Boston: Some Perspectives

What do the Boston Bombings reveal to us about our human nature? Our inclinations and prejudices? Our devices and communities? Read on…

Some saw beauty

In the immediate aftermath of the explosions—even as debris continued to fly through the air—countless people ran not away from the blasts, but towards them.  These people had no way of knowing whether or not there would be more explosions, no way of knowing whether or not they were putting their own lives in danger; they simply saw others in need and immediately rushed to help.  At the same time, more people—many of them marathoners who had just completed a draining 26.2 mile test of endurance—began to rush en masse to nearby Massachusetts General Hospital, seeking to give their own blood for the hundreds of wounded that would soon follow.  In fact, so many people showed up that the hospital was forced, multiple times, to turn away would-be donors; there were simply too many people trying to help.

Some contemplated on the role of amateur internet investigative communities

 Gathering at “subreddits” like “findbostonbombers,” a horde of amateur digital forensic analysts have been poring over every pixel of some of the same raw material as investigators—publicly available high-resolution photos and video of the race, bombing, and aftermath, which has been scattered across the Web and broadcast by news media—hoping to see something that official investigators have not. It’s a human-powered parallel-processing machine, one with overwhelming scale that is constantly churning as it aggregates known information with new data, synthesizing the two to produce highly idiosyncratic analyses.

Others commented on the selective empathy surrounding the reactions…

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).

While others lamented the unfortunate demonization of a entire ethnicity

It is easy to criticise the media, and after this disastrous week , there is much to criticise. But the consequences of the casual racism launched at Chechens – and by association, all other Muslims from the former Soviet Union, who are rarely distinguished from one another by the public – are serious. By emphasising the Tsarnaevs’ ethnicity over their individual choices, and portraying that ethnicity as barbaric and violent , the media creates a false image of a people destined by their names and their ” culture of terror ” to kill. There are no people in Chechnya, only symbols. There are no Chechen-Americans, only threats.


So what did you see?


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