Letter from Boston

April 20, 2013

I live just outside Boston, only a few miles from where the Boston Marathon bombing took place last Monday afternoon. When I learned what happened, my thoughts and feelings couldn’t have been any different from those of most people. I was shocked and appalled.

Also shocking and appalling, however, has been the media’s endless and outrageously sentimental coverage of the attack, and a public reaction with little sense of perspective.

It’s not that the incident wasn’t horrific, or that we shouldn’t be outraged, or that we shouldn’t be anguished by the loss of life and, all too literally, limb. I understand the concepts of grief and closure and the value of a collective public mourning. Boston is a small town in many ways. I’ve lived here my entire life, and the spectacle of a fatal bombing amidst one of the city’s most cherished annual event is jarring to say the least.

But there’s a point where public reaction to a tragedy becomes so ponderously emotional that we begin fetishizing our own victimhood. This is not productive. It does nothing to solve the crime or to prevent future attacks. It does nothing to alleviate the suffering of those directly affected, and it does nothing for the common good.

For most of Friday, the day of the manhunt for the wayward Boston Marathon bomber, was tough enough to take: the breathless, full-saturation news coverage together with the over-the-top response of city officials; All businesses, schools and universities closed; the public transportation system shut down all the way to Rhode Island; Governor Deval Patrick asking that the entire cities of Boston, Cambridge and Watertown be “locked down” (if I hear that expression one more time I’m going to scream); the postponing of the Red Sox and Bruins games.

The most troubling part, though, was yet to come, after 19 year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested in Watertown on Friday evening shortly before 9 p.m. His apprehension ignited a celebration across the city. People lined the streets, whooping and singing and waving American flags. Today at Fenway Park, the atmosphere is like that of a World Series game.

It’s the cheering and flag-waving that should bother us most. There’s something frightening and maniacal about it. Because, for one thing, it makes no sense. There is nothing good in this story; nothing to be celebrated. The capture of Tsarnaev is not going to un-kill the three victims of the Patriots Day bombing, reattach the limbs of the gravely injured or resurrect Sean Collier, the MIT police officer gunned down on Thursday night during the chase.

Everybody is still dead and maimed, yet look at how happy we are. How is that not grotesque?

The media, meanwhile, continues its wall-to-wall coverage. “Lockdown” and “manhunt” are out. Now the operative terms are about “healing” and “courage” and “moving forward.” On and on it goes; the vigils, the singing, the mawkish commentary, on every channel and in every headline.

There’s something peculiarly, distressingly American about this style of commemorating. We seem to have a surfeit of compassion for “ourselves,” yet a striking lack of it for others. We, as Americans (or however we define our personal in-groups) have tendency to fixate on and endlessly memorialize anything bad that happens to us, regardless of scale. We expend so much compassion on ourselves that we have none left for anybody else. Maybe we’d get over our traumas sooner if we acknowledged that we are not the only people in the world these things happen to, and incidents like this are hardly unique.

Bombings and mass killings are a near-daily event in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places. We see the stories, but the violence hardly registers. We barely notice, much less devote nonstop coverage or erect plaques and shrines. Multiple homicides with injuries of bystanders are also a regular occurrence throughout the United States. When was the last time we shut down an entire metro region to catch a murder suspect?

One can further argue that it’s precisely this country’s ongoing preoccupation with terrorism, and our almost guaranteed overreaction should an attack occur, that can inspire certain people to violence. If we didn’t spend so much time obsessing and talking about it, perhaps certain deranged people wouldn’t be inspired to bomb, murder, and maim.

And almost more than anything else, what the terrorist wants is attention. The true aim of terrorism, after all, isn’t to kill so much as to inspire fear, panic, and a self-defeating response. How many millions of dollars in law enforcement overtime and lost productivity did Friday’s “lockdown” cost, together with the tens of billions poured into the bulging coffers of the Security-Industrial Complex since 9/11. Why do we play into the perpetrators’ hands by reacting precisely as they hope we will?

I put this question to Bruce Schneier, one of the country’s best-known security experts, and his response was a tantalizing one: “Because that’s the way our brains are wired.”

I’m not sure that I believe that entirely. If it were true, why are we so out of synch with the rest of the world? I feel that our immature behavior is nurtured and encouraged by poor leadership, and sanctified by an irresponsible media.

