Friday, April 19, 2013

Can we stop speculating for a moment?

The Boston Marathon bombers are now believed to be two ethnically Chechen brothers who emigrated to the Boston area from Kyrgystan. That tidbit, lamentably if perhaps unsurprisingly, led Good Morning America to run a piece by Colleen Curry entitled, "Why Would Chechens Want to Bomb Boston?"

Oh for crying out loud.

None of the news accounts I've read so far indicate that either brother has been interrogated by police. (The elder died last night of injuries he received during an apparent firefight with police; no one has said whether he spoke to police before he died.) None of the family or friends who have been interviewed has said anything to indicate the brothers were likely to have let their ethnic heritage lead them to commit these acts. (The father, though, apparently believes that if his second son dies at the hands of police, it will be proof of a conspiracy — by whom and for what purpose, I have no idea. Incidentally, he believes his sons did not carry out the bombings, but whether he has evidence to back him up, I don't know.)

The article asks "Christopher Swift, a professor of National Security at Georgetown University", whether the bombings could have had something to do with the independence movement in Chechnya that has been going on since 1994 (or 1999, depending on how you look at things). Prof. Swift essentially said it was possible, but he couldn't be sure.

That's right, he can't be sure. No one can be — not unless police can talk to the surviving brother. Prof. Swift, like everyone else, has no answers at this point.

So what's GMA's excuse for running its story?

If it were CNN or Fox "News" or MSNBC running this story, I'd say it was all about filling hours. The 24-hour news networks are insatiable (and indiscriminate) beasts. But GMA is a morning show. It's not ABC News. And ABC News doesn't need to fill 24 hours a day anyway. So again, why run a story that contains a little bit of tangential factual content (a very brief history of the recent Chechen wars for independence) but no connection to the main story? And why, especially, give it such a provocative headline?

I think it's pretty clear: GMA's producers want to stoke fear and anxiety. "Oh my God, gotta watch out for those crazy Chechen separatists!" It's good for ratings.


I'm sorry I clicked on the story and added to its perceived popularity. But I'm even angrier at GMA and ABC for running it in the first place. It's empty, useless speculation that divides us as a nation. It reflects an instinct for sleaze that is repugnant. And it's fearmongering at a time when the last thing we need is more to fear.

Whoever commissioned this story is an irresponsible jackass at best. More likely, he or she is simply a jackal who has no business pretending to be a journalist.

Ignore the guessing and give a figurative middle finger to this kind of emptyheaded speculation.

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