Contextualizing Media Claims in Boston

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by Matthew Kupfer on 4/20/2013 · 27 comments

Now that Dzhohar Tsarnaev has been captured, the long process of unraveling the mystery of the Boston Marathon bombing begins. Investigators, the press, and ordinary citizens will ask: Who were these young men? Why did they do what they did? What set them on this path? These are extremely difficult questions that give unclear, complex answers. And they are rendered even more difficult by the press’s general indifference to Caucasus and Central Asia and the public’s lack of knowledge of this region.

The media’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing has, generally, been poor. On April 17, CNN reported that a suspect had been arrested, when, in fact, no such thing had happened. Later, social media sites named the bombers as a missing Brown University student, Sunil Tripathi, and Mike Mulugeta, who may not actually exist. This misinformation was even picked up by some members of the press. Once the names of the real suspects had been established, CNN at one point reported a tweet posted by Dzhohar Tsarnaev in August 2012 as breaking news. The tweet read “boston marathon isn’t a good place to smoke tho.” Watching CNN last night, I was amazed to hear a journalist read this “breaking news” on camera and then dramatically announce, “It may mean something. It may mean nothing. We don’t know.” These are only a few examples of flawed coverage.

I’m not surprised that the press turned to the alleged bombers’ social media profiles to gather information on them. Social media offers a look into how a person chooses to represent himself online. It can tell us a lot about a person, or it can tell us very little. It all depends on the account, the amount of information, and that information’s veracity. In situations like this, it can be a good source of information if used properly. Unfortunately, in my opinion, much of the press treated these sites as what media expert Sarah Kendzior aptly called a “window into the soul,” which is wishful thinking at best. They looked for the signs of Islamic radicalism and indications of the brothers’ plan to bomb the Boston Marathon, and, naturally, they found what they were looking for. Some of the information was correct, of course. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, for example, did post or like several videos connected with fundamentalist Islamic thought and Chechen nationalism. But not everything they found fit the narrative the media was spinning.

In attempting to place Tamerlan and Dzhohar Tsarnaev into the mould of the stereotypical “Islamic fundamentalist bomber,” the media used several facts and claims about the brothers that, in my opinion, don’t ring true or were taken out of the Chechen and post-Soviet context and, thus, were misunderstood. I would like to draw attention to several such facts (certainly not all) and clarify them. While these details may seem small, they helped to form an image of the Tsarnaev brothers in the public’s mind, simplifying complex motivations that may exist behind this attack. Words have connotations beyond their direct meanings, and so the choice of something as small as the wrong word can change how we perceive the facts:

1.     Dzhohar Tsarnaev’s Worldview

Many news outlets reported that Dzhohar Tsarnaev listed his worldview as Islam on VK.com, a Russian copy of Facebook. However, the only thing this tells us is that Dzhohar considers himself a Muslim, like the vast majority of Chechens. Worldview (or mirovozrenie in Russian) is simply how VK.com refers to religion. Although one can, in theory, write anything in this box, the site makes several suggestions: Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Secular Humanism. For this reason, in the context of VK, listing one’s worldview as Islam means nothing more than saying “I am a Muslim.”

2.     “Who Wants to Be a Militiaman”

An article on the Mother Jones site examined Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Youtube page and noted that he had liked a video called “Who Wants to Be A Militiaman.” This was initially interpreted as an Islamist video. In fact, the video contains a satirical song in Russian and a series of photos depicting the exploits of the militia, the Soviet and Russian police force (called “police” instead of “militia” since 2011). The “militia” is widely known for its corruption and often mocked in Russian popular culture. The Mother Jones article was later corrected to reflect this fact.

3.     9/11 Conspiracies

In an article recently published on the CNN website, Allysa Lindley Kilzer, a young woman who got facials from the Tsarnaev brothers’ mother, spoke about her impressions of this woman. Kilzer says she initially went to see Zubeidat Tsarnaev at a local spa, but then began coming to the Tsarnaev family’s home for facials after Zubeidat was fired from the spa. However, she began to feel uncomfortable when Zubeidat started “quoting conspiracy theories, telling me that she thought 9-11 was purposefully created by the American government to make America hate Muslims.” This is represented in the article as a sign of Zubeidat’s “growing religious fervor.”

