Boston Marathon Bomb Attack

boston marathonBoston in the 21st century is seen as a city with Irish connections, though of course that wasn’t always the case.  The attack on the Boston marathon was a callous assault on defenceless people, including many of our own people who travel every year to take part in the event.   Just like everyone else, I was horrified to hear of the deaths, the mutilations and the violent amputations.  It seems that whoever planted the bombs made sure there would be mass maimings by including ball-bearings and other kinds of shrapnel in the devices.

Who would do a thing like that?

The suggestions range from anti-government survivalists to foreign lunatics but nobody really knows right now.  Nevertheless, the coded language is instructive, as media organisations continue to ask if these attacks were carried out by terrorists.

Terrorists as opposed to what?  Humanitarians?  This is insane.

If you plant a bomb in a public place, you’re a terrorist, whether you happen to be a member of the Michigan Militia or Islamic Jihad, but I greatly fear that the word terrorist is being used as a code to denote Muslim, or even foreigner.   I hope that attitude doesn’t prosper, and yet we have already seen the spectacle of a dark-skinned man, injured in the bomb, being chased by Boston people, tackled to the ground and arrested, solely on the basis of his appearance.

Is that why a  major bombing got little or no coverage?  On the same day as the Boston tragedy, thirty-one people died in Baghdad in a terrorist bomb attack, and yet not one of the major news agencies chose to give it any coverage at all.


There’s a risk in saying this kind of thing, largely because people aren’t able to think clearly, so let’s make it clear for them.   Drawing attention to another unreported atrocity does not diminish the experience of the people in Boston.  If anything, it weaves it into the human global experience.  The Boston people, and the Baghdad victims, and those  murdered in Nigeria on the same day, share a common tragedy.

Think back to the mid-90s when people were being slaughtered wholesale in Bosnia and the world’s media fastened onto the conflict.  Fearless correspondents flocked to Sarajevo, the sexy, cosmopolitan capital of Bosnia, home to the Winter Olympics, and they breathlessly reported on the conflict from the comfort of their bar stools, just as General Ratko Mladic planned, when he set up his diversionary bombardment of the city.

Did those same journalists flock to Kigali when the Interahamwe were systematically murdering a half million Rwandan Tutsis?

Don’t be ridiculous.  Of course they didn’t.  That was just a crowd of blacks.

Wouldn’t it be a good thing for all of us if we recognised that a bomb attack in Boston is the same as a bomb attack in Baghdad?  Or that a machete mass murder in Rwanda is just as bad as a gun attack on a US school?  Or, dare I say it, that a drone attack on an Afghan village causes precisely the same heartbreak?

26 replies on “Boston Marathon Bomb Attack”

Far right twitter-spears have already suggested North Korea as being behind the Boston attack. Its possible that should a statement be issued by an foreign anti american group on the incident the issue of drones will feature.

This from

”Regarding domestic drones, Congress—pressured by the drone manufacturers lobby—has mandated that US airspace be opened to drones by September 2015.

Drone strikes were first used after the 9/11 attacks from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, in combat missions inside Afghanistan. More than a decade later, having killed almost 5,000 people, mostly civilians including women and children, Washington has expanded the use of the remotely controlled aircraft into Yemen, Somalia and most of all Pakistan.”

Bock, these are some of my thoughts on the issue – your comments section thankfully allows more space than the 140 characters of Twitter allows.

Yesterday, a number of cowardly, horrific attacks on innocent people occurred, both in Boston, Kano and Iraq. I was thinking about this quite a bit last night. The BBC Website reported that 31 people were killed in bomb attacks and explosions across Iraq, although the Wall Street Journal put this figure at 61.

Targeting civilians is always wrong, whether they’re runners and spectators, including eight-year-old children, at a marathon, or innocent Iraqis stuck in traffic during the Monday morning commute.

I read some criticism of how, when a tragedy in a rich, Western country occurs, people are quick to log onto their Social Media accounts to type messages of grief and sympathy, while seemingly ignoring the suffering of innocents that happens on a daily basis in the poorer, war-ravaged parts of the world.