The pundits this past week have talking a lot about “complacency,” and how we’ve “let our guard down” since the attacks of 2001. Good grief, are they implying we ought to be more twitchy and obsessed with terrorism? What a healthy society does is deal with things with a sense of historical perspective, and move on. My goodness, the cities of Europe were bombed into smithereens during World War Two, killing millions of people.

Others say it better than I can. Here’s Michael Cohen, writing in the Observer on April 20th:

“Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. They’re right – and then some. What we saw was a collective freak-out like few that we’ve seen previously in the United States. It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the threat of terrorism.

After all, it’s not as if this is the first time that homicidal killers have been on the loose in a major American city. In 2002, Washington DC was terrorized by two roving snipers, who randomly shot and killed 10 people. In February, a disgruntled police officer, Christopher Dorner, murdered four people over several days in Los Angeles. In neither case was LA or DC put on lockdown mode, perhaps because neither of these sprees was branded with that magically evocative and seemingly terrifying word for Americans, terrorism.”

That’s a good point about how easily and willingly Americans are cowed. All this rhetoric about not allowing terrorism to “change our way of life” is just that, rhetoric. The mere threat of it has changed our thinking, our actions, and our responses to crisis. Terrorism doesn’t directly subvert our freedoms; we do it ourselves.

And where, after Boston, is the debate, the conversation, about all of this? There should be a robust and ongoing self-examination, led by the media. We hear it from people like Michael Cohen, writing from the United Kingdom, but here in the US there hasn’t been a whisper of criticism — nothing. Instead there is only constant cheerleading and the uniform approval that anything and everything is justified in the name of security. Any voice to the contrary is marginalized, so much that it exists at all. To suggest that our approach to terrorism is self-defeating, or that our reaction to the Boston bombing was anything but rational and necessary, is downright politically incorrect.

We behave this way at our own peril: this is too important a subject to be smothered by political correctness or the emotions of an easily frightened populace.

 

And last Monday was not, by the way, the first time the city Boston was hit by a terrorist bombing. Below are some local newspaper clippings from 1976.

This was only a few days prior to the city’s huge Bicentennial celebration. Four bombs were detonated in a 24-hour span. The plane in the pictures is an Eastern Airlines Lockheed Electra, blown up at Logan Airport.

I know all the reasons why the ’76 bombing was different from the one on Patriots Day. The lack of casualties, for one. But we should also recognize how the two bombings are similar.

Those of you who live around Boston are looking at these headlines and thinking, “Why didn’t I know about that?” Or “Why don’t I remember that?” That you probably don’t remember is both a good and bad thing. Once upon a time we were able to deal with such things in a way that was stronger, more measured. We were better for it, as both a city and as a country.


 

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63 Responses to “Letter from Boston”
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  1. Mike says:

    Well written and spot on. We have become a nation of perpetual mourners who lower our nation’s flag to half staff for the least of occasions.

  2. Andrea Chipman says:

    Well done, Patrick. As a native Bostonian living in the UK, I had been both horrified by the events and increasingly bothered by the jingoism I was seeing in both the media and on social media. This piece expressed everything I was feeling.

  3. Tenney says:

    An additional comment. The “Lock down” was put in place for obvious reasons such as:

    1: The suspects had a Gun, and, as we now know, more Bombs.
    2: The suspects highjacked a car and driver.
    3: Where they would go was completely unknown – therefore shut down all roads, trains and planes. They could have driven to any place or anywhere, becoming completely invisible.
    4: Once the Lock down was in place, anyone driving or walking about would become suspect. So … No one leaves the area.
    5: Worked perfectly. They stopped many innocent bystanders and drivers, and then they stopped the Highjacked SUV and entered into a deadly firefight.
    6: The one remaining suspect drove off and disappeared. He could not escape the Dragnet since no one else in town was allowed to leave their house, let alone drive to the store for milk or cigarettes. This is the whole point of a “Lock down”.
    7. So – anything out of the ordinary became suspect.
    8. Thank God the boat’s owner was tuned in to the situation, and called it in! An American Hero!

  4. Morgan says:

    Thanks for this! It is spot on.

  5. Tenney says:

    Nice to ave you back on line, Patrick. Missed you after Salon let you go.

    I grew up in Boston (I now live in Albany, NY). Boston (actually Belmont) is my home. The cheering of Watertown residents is exactly what I would have joined in on (I used to live in Watertown, too, just 5 blocks from the boat).