That’s quite a stretch, in my opinion. Having spent almost a year of my life in St. Petersburg, Russia and time in Kyrgyzstan, I can say that I’ve heard such conspiracy theories many times from many people. It’s always a surprise to me, but I think it reflects a general distrust of government and its institutions in Russia and many countries of the former Soviet Union. Obviously, Caucasian culture is very different from St. Petersburg Russian culture. But Chechens also have many reasons to distrust governments. Ultimately, as incorrect as Zubeidat Tsarnaev’s belief in 9/11 conspiracy theories may be, it has no direct link with Islamic radicalism or “religious fervor.”

4.     Tsarnaev Brothers’ Mother and Father Claim a Setup

One of the most shocking aspects of this story was how the Tsarnaev Brothers’ mother and father claimed that their sons had been set up, possibly by the FBI, and their aunt suggested there was no proof of their involvement in the bombing. To the average American news viewer, this sounds extremely phony. It sounds as if the parents refuse to believe their children could commit such an act or are trying to protect their own reputations. This is all possible.

However, I would like to at least attempt to deepen our understanding of this reaction. While the background of the family is still somewhat murky, we know that they lived in Makhachkala, Dagestan (a republic neighboring Chechnya) at one point and that the father and mother currently live there. Dagestan is regarded as one of the most dangerous places in Europe, a region where bombings have become a regular part of life. After two separatist wars in the 1990s, neighboring Chechnya has grown more stable, but at a cost. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a Moscow loyalist who has essentially been given carte blanche by Putin, rules the republic as what Michael Idov called a “near-Sharia fiefdom.” Human rights violations—kidnapping, torture, attacks on journalists, etc.—are rampant both in Chechnya and Dagestan. This is a region where people accused of supporting the rebels often disappear, even if the accusations aren’t true.

Additionally, the Chechen population has a long and painful history of persecution. In February 1944, during World War II, Joseph Stalin deported the entire ethnic Chechen and Ingush populations to Central Asia for alleged cooperation with Nazi Germany (a highly unlikely allegation). Many people were killed or died during the journey in un-insulated cattle cars, and the Chechens and Ingush were only allowed to return to their homeland in 1957 during the Khrushchev Thaw. The Tsarnaev family members have alluded to this deportation a few times in interviews with the press.

I am obviously not trying to lend support to the idea that Tamerlan and Dzhohar Tsarnaev were set up by the FBI. But I think it is important to recognize why such an idea, in the context of the modern history of the Caucasus, could seem believable to the family, something that is lost on most journalists covering the Boston Marathon Bombing and on most viewers.

Conclusion

My point in highlighting these mistakes and de-contextualized facts in the media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing is to emphasize that much information has been misunderstood due to lack of knowledge about the Caucasus or Russia and a desire to present the suspects in a framework easily understandable to the American public. Thus, the media suggests that listing one’s worldview as “Islam” on a social media site is a sign of a radical Muslim and the belief in 9/11 conspiracies is synonymous with religious fervor. In such a mindset, “militiaman” automatically becomes “Islamic militiaman,” Chechen ethnicity automatically points to Chechen separatist and terrorist groups, and an unwillingness to believe one’s sons committed this terror act is interpreted as ingratitude to the United States (as Rep. Peter King suggested on CNN).

If there is one lesson the US should take from the Boston Marathon bombing, it is not simply that we are never safe from terror. We should also take this opportunity to reconsider how we understand terrorism. The case of Dzhohar Tsarnaev, a young man described by all his friends, teachers, and acquaintances as kind and thoughtful, emphasizes how thin the line between terrorist and ordinary person can be. His brother’s story shows us how contradictory the background of a terrorist may be: a Chechen refugee with dreams of boxing for the US Olympic team and receiving citizenship, who married an American woman, may have carried a grudge against Russia, loved the raunchy film Borat, and was also an extremely conservative and religious Muslim.

