Of Monster-Mongers and Men

Despite exhibiting absolutely zero clue why the suspects bombed the Boston Marathon, the New York Times devoted the first third of its front-page piece to its unsubstantiated allegations that the brothers were radical Islamist Chechen separatists.

The first day of high school journalism class [La Puma holla back (gender errors and all)], we were taught about something called the “inverted pyramid.”  You begin your news article with a catchy lede; then you provide the most important / urgent data; then you fill in the background.  Part of the inverted pyramid’s rationale – that people rarely read a whole article, and even less frequently flip from the front page to B23580 for the last 70%, and thus your editor can just lop off the end wherever it needs to make space – is less relevant in the digital age.  But again, the basic premise is, give me the necessary information first, and if I have the time and the interest, I can learn more relevant, but less important, information if I want to.

Boston is chaos, the nation reels, and I awoke to learn that one suspect is dead and the other is on the run as I type.  (In the ten minutes I take to wrench this out, maybe the other will be dead, too.)

So what should we see in a news article?

The lede: one suspect dead, the other on the run, New England stay away from your windows, we’re working on it and will give you the real-time info to keep you safe.

The first few paragraphs: Here’s what we know: Suspect 1, killed, was [[[[]]]]].  Suspect 2 is [[[[[]]]]]]] – please look out for him, and tweet us @[[]]]] if you know where he is.

Or maybe this: Here are the acts of violence – the MIT murder, the 7-11 robbery, the carjacking – that transpired while you were sleeping.  Here’s the fallout.

Or maybe this: Look at how well local, state, and federal, and public and private, agencies are working together to identify the suspects in an amazingly short time; or to take care of the wounded; or to keep the city running; or to hold each other up.

But instead, the New York Times has posted a ~1775-word article[1], speculating for ~500 words, in the first third of the piece, about the brothers’ supposed Chechen origins and embrace of fundamentalist Islam.  On in the last third of the piece does the NYT report on the tangible, supported facts more relevant to its readers’ safety: Beth Israel’s initiative, the MIT  shooting, the obligatory “holy ballsacks I’m freaking the shit out” quotes from neighbors.

Compare the Grey Lady’s coverage to, of all papers, the Wall Street Journal[2].  Its front page article, which I accessed four minutes after clicking the NYT equivalent, highlights the lede: “U.S. authorities on Friday locked down the Boston area in the hunt for one of two brothers of Chechen background suspected in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.”  However, that is the last time the WSJ mentions the suspects’ ethnicity; instead, the article focuses on more traditional, pressing subjects, such as the shutdown of civilian aircraft traffic, local universities, and entire neighborhoods.

So here’s the problem: based on the actual NYT article, we can infer that the Times has NO FUCKING CLUE why these men set off these bombs.  The closest it gets is the following:

On Vkontakte, Russia’s most popular social media platform, the younger brother, Dzhokhar, describes his worldview as “Islam” and, asked to identify “the main thing in life,” answers “career and money.”  He lists a series of affinity groups relating to Chechnya, and lists a verse from the Koran, “Do good, because Allah loves those who do good.”

Alright.  Good job; you found his social media presence.  He must be a Chechen separatist!  Because (1) his main thing in life is actually two: career AND money! and (2) that Chechen conflict is super fucking timely, bro!

The NYT doesn’t live in a cave: it is both a product and constructor of our ideas.  Here, it latches on to a narrative that, man, we’d love – more crazy Islamists! – and demonstrates that it, too is vulnerable to knee-jerk stereotyping and jumping to conclusions.  Furthermore, it fuels our desire to pigeonhole any mass violence into some Other category – Islam, of course, the most prominent one.

So, the Times is irresponsible because it’s implying that Islam fucked us over again, without providing any reason to believe that these two were motivated by some sort of religious fervor.  (That they failed to take responsibility or make political statements over the past week would also support the inference that they just might not be religiously-motivated).

