in England, the American ruling elite had earned its wealth – largely through slavery and land speculation, by the way, not by actual labor – and were thus ineligible for membership in the traditional aristocracy of their mother country, which was based on a rigid, hereditary hierarchy.

    I believe that it was this jealously and resentment of their inferior social status that created the agitation for a final break with England. Ordinary Americans – the ones the Federalists would later dismiss as “rabble,” having used them as fighters for independence – suffered little inconvenience under English rule. King George was after all appointed by “Divine right” to rule them, which he did with the consent of Europe’s only elected governing body, Parliament, and with strict observance of the Englishman’s inalienable civil liberties defined in the Magna Charta five centuries earlier.