Failure to Cover: A Tragedy Clouded in Unethical Journalism

Cady Kuzmich, Columnist


The sound of exploding shrapnel from twin explosions rattled Boston last Monday, sending dozens to the hospital as runners crossed the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon. The explosion left three dead and over 170 people injured. Since the blast, there’s been much pressure to label the Boston bombing as a terrorist attack. While this attack could very well be politically motivated, without more information, all we’re doing is guessing.
The eagerness of the media to paint a picture of the brothers as “textbook terrorists,” as foreign, as other, was a bit unnerving. The brothers have been living in the U.S. for years. Reporters questioned childhood friends of the suspects, grasping for anything typical of our idea of a terrorist. As reports come out saying the brothers were from here or there, each respective region makes a statement denying responsibility for the brothers’ actions. What does it matter where they came from? Seeing how they came to the U.S. as kids, chances are they were radicalized here.
Reports indicated that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Twitter page had been active in the days following the attack. Just two hours after the bombing, “Jahar” tweeted “no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people” and later, “I’m a stress free kind of guy.” Live-tweeting an attack? How American.
Boston law enforcement sources described the attacks as the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11th; a comparison that brings back painful memories for many Americans and raises questions about the very definition of terrorism. For an attack to be defined as an act of terror there must be some sort of political motive. With no clear motive established yet, how can we label the Tsarnaev brothers as terrorists? There was no political motive behind Newtown or the Aurora Theatre shooting. Many more were killed. Both events were terrifying, but neither was defined as terrorism. While there may be political motives behind the Boston Bombing, for now, all we’re doing is making assumptions. It’s still too early to tell.
The older of the two brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was wounded during a shootout with police and later pronounced dead. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, fled the scene in an SUV, which the New York Times reports “went right through the cops, broke right through and continued west.” The entire city of Boston effectively shut down on Friday. People were told to stay inside as Boston police hunted down 19-year-old Dzhokhar, who was later found in a neighbor’s boat and taken into custody. Dzhokhar is still being treated at a nearby hospital. He was officially charged on the 22nd with using weapons of mass destruction and of malicious destruction of property resulting in death.
The fast-paced unraveling of events over the weekend were unnerving to say the least. It seemed hard to believe that what was on the news was in fact unraveling in real time in Boston. To all who knew the brothers, the news came as a shock. Tamerlan, a successful boxer, had actually been questioned by the FBI previously about potential extremist ties. Nothing came of the questioning. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, studied at Amherst and from all reports, seemed like a typical college kid.
It was reported their former neighbor, Raisa Kayeeva, saying, “I feel it with my heart – these boys were framed.” While, to the dismay of their old neighbor, it’s highly unlikely the Tsarnaev brothers were framed, they certainly haven’t been given the justice deserving of American citizens, though no matter what crime they may have committed. “Investigators plan to use a legal exception to question the younger brother without advising him of his constitutional rights to remain silent and secure an attorney” claimed Bloomberg. By treating people as less than citizens, by “hunting” them and not reading them their Miranda Rights, we walk a dangerous line.
Needless to say, many were glued to their TVs, iPhones and newspapers during this whole showdown. News stations were eager, desperate even, to be the first to break the latest updates, sometimes at the expense of accuracy. CNN was one of the first stations to break the news on an arrest in the case on Wednesday. Except one little detail; there was no arrest Wednesday. Jon Stewart compared CNN to the “Human Centipede,” saying the “most trusted name in news” was full of shit. Watching the news during this whole ordeal was almost painful. Reporters shuffled awkwardly in between police barricades, most likely getting in the way. Hopefully Stewart’s statement gave CNN a wakeup call. Avoid sensationalism. Avoid perpetuating stereotypes. Avoid broadcasting false information. Another news source which founded its information, not on actual events but on the drama of the moment, was the New York Post. The Post reported that Dzhokhar was found by authorities well before he actually was.
Usually a day reserved for pride and sweaty celebration, this year the Boston Marathon turned into something much darker, reminding us how fragile life can be. It showed us the best in people, as first responders and police worked around the clock to bring security back to Boston. It also showed us how utterly ridiculous news media in the U.S. can be and how quick we are to make assumptions. When it comes down to it, the attack left a lot of blood on the streets and many questions unanswered. Perhaps, with the passing of time the media will be able to offer up one congruent story of the truth of the tragedy.

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