The Boston Marathon is one of the oldest, most well-known and largest marathons in the world. It regularly attracts an average of 20,000 participants from all over the world, and draws thousands of spectators.
Yesterday, it was at the center of the world’s attention as two bombs detonated near the finish line. At the time of print, three people were killed in the blasts, and left more than a hundred more injured. At time of print, information about who is responsible for this attack and what their motivation was is scarce at best.
What we know is that there is going to be a massive investigation involving multiple different law enforcement agencies doing as much as they can to try figure out who is behind the attack.
Speculation, however, is going to get us absolutely nowhere which is something that the media are certainly guilty of doing. And it doesn’t help the situation at all.
For instance, there was wild speculation that the bombing might have been the work of a terrorist or terrorist organization. Guesses ranged from the work of a lone domestic terrorist (a la Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City Bombing) to the work of international groups like al-Qaeda.
We just don’t know that, and throwing the word “terrorism” does not answer any questions about that attack. If anything, all it does is stir up fears unnecessarily. For all we know at this point there could be any number of motives, ranging from political motives, to personal motives, to disillusionment. Everything is a possibility at this point, and singling out terrorism does nothing to help inform the public.
Official descriptions on the bombing are conflicting. White House officials stated to the Boston Globe that they are treating the event as they would a terrorist attack, but the President was careful to avoid the term when he addressed the nation yesterday. William Keating, a representative from the Department of Homeland Security, was similarly circumspect, stating “There is clearly a coordinated, sophisticated attack that has taken place, the nature of which is not clear now.” While they are not ruling out the possibility of a terrorist attack, they are also acknowledging that they have no firm evidence that suggests what the exact motive was.
That does not mean that this absolutely was a terrorist attack. It just means that the exact motive for the attack is unknown, which is understandable considering that it’s only been a day since the event took place.
Singling out terrorism also does not help when people start trying to figure out who might be behind it. The prime speculation that was reported concerned a person of interest who was quoted as a “Saudi-national,” despite the fact that the man in question was one of several people questioned by authorities. There is no reason to suspect that this man is the bomber, or part of the group responsible for the bombing — none. There are currently no suspects at all, which is something that the Boston Police Department is trying to hammer home to media outlets.
To say otherwise is irresponsible and reckless; particularly given the prejudices surrounding those of Middle Eastern descent. For some people, the only things they have to hear is “bombing” and “Middle Eastern,” and they think they have everything figured out; which they don’t.
The person (or persons) behind this event could be anyone, from this country or from abroad and could have any number of reasons to instigate an attack. The truth behind the bombing could be in line with the speculation, or it could be something completely different. The rumors could be true, but they could just as well be false.
The hard truth that we all have to swallow for the moment is that we aren’t going to know anything substantive about the attack anytime soon. Speculation just isn’t going to get us anywhere at this point, no matter how much as we might want to try and figure it out.
All we can really do is allow law enforcement to do their jobs. Only then will we be able to get some hard answers about this tragedy.
Editorial Editor Caleb Hendrich is a senior journalism and political science double major. His columns appear Wednesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.