Now, what’s more interesting (and less “not this fucking racist-ass shit again, newspaper”) to me is the paragraph that immediately follow the “AHHHH CHECHEN REBELS” stuff:

One former schoolmate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Massachusetts described him as “very sweet,” adding, “I never heard anyone say a bad word about him.” Another, Meron Woldemariam, 17, the manager of the school volleyball team that Mr. Tsarnaev had played for, said that he had left the team in the middle of the season to wrestle. She described him as normal — sociable, friendly and fun to talk to. He was a senior when she was a freshman.

Here we have another classic trope: “oh, he was so sweet and quiet, but nobody knew him that well – I can’t believe he could do something like this!”

How we view these suspects just might be the perfect amalgamation of America’s two mass violence narratives: (1) fundamentalist Islamist and (2) misunderstood whiteboy-next-door.  Yes, they have funny foreign names, but they visually pass for so damn white!  Yes, they’re immigrants, but they have both parents and two sisters and live in Cambridge!

What will we do with this perfect storm of mass violence-perpetrator stereotypes?  Stay tuned, boys and girls!  Meanwhile, it is April 19, 2013, and so far this year, there have been at least 87 homicides in Chicago (pop. 2,707,120), 26 in Oakland (pop. 395,817), and the United States Senate shat on gun control reform (we love the Second Amendment) while the House passed CISPA (who gives a shit about the Fourth?).


[1] 4/19/13 Dragnet Shuts Boston, One Suspect Slain – Vast Manhunt for 2nd Bombing Suspect – NYTimes.com

By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and MICHAEL COOPER

BOSTON — One of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings was killed early Friday morning after leading the police on a wild chase after the fatal shooting of a campus police officer, while the other was sought in an immense manhunt that shut down large parts of the area. Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts said residents of Boston and its neighboring communities should “stay indoors, with their doors locked.”

The two suspects were identified by law enforcement officials as brothers. The surviving suspect was identified as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, Mass., a law enforcement official said. The one who was killed was identified as his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26. The authorities were investigating whether the dead man had a homemade bomb strapped to his body when he was killed, two law enforcement officials said.

The manhunt sent the Boston region into the grip of a security emergency, as hundreds of police officers conducted a wide search and all public transit services were suspended.

Col. Timothy P. Alben of the Massachusetts State Police said investigators believed that the two men were responsible for the death of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer and the shooting of an officer with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the region’s transit authority. “We believe these are the same individuals that were responsible for the bombing on Monday at the Boston Marathon,” he said.

Officials said that the two men were of Chechen origin. Chechnya, a long-­disputed, predominantly Muslim territory in southern Russia sought independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union and then fought two bloody wars with the authorities in Moscow. Russian assaults on Chechnya were brutal and killed tens of thousands of civilians, as terrorist groups from the region staged attacks in central Russia. In recent years, separatist militant groups have gone underground, and surviving leaders have embraced fundamentalist Islam.

The family lived briefly in Makhachkala, the capital of the Dagestan region, near Chechnya, before moving to the United States, said a school administrator there. Irina V. Bandurina, secretary to the director of School No. 1, said the Tsarnaev family left Dagestan for the United States in 2002 after living there for about a year. She said the family — parents, two boys and two girls — had lived in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan previously.

The brothers have substantial presences on social media. On Vkontakte, Russia’s most popular social media platform, the younger brother, Dzhokhar, describes his worldview as “Islam” and, asked to identify “the main thing in life,” answers “career and money.” He lists a series of affinity groups relating to Chechnya, and lists a verse from the Koran, “Do good, because Allah loves those who do good.”

One former schoolmate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Massachusetts described him as “very sweet,” adding, “I never heard anyone say a bad word about him.” Another, Meron Woldemariam, 17, the manager of the school volleyball team that Mr. Tsarnaev had played for, said that he had left the team in the middle of the season to wrestle. She described him as normal — sociable, friendly and fun to talk to. He was a senior when she was a freshman.

The older brother left a record on YouTube of his favorite clips, which included Russian rap videos, as well as testimonial from a young ethnic Russian man titled “How I accepted Islam and became a Shiite,” and a clip “Seven Steps to Successful Prayer.”

