Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Bombing - What Is This?

Front page headline of Times-Picayune
(New Orleans, Louisiana daily)
One of the things that I find most challenging about the Boston Bombing is that without much real information outside of the actual tragedy.

The event truly is a tragedy. Between injuries, fatalities, public disturbance, and all sorts of reasonable causes for unrest there's no argument the event is sad.

The Boston Marathon in itself is such a meaningful event for many, not to mention the actual participants, and as a sight for a violent act it is simply shocking.

Yet past shock, I was a little surprised...not entirely surprised, but a little, to see some TV stations today on with continuous coverage, the words "breaking news" at the bottom of the screen, and yet at the same time, no news at all.

Eating my lunch at work there was a television on in the break room  the breaking news banner at the bottom of the screen, and my eyes peeled to see what was breaking. But it was no real news, it was new video footage and information about suspects and witnesses being picked out from a crowded video.

Newspapers all across the country fill their cover page with updates, that aren't really updates at all, and it seems like what they should do, this is the way we cover uncertain tragedy.

Is it foreign terrorism? Certainly if this is an act of foreign terror, the scope of the story is big - there is a feeling that we should feel the echo of previous acts of terror. Clearly the scope is not that of the 9/11 attacks, but I've heard people over the past couple days recall the days after the 9/11 attacks and the impact of the day. Yet it's uncertain if this event even falls into those categories.

Is it domestic terrorism? If it's domestic terrorism, then what's it about. With a highly partisan nation there's a fear that this could be a statement. Is this an outcry against taxes? Gun legislation? Right-wing extremist? Left-wing agitators? Most theories here seem a little ridiculous, because an act of idealism is so far from irrational, and there hasn't been any attempt to clearly connect the events to a cause. The homegrown extremist angle of course creates a whole different conversation and creates different meaning to the event.

Is it a psychotic maniac? American tragedy of this nature often is connected to these unreal characters who perform an act of true insanity on the country's center stage. These James Holmes, Ted Kaczynski, or school house mass shooter, car bombers, and other individual crazies fill the news in new ways every year, and if this is one of those situations, again the conversation changes. If so, this general attack of leisure and the inability to be protected in public certainly will create a flair of fear and further discussion on weapons, concealed weapons, and mental issues.

When the conversation changes, the way we feel about the event changes, and there is a lot of room for details. Those details will not only color the way we feel about the event, but also color the way the news and story progresses going forward.

But in the meantime, I permit the news coverage to die down and let the investigations take place. There is no need for the news to create news at this point, or figure out what to call the event...an act of terror, a tragedy, an attack? There's so many potential conversations, but any of them are really premature at this point. The lens through which this event is viewed still isn't there, so when confronted with the news coverage I think it's hard to know how to watch the news.

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