What caused these two young men to do what they did? What happened in their lives that set them on this course? We may never know the full answer, but the question should still direct our attention to the complexity of this issue. It should emphasize the need to better understand the psychology behind terrorism, the things that can motivate a person to commit such an act.

A friend on Facebook referred to this attack as “typical death-to-America terrorism.” I’m not sure that’s entirely true. It could be “death-to-the-infidels” terrorism. It could also just be “death-to-people” terrorism. Again, we may never get a complete picture of the intent and motivation of the bombers. But I think there is something different about this bombing, something that separates it from other terrorist attacks and attempted attacks. Certainly the fact the terrorists lived in America, one even grew up in the US and was a citizen, and that they may not have had any significant connections with jihadist organizations deserves attention.

But we will never even begin to answer the important questions surrounding this bombing and to see the subtleties of this story if our media tries to fit each terrorist into an easily understandable, two-dimensional framework. The Tsarnaev brothers are neither representative of the entire Chechen ethnic group, nor are they the embodiment of the mysterious Islamist-Jihadist “Other” that the US has been struggling with in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world for over a decade. They are individuals who did horrible things.

Our media and our society must perceive the subtleties of the Boston Marathon bombing. Otherwise, we will miss the lessons of this attack.

Image from RFE/RL


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This post was written by...

– author of 10 posts on Registan.net.

Matthew Kupfer is a writer focusing on Russia and Central Asia. A graduate of Brandeis University, he is a student of the Russian language and an enthusiast for the politics, cultures, and histories of the post-Soviet region. In 2010, he was in Osh, Kyrgyzstan during the interethnic unrest and blogged about his experiences in the conflict zone. He has also published an essay on women's leadership in the future of Kyrgyzstan, studied Russian in St. Petersburg, carried out extensive research on the 2010 Osh unrest, and written articles for EurasiaNet.org. Currently working for a think tank, he writes in his own capacity. Follow him on Twitter at @Matthew_Kupfer.

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{ 27 comments }

Bob luce April 20, 2013 at 8:11 am

Good writing and thoughtful review of the bombers and motives that may have set them on this course. They were religious to a degree and in youth sometimes emotional events in their lives turned them to extremes when things don’t pan out as they dreamed. They likely took solace in reverting back to a cultural of violence they grew up with to solve their dilemma. Certainly they knew of the geonicide the Russian government has been conducting for centuries on their homeland and descendents and the neglect the world has shown to their plight, but whether this triggered the bombings we may never know.

Aida May 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm

You’re an idiot. The only “culture of violence” (p.s. that is how you spell “culture”) the two grew up with is the one they saw in the United States.

anan May 4, 2013 at 7:36 am

Why does America have a “culture of violence”?

The Russian government had informed the US government that the older brother was possibly involved in terrorism or violence against Russia.

Randy McDonald April 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm

“the world has shown to their plight”

What else, failing an invasion of Russia, could be done in Chechnya?

anan May 4, 2013 at 10:48 am

The world can send humanitarians, NGOs and volunteers to do social work. Long term development aid. Improving the Chechen education system. Large people rallies where foreigners express their love for the Chechen people.

Not much else.

Invading Chechnya would be incredibly stupid.

Jlina April 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Thank you for your attempt to provide insight. I agree this isn’t “typical” death to Americans and have been twisting thought in my mind for hours. If it were Muslim terroristic why bomb a public event in which it was unlikely you’d reach a high percentage of Christians? If it were hatred of Americans, why bomb a public event and kill Chinese exchange students? If it was a dissafection from society and a sociopathic personality, how did none of that ever expose itself in all the years in America?

How does “radicalizing” for a Jihadist equate with killing the general populace in America?

How does performing an act of terror make all of America feel unsafe at sporting events?

They weren’t murderers, but they murdered. Why? Who wants to kill a five year old?

It’s so troubling to me because it’s so illogical. And the fact that they then did not even leave the area to me indicates it wasn’t for money either. Or they’d have gotten on planes.