Alvi Karimov, the spokesman for Ramzan A. Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya, said the Tsarnaev brothers had not lived in Chechnya for many years. He told the Interfax news service that, according to preliminary information, the family “moved to a different region of the Russian Federation from Chechnya many years ago.” He continued, “Then the family lived for a long time in Kazakhstan, and from there moved to the United States, where the members of the family received residency permits.”

“In such a way, the figures who are being spoken about did not live in Chechnya at a mature age, and if they became ‘bad guys,’ then this is a question that should be put to the people who raised them,” he said.

Early Friday, a virtual army of heavily armed law enforcement officers was going through houses in Watertown, outside of Boston, one by one in a search for the second suspect. The police had blocked off a 20-­block residential area and urged residents emphatically to stay inside their homes and not answer their doors.

The Boston police commissioner, Edward Davis, said, “We believe this to be a man who’s come here to kill people, and we need to get him in custody.”

In Washington, as well as in the Boston area, law enforcement and counterterrorism officials were scrambling to determine whether the two brothers had any accomplices still at large and whether they had any connections to foreign or domestic terrorist organizations.

Intelligence analysts were poring over the brothers’ e-­mails, cellphone records and postings on Facebook and other social media for clues. Authorities have also started interviewing family members, friends and other associates for information about the men, and any possible ties to extremist groups or causes, officials said.

Federal officials are also checking to see if either brother had traveled outside the United States, perhaps to receive training. “They will take these guys’ lives apart,” said one senior retired law enforcement official.

As the manhunt grew in intensity, law enforcement officials throughout New England tried to chase down leads.

The authorities in Boston notified transit police officials that there was a possibility the surviving suspect had boarded the last Amtrak train from Boston bound for New York City in the early morning on Friday, according to an official with knowledge of the matter.

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police, which has authority over the tracks in New York and Connecticut, along with the police from Norwalk, Ct., stopped that train between the East Norwalk and Westport, Ct., stations;; the Norwalk Police Department’s

SWAT team swept the train, but did not find the suspect, the official said. While the authorities believe it was unlikely he was aboard, they were reviewing video surveillance footage from the stations in Providence, New Haven and New London to be sure that the suspect did not get off before the train was stopped and searched.

At least one Metro North train, operated by the MTA on the same tracks over which Amtrak travels, was also stopped by the Westport Police for reasons that were unclear, the official said.

And the Connecticut State Police announced that it had received information suggesting that the suspect could be operating a gray Honda CRV, with a Massachusetts registration number 316 ES9. “Connecticut troopers are posted strategically in our state and continue to communicate with Massachusetts authorities,” the state police said in a statement.

In Boston, where gunfire ricocheted around a tranquil neighborhood, residents were later told to go into their basements and stay away from windows.

The pursuit began after 10 p.m. Thursday when two men robbed a 7-­Eleven near Central Square in Cambridge. A security camera caught a man identified as one of the suspects wearing a gray hooded shirt.

About 10:30 p.m., the police received reports that Sean Collier, a campus security officer at M.I.T., had been shot while he sat in his police cruiser. He was found with multiple gunshot wounds, according to a statement issued by the acting Middlesex district attorney, Michael Pelgro, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert C. Haas and the M.I.T. police chief, John DiFava. The officer was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A short time later, the police received reports of an armed carjacking of a Mercedes sport-­ utility vehicle by two males in the area of Third Street in Cambridge, the statement said. “The victim was carjacked at gunpoint by two males and was kept in the car with the suspects for approximately a half hour,” the statement said. He was later released, uninjured, at a gas station on Memorial Drive in Cambridge.

The police immediately began to search for the vehicle and pursued it into Watertown. During the chase, “explosive devices were reportedly thrown from car by the suspects,” the statement said, and the suspects and police exchanged gunfire in the area of Dexter Avenue and Laurel Street.

A Watertown resident, Andrew Kitzenberg, 29, said he looked out his third-­floor window to see two young men of slight build in jackets engaged in “constant gunfire” with police officers.

A police S.U.V. “drove towards the shooters,” he said, and was shot at until it was severely damaged. It rolled out of control, Mr. Kitzenberg said, and crashed into two cars in his driveway.

