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Censorship Chronicles/Dystopian Diary: Media and the Marathon Bombing

Yesterday, I watched snippets of Stewart and Colbert with my friends. The only marathon bombing coverage they brought up in the bits that I saw focused on making fun of on-scene reporters: one said that the eerie silence in Watertown felt as if “a bomb had been dropped”, others stumbled through futile attempts to keep the coverage fresh in between important updates. Given the frequently loftier scope of Stewart and Colbert’s satire, it seemed a bit off for them to be poking fun at reporters burdened with keeping audiences occupied while having nothing to report for extended periods of time.

What they should (and might have, I missed large chunks of the episodes) have focused all their attention on was how quickly the vacuum of knowledge about the bombers’ plans, influences, and motives was filled with the droning of desperate, stupid, or pandering journalists looking to wring every possible connection dry until they had pooled enough sputum together to cough up a narrative.

Sensationalist joke Eliza Shapiro’s headline: “Is Tamerlan Tsarnaev Named After a Brutal Warlord?”

What? Are you fucking serious? Is Eliza Shapiro named after ELIZA, a chatterbot who can string together sentences that other humans sometimes confuse for being ¬†sentient? Or maybe she was named after Elizabeth Bathory, the ‘Countess of Blood’ who murdered and mutilated hundreds of young women in a 25 year run as maybe the most ‘prolific female serial killer in history’ (Wikipedia)?

I don’t have the answer as to how Eliza Shapiro received her name and neither does her article for Tsarnaev. And the tragic beauty of this purely speculative piece of garbage is that, even if the answer to the question it poses is a definitive no, the connection has been established. Infection through inception. I don’t know if the Daily Beast is supposed to be ‘respectable’ or not but if it strives to be, certain writers and editor(s) should never again be allowed to publish in its name.

Speaking of speculative connections, there’s one other thing I could never stop thinking about during the initial combing for suspects. I’m not Muslim or Chechen, but I’m Chinese-American, and I could just imagine the shit people would be saying if the bomber were of the same background and origin that I am. If I were the bomber, beyond saying things like “this man played games online under the original Georgian name of Josef Stalin” and “this man read and encouraged some of his more open-minded friends to read the manifesto of Theodore Kacyznski”, the media would be all over how I’m some kind of Chinese sleeper agent, how there could be more out there under some kind of secret communist plan, how my brief visits to China in recent years (totalling about 9 months) brought me into contact with this or that person, or allowed me to be brainwashed by the CCP. They’d speculate that most of my family still lives in China because the Chen clan’s heart never left there. They’d suspect that my mom, who has worked for the federal government for most of her career in the states, is passing along sensitive secrets and techniques from finance and the department of judicial conduct to help the Chinese deal with their own graft and corruption bugs. They might even dig up that Ed made a joke about my being captured by the Chinese government back in 2004/05, and conclude that this actually happened, and was where the brainwashing took place.

And most importantly, their empty speculations would make life significantly more difficult for Asian Americans everywhere.

People love to say shit about learning from the past and all that, but I really wonder to what extent this is true for a large number of people given public voices in American society. As long as there are Eliza Shapiros and people who listen to them, we’ve got a long way to go.

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