Basically, it’s senseless, yes. But not in a crazy way, like the guy who killed all the people at the army base. In a it doesn’t make SENSE way – and that is so frustrating to my “American” mind.

The older brother supposedly said once he’d never understood an American; I guess I can say the same about these two. Why it matters to me, I don’t know. I just want to know how they justified the logic behind it to themselves!

Analonoymous April 21, 2013 at 6:31 am

Nice try… sometimes we purposefully overlook the simple by making it complex.. like the Author does here..

Again and again the root cause is Islam and Muslims ..

When was the last time a Jew or Christian blew up a public place filled with people in the name of their Religion?.. the “Religion of Peace”?? Islam does not deserve this moniker, all Muslims should be ashamed of their Religion on this day.. and speaking out or apologizing, but they don’t, why is that?? Across the Globe there are 20+ Wars/Conflicts taking place.. from Sudan, Filippines, Afghanistan, Palestine/Israel, Chechnya, Indonesia, Pakistan/India, Kosovo.. ALL involve Muslims.. All involve this scourge of the Earth Religion.

Jo April 22, 2013 at 2:03 am

Spelling check: Philippines.

The conflict here is not about Islam, it is a long history of alienation from the rest of the country. Some of it is because 80% of the country is Christian with very different practices, but most of it is because of alienation that dates back to the 1500s and a political system that many do not understand. Please stop blaming one kind of people for complex problems.

JayHobeSound April 22, 2013 at 10:13 am

Americans attribute every terrorist attack to religion, good vs. bad, us vs. them. They don’t know Chechnya from the Czech Republic, yet they are dangerously certain that christians are alwyas good and Muslims are always bad. Unfortunately many of my fellow Americans are so intellectually challenged that they believed Bush when he said: “They hate us for our freedom.” Really? Why no mention of the decades the US interfering in the politics and economies of other countries that might also lead to hate? Ignoring the politics gives a free pass to US meddling and instead focus on the “different” religion.

Sophebe April 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

You just did the same thing in generalizing about Americans. Bonus: I know Chechnya from the Czech Republic (any self-respecting fan of Bridget Jones does), don’t like any religious zealots, and (ding ding ding) can distinguish between an individual’s actions and those of an entire country or ethnicity — something you seem to be unable to do.

anan April 28, 2013 at 12:01 am

Many Takfiri do hate us for our “freedom” by us I mean every nonmuslim and most muslims (since most muslims in their minds have betrayed true islam.) In this President Bush is right.

One of the interferences that they hate is how globalized westernized values is seducing and corrupting their young people. They also hate international corporations for corrupting their countries.

Why did Sirajuddin Haqqani’s people nearly blow up 9 metric tons of explosives in a Kabul population center that could have leveled most things within 1.5 km of the epicenter? Because of US interference? Anger at Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and the ANSF had nothing to do with it?

The problem with blasting “meddling” is that in an interdependent globalized world every country continually meddles with every other country. That is what free trade and free investment are all about.

“meddling” doesn’t give people the right to bomb mosques, murder government employees and attack the local army.

“christians are alwyas good and Muslims are always bad. ” You are right that this part makes no sense.

Nathan Hamm April 22, 2013 at 10:42 am

This is like saying whiteness is the root cause of mass shootings. You may dispute, but let’s not overlook the simple by making it complex. Both are absolutely asinine oversimplifications.

Aida May 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Just because the suspects are Muslim does not mean the bombings were in the name of their religion. Assumptions like these do nothing but prove your ignorance.