The two shooters, he said, had a large, unwieldy bomb that he said looked “like a pressure cooker.”

“They lit it, still in the middle of the gunfire, and threw it,” he said. “But it went 20 yards at most.” It exploded, he said, and one man ran toward the gathered police officers. He was tackled, but it was not clear if he was shot, Mr. Kitzenberg said.

The explosions, said another resident, Loretta Kehayias, 65, “lit up the whole house.” She said, “I screamed. I’ve never seen anything like this, never, never, never.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Kitzenberg said the other man got back into the S.U.V., turned it toward officers and “put the pedal to the metal.” The car “went right through the cops, broke right through and continued west.”

The two men left “a few backpacks right by the car, and there is a bomb robot out there now,” he said.

During this exchange, an MBTA police officer was seriously wounded and taken to the hospital.

At the same time, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was critically injured with multiple gunshot wounds and taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, where he was pronounced dead at 1:35 a.m., officials said.

A doctor who works at Beth Israel, and who lived in the area of the chase and shootout, said he was working at home around 1 a.m. when he heard the wailing sirens. He said at a news conference at Beth Israel that he recognized that something was wrong and alerted his emergency room to prepare for something.

Katharine Q. Seelye reported from Boston, and Michael Cooper from New York. Richard A. Oppel

Jr, Jess Bidgood, Serge F. Kovaleski and John Eligon contributed reporting from Boston; William K. Rashbaum and Ravi Somaiya from New York; Eric Schmitt from Washington and Ellen Barry from Moscow.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 19, 2013

An earlier version misspelled the name of a resident who described the police activity in Watertown, Mass. He is Andrew Kitzenberg, not Kitzenburg. An earlier version of this article also misstated where the suspects and police exchanged gunfire. It is Dexter Avenue, not Dexter Street.

***

[2]4/19/13 Boston Bombing Suspect Killed in Shootout – WSJ.com

online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324493704578432030609754740.html#printMode 1/5

Updated April 19, 2013, 10:30 a.m. ET

By EVAN PEREZ, J ENNIFER SMITH and PERVAIZ SHALLWANI

U.S. authorities on Friday locked down the Boston area in the hunt for one of two brothers of Chechen background suspected in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.

Authorities identified one suspect as 26-­year-­old Tamerlan Tsarnayev, who was killed in a confrontation with police in Watertown, Mass., according to a U.S. law-­enforcement official.

A manhunt was on for the second suspect, identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnayev, 19 years old. Both brothers were believed to be involved in the fatal shooting of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer during a chaotic series of events Thursday night.

Police warned residents that the at-­large suspect was armed and dangerous.

“We believe this to be a terrorist,” said Boston Police Chief Ed Davis. “We believe this to be a man who’s come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody.”

The hunt for the younger Mr. Tsarnayev prompted a broad shutdown of public facilities in the Boston area.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked people throughout Boston to take shelter and stay indoors.

The Federal Aviation Administration closed the low-­ level airspace above roughly four miles in northwest Greater Boston as the search goes on. Logan International Airport in Boston tweeted that it “is open and operating under heightened security.” It urged fliers to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

The younger brother was the suspect seen wearing a white cap backward in video and photos released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Thursday. The release prompted a large number of tips from the public, federal officials said. The older brother was wearing a black cap in the video and photos.

The younger Tsarnayev is a student at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, university spokesman Robert Lamontagne said. The university is located in southeast Massachusetts, about an hour south of Boston.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the campus has been closed,” he said in an email. “Students, staff and faculty who have not already evacuated have been told to shelter in place. No one is being allowed on campus.”

Authorities said the older brother was critically injured in the shootout and taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where he was pronounced dead. Richard Wolfe, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine, said the man had multiple injuries from what appeared to be both an explosive device and gunshot wounds.

Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller on Friday morning briefed President Barack Obama on the latest in the manhunt. An administration official said the president and Vice President Joe Biden convened a meeting around 9:45 a.m. in the White House Situation Room with his top national-­security officials, to follow up on briefings he had received through the night.

Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), who sits on the House homeland security and intelligence committees, said he hopes the fugitive is captured peacefully. “I’m hoping they get the second guy alive and can interrogate him, so we can figure out, did they do it on their own or are they affiliated with a larger group?” FBI agents in Maryland are interviewing two of the suspects’ uncles in Maryland, U.S. law-­enforcement officials said. The relatives are cooperating and the activity isn’t related to any potential threat, the officials said.

Boston-­Area Standstill

The manhunt brought much of the Boston area to a halt on Friday. Mr. Patrick ordered the city’s subway and bus system to be shut down. As police conducted a sprawling search for the suspect in the Boston suburb of Watertown, authorities prohibited street traffic and told businesses there and in surrounding areas to remain closed.

Police were stopping cars at roadblocks as they entered Logan International Airport. Businesses were closed and taxi service was suspended in the city.

The websites of the MIT, Harvard, Boston University and Boston College said classes were canceled Friday.

“We do not want people congregating or waiting,” said Kurt Schwartz, the Massachusetts director of emergency management. The situation, said State Police Col. Timothy Alben, “is grave.”

The FAA has restricted all civilian aircraft within 3,000 feet of the surface over an area that appears to include Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston and Cambridge in Massachusetts, an FAA spokesman said. On the FAA’s website, the reason listed for the restriction is “to provide a safer environment for law-­enforcement activities,” and the point of contact listed for the restriction is an FBI special agent. The FAA closed the airspace at about 6:30 a.m. local time and said it would remain closed until further notice.

Airport officials were not immediately available for comment.

The MIT Shooting

The violence began at around 10:30 p.m. Thursday with the robbery of a 7-­Eleven in nearby Cambridge, authorities said. The two men then fatally shot an MIT campus police officer and carjacked a Mercedes sport-­ utility vehicle at gunpoint, keeping the vehicle’s owner hostage for about a half-­hour, police said. The owner was released at a gas station in Cambridge, authorities said. He wasn’t injured.

As police pursued the vehicle, explosive devices were thrown from the car, authorities said. “There was an exchange of gunfire” between police and the suspects,” Mr. Alben said.

A Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officer was wounded during the exchange.  Hundreds of police officers descended on the Cambridge and Watertown areas as the violence unfolded Thursday night, authorities said. Residents said they heard loud explosions and gunfire.

Katie Blouin, 24 years old, of Watertown, said FBI agents and local police entered her house, searching before telling her boyfriend to lock the house’s doors.

“I’m shaking,” she said. “It just makes you so nervous.”

Adonis Karageorgis, a 35-­year-­old dental student who lives in Watertown, said he heard a loud explosion from his apartment balcony. “I looked up and saw the sky light up,” he said. “You could smell the smoke.”

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center geared up for a potential mass-­casualty event when one doctor there—who lives near the scene of the gunfight— heard the commotion outside his home.

“When I started hearing the gunshots and explosions, given what had happened over at MIT and seeing all the police cars rushing into Watertown and past my house and hearing all the sirens, I knew or felt very strongly that this was related to the events from earlier this week as well as from what happened over at MIT,” said David Schoenfeld, an emergency physician there, during a news conference early Friday.

“Because of that, I felt as though something large enough was going on in the community that it warranted calling the emergency department and coming in,” he said.

The MIT campus police officer wasn’t identified. The officer had multiple gunshot wounds and was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to a statement on the Middlesex County District Attorney’s website.

Shortly before midnight Thursday, police were gathered in Watertown, and a stretch of the campus near Vassar Street and Main Street in Cambridge was cordoned off. Police were searching through woods with dogs and flashlights.

Dozens of police officers gathered at Massachusetts General Hospital, where the injured officer was reportedly taken. Officers directing traffic asked those who arrived in a panic: “friend or family?” A few officers wept openly as they hurried into the emergency room.

—Josh Dawsey, Jon Kamp and Jack Nicas contributed to this article.

Write to Evan Perez at evan.perez@wsj.com and Jennifer Smith at jennifer.smith@wsj.com

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