I was on Sunday Sequence (Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster) yesterday morning with Catherine Clinton, an American academic from Queen’s University. Our topic for discussion was the Boston Marathon and subsequent events. It was an interesting conversation - Catherine is an intelligent woman, and when you’ve William Crawley as presenter, you know you’ll have another thoughtful voice in the debate.
My immediate reaction to the Boston Marathon deaths was that they recalled the Omagh Half-Marathon a couple of years back. I took part in that race and only later discovered that PSNI officer Ronan Kerr had been killed in a booby-trap bomb. So it was easy to empathise with the sense of shock and outrage the people of Boston must have felt after those explosions.
But the explosions in Boston called for more than just feelings of grief or even anger. For example:
- President Obama was impressive in his determination to locate those responsible and let them feel the full weight of justice. What he didn’t mention and the media conveniently omitted is that his orders have led to the release of drone bombs in Pakistan which have killed over 3000 people. Of these it’s estimated that 1.5% were ‘high-profile’ - i.e, active military enemies of the US. The pain and grief of the remaining 98.5% innocents were just as real as that felt in Boston. But the media didn’t mention the irony of a man speaking of the ‘evil’ of the deaths and mutilation of the Boston bombs, when he himself had been responsible for ‘evil’ on a far more massive scale.
- The two suspects - one of whom was killed, the other shot through the throat - were just that: suspects. Yet the way that it was reported, it seemed their guilt was beyond question. What ever became of being innocent until proved guilty?
- The flooding of Boston with over 10,000 heavily-armed men, to search for and engage a 19-year-old fugitive was massively excessive. I kept waiting for Mel Gibson or Bruce Willis to appear wearing a sweaty t-shirt. The ‘lock-down’ which confined millions of Bostonians to their homes was highly theatrical, with the authorities essentially saying “We’re the guys in the white hats, you just stay clear and we’ll sort this out for you”. Then when it was all over, the confined people were let out and patted on the head and told they were the salt of the American earth. I call that infantilization and a very bad precedent for future, similar events.
- While we were on air, somebody texted in to castigate me for introducing drone bombs into the discussion of the marathon explosion. They’re entitled to their view - even my massive vanity concedes that not everyone loves me. But I’m convinced that US drone bombs have everything to do with what happened at the Boston marathon. Both killed innocent people, the difference being that the drone bombs were launched and continue to be launched on the say-so of the US president, that they cause death and destruction on a far more massive scale than in Boston, and that nobody came after Barack Obama as he hid in a backyard boat hoping he wouldn’t be shot dead like his brother. What’s more, no one in the media (that I’ve read/seen) mentions the hideous irony of Obama posing as the defender of life while dealing out death in distant parts with no sign of pity for the innocent. I’d say that was a parallel well worth drawing, and it’s to the shame of the mainstream media that they haven’t done this.