I totally disagree with the view that the public outpouring of grief every time an attack happens in America is nauseating. No. I think this is a sign that people have compassion and sympathy for the innocent victims of these horrors. I fail to see how that is nauseating.

Some people criticise Western media outlets for giving priority to tragedies in richer countries than they do to poorer ones. This was evident last night on Brazilian news channels too, just as it was evident last year when Hurricane Sandy struck the Eastern US Seaboard – the coverage the USA got in the media dwarfed that of the smaller, poorer, Caribbean nations to the south.

Is this prioritising of Western tragedies by the Western media a moral failure on their part? Or is it simply a case that Western media organisations have more contacts and resources near the scenes of where Western tragedies occur? Or do they feel that their viewers will have more sympathy for victims they feel their viewers can relate to? What influences these editorial decisions?

Is it a moral failure on Westerners, who hear about terrible events, who then send social media messages of sympathy (and make similar sympathetic comments during coffee break chats) to victims of tragedies in rich countries, while they might not do the same for the equally innocent victims in places like Iraq and Afghanistan?

Have people just come to expect to hear about senseless blood-letting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and are therefore immune, desensitised to it? Stalin’s comment about the death of one man being a tragedy, but the death of a million, a statistic, chillingly resonates with this idea.

Do we – that is, the media and the public – really give equal worth to all human suffering? Why or why not?

there is a very ugly current in American politics and the rush by certain elements to blame it on “terrorists” is manifestation of this current (where terrorists can only be ‘other’). Should it turn out to be some lunatic right-wingers, the tone of discourse will change noticeably as the right-wing in American politics is loathe to face up to what it has become.
the deaths in america hold more cultural weight than deaths in ME (unless you’re an Isreali) or Africa, obviously. People who are identified as ‘other’ don’t count as much, ergo less media focus

people have become decensitised to death tolls in Iraq and Africa as most media coveraged leads us to believe that it is expected

if this is an attack on America by another country, western media will push it as far as they can and brand with a stupid name like 15/04, the problem is Americans dont expect an act of war on their own soil so instead it becomes an act of Terrorism

if it is a random act by some nut job it will become know as the Boston Masacre and we will end up going through gun control debates and acess to bomb plans on the internet

if it is an American political/terrorist cell then we will have a republican/democratic conspiracy theory debate

either way expect some very bland but biased coverage with the main reasons for this tradgedy completely forgotten about

Why do we rush to our screens when we hear of a bomb in Boston, but just shake our heads and sigh when we hear of another bomb blast in Baghdad?
Perhaps it’s because we might actually know someone in Boston; friend, family, cousins, that nice yank family you met last summer… it is within in our sphere of influence, whereas most of us have no connection to Baghdad, or Syria, or Rwanda. Secondly, we’re all sick to the teeth of hearing about bombings in Iraq, it’s old news and sure we don’t even know anyone there.
Now, if we had thousands of Irish living and working in Baghdad, and had Iraqi cousins and welcomed Iraqi tourists every year then we would naturally be a lot more interested in events in Baghdad. But we don’t, so it’s beyond our sphere of compassion.
It’s human nature Bock, try as we might we just don’t care as much about people we don’t know.
People tend to Love their immediate family and close friends, care for their wider circle of family and friends, maintain a degree of altruism for neighbours and people of the same country, race, etc. We do have an interest in the welfare of ‘other’ people that we have some connection to, but beyond that it’s all very abstract and it takes large piles of dead foreigners to illicit any real response.

This is an interesting post. Just what I wanted to read about. When will “mainstream” media pick up this debate though?

3 people died because of the bomb, 3, more people died slipping on wet floors or falling off ladders on the same day. every one cares because it went *boooom* and it was loud “Just like in the movies”

So what! what about the big problems of the world eh?