Narcogen April 21, 2013 at 7:48 am

The last time? 2011 was not so long ago.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anders_Behring_Breivik

Keith April 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

This post just about passes muster, but the tragic events of the past few days have generated some phenomenally self-regarding guff decrying the supposed excesses of the media. The 24-hour news cycle makes for shallow reporting no doubt, but surely not enough to warrant the kind of relentless cant from the likes of Sarah Kendzior, who plumbed new depths of patronizing sanctimony with her litany of straw man arguments over Al Jazeera’s website.
She claims people always blame Stalin for terrible events in the former Soviet Union. What codswallop!
She objects huffily to the Tsarnayevs biography being cited as part of the useful explanatory background for their actions. Why in heaven’s name not? It isn’t a slur against any group to seek causes of individual misdoing against a broader historical and social backdrop — it’s just common sense.
And then she likens Oliver Bullough, whose name she misspells, to Adolf Hitler for making the entirely innocuous observation that Chechens are easy to spot in a Western European city. That is just plain mental, not to speak of offensive on several levels.

Amit Desai April 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I think the author has offered balanced and well written observations.

Media coverage has been clumsy on this whole ordeal. Offering of far fetched theories, or stereotyping, by an ill informed media with little or no knowledge of the geopolitical factors that might have played the psyche of these individuals, is a disservice to our even more uninformed general public.

I think media would serve us well if they stop offering premature or ill conceived theories and instead focus on reporting facts. The full facts might not be revealed until the younger brother starts talking, i.e. if he remains alive to speak.

The excessive force being deployed against a 19 year old kid is a topic of another conversation. There was no bravery in shooting down a trapped individual, referring to him as a “cat” who is cornered by a CNN reporter reflects total lack of apathy for a human life, however bad the individual was. The worst of all, applause from the public when the kid was finally captured with multiple gun shot wounds reflect how insensitive, we as a society, has become to violence in general. This was not the same as capturing of Osama. Yes, what these two individuals chose to do was probably no less evil to the people who loved their loved ones so I am not trivializing the fact the criminality of their act but the point is this was not a contest that our law enforcement won. None of us came out a winner from this entire ordeal and we as humans lost. The root causes of terrorism have to be analyzed and to the extent possible, addressed. That is a responsibility we the citizens of this great country of ours, the US of A, all share.

anan April 28, 2013 at 12:22 am

Amit Desai, you might be right on:

“Media coverage has been clumsy on this whole ordeal. Offering of far fetched theories, or stereotyping, by an ill informed media with little or no knowledge of the geopolitical factors that might have played the psyche of these individuals, is a disservice to our even more uninformed general public.

I think media would serve us well if they stop offering premature or ill conceived theories and instead focus on reporting facts. The full facts might not be revealed until the younger brother starts talking, i.e. if he remains alive to speak. ”

I can’t say for sure, since I did not see any of said coverage. For that matter, do you think more than 20% of the American coverage saw more than a slight amount of media coverage regarding Boston? I don’t.

“The excessive force being deployed against a 19 year old kid is a topic of another conversation. There was no bravery in shooting down a trapped individual, referring to him as a “cat” who is cornered by a CNN reporter reflects total lack of apathy for a human life, however bad the individual was. The worst of all, applause from the public when the kid was finally captured with multiple gun shot wounds reflect how insensitive, we as a society, has become to violence in general. This was not the same as capturing of Osama. Yes, what these two individuals chose to do was probably no less evil to the people who loved their loved ones so I am not trivializing the fact the criminality of their act but the point is this was not a contest that our law enforcement won. None of us came out a winner from this entire ordeal and we as humans lost.”

I have zero idea what you are talking about here. Law enforcement has a responsibility to protect the public. They were doing their jobs. I know of no evidence that excessive force was used. To suggest otherwise is absurd. Similar to people like Arundati Roy justifying and encouraging violent attacks against the security forces of the fully sovereign democratically elected Indian government. Or leftists in Europe and/or America calling for violent attacks against their own countries.

No one lost anything because of excessive use of force by the police. [Bad and misleading media is another matter.]

” The root causes of terrorism have to be analyzed and to the extent possible, addressed. That is a responsibility we the citizens of this great country of ours, the US of A, all share.”

The root causes of terrorism are the same around the world. No one country can address them. Only the international community collectively can address them. Probably top of the list are the atrocious governments ruling several muslim majority countries. In some cases it is not clear what the OIC and international community can do about this other than regime change. But the international community must agree on implementing a policy in a coordinated complementary way.

