Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

LQD: The Boston bombing produces familiar and revealing reactions

by Ted Welch Tue Apr 16th, 2013 at 06:59:08 PM EST

A good article by Glenn Greenwald on the Boston bombs. It's quite brave, given the hysterical reaction after 9/11 when Chomsky pointed out that it was not surprising this kind of thing happened given US foreign policy for decades - "You're justifying murder!"

One particularly illustrative example I happened to see yesterday was a re-tweet from Washington Examiner columnist David Freddoso, proclaiming:

"The idea of secondary bombs designed to kill the first responders is just sick. How does anyone become that evil?"

I don't disagree with that sentiment. But I'd bet a good amount of money that the person saying it - and the vast majority of other Americans - have no clue that targeting rescuers with "double-tap" attacks is precisely what the US now does with its drone program and other forms of militarism.

There's nothing wrong per se with paying more attention to tragedy and violence that happens relatively nearby and in familiar places. Whether wrong or not, it's probably human nature, or at least human instinct, to do that, and that happens all over the world. I'm not criticizing that. But one wishes that the empathy for victims and outrage over the ending of innocent human life that instantly arises when the US is targeted by this sort of violence would at least translate into similar concern when the US is perpetrating it, as it so often does (far, far more often than it is targeted by such violence).

Regardless of your views of justification and intent: whatever rage you're feeling toward the perpetrator of this Boston attack, that's the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the US for killing innocent people in their countries. Whatever sadness you feel for yesterday's victims, the same level of sadness is warranted for the innocent people whose lives are ended by American bombs. However profound a loss you recognize the parents and family members of these victims to have suffered, that's the same loss experienced by victims of US violence. It's natural that it won't be felt as intensely when the victims are far away and mostly invisible, but applying these reactions to those acts of US aggression would go a long way toward better understanding what they are and the outcomes they generate.

(2) The rush, one might say the eagerness, to conclude that the attackers were Muslim was palpable and unseemly, even without any real evidence. The New York Post quickly claimed that the prime suspect was a Saudi national (while also inaccurately reporting that 12 people had been confirmed dead).


Of course there were the usual "exploiting tragedy for propaganda" comments, but a lot rejecting that:

16 April 2013


@GlennGreenwald -
I thought that would be your response. I note how at the end of your current comment you insist that I hadn't read it. That's typical of your style - ignore evidence to the contrary and snap back like a rubber band to the propaganda.

But even you admitted that you had only "waded" through half of it! And considering that your post was only 6 minutes after the article went up, and it's rather unlikely you would have seen it the moment it went up, it's perfectly reasonable to suggest that you didn't read it at all, or at very best, read only a very small amount.

As I said, I'd read enough to see where you were coming from and was disgusted enough with that cheap propaganda trick to comment.

What cheap propaganda "trick"? Just saying something like that doesn't make it fact.

Seriously Greenwald, when are you going to stop cherry-picking anything you can find to try discredit your country?

In what way is it cherry-picking? Do you give a damn about America's "double-tap" attacks? Do you have anything at all to say about them? Or separately, what about the fact that 42 people were killed in Iraq yesterday?

The "double-tap" drones attacks link:

http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/02/04/obama-terror-drones-cia-tactics-in-pakistan-include- targeting-rescuers-and-funerals/

9-11 was a once in a generation (maybe 2 or 3) myth buster that the American public did not know how to emotionally process in a healthy way - to put it mildly. Chomsky's point at the time was correct but was only ever going to get a vicious reaction.

This is not in the same universe. Posting the article was not risky. Referencing the New York Post's little advertising stunt only feeds the trolls and their business model. This op-ed is the remnant stub of journalism today - we're on team A and let's feel good about ourselves because as smart, informed people we already knew about America's drone attacks and boy aren't those people on team B ignorant and nationalist and the source of all the world's woes. Someone on team B writes the same article in reverse. Meanwhile nothing changes.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Apr 17th, 2013 at 04:38:26 AM EST
To me, 9/11 was in the same category as the 1991 Russian coup, in terms of imemdiately apparent historical significance. That makes two events in my lifetime. So, I guess once in a generation is about right, worldwide.

