The Boston Bombing and the Restless Ghosts of 9/11

I’ve started a bunch of blog posts since the events in Watertown last week and left all of them unfinished. This story should be red meat for me, what with its Infowars-reading conspirators and its rich cast of Obamaphobe and Islamaphobe exploiters, not to mention how it is playing into the politics of immigration reform–but I have to admit I find it completely depressing.  It feels like everyone in the media is trying to push my buttons; writer after writer is telling me what and how I feel.  The “Boston bombing,” Ron Fournier declared, “Might be Scarier than 9/11.”

Never mind the outlandish conspiracy theories about false flags; pay no attention to the agenda-driven insistence that the bombing was an act of war carried out by international Islam; set aside the outrage at the very idea that its perpetrators might have been troubled jihadist-sympathizers acting on their own. Ignore the predictable but absurd efforts to hold Obama personally responsible for it–as Jeffrey T. Kuhner did, in an op ed in The Washington Times that demanded that he be impeached for his failed “policies of appeasement and multicultural outreach to the Muslim world.” The so-called mainstream press was only a little more skeptical than the Alex Joneses and Ann Coulters of the world; it did as much and more to spread hysteria as they did.

An “M-4 carbine rifle — a weapon similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan — [was found] on the boat where the younger suspect was found Friday night in Watertown, Mass,” The New York Times reported the Sunday after Dzokhar was taken into custody. “Two handguns and a BB gun that the authorities believe the brothers used in an earlier shootout with officers in Watertown were also recovered, said one official briefed on the investigation. The authorities said they believe the suspects had fired roughly 80 rounds in that shootout, in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was fatally wounded.” Note the specificity of what turns out to have been a completely specious leak–80 rounds, a BB gun (what?); “a weapon similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan” (aha! blowback!). The brothers, as it turned out, had one gun between them (they tried to steal the MIT officer’s gun after they killed him, but they couldn’t get it out of its holster). The transit cop who was so grievously wounded in the first shootout was very likely struck by friendly fire. Dzokhar was unarmed when he was arrested (though panicked police believed they had exchanged gunfire with him).

All of the usual suspects are grabbing for a piece of this thing, it seems, but there’s a compulsive quality to the exploitation. Watching the talkers on Fox News is a little like watching alcoholics joylessly pretend to be celebrating something.

Glenn Beck tried his darnedest to work up Benghazi levels of fear and loathing with his exclusives on the Saudi student, but the story hasn’t particularly caught fire. James Tracy–the Florida Atlantic University professor who garnered outraged national attention last winter when he declared that the grieving families in Newtown were actors–has dutifully posted “evidence” that purports to show that the explosions were, surprise, a “mass-casualty drill” carried out by actors.  His close analysis of the photographs of the maimed and bleeding victims reveal a host of anomalies, he claims. For example, “the fourth and fifth photos show the man wearing the hoodie garment apparently helping the injured man/amputee with his right leg. Could he be removing this man’s prosthetic?”  Why the charade? Because, “much like 9/11, Oklahoma City, Aurora, and Newtown, an official storyline complete with the execution and/or capture of bad-guy culprits has been forged and vigorously drummed into the public mind….The upshot will be a continued program of more intensified repression at taxpayer expense alongside a corresponding erosion of civil liberties.” First time tragedy, second time farce: the media has mostly yawned at Tracy’s story-telling.

Saturday night, the New York local news was full of breathless stories about the discovery of a piece of landing gear wedged between 51 Park Place and 50 Murray Street. 51 Park Place is the old Burlington Coat Factory, the site of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” which was vigorously protested by Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Newt Gingrich and other Islamophobic carpetbaggers because it was “sacred ground,” located so near to the WTC that  it was damaged when it was struck by one of the planes’ landing gear.  The fact that a piece of airplane would be found at a building that was known to have been struck by landing gear should be the ultimate dog bites man story. But it’s not. “Was 9/11 landing gear found beside mosque lowered there by opponents of development? Extraordinary claims following stunning find,” reads the headline at the Daily Mail.

“Will all the Leftists and Islamic supremacists who have been insisting since the height of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy that this building was not part of Ground Zero stop the propaganda now that apparently landing gear crashed into this building not once, but twice?” Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer incoherently demanded–for all the world as if people like me who don’t have a problem with a mosque being located near the site of the World Trade Center have been arguing about geography and not religious freedom.

Reading about the mosque again reminded me of a local story that never made the front pages.

Last year, a serial killer started killing Brooklyn shopkeepers. The first victim was Mohamed Galebi, the 65-year-old owner of a clothing store in Bay Ridge. The second was Isaac Kadare, the 59-year-0ld proprietor of a Bensonhurst discount store. The third was Vahidipour Rahmatollah, 78, who ran a clothing store near where I live.

There was speculation at first that the shops’ addresses had numerological significance. Then of course there was the fact that all three victims were Middle Eastern (though Rahmatollah was an Iranian Jew). When the police arrested the killer, he turned out to be Salvatore Perrone, an Italian American clothing salesman who lived in Staten Island. He knew all the victims and the murder weapon was recovered from his apartment; he admitted to the killings but refused to reveal his motive, because he said he was a secret agent. Then two Italian-speaking detectives stepped in, pretending that they had been sent by Rome to debrief him. He told them that he had acted under orders from the “Italian CIA” and that he was expecting to receive $800,000 for the job. According to the local blog DNA Info, when “Yasmin Rahmatollah, the latest victim’s daughter” was told this, she said that she was “struggling to understand all the information” that was coming out. “Whoever it is must be psychotic,” she said.

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine that a Middle Eastern serial killer was shooting Italian American store owners. Something tells me there’d be a lot more certainty about motives and the like.


6 thoughts on “The Boston Bombing and the Restless Ghosts of 9/11

  1. I have a conspiratorial nature myself -I thought there was a possibility it was planted there to gun u anti-Muslim feelings. When I saw the picture it looked like it was sitting in an alley and I questioned who no one noticed it if that was the case for what 12 years almost? I guess it wasn’t landing gear but part of the wing,

  2. So someone grabbed a five foot by three foot piece of airplane off the street and stashed it in the days after 9/11, just in case they might need it 12 years later to cast aspersions on some Muslims? Easier by far to believe that it fell into an almost inaccessible alleyway between two big buildings–especially when we know that pieces of airplane rained onto the building.

    The most infuriating thing about the anti-mosque people is they act like the Muslims are interlopers in the neighborhood. Many of the businesses in the area are owned by Islamic people; if you stand on the corner and watch the people walking by, you’ll see hijabs, turbans, kippahs, baseball caps, do-rags, and everything else in between–it’s a busy part of a busy city, in which some 600,000 Muslims live. Holding all of them responsible for what happened on 9/11 or April 15 isn’t just ugly–it’s kind of insane.

  3. I agree with everything in this post, but I must single out one line for special attention. “Watching the talkers on Fox News is a little like watching alcoholics joylessly pretend to be celebrating something” is the nicest and most apt turn of phrase I’ve come across in many weeks. Could there be a better description?

  4. I wonder if there’s something, well, biological, about our insanity; something innate. How can I explain all the crazy ideas that get traction in the media and blogosphere etc….? I know they were around before the internet but it sure has inflamed the crazies. I’m glad I don’t watch TV……

    1. Good observation. Maybe it is a question of whether we control what we think, or what we think controls us. For most people, most of the time, it seems to be the latter. And all of us, once in a while, fall into the same trap.

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