Boston Marathon Bombings: Twitter Racists Play The Blame Game

COMMENTARY | Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings brought out the best in humanity (as we discussed here) and also the worst.

If you want to spend twenty minutes feeling sick to the pit of your stomach at humanity’s lowest instincts, a quick Twitter search is all you need.

The blood had barely dried on the streets of Boston yesterday when dozens of Twitter users — actually, let’s go with “racists” — started speculating about who was behind the bombing.

And, wouldn’t ya know it, it was those damn Muslims. Or Koreans. Or the government. Or basically, whoever fitted your warped, bigoted, paranoid view of the world.

Over to you, Twitter (there are loads more of these here):

(Warning: Unpleasant language ahead)

And don’t think this junk is limited to unknown Twitter users either. Here’s Congressman — Congressman! — Pete Hoekstra speaking yesterday:

“It’s way too early to identify the circumstances behind this and who the people responsible might be.”

Way too early. That sounds sensible. Congressman Hoekstra is fully aware that a careful and considered investigation needs to —

“I think the short list would be probably al-Qaida [sic] out of the Maghreb region [of Northwest Africa] or it would be al-Qaida [sic] on the Arabian Peninsula out of Yemen, where al Awlaki came from and gave us the Detroit [underwear] bomber.”


Or how about Fox News pundit Erik Rush?

Boston Marathon Explosions - Playing The Blame Game - Erik Rush 2

Then there’s conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who’s already blamed Kenyan socialist gun thief Barack Obama and the government:

Really, Alex? Based on what, exactly? A solid body of evidence culled through in-depth investigation of the crime scene and interviews with witnesses? Or your own nonsensical, paranoid fantasies? Well, that’s convincing, we’ll go with that.

We’ve been here before. Only yesterday, my colleague Wolff and I were recalling The Sun‘s infamous headline about the 2011 Norway attacks. For those who don’t know, the most popular newspaper in the UK ran this the day after a lone gunman killed 77 people:

Boston Marathon Explosions - Playing The Blame Game - The Sun 1

There it is. Big, red letters. ‘AL-QAEDA MASSACRE.’ Yeah, it’s the Muslims, innit?

Except, of course, it wasn’t. It was the deeply un-Muslim Anders Breivik, a white supremacist and author of a 1,518-page manifesto on the impending Islamification of Europe. The Sun‘s knee-jerk reaction, published while the identity of the killer was still unknown, was disgusting and an embarrassment to decent journalism. No apology was forthcoming. Nobody was fired. Life goes on.

Anyway, these views may only be held by a marginal group of people, but here’s the biggest problem: we’re addicted to reading this kind of guff. Marginal, uninformed – again, UNINFORMED– views like those of Jones, Hoekstra, Rush, and halfwits on Twitter get a disproportionately large portion of coverage in the media. We just can’t help ourselves. We love to read what the most deranged, out-there individuals in society have to say.

Plenty of us mock this nonsense. Yet because it gains such wide exposure – it’s estimated 1 in 8 people read The Sun every day in Britain – some out there nod sagely in agreement.

In an ideal world, these sort of views would not be given the time of day. They’re the sort of opinions that mean my Muslim friends couldn’t use the London Underground after the 7/7 attacks without being glared at like dirt or having “terrorist” comments thrown at them. The sort of opinions that see an Asian student in Chicago beaten to within an inch of his life. The sort of toxic, crappy opinion that leads to the killing of victims like Vincent Chin.

Conclusion: As much as you might hate Muslims or Koreans or the government, for whatever crackpot reason you have, it’s probably time to pipe down and let the FBI do its work.