At the national level the rate is much lower, maybe once every 2-3 generations as you say.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 17th, 2013 at 04:45:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah I was referencing the US specifically with the 2-3 generations, and the broken myth is the US being invincible on its home soil.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Apr 17th, 2013 at 03:04:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To make an analogy is not to suggest things are exactly the same; I am, of course, aware that 9/11 had a far greater impact. The analogy was the general one of making criticisms of US foreign policy very soon after an attack on Americans, whatever the scale, which is going to get very negative responses from many Americans. I'm sure this will be used against Greenwald in future.

It's not true that Chomsky's response was "only" going to get a vicious response; some agreed with his point and others were provoked to think about it. But yes, there were many "vicious" responses. The first and negative comment on Greenwald's article was:

16 April 2013 2:58pm

Isn't it a little soon to be exploiting this atrocity for your propaganda purposes, Greenwald?"

and it was recommended by 822 people so far.

But this was in the Guardian, so this response:

16 April 2013 3:12pm

@TrueToo - It's not propaganda,it's Ethics.Look it up sometimes.
Thank You Glenn.

got 932 recommendations.

This has so far got 651 recommendations:

16 April 2013 3:26pm

"... If there is anything obscene, it's people like you pretending they care about people they don't actually care about at all. If you had an ounce of real empathy for people you don't know, then you could not react as you have to this blog entry.

That you already have 30 recommends (now 822) for this masturbation is today's intellectual atrocity du jour."

So far there have been about 2,700 comments - I think that's a good thing that there is discussion about media coverage, attitudes to the killing done by US forces in other countries,  
possible further erosion of civil rights, etc.

I don't share your dismissive attitude and weary cynicism; I think it was well argued and very well researched for something written so soon after the event. Did you actually read it ? Maybe not, given that you only refer to the things in the brief extracts I quoted. I think that in a general review of media responses it was appropriate to cite that of the New York Post - along with a variety of other media and twitter responses (this includes a number of links):

The Post's insinuation of responsibility was also suggested on CNN by Former Bush Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend ("We know that there is one Saudi national who was wounded in the leg who is being spoken to"). Former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman went on CNN to grossly speculate that Muslim groups were behind the attack. Anti-Muslim bigots like Pam Geller predictably announced that this was "Jihad in America". Expressions of hatred for Muslims, and a desire to do violence, were then spewing forth all over Twitter (some particularly unscrupulous partisan Democrat types were identically suggesting with zero evidence that the attackers were right-wing extremists).

He also referred to Muslim reactions (with links again):

One continually encountered yesterday expressions of dread and fear from Arabs and Muslims around the world that the attacker would be either or both. That's because they know that all members of their religious or ethnic group will be blamed, or worse, if that turns out to be the case. That's true even though leading Muslim-American groups such as CAIR harshly condemned the attack (as they always do) and urged support for the victims, including blood donations.

 One tweeter, referencing the earthquake that hit Iran this morning, satirized this collective mindset by writing: "Please don't be a Muslim plate tectonic activity."

He also refers to the possible consequences for most Americans:

The history of these types of attacks over the last decade has been clear and consistent: they are exploited to obtain new government powers, increase state surveillance, and take away individual liberties. On NBC with Brian Williams last night, Tom Brokaw decreed that this will happen again and instructed us that we must meekly submit it to it:

"Everyone has to understand tonight that, beginning tomorrow morning early, there are going to be much tougher security considerations all across the country, and however exhausted we may be by that, we're going to have to learn to live with them ..."

Given the decline of serious journalism I'm happy to see well-researched, timely  and thoughtful articles like this - and the amount of response it gets. I don't agree with your caricature of it so I also don't agree with the pessimism of "Nothing changes". Nothing will change unless people do criticize the existing situation in the way he has and say things lots of people don't want to hear.