To Analonoymous April 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Analonoymous, seriously, last time?!?!? Have you thought of 10+ years war that USA went to? Or all of the bombing that happens in Palestine 1000 times more often than in America, which is by the way, who sponsors most of it?!?
http://drones.pitchinteractive.com/

anan April 28, 2013 at 12:11 am

What does Palestine have to do with Chechnya or the bombing in Boston. What do we know about what motivated these two brothers? Mental breakdown maybe?

In any case, what does America have to do with the wars between Fatah and Hamas? How many thousands of Palestinians have died in their civil war?

What does America have to do with the war between Israel and Hamas’ militia in 2008/2009? If the brothers were upset about it, why didn’t they go to Israel and fight with Israelis?

Joez Johnsmith April 22, 2013 at 3:25 am

look, i am 24 and i have experienced some bad bad bad bad things for little to no justifiable reason other than this is what currently happens at specific moments to specific people because this is a reality we all plopped into via happenstance. on the more upbeat tempo, everything for me is great right now (accepted to medical school on a scholarship), just as it has been in the past and as it will be at points in the future–however, these points are mere moments, not eternities. certainly unsurprisingly, in my line of points i have lived through moments where i wanted to help and harm myself and others, and if you claim you personally have never felt these sentiments stop reading, rather internalize your thoughts on the pile of bullshit inside (claiming not to be human).

the point is we as human beings have such peculiar, fragile (yet resilient), and ideologically pervious minds and psychologies, which are evolutionarily bestowed traits of sorts, all ranging in qualities: superannuated to incredible to life-preserving to wretched and petrifying to pristinely perfect. definitely, some of our more atavistic traits concocted with one of those points–a moment that is not so happy–can cause a human (in fact even collectively, humans) to act as we have seen in boston, and those acts include all those who partook in harming another human being: the police, the tsarnaev brothers, the media persons shoving cameras into pining family members’ faces, et cetera… My point is, you people, the people, so many of you…you are like animals, and it is depravingly disheartening in those moments, these points, in fact, of melodramatic worldview construction fundamental to fully becoming of (experiential and intellectual) age, and this is what happened in those specific moments in boston to some specific people.

i mean, i am so young, yet (1) i can recognize that this very well written piece brings about something very important: context. furthermore, (2) i can extrapolate to something a bit more macroscopic in perspective (tangential and important, really). and thank heaven i have patti smith to pave my vantage because she is “older and wiser” than i, and you people like to listen most to “older and wiser” people. patti smith once said that, “i think right now we [as in the global society tethered as one by the internet and blossoming technological advancement] are going through this painful sort of like adolescence,” in an interview title “Advice to the Young.” and let it be clear now: it is NOT coincidentally a propos that young people were the instigating hands in this series of acts of terror that will not end today, but will end tomorrow in the future at some other point. i mean context people! CONTEXT you fucking americans and fucking islamist and good people and fucking bad people! context.

we are living in a more peaceful time than ever in recorded, global human history. context.

and these young men hurt because they were hurt. context you fucking idiots. proper context is your responsibility! whatever happened to responsibility!? how could a young man so composed and gentle kill a child? i mean, it just doesn’t make any sense in the context of ALL of us being responsible… why do i not hear his parents saying what did we do wrong? why do i not hear “adults”–people rather–all around the globe sobbing, “what did we do wrong?” why do i not hear comments saying we can come together and fix this with (neuro-) science, compassion, love, art and all those accomplishments and achievements that make humans, well incredibly human and universally human in the sense that each and everyone of us is capable at this precise point, this exact moment, to take a life.

i mean think about it. people come on… we all can take a life now. how precious. how fragile. how beautiful and poetic…and scary…even though, we know religion is stupid–this trait is sloughing off of humanity as we speak. even though, we know that suffering is bad, and that we should not allow for it–this to is fading from history as we speak. i know within less than 200 years things can be utopianically better, dystopianically worse or some place in between. and in the context of now, this very point in time, i hope there is a more likely chance of utopian improvements.