    Just the mere fact that all those scared and bewildered men and women in uniform cornered and captured suspect #2 ALIVE was just huge. It demonstrated restraint and professionalism that was unbelievable. Now we might have answers to the madness!!

    You try being locked up for a day without any resolution (as my Mom was in Belmont). The adrenalin will drive you nuts. The release is a welcome respite. Whoops and yays of relief and joy for the now future are totally appropriate. Let the Healing Begin!

    Just the possibility of getting some answers was so much bigger than anything anyone could have asked for! Thank God for all of the search teams!

  6. Pillai says:

    A terrific piece of writing – one which should be published by the NYT and other papers.

    Friday morning, I saw MSNBC’s Morning Joe crew just hyperventilating – specifically Mika B. She sounded so fake, contrived, and crass with some of the “oh what will we do now – how long can Boston endure this? What do we do with all those un-exploded bombs??” And I normally like that crew – but this was just too much.

    So I see your point completely. And lets not forget the drones and their human cost to this world.

  7. Barbara Summersett says:

    I am a reader and an appreciative clinician of the automatic medical responses to this event. The death toll, as the media has written about, would have been far greater if many many people had not practiced “run-throughs” in preparation for something of this magnitude. Interest levels of the participating public increase with the level of passion evoked. This increases the numbers of prepared individuals, and thus the amount of funding provided for the training. This passion saved lives during this very symbolic terrorist event. I celebrate the involved public! We are trained to “Fix”…. not to “Destroy”…. and that takes a heck of a lot more energy!

  8. Jeff says:

    I agree with you regarding the media coverage and the political grandstanding. However, I think you are off base with your criticism of the celebration. The people that I saw in the streets of Watertown were expressing their appreciation for the bravery and service of the law enforcement professionals who risked their lives to take an extremely dangerous killer off the streets. There also seemed to be a strong sense of celebration that the child and cop killer was taken alive. Contrast the reaction in the Boston area to the throngs of preening, taunting idiots who gathered across from the White House to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden. Now that was sick. What happened in Boston was much more, in my opinion at least, a celebration of life and justice.

  9. Mark Richards says:

    Spot on.

    I was thinking this. You put it all nicely to words.

  10. Proud to be in Boston says:

    In America, we are lucky that such tragic events generate so much attention. It means that these attacks and bombings are not commonplace and, in my opinion, that is a very good thing that we should all be grateful for. The people of Boston are coming together as a community to heal. It is not anyone’s place to tell us how to heal and that our healing mechanisms are inappropriate. The cheering was for the police departments who literally put their lives on the line to protect the entire community. It was because the people who commited this heinous crime will now be brought to justice. The cheering is to show that we will not be afraid and that we will perservere. This is not propoganda, it is humans coming together to heal from an event that changed the lives of many in our community.

    • mawoodall says:

      I have to agree with you on this. Though when the story broke I could almost hear the reporters salivating and that didn’t sit right with me. But is this article really asking that we treat these acts of terror as commonplace just because those in other parts of the globe don’t have it as good? I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be ashamed that these things are far less common here, and they will know that that kind of behavior just won’t be tolerated- we will find you and bring you to justice. I am truly sorry that there are people in the world that live in constant fear, but I am not sorry that we don’t- I am thankful.

  11. Sofia Wolman says:

    To the excerpt below:

    I agree. The mainstream (media and political) handling of the last week has COMPLETELY dominated the story of how Boston feels about these events, to the point of essentializing our experience and the way it’s being communicated to the rest of the world.

    However, I am struck and encouraged by the discomfort SO MANY friends and acquaintances have to many threads at play – the militarized response; de fact martial law; Bill of Rights tossed out the dogs; racial profiling; obsession with this certain kind of violence; scary ‘maniacal’ nationalism (two separate folks I know went out to congratulate the uniformed officers after the arrest, but went back inside once the USA!USA! chants began..). None (or very few) of these things are being presented in the mainstream media, but many, MANY people in Boston – from different backgrounds and perspectives –
    do not accept the mainstream (unquestioning) narrative as their own. I wonder how we mobilize to get a different on out to the country and the world as we reflect and move forward.

