By Tom Cushing
What have we learned (so far) from Boston?Uploaded: Apr 22, 2013
The nation can now catch its collective breath, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and speedy, live capture of at least one perp. We'll now enter a much longer and arduous phase of the investigation, as authorities attempt to learn whatever more there is to know about this latest loathsome attack on American homeland safety and liberties. It's not too soon to contemplate what we can take away from this, to remember for the future.
First, in many ways, these attacks are like the roaches in Houston (stay with me, here – I'm a former resident). Not only do the vermin lurk unseen, but occasionally they will make their presence known. It's just too easy to make a bomb or, gawd knows, secure another type of weapon. These thugs apparently assembled quite an arsenal. So, it is necessary to take steps to minimize their presence and their chances of success.
You can't expect to completely eradicate the pests, but if you do nothing – or if you obsess to the point abandoning your life -- they win. I don't care who's in charge, vigilance is required, and occasionally it won't be enough. Tom Friedman predicted the so-called Super-powered Angry Individual fifteen years ago in his one great book – 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree.' It is simply part-and-parcel of life in the 21st century.
That said, the difference between terrorism and crime lies within our control. If our societal response is fear, that's terrorism at work; if it's anger, collaboration and a deep resolve to mourn, comfort, catch and especially to live our lives, that's crime – and we'll get less of it. We saw a lot of the latter in the defiant, firm-set jaws of Bostonians over the past week. They did us proud, and have given America a template for future use in these tragic circumstances.
I'm told that the Israelis take it a step further – they sweep away the rubble and minimize the coverage and disruption, as if to say "we flick you away like a bug." If true, I'm not even sure that's better, but directionally it, too, thwarts the very purpose of the mayhem -- to incite fear and alter behavior.
Next, early information is always wrong. That's nobody's fault -- there are just too many variables, the scene is too fluid and no one person has a good summary perspective. And that's when it happens right under our noses, in daylight, downtown, during a well-covered domestic festival. When the incident occurs elsewhere (Libya comes to mind) the lag-time to good intel becomes much worse. That is to say it is utterly foolish to rush to judgment in events like this. We want instant answers, and we want to strike back. But that's how mobs form, and Boston, again, showed remarkable restraint in that regard, as well.
Other opportunists – on Both sides of the political aisle, will show no such circumspection. An aide to the Prez was all-to-eager to note that the incident occurred on Tax Day, darkly implying a right-wing domestic source. And on last Monday evening I listened to some aptly named radio troll inveighing mightily against the President and the Massachusetts Governor, who, after all, is also at least as black. The guy stopped just short of charging those officials with complicity in the crime -- I loves me my First Amendment more than just about anything, but he had me grinding my teeth. The upshot? Don't listen to early stuff that just has to be crap. It reflects on the spokesmoron, alone.
I also heard the same joke linking Nancy Pelosi and a fictional ban on pressure cookers from at least three different sources on the same day. None of them is clever enough to have come up with it alone – is there really a coordinated effort among ideologues to spread derisive humor, too? /sigh And a note of caution: this is also a good place for a scammer-alert. They prey on empathy, which is plentiful in these situations.
Also, remember that our media system lionizes s/he who gets The Scoop. I have it on good authority (Don Henley) that careers are made thereby -- hence the old newsroom saying: "if it bleeds, it leads." And that sets reporters up to fail. They will swarm all over an event like this, reporting minutia atop trivia to keep their mugs in front of us.
They routinely throw too much caution to the wind in their headlong rushes to be first. So, it just doesn't pay to sit rapt by the radio or TV, unless you really Are fascinated by what the SWAT team did in the 90-year-old lady's backyard. And even if the reporters won't wait for confirming sources, you probably ought-to. Seeking-out several outlets for coverage is also a good approach.
Finally, I heard this called the first terrorist attack investigated on social media. The government may not actually have 'a machine that sees everything,' as the TV show says (or does it?), but public and private surveillance images and other records abounded, and appear to have assisted in fingering the suspects. That's pretty remarkable, and for all its privacy implications, at least our public lives make it harder to carry-out this kind of plot. Twitter is the one new medium I haven't embraced -- regular readers will agree that I have difficulty getting to the verb in only 140 characters -- but maybe it's time.
Obviously, it's still early -- but what other lessons do you take away from the events of last week?
Synopsis: here are a few observations from the Boston bombing tragedy. What are yours?