Wednesday, 17 April 2013


The tragedy of the "Boston Marathon bombing" awakened feelings, fears and anxieties of 9/11, not just within the US, but around the world. The restraint of the White House with regard to speculation about the guilty parties was remarkable, and indeed the only rational approach under the circumstances. Given the absence of leads in the FBI investigation, the government adopted the appropriate course of action, but some media analysts did not stop from speculating. One group argued that it is probably "Islamic terrorists", especially given the possible Arab suspect questioned. Another group of analysts noted that the bombing had the marking of a Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh-type; the ultra-right wing stamp on it because it was carried out on 15 April - tax deadline and on "Patriot Day". Another group argued that it was either Jihadists, domestic right-wing terrorists, lone bomber with whatever motive, the government, satanic cults or other fringe groups. 

Conservative analysts accused the liberal media of bias, because some analysts did not rule out domestic right wing groups, even Tea Party elements. It seems that many conservatives are disappointed that the media has not simply assumed that those responsible for the bombing were Muslims, and that the general assumption is they were more likely of the domestic right-wing variety. Be that as it may until the FBI actually makes an official announcement, the significant thing is that the media focused on the sensational aspects by zeroing in on the individual reactions of "people's feelings" who were justifiably outraged, and especially on small children holding candles. The media also cloaked the story as comparable to 9/11, even though the FBI does not have any evidence of a 9/11-style attack. The sensational nature of the manner that the media has been covering the story was then transmitted around the world, and copied by news organizations everywhere - usually done for convenience, cost factors, and routine way of covering domestic issues in US by non-US media.

What message does the media project about the tragedy in Boston, even before any FBI announcement?
The US is very vulnerable to 'terrorism' and needs to become even more of a police state than it is currently, as it has been evolving since 9/11. This is not to argue that the state ought to neglect its duty to safeguard the lives of its citizens, but should the bombing become the pretext for strengthening the quasi-police state? Moreover, if the US has been spending billions of security already, why did this tragedy take place? Does this mean that there is no such thing as full-proof protection from terrorism (random acts of violence with or without ideological/political purpose), as many critics have been saying for decades?

On the day that the world media reported on the Boston Marathon bombing, there were a number of other tragedies around the world that claimed the lives of many people. The most serious was a barrage of bombings in Iraq, followed by the earth quake along the border of Iran-Pakistan. The manner that the world media covered these events was very different than it did the Boston bombing. With the assumption that human life is of equal value whether in Boston or in the Middle East, the media could have given comparable focus to these stories as well.

For example, there were at least 42, possibly as many as 55 people killed and 257 injured in six different provinces in Iraq as a result of internal guerrilla warfare (otherwise labeled terrorism). Yet, this story had tiny coverage in comparison with the Boston story. The media has decided that the value of life in Iraq is hardly worthy of news coverage, because the root cause of the loss of life is the US war and occupation that currently yields political violence on a weekly basis owing to religious.sectarian, regional, political, and other differences. Moreover, why cover the deadly bombings in Iraq, given that they are almost routine, in comparison with those in the US where they are rare. Finally, why cover the bombings and deaths of Third World poor people, dark-skinned,Muslims at that, when middle class people in the center of world power are threatened? In short, the media itself reflects the imperial and imperious attitude of the Western government it covers, accepting the assumption that the value of life in Boston is far more precious and more worthy of media coverage than the life of a Muslim in Iraq.

The media has its own racist assumptions imbedded in political and ideological ones. Not only is this an issue of political and ideological decision on the part of the mainstream media, but it is also cultural rooted in a general prejudice against non-Western, non-white, non Judeo-Christians. There is something seriously wrong with the value system of the Western media when the funeral preparations for Margaret Thatcher receive massive media coverage, while the bombings in Iraq as well as similar tragedies in Afghanistan receive a mere mention. I support that the life of a single ancient Roman politician is worth a thousand mentions while the deaths of a thousand slaves in the Roman provinces are only important if they inconvenience the center of the Empire. How true then, how true today!

If the mainstream media had focused on the deaths of innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan falling victims to acts of political violence, or CIA drone bombings in the case of Afghanistan, the public would want to know who are the powers responsible for the carnage and it would demand an end to it, just as Americans rightly demand an end to bombings targeting civilians. In short, the issue of American exceptionalism creeps its ugly head not only in government policy, but in the media that reflects and promotes government policy.

While everyone around the world has a moral obligation to strongly condemn what happened in Boston during the Marathon, is there no moral obligation to examine the violence and senseless killings in Iraq and Afghanistan where the US has left its lasting mark? Is moral equivalence reserved for comparisons of one Western nation with another? Does the public deserve to question the assumptions of the media rooted in ethnic, religious, ideological and political prejudices, all of them adding up to moral hierarchy reflected in the manner stories are reported?

1 comment:

Ron Withers said...

Excellent analysis Jon. We are bombarded 24-7 in the USA with useless garbage by the media at the expense of hard news. It's no wonder many Americans are so ill-informed. The media has totally abandoned it's role as a watchdog for our society to become nothing more than another political tool for the people who run this country and a source of sensationalism for the sake of ratings.