    ‘And where, after the Boston debacle, is the debate, the conversation, about all of this?…here in the US there hasn’t been a whisper of dissent — nothing. There is only constant cheerleading and the uniform approval that anything and everything is justified in the name of security. Any voice to the contrary is marginalized, so much that it exists at all. To suggest that our approach to terrorism is self-defeating, or that our reaction to the Boston bombing was anything but rational and necessary, is downright politically incorrect.’

  12. FearfulNoMore says:

    Patrick,
    I was waiting for your take on this. Thank you for articulating what I feel. And because of the non-stop coverage, a tragedy of greater proportion was overlooked: corporate malfeasance in Texas caused the deaths of at least 14 (11 of whom were first responders), injured more than 200, and left several hundred homeless.

  13. Guy Hamilton says:

    “We seem to have a surfeit of compassion for “ourselves,” yet a striking lack of it for others.”
    This is demonstrated by the long support for the Irish Republican Army in the USA and, particularly, in Boston. Noraid has raised huge amounts of money in the US for the IRA. I was appalled the first time that I entered a bar in the US and saw the collection box for the IRA.
    In the case of Boston anti-terrorism seems very uni-directional ie, anti-US terrorism is a vile act but terrorism against others is acceptable, supportable even.
    Yes, the Boston Marathon bombings were appalling, criminal acts and cannot be tolerated by any decent people. But neither can any of the other acts of terrorism that Bostonians and other Americans have supported.

    • Ian MacDonell says:

      Are the civilian deaths,including children,in Afghanistan, Pakistan,Iraq,etc.,any less tragic or important than deaths in the USA? According to the media,and the politicians, they seem to be.

  14. I concur with your observations Patrick, but am not optimistic about any change soon. North of the border, our federal government shut down debate in order to discuss their new anti-terrorism bill (in light of the imminent threat elicited by the Boston event). Naomi Klein wrote of this sort of opportunism, such as governments cynically using situations like the Patriots Day bombing to promote their agendas. Alas, I think I have to agree with her in this case.

    Keep up the good work, inserting some rational thought into the web. Every bit helps. Oh, and the piloting and second-officering, too.

  15. Kay says:

    Amen, amen and amen!

  16. Rod says:

    “It’s the cheering and flag-waving that should bother us most. There’s something frightening and maniacal about it.”

    Right. It’s about letting slip the mask of civilization that we usually manage to wear, more or less well.
    Flag-waving can easily turn into a war-dance, which is exactly what happened after 911.
    Obama played the Boston thing wisely, speaking in soothing, reflective terms. Contrast that with the cro-magnon response of Dubbya after 911, which whipped everyone into a gung-ho frenzy for the disasters that followed.

  17. Msconduct says:

    Totally agree, and thank you for this voice of sanity. We all acknowledge the sadness of the deaths and injuries, but to this non-American, the spectacle of the chanting of “USA! USA!” was grotesque and troubling.

    On the day Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody, the BBC World Service said that for every intended target killed by an American drone strike, forty-nine innocent people died. I’m not even going to bother underlining the contrast, because it’s all too obvious.

  18. Breadbaker says:

    I agree with nearly all you said, but as with JAFD, I disagree about the shutting down of the city. Given the time and circumstances at which he had escaped the firefight in Watertown, the advantage that this tactic gave is that he could not, by use of disguise or just good actig and depending on people’s inherent unwillingness to get involved, blend in with the hundreds of thousands of commuters and pedestrians and thereby effect his escape. Obviously, in hindsight, this did indeed work, but one of the few meaningful interviews I saw yesterday was with one of the officials who said that what they were counting on when they countermanded the order was that if he had holed up somewhere, someone who noticed something out of place would report it. That’s exactly how they found him. If people had been going about their business that wouldn’t have happened.

    On the other hand, the number of times that the police had to tell the media to back off and get out of the line of fire was insane. And if I never hear Erin Burnett and Wolf Blitzer’s voices again, it will be too soon.

  19. C Schwartz says:

    You are exactly correct; the only voice I have heard with this view. The one thing missing from this circus is three or four hundred teddy bears hanging from some public fence.

  20. Tom Goodwillie says:

    I completely agree, especially about the repugnant tone of celebration and boosterism. Thank you for saying this so well and so forcefully.

    I keep thinking that the process of coping with the feelings stirred up by these events might afford an opportunity for Americans to appreciate the reality that many peoples around the world have suffered far worse, that some of them are suffering worse every day. but of course that has nothing to do with the sentimental and self-centered public process that seems to be our fate.

