"We still don't know who did this or why. People should not jump to conclusions before we have all the facts."
- President Obama, on the Boston Marathon Bombing
Over a hundred wounded.
That’s what we know.
That's the sum total of what anybody knows for certain at this point.
Two bombs. Three people dead so far. Over a hundred wounded.
Everything else is random noise in the communication system.
Anything more than two bombs, three dead, is nothing but speculation fueled by fear, hysteria, rumor mongering, childish self-centered malice aforethought, people that aren’t authorized to speak on the record but can’t keep their goddamned mouths shut anyway, and the fact that we can’t keep raging crazies from buying guns let alone keep them from getting a nationally syndicated talk radio show where they can incestuously breed conspiracy theories willy-nilly free of any responsibility.
Anything more than two bombs, three dead is nothing more speculation driven by a need to fill up whitespace for the sake of filling up whitespace.
Case in point:
This morning The Week's Peter Weber starts out with this:
More than half a day after the explosions in Boston, police still have few answers. That hasn't quieted the speculation.
More than half a day.
Twelve whole hours and the crime still hasn’t been solved?
Twelve hours? If this was TV, Gary Sinise and Kiefer Sutherland would have solved twenty cases by now, including two story arcs involving 9-11, generic cardboard cutout olive-skinned terrorists who hate us for our freedoms, and shady government officials. And they’d have both stopped for coffee and gotten laid too.
Police still have few answers.
Really? The police still have few answers?
It’s been barely been a day, no kidding the police have few answers. Real world terrorist attacks aren’t wrapped up all neat and tidy in sixty minutes with a squint and a pithy comment and time out for piss breaks.
Jesus Haploid Christ, given the number of these things in recent years, it’s not like Americans don’t have enough working experience with terrorism to figure out a reasonable timeline – but, nope, as usual, the standard issue two minute instant gratification American attention span requires the gaping abyss between its ears to be filled immediately. It doesn’t matter if that filler bears any actual resemblance to reality at all, so long as the empty space is filled up. Panic, conspiracy theories, mutating rumors, internet chainmail “eye witness” accounts from people who weren’t there, wild speculation from so-called “experts,” whatever, just so long as we don’t have to be alone with ourselves, just so long as we don’t have to wait.
Weber says, “That hasn’t quieted the speculation.”
And the title of Weber’s article? Who’s Behind the Boston Marathon Bombings, Four Theories.
Instead of discussing why speculation is counterproductive and does nothing more than muddy the waters, or perhaps why there are few answers as yet, predictably Weber goes on to relate that some people are speculating how it might be Muslims, right wingers, the standard issue Lone Angry Man, the standard issue Group of Angry Men, and/or Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
Good thing we’re not speculating, I guess.
You may, if you like, insert a facepalm here.
Sure, when something like the horrific events of 9-11, Sandy Hook, or the Boston Marathon bombing happen, it’s human nature to want answers and to want answers right now. It’s human nature to slow down and gape at the accident scene. But, damnit, you’ve got a brain, you’ve supposedly got intelligence, intellect, reasoning ability. For crying out loud, use those tools, you can override your glands.
Of course we want answers right now.
Nobody likes being patient in situations like this. And in the Google Age we’re used to getting those answers immediately – and if they turn out to be right, so much the better.
We want answers. We want justice. We want revenge. We want to know. And we want it now.
So what? I want a pony, and I’m not likely to get that either.
Sit down and shut up. Stop making it worse.
Let the professionals do their jobs.
And it does take professionals you know, to figure out what happened. Just because you have an internet connection and you watch CSI and you listen to conspiracy talk radio day in and day out does not actually qualify you as a forensic or anti-terrorism expert – and you ought to be smart enough to know that.
As somebody who has spent the better part of my life in the intelligence field, I can tell you that this period, the immediate aftermath of the event, is far more complex and far more difficult than you can possibly imagine – even if you’ve had direct experience in this sort of thing. The sheer volume of information is staggering, almost incomprehensible. For example, depending on the situation there might be half a million phone records worldwide to look through, cell and landlines, text and data and email and so on, connections upon connections, in this day and age those bombs could have been set off from the other side of the world and watched via real-time internet video. And that’s just one tiny piece of the puzzle. We live in the Information Age, the problem isn’t that there isn’t enough information, the problem is that there is huge giant mountains of it – and most of that is irrelevant or false. But it’s all got to be gone through, every bit of it. And that can’t be done by machines, not really, people have to look at it. Trained people. Experts. Not conspiracy nuts, not just any Joe Shit The Ragman. Actual real educated and trained and experienced experts have to go through the information, slowly, carefully, bit by bit. And their difficult job is made even more difficult because not only are the investigators literally looking for the mangled pieces of a very tiny needle in a very large, very cluttered, very rutted and very muddy storm-tossed hay field, there are also certain folks who are actively working to make and shovel more hay, wheat, rye, grass clippings, manure, and any other metaphor you’d care to dream up, on top the whole mess.
