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Finding the Bomber (or at least someone who looks like one)

by on April 18, 2013

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So today was another day of looking for someone behind the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the whole thing is a fucking mess. CNN and the AP were both reporting that a suspect was in custody. That was bullshit. They even got text messages from their source on the air…it was dramatic! People want the perpetrator or at least a stand-in patsy for the time being (remember Richard Jewell) and they will get one soon enough.

Should we be publishing pictures of the crime scene with “people of interest”? Most stations aren’t, but I just heard a reporter say that the authorities have an image of a suspect. After 5 seconds of googling I had a several dozen pictures of the scene with “suspicious people” circled in red.

Citizen journalists, justice seekers and people who have seen a couple episodes of CSI all want in on the search. 4chan and Reddit have set up their own search for the perpetrator. Reddit has a whole page set up for amateur investigators, with no faces blurred, but names prohibited in accordance to Reddit’s site rules. 4chan has also gotten into the game by pointing their finger at someone with a backpack that was in the area…yep, someone with a backpack in a city with 500 colleges. I hope no one you know was walking down Boylston Street on monday with a backpack, because they might have their life (or at least their week) ruined.

The point is, even without journalists or pseudo-journalism cable news stations, people want justice and we want it now. I suspect that it is something innate or at least embedded deep in our culture, or any culture.

People want to blame “the media” for jumping on innocent people, fear mongering and giving attention to people who commit crimes like this, but it is in all of us. We all want to know. We want information and justice. Journalism, as it is today, has only been around for a very short period of time in history, but justice and revenge have been around forever.

So if we are trying to represent the public, let’s play the game, because if we don’t someone else will, and they will do it disregarding responsibility and process.

People hate us as journalists. Deal with it. 

On another note, the Boston Globe is publishing the names of all the victims of the bombing and their injuries. They seem to be showing some restraint with not naming every person that was wearing a backpack that day, but victims are fair game.

Reddit has a posting in r/findbostonbombers titled “Media Outlets, please stop making the images of potential suspects go viral, then blaming this small subreddit for it. And read the rules we’ve imposed before calling us ‘vigilantes’.” Everyone wants to be heros and no one wants to be part of a witch hunt. 

update: a Houston news channel is running pictures of two guys implying they are suspects, one of the guys is from the picture above…and yes they look like they are of Middle Eastern descent. If you look at the youtube comments it is a fight between Reddit and 4chan about who “solved” the case. From what I have read, these images and video are from over 2 hours before the explosion. 

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One Comment
  1. On Reddit there’s also an entire thread dedicated to determining the make and model of pressure cooker(s) used in the explosion, and another thread dedicated to examining the physics of the blast (from equations mapping the blast radius to inquiries into the color of the smoke and what that indicates about the amount of explosive needed). It’s unlikely there’s many (if any) journalists taking the time to investigate either of those things with that attention. Journalists will most likely run with official stories once they’re released. Most journalists are better versed in narrative nuance than joules and air coefficients. What makes Reddit users any different than journalists? Our credentials are just laminated name tags we wear on lanyards.

    We have ample picture and video of this event, unlike almost all others. I say open season.

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