    My only quibble with your piece is that I’m not sure that the “lockdown” was an overreaction, at least as far as Watertown goes: they were pretty sure that they had the bomber surrounded, and if people stayed put then it was likely they could catch him without further injuries.

  21. JAFD says:

    Hello, Patrick,

    Agree with most of what you’ve written here, and have recommended it to my friends. But if I may make a defense of the mayor/police chief/whoever decided to ‘lock down’ metropolitan Boston yesterday:
    There was a murderer on the loose. Cold-blooded, premeditated, had killed, unprovoked, twice.
    It was possible that fellow conspirators were around to hide him or strike again.
    For the police and civic officials, it was a decision made at 3:30 AM or so, during their fourth straight night of adrenaline, caffine, and occasional catnaps.

    In hindsight, it was overreacting – but would you, under those circumstances, have acted differently ?

  22. John Patterson says:

    Thanks Patrick, well written and spot on. In the grand scheme of things I suppose when you are fighting a “forever war” and “the terrorists” have replaced “the commies” you need for people to stay afraid. There is lots of money to be made and fear is a necessary ingredient in the cocktail.

  23. Lee says:

    Patrick, I love that you complained about the term “lockdown.” Not long ago that term was only used about prisons. Now the media use it about schools when they could make parents and students feel better by saying, “Because of the situation the police secured the school.”

    If the NRA has their way, which they do, soon our schools will look like prisons. The only difference will be, we’ll spend twice as much annually on prisoners than students, and prison guards aren’t armed.

  24. Marcio V. Pinheiro says:

    Clear and smart thinking.

  25. Diane says:

    FINALLY….some common sense talk about this situation! Loved the comment “abysmally irresponsible media” but I’ll go even further to say that the “responsible” media is obsessed. And even though it’s over as I write this, they’re still reporting contradictory things in an effort to be among the first ones with “news” in this ridiculous 24/7 news cycle madness. Thanks for being a voice of reason, Patrick.

  26. Thomas says:

    well written piece and excellent letters in the reply section – I thought a ton of critism would come, refreshing to see well reasoned, contrarian viewpoints.

  27. elk horn says:

    Patrick –

    Thank you for an excellent & thoughtful column. Keep ’em coming!

    It’s a shame that most people in this country will probably ever read it…

    Elk Horn

  28. Tim says:

    Thank you Patrick. Thank you.

  29. Rog says:

    Well said: the media and public have become far too emotional over things like this. It’s counterproductive.

  30. Brett Greisen says:

    Thanks for this article.

    NYC is usually quiet, but Midtown has probably been echoing with sirens as the PD Atlas teams roar to a tourist site. Unfortunately the PD has history of over-reaching – the arrests during the GOP convention, etc.

    Recently, they tend to keep the anti-terror theater @ transit hubs and/or tourist areas for Bloomberg’s obvious business reasons.

  31. Philip W. says:

    So well said, Patrick. Could not agree more with your piece and with all the comments. We do indeed fetishize our own victimhood, and unfortunately the media (both social and legacy) only abet it.

    There is a word in Spanish – “morbo” – which describes our attraction to morbidity. The psychic toll of terrorism today in our interconnected world seems more long-lasting because our constant exposure to all forms of media feed this pull. Sometimes, for me, it feels like an act of peace to turn off the news.

    I look forward to your book.

  32. Vinny the censored says:

    Well, I’d rather be home than in a hotel room nowhere or in an airliner nowhere. That’s because home is the most excellent place, even when (especially when?) it’s “bonkers.”

    So sad, the loss of the eight-year-old child and for what…

    The bees will still be there, at home or so, and happy as piss or something, upon return. Really, fear not!

    Thanks!

  33. Doug says:

    Thanks, Patrick. When something like this happens — and I complain to my wife that the next stage will be over-reaction and fulminating terror when terror was the goal — I don’t even watch TV news. I listen to NPR. And, unfortunately, they did the exact same thing that the news channels do: spend hours retelling the same story without any new information to report… Patrick, yours is a very well-written insight. Thanks.

  34. Jim Houghton says:

    A voice of sanity in the wilderness. I’d be interested to see this printed somewhere in the MSM and view the shocked, outraged comment-responses from those whose victimhood and “I’m sooo sympathetic” narcissism would be affronted.

  35. Kent says:

    So nice to see a reasoned, measured response in the midst of all the melodrama.