At best, it’s like Weber’s article, more or less an innocuous roundup of the usual suspects.
Of course the first thing everybody in the world thought was, “Muslim Terrorists!” Followed by “Domestic Terrorists!” Followed by “Crazy Person With An Ax To Grind.” Because we’ve all been through this before.
And that’s bad enough, because all of those well intentioned citizens are busy right now clogging the FBI tip line. And, hell, you know, maybe one of them will have something useful.
But at worst, like the crazed cheekbiters at Red State, The Blaze, InfoWars, and on Alex Jones’ Facebook Page with their “Bigfoot,” “Space Aliens,” and “Obama’s Smooth Chocolate Negro Ray of False Flag Gun Confiscation” conspiracy theories, it’s ridiculous unfounded accusations manufactured whole cloth from feverish nightmares. It’s ridiculous nonsense, idiotic nonsense, the kind of demented doodling that should be called out as the unhinged mental illness that it is.
And it is a sickness,
It’s a version of mass hysteria, a type of group obsessive compulsive disorder, where the afflicted see their own pet bugaboos in everything, in every event no matter how big or small. And while Conspiracy King Alex Jones himself is unlikely to distract the FBI investigators, he and his fear mongering brethren aid and abet the terrorists by inciting their own weak minded followers to rage and fear and riot. And then those deluded paranoids clog the system with their conspiracy theories and their bizarre false-flag accusations and their witch fearing insanity, just as they did after 9-11 and Sandy Hook and Benghazi. It began within an hour of the bombings in Boston.
And of course the media bears some responsibility. Certainly. The empty bandwidth must be filled and since there are as yet no facts, no answers, the airwaves are clogged with speculation and random chatter and irresponsibly unmoderated comment forums. Almost everything you see and read and hear in the media right now is just filler. The information machine is running in idle, gears unclutched, flywheel spinning free, making a squeaking clattering noise and producing nothing but fear and paranoia and wild speculation. Like, for example, interviews today with witnesses to the Belfast IRA bombings of previous decades – which, given the ethnic Irish background of Boston, makes certain completely unsupported connections in the public mind. Connections that just throw fuel on the wild imaginings of the conspiracy theorists.
It’s going to take time to figure out who, how, and why.
And you’re just going to have to put on your big boy pants and deal with it.
Even if those responsible walk into the Boston FBI field office right now and raise their hands and confess all, it still requires time to investigate, collect evidence, do the lab work, gather intelligence, analyze the data, run down false leads and bad information, and verify that the people who said they did it actually did do it.
And more likely those responsible won’t admit it, and they’ll have to be hunted down like rats in the walls and unless the police and the FBI get very, very lucky, that’s going to take one hell of a lot of hard work.
The media, the politicians, and the pundits can’t afford to ignore the bombing – and thus appear callous and indifferent and uncaring and clueless and thereby stand to lose readers and voters. But they’ve got nothing to report, because nobody knows anything. So they run wild and make things worse instead of demonstrating leadership.
And they do it because the American people demand it. They want their conspiracy, they want their sensation, they want their pound of flesh and pictures of blood and severed limbs.
The responsible thing to do here, the grown up rational adult thing, is to acknowledge that we don’t know anything. We will, eventually. But at the moment we don’t. And it’s going to take time before we do. And that is just the way it is.
When you deliberately spread fear and uncertainty and hatred as part of events like this, and when you enable others to do so by giving them an unmoderated commenting forum in which to exercise their paranoid ravings, you are engaging in conspiracy to commit terrorism.
That’s what they call it you know, conspiracy, aiding and abetting, when you help the criminals but don’t commit the act yourself.
Because that’s what they want.
That’s the very goal of terrorism: the contagious and self-reinforcing spread of hate and fear and confusion, terror.
It’s human nature to gape at an accident, to wonder at its cause, but when you actively engage in rumor mongering, when you buy into conspiracy theories, when you create and spread unthinking small-minded irresponsible speculation, you are directly aiding and abetting the terrorists. No more, no less.
Like those first responders in Boston yesterday, the ones who turned their backs on safety and ran towards the danger, it’s time to find our courage and confront the threat head on.
No terrorist, alone or by the dozen, can destroy America. They can snap at our heels, but they can’t destroy us. They can’t even hurt us to any significant degree.
Not without help.
So stop helping them.
Stop conspiring with those who would tear this country apart rather than help hold it together.
Turn, and face the danger.
Face the danger and stand resolute and know that the day of reckoning will come.
The day of reckoning will come for the cowardly sons of bitches who planted the bombs, and for those who conspire to spread hate and fear and terror.
“But make no mistake. We will get to the bottom of this. We will find out who did this. We will find out why they did this. Any individual or responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”
- President Barack Obama