Of course I'm only slightly biased by his recent defense of Noam Chomsky :-) - which included criticism of some of the Guardian's coverage of him, and this:

But the strangest attack on Chomsky is the insinuation that he has changed nothing. Aside from the metrics demonstrating that he has more reach and influence than virtually any public intellectual in the world, some of which Edemariam cites, I'd say that there is no living political writer who has more radically changed how more people think in more parts of the world about political issues than he. If you accept the premise (as I do) that the key to political change is to convince people of pervasive injustice and the need to act, then it's virtually laughable to depict him as inconsequential. Washington power-brokers and their media courtiers do not discuss him, and he does not make frequent (or any) appearances on US cable news outlets, but outside of those narrow and insular corridors - meaning around the world - few if any political thinkers are as well-known, influential or admired (to its credit, the Guardian, like some US liberal outlets, does periodically publish Chomsky's essays).


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Apr 17th, 2013 at 05:38:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A chart revealing the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly regarding yesterday's news feeding-frenzy.

CNN does not fare well.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Apr 18th, 2013 at 03:42:48 PM EST

That link doesn't work for me - but the chart referred to can be found here:


From Greenwald's follow-up:

On Tuesday afternoon, CNN humiliated itself as badly as it ever has (which is saying quite a bit). The network's anchor John King, and its "terrorism expert", former Bush homeland security adviser Fran Townsend, both "reported" - as part of a "Breaking News" scoop that CNN loudly and excitedly trumpeted - that an arrest had been made in the Boston case and that the person was, as King put it, "a dark-skinned individual" (more or less simultaneously, Fox also reported the arrest). An hour later, it became clear that this was totally false. Raw Story details what happened here, and BuzzFeed (which one might at this point reasonably say is a level or so above CNN in the news reliability department) has the very amusing and appropriate mockery here.

But the best commentary on this debacle came from Chris Hayes' top-of-the-show seven-minute scathing monologue on MSNBC last night, where he not only crystallized why this was so journalistically reckless but, more importantly, explains exactly why CNN repeatedly said that the arrested person was "dark-skinned":

Townsend has built up quite a history at this point. It was she who visited Abu Ghraib in 2003 and put pressure on the prison officials there to extract more information. She then served as one of the paid shills for the then-designated terrorist group Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MeK), even as she used her perch at CNN to cheer for broad interpretations of the "material support for terrorism" statute that sent American Muslims to prison for decades for far less involvement with such groups than she had with the MeK. And now she's at the center of this reporting disaster. Good job, CNN: nobody could have guessed that a Bush terrorism official would produce outcomes like this.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Apr 18th, 2013 at 05:29:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Darn it.

Try this.

(Preview IS my friend.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Apr 18th, 2013 at 05:59:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
good diary Ted, thanks.

as an investigative journalist, tact is usually not a much-used modus operandi.

...but to the general public the speed with which deep thinkers like greenwald jump on events like this to make 'teachable moments' out of them does remind one of a person going to someone hospitalised for lung cancer and chiding them for having chosen to live in a polluted area. it may be true but still most people would perceive that (rightly or wrongly) like kicking someone when they're down.

not much of a metaphor i know, it's the closest i can come up with at 5 am.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Apr 18th, 2013 at 11:08:33 PM EST
No, it isn't very good metaphor, partly because it's another caricature of what he did, and also because it leaves out the pollution marketers sitting around the bed and trying to push their lethal products on the victim and any visiting relatives. Maybe you should have waited till you'd had a good sleep and considered the matter a little more seriously :-)

Did you read the article ? A lot of it is about the irresponsible media coverage which had ALREADY taken place - THEY had quickly jumped in to reinforce their agendas.

He also reports on and links to the already existing Muslim reaction and their understandable fears.

He's contributing to an already existing discussion - a time when some key issues are getting a lot of attention and it's important in THAT context that responsible, critical voices contribute. Are you seriously suggesting that he should leave it to the largely right-wing media to promote their views ? At such a time it is particularly important to contest such views and argue, as he does, against the likely further erosion of civil liberties.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 06:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]