    Looking forward to your book.

  36. neal says:

    very refreshing and thought provoking. I wholeheartedly agree!

  37. Rod says:

    I join the others in their praise for Patrick’s reality check. Simon, Andy and Speed have expressed my views admirably. So, especially, has Chad (Americans should be thinking about the almost daily bloodbath still being endured by their Iraqi “beneficiaries”). Any actual terror produced by this is the work of the sensation-mad media. And private security firms will rake in the proceeds.
    Also, the whole thing will have made Vladimir Putin’s day … which is always a bummer.

  38. Rachel K says:

    “Nevertheless, there’s a point where public reaction to a tragedy becomes so ponderously emotional that we begin fetishizing our own victimhood.”

    That was an excellent statement that needed to be said. Thank you for saying it.

  39. Jeff O'Byrne says:

    Good one Patrick.
    The media storm generates two other vectors: first, the mislead furor raised in the electorate influences the Legislature which does silly things. Second, the techniques that they used are published and learned from the television set.
    Finally, they are all barking up the wrong tree. These guys are Tullock and Parker of Judgement Ridge not OBL of Al Qaeda. They are the product of the United States not overseas.

  40. Rich says:

    This needed to be said, Patrick. People found my blase attitude to this event puzzling. But I grew up in the UK in the 70s and 80s when IRA bombings were commonplace (ironically funded in part by he Irish diaspora in, guess what, Boston)

    Obviously these were terrible events not least for the innocents caught in them. But we just got on with our lives and there wasn’t this ‘mourning porn’ you so accurately describe in the media

  41. Josh S says:

    Yes, Patrick.

    Sober words are appreciated, whether they relate to air travel, terrorism, or any other issue in which melodrama overwhelms real discussion.

  42. Jeff Latten says:

    So true, Patrick. We are obsessed with this stuff, the media feeds our obsession gladly, all the while collecting serious advertising revenue. At first glance it looks like ‘everybody wins’….the people get their sensationalism, the media has work to to and collects $$, the advertisers get their ads seen, but what doesn’t get factored in here is the sensationalism and redundant BS entailed. How many times does one have to hear “we don’t know who did it” followed by 3 hours of speculation by former intelligence/law enforcement types as to all the possibilities, of which they have not a shred of evidence? Certainly it’s a newsworthy event, and the public has a right to hear, but the endless repetition and speculation just heightens the tension and solves nothing. And your other posters make a very valid comparison: we will spend limitless $$ tracking down the Marathon bombers, but how much goes into an investigation of the lax safety and inspection situation that precipitated the fertilizer event?

  43. Mike in Mass says:

    The Boston tragedy is dwarfed by the number of children and adults killed and maimed by guns on a daily basis yet there is minimal coverage of it and we can’t even get background checks.

  44. FatguyfromQueens says:

    Thanks for this!

    As horrible as it is, people do get excited when something happens like this close to them and they survive. It gives them something to talk about. This isn’t being obnoxious. I know this first hand. I was in an African country for work and there was political instability one night. soldiers on the streets, gunfire. We did have to move to stairwells in the inside of the hotel for our safety. It was *very* minor but I felt like a CNN reporter tweeting this to colleagues. Despite myself it was an incredible high.

    And Patrick you are right, nobody remembers real terrorist incidents before 24 hour news. I grew up in Queens in the 70s and I remember the LGA bombing clearly! 11 people died, a whole bunch injured. Nobody remembers that now, can you imagine if that happened today?

    (PS everyone thought it was the FALN or other Puerto Rican terrorists, I think it was eventually traced to Croatian nationalist terrorists.)

  45. Scott says:

    Great piece, Patrick. I agree wholeheartedly (as I wrote here: http://bit.ly/11mwEJR).

  46. Cops and fire fighters and all the rest are some of the bravest people that we see on a daily basis.

    Still. As long as Patrick is leading the Reality Parade, could we please stop with cops at news conferences wetting themselves because they ‘cooperated’ with other agencies? Is it just me? What’s the deal with all the call-outs of this agency, or that agency?

    They DO perform admirably. But it’s not the focus. There’s no medal for cooperation (is there?)

  47. Chad Henshaw says:

    Do you know what is really callous?

    32 people in Bagdad died in a bombing on the 15th.

    Their deaths however will at best be relegated to the back as filler – at worst not covered at all.