On the day Maggie is buried, she has been vilified in the Irish press for the treatment of IRA prisoners.
Was the IRA’s activities in England,
e.g, the Birmingham pub bombings not an act of similar terrorism ?.
If and when the Obama administration throw the perpetrators of this atrocity into prison, should they have ‘special privileges’ ?

@Busterbloodvessel If the perpetrators are Iraqi or Afghani, arguably yes they should be given special privileges. I take it you you don’t agree with me, as it stands you post has taken an exploratory stance. Id like to know your thoughts.

Bock your comments are spot on as usual. but I am a bad bastard, Suppose 10000 thousand dark skinned children die every day due to starvation I would deplore it as do most people would, but if 3 children were found starved to death in a house in Ireland, my outrage would be 100 fold.
Before anyone preaches at me I know this is wrong I know I know but is that human nature ?

In a recent discussion on cultural heritage that I happened upon, the subject of how heritage in the everyday influences our opinions and how it can determine explicitly our perception was well aired. Also discussed was the idea that in the event of a major earth shattering catastrophe, what part of that culture would each of us wish to salvage for future generations.
Deep shit.
Even journalists are affected by it so maybe there’s something in that for us all us observers to ponder.

Thank you for that Bock. I was referring to a comment made by Mr Blood vessel under the post and not the post itself.

I’m sure it was a sidetrack but the rhetorical question style of the post, as if his argument was a given, irked me somewhat and I felt compelled to challenge it and perhaps bring to his awareness that truth and justice are not as simple as the breaking or not breaking of laws and social constructs.

The Western World has come to expect brutality in brutal lands, Rwanda was an unbelievable atrocity but we are conditioned to expect to see the harsh underbelly of humanity in places we consider to be “third world” or underprivileged. We don’t expect gore and mayhem in our sanitised little world in the West and I think that deep down we are tribal. When “one of our own” gets hurt it is more personal than when it happens to those we don’t have as much of a bond with. I’m not justifying it, I think it’s just the reality.
I was home on holidays from the Middle East when 9/11 happened and when i returned I was met with stories about the whooping and cheering which erupted among my educated work colleagues when the first images of the attacks on the twin towers appeared on CNN. I could never trust them after that.

You must have some very strange work colleagues.

Incidentally, the brutality in Rwanda was in the main thanks to the legacy of Belgian colonisation. Europeans showed the entire world what brutality means.

@Bock – good point, but remember that we are also part of “the western world” and tragedies that affect “us” will obviously get more coverage in the western world than “other” tragedies.

I’d say the drone bombings and civilian casualties get proportionally similar coverage in the middle east and the horn of Africa as the Boston bombing is getting in western press.

Also – it’s about “rarity of event” too. “News” by definition should be an extraordinary event. Unfortunately, and for reasons that are off topic for this post, bombings in Iraq and the horn of Africa are now ordinary and by definition less worthy of “news”.

That’s not cynicism – its just the way of the world. We’re fascinated by the new and the unusual – be it good (mars rover landing), bad (bombings, famine, war) or ugly (corruption, fraud etc.)

As soon as something becomes commonplace we’re not interested no matter how newsworthy it once was.


Good latter point. I’ve been musing on the fact that on average 37 Americans kill 37 other Americans every day, yet the media coverage of the marathon event supercedes all. Not to lessen the Boston tragedy, but to equate: if two ‘terrorists’ continuously planted bombs in the US every 2 hours and killed 3 people each time it still wouldn’t match domestic statistics.

If empathy was a factor then US daily headlines would be ‘another 37 US citizens murdered yesterday’, yet that doesn’t happen. I’m thinking we humans do have a tendency to filter out repetitive news, and that we adapt our thinking to suit.

Probably a silly question, but how much does the “want it now” culture impact on news? Say, in music, people will forget about an album not long after it has been released, as people tend not to buy albums, and there are so many albums getting released these days. It’s like a pebble into a waterfall. I wonder, with so many news outlets and places to get information online instantly, do people not want to “wait” for the facts anymore.
It’s like music. The filtering has gone, and we’re left with an amount of sh*t being thrown at the wall. Some will stick.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.