so, don’t stop commenting, don’t stop thinking, and don’t stop feeling, please. us humans, the humans that kill and laugh and birth and love and hate and do unimaginable, brilliant, horrifying things collectively will determine the future. although perhaps most salient for consideration, how are we supposed to do this without proper context? and how are we supposed to do this with animal minds, commentary and pontification without reasonable, educated, open-mindedness? look, i am just 24, and i have experienced some bad bad bad things for little to no justifiable reason other than this is what currently happens at specific moments to specific people because this is a reality we all plopped into via happenstance…but wait…don’t we humans…

JayHobeSound April 22, 2013 at 9:55 am

Glad I followed the link to this article, very informative.

The brothers’ father and aunt are reported to be attorneys; it did not seem odd to me that they each insisted on being shown evidence. Unfortunately, intellectually challenged Americans have a propensity to deify police officers and believe with blind faith that police are never wrong which leads to “suspects” being seen as automatically guilty. Also, I understood immediately the aunt’s adamant insistence that the brothers are possibly being framed by the FBI because of the egregiously deceptive tactics used in almost all of the post-9/11 ‘home-grown terrorist’ cases. Using informants to lure mentally unstable dimwits into planting a bomb then arresting the dimwit in the nick of time and heroically claiming to have thwarted a terrorist attack. Since the FBI had prior contact with the older brother – and supposedly repeated contacts with the mother when she was still living in the US – it is especially important to insist on evidence.

Jay C April 23, 2013 at 6:17 pm

While you certainly have a point about the American public’s attitudes about policing, AND the FBI’s often-bordering-on-entrapment approach to busting “domestic terrorism plots” (a pretty shabby record, but buried by the public and the media) – the Boston Marathon bombing, and its aftermath, don’t quite fit the scenario. First, the Tsarnaev brothers, whatever their motivations, were far from “mentally unstable dimwits”, and secondly: their plot (or at least the first phase of it) succeeded.
And without “assistance”, as far as can be determined….

anan April 28, 2013 at 12:26 am

Jay C is completely right.

JayHobeSound, please get some sleep. Your comments don’t make any sense.

brodie April 22, 2013 at 10:35 am

well written and timely article
thank you

oldschool boy April 23, 2013 at 9:18 am

It is really hard to believe that these two young man would be involved in the Boston event given their background and status (one was a medical school student and a scholarship recipient and the other one was married to an americal girl and had carrier plans in sport). But then there is another recent case in Canada that involves a PhD student who alegedly planned an attack on a train. Does not seem like a simple coincidence, does it?
Even assumeng that the brothers did it, it is hard to believ that these attacks were planned by Tsarnaevs themselves. I do not think they hated America that much or were so devoted to an extreme islamistic ideology. Even without connecting the two cases (US and Canada), I would think there was somebody behind them who used some means to make them do it. I do not know what these means can be, money, blackmailing, hypnosis?

ACM April 26, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Thanks for supplying this interesting context. The fact of the matter is that it amounts to nothing. No amount of contextualizing can justify what these two individuals did to innocent people. So they may not be terrorists in the usual sense of the word and strutting your knowledge of Russia may make you look like a quasi expert, and the main stream media may have gotten a lot wrong in how they reported the events, but when all the context is supplied these two individuals still murdered and maimed innocent civilians. Certainly in all of your contextualizing, you cannot condone that.

Matthew Kupfer April 28, 2013 at 1:49 am

I am not in any way attempting to condone what the Tsarnaev brothers did. Nor am I trying to portray myself as an expert on Chechnya. But the four mistakes I highlight here are things that anyone who has studied the Caucasus and Russia ought to be able to see. There are plenty of people in the world who have much greater expertise in the study of this region than I do, but strangely, for the most part, they’re not noticing the mistakes.

I did not write this post to excuse the behavior of the Tsarnaev brothers. On the contrary, I want them to be judged for what they did. But I don’t want them to be judged for who the are, where they come from, what ethnic group they belong to, what religion they practice.

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