    No breaking news /on the spot crossing / 24 news takeover or twitter run manhunt.

    Their names probably won’t play at all – certainly not with a selectively reported obituary mentioning all the good they’ve done, and none of the bad.

    They’ll just lie, forgotten by the world.

    • Lee says:

      You know what else is callous? That Bush said in an interview a week ago that he’s very proud of what he did in Iraq.

  48. Susan Marsten says:

    Patrick, you are absolutely right. I personally am outraged that the nation is wallowing in the coverage of the Boston bombing while an equivalent tragedy that killed and injured as many people and did far more damage is going virtually unnoticed. Are the victims of the Waco fertilizer factory fire and explosion less worthy of our compassion? If, as seems probable, the incident was the result of a corporation that ignored safety provisions and a lax inspection and regulation environment, aren’t those who could have prevented the devastation just as culpable?

    But we will spend hundreds of millions of dollars if necessary to track down and punish the individuals responsible for the Boston crime and clamor for their blood while those guilty of the Waco deaths will probably never pay any price at all. If corporations are people, then that company’s owners and managers should be tried in criminal court for the deaths with full media coverage and bankrupted in civil court to pay damages to their victims. But–does anyone imagine that will happen? Don’t those lives matter too?

    • Lee says:

      It’s Texas, Susan, and the answer is “No.”

      The company that owns the plant is probably so large that they are self-insured, which means the workers didn’t even get protection from insurance inspectors.

      In Rick Perry’s pea brain, jobs are all that’s important and regulations are the enemy of jobs. When do you suppose Perry or anyone he knows worked in a factory?

  49. Mark says:

    Thanks for saying this.

    As Martin Luther King said, the choice we face is not non-violence versus violence, it is non-violence versus non-existence.

    On a different note, it’s nice that a commercial pilot has the time and interest for homescale beekeeping. I’m glad to have a neighbor with bees, they visit my fruit trees and veggie plants.

    • Patrick says:

      Thanks. Unfortunately we had a bit of a colony collapse in the fall and the hive didn’t survive (though we did get a good bit of honey). But we’re trying again this summer.

  50. KevinT says:

    Thank you Patrick.

  51. Bernard says:

    Could not agree more, thanks for putting this on your blog!

  52. JamesF says:

    Spot on Patrick. I knew the coverage and political reaction was going to be infuriating, as it is for any such event. Ironically just before the bombings I read this and shared it on social media,

    “News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli

  53. Speed says:

    And now for a real horror story …

    About 4,500 children die each day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.
    http://www.unicef.org/wash/index_31600.html

    The job of main stream media is to deliver eyeballs to advertisers. If they want mine, they’ll have to do better.

  54. Andy says:

    Patrick, I’m glad you had the courage to write & publish this column. Real political leadership would encourage us to be courageous, not fearful, and to stand up to bullying. If the media had any integrity, they’d be focused on lending some much-needed perspective and to act with courage and stand strong. As a nation we used to be strong & unafraid. Now we act like a bunch of pants-wetting little kids.

  55. Simon says:

    This general sense of fear is very much desired. While the public is obsessed with gore and frightened by terror (or just the threat of terror) they will willingly accept strip searches at airports and other restrictions of their liberties once taken for granted.

    Meanwhile they’ll conveniently forget to ask why their political leadership has systematically failed them for decades. Questions such as why one of the richest countries in the world continues to tolerate such an awesome proportion of society living in poverty or being illiterate or not having access to affordable healthcare. All that falls under the table while people obsess with how much liquid the next guy on the plane has in his little bottle or why that fellow subway passenger’s shoes look as if they contained something fishy…

    And yet the cure to all that madness starts out so simple. Refuse to be scared. Refuse to change your way of life. Stop consuming mainstream media. What will you miss when you stop reading the Boston Globe or shut off CNN? Nothing of value. But realizing you’re no longer subjecting yourself to propaganda will feel liberating and relieving. Yep, that’s the sent of freedom you’re starting to notice.

  56. JS says:

    Thanks for this. As someone who grew up around the area (and spent a fair bit of time in my college years hanging around Copley, Newbury, etc.), I’ve missed the city a lot in the last couple of days. At the same time, I didn’t at all want to look at the Boston Globe (or other local media) today because I expected exactly what you describe — and I knew it would just make me cringe.

  57. Doug says:

    Well said!

  58. Erich Schmidt says:

    Right on.