• author
    • Kelvin Wade

      Columnist
    • April 30, 2013 in Columnists

    Perspectives on Boston, terrorism and disaster porn

    The Boston Marathon bombing was a cowardly act of evil and we mourn the ones killed and injured in the blasts. I hope the national outpouring of grief comforts the victims and the wheels of justice turn swiftly and the party(ies) responsible are caught and punished.

    Beyond that, I’m not signing on to any disaster porn.

    Perhaps it’s just the 24/7 cable/internet news world we live in or some fetish we picked up since 9/11, but terrorist acts or national disasters are almost treated like sporting events. I expect to hear an anchor say, “Our continuing coverage of this latest tragedy is being brought to you by the new Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos!”

    The bomb blast footage has been aired over and over. An aerial shot of a pool of blood has been seared into the national consciousness. The focus on victims narrows to the tragic 8-year-old boy killed in the blast. This is not to say the deaths of children aren’t the most awful thing, but I’d hate for my sweetheart to be killed along with a child because no one would notice my sweetie. Adult victims always fade into the background.

    Looking at the CNN website there are many stories:

    Coach: Marathon changed forever

    War vet: It sounded like Afghanistan

    Opinion: It can happen anywhere

    World markets slump after attack

    Celebs tweet about marathon

    I guess these are normal stories after an event like this. But has the Boston Marathon really been changed forever? Next year, it will have better security and even more people trying to qualify for it. In fact, I expect business to pick up at races across the country as Americans show their defiance.

    The “it can happen anywhere” story is not helpful. While yes, it could possibly happen anywhere, it’s not going to. I remember in Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” there was a woman in some backwoods town who suspected Al Qaeda might try to bomb their annual spaghetti feed. Really?

    Of course, markets slump on uncertainty and terrorist attacks are the mother of uncertainty.

    And Lord knows I don’t give a crap what celebrities think of the bombing.

    Heck yeah, the federal, state and local governments need to be all over Boston investigating the incident and of course, there’s a role for responsible journalists to convey the story of what happened. But we too often fetishize the reporting. We read into it things that aren’t there. Often in our rush for new information, a lot of false information and speculation get thrown into the mix. Then come the conspiracy theories. And has anyone blamed President Obama yet?

    The worst thing we can do is give the bomber(s) pornographic coverage of the event. It is exactly what they want. Worse, it challenges others to get their ugly 15 minutes of fame by either carrying out something crazy or at least threatening to.

    In 1995, two months after the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Unabomber threatened to blow up an airliner. The 1999 Columbine shootings were intended to be a school bombing. The two shooters hoped to surpass OKC in terms of casualties but resorted to shooting when their bombs failed. And Newtown shooter Adam Lanza reportedly had kept newspaper clippings about Norwegian killer Anders Breivik’s rampage that left 68 people dead in 2011.

    It’s a sad reality that in the aftermath of horrific shootings and bombings, threats of more violence increase. Fortunately, most of these are just twisted individuals who get a kick out of making a baseless threat to somehow siphon off some sick glory from the original event. Like the jackwagon who called to threaten Newtown mourners gathered at a church in the wake of the shooters.

    While these horrific stories should be reported, we shouldn’t wallow in them. We don’t need specials and breaking news that isn’t really breaking any new ground. We don’t need dramatic music and newscasters speaking in their cancer voices. We don’t need to run the clips of the explosions ad infinitum.

    Not to minimize the horror of murdering and injuring innocents with the cowardly use of bombs, but to keep it in perspective, far more children were killed in accidents than were killed in the Boston bombing. Eighteen veterans committed suicide the same day.

    Yes, it was horrific what happened in Boston. But it wasn’t 9/11. It wasn’t Oklahoma City. Let’s move on.

    _________________________

    I wrote this column the day after the Boston bombings. However I didn’t run it because I wondered if it might come across as insensitive so soon after the attack. Looking at it now, I stand by it as much of what I wrote came true.

    CNN’s John King wrongly reported an arrest in the case while CNN’s Susan Candiotti actually uttered on air, “Being in Watertown right now the streets are empty. It’s eerie. It’s as though a bomb had dropped somewhere and the streets are clear.”

    Sure enough, Glenn Beck, Alex Jones and assorted other internet knuckle-draggers are promoting the idea that the government was somehow behind the Boston bombings.

    In the aftermath of the bombing, bomb threats have surged across the country. There have been bomb threats at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Boston, Woonsocket High in Rhode Island, Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, Penn Wood High in Pennsylvania, Santa Monica College in California and dozens of others. The Orange Country Sheriff’s Department reports a fourfold increase in bomb threats since Boston. Los Angeles reports five to seven calls a day in the aftermath, when before the Boston bombings, they’d go weeks without a call. The Bay Area has seen an uptick in calls.

    We’ve seen the Boston bombings dominate news coverage all week. The explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in West, Texas, killed 15 and injured about as many as the Boston bombing. I submit that under-regulated plants in Texas and elsewhere represent greater threats to public safety than the odd terrorist.

    Also, in the week after the Boston bombing, 211 people were murdered with guns, 365 people took their lives and 2,660 were assaulted with firearms.

    622 people were killed on our roads in vehicle crashes.

    When I look at Boston, I see two losers who learned how to make bombs online and were too stupid to actually put together an arsenal in the United States (which isn’t that difficult). It’s terrible the lives they took and the horrific injuries they inflicted on people. But this kind of terrorism shouldn’t even rate in the top 10 problems the nation faces. That’s one man’s opinion. It’s all about perspective.



    • “Disaster porn” – brilliant! That’s EXACTLY what it has become. And, it’s sick.


      • Joe

      • April 28, 2013 at 11:15 am
      • Reply

      Beautiful piece. Thanks for calling attention to the pornographic nature of television and major media (I prefer to call it prostitution, because to call it porn gives porn a bad name).

      One thing all this saturation whoring by the media does: makes impotent any/all resistance to stripping the public of rights in the name of “security”. There will be a significant increase in the incidence of “terror” investigations now, because it will bypass all due-process.



    • I love the announcers who say, “this it the third cousin of the manager of some random 7/11 near the area”, are they fucking kidding. I agree, it was terrible and no one deserves to die by two deranged mentally ill people. but there are equally pressing long term problems that need addressing every day as you have pointed out so well.



    • This is why I look up to Kelvin. HE IS THE HAMMER! Great piece Mr Wade!


      • Maya North

      • April 28, 2013 at 10:31 pm
      • Reply

      I agree with you entirely. On the one hand, we needed to cover it. It was real and horrific news. But it literally swallowed the Texas explosion whole. How many pictures did we see of that? Do we know a one of the victims’ names? This is our version of the Coliseum, complete with lions devouring the innocent. Dear heaven…


      • davidlacy

      • April 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm
      • Reply

      Brilliant piece, Kelvin!



    • Yes, it’s too much. I think it is all about the money! It’s always, ALL ABOUT THE MONEY! Another thing it does is divert the public away from the real crimes against society.



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