Photo by Zoe Hu/The Gazelle

Boston bombings: Leave search to police

Photo by Zoe Hu/The Gazelle The recent Boston bombings and subsequent manhunt, lockdown, capture and now trial, are arguably some of the most ...

Photo by Zoe Hu/The Gazelle
The recent Boston bombings and subsequent manhunt, lockdown, capture and now trial, are arguably some of the most media-saturated events in the past decade. The bombing itself was captured on numerous iPhones, iPads, smartphones, cameras and then retweeted, shared and distributed throughout social media.
Although many of today’s amateur photojournalists helped immensely with the investigation, it is increasingly apparent that our technological tools and access to an individual’s online personal diaries — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon — have made us all Sherlock Holmes, attempting to solve the riddles of who, what, when, why, before the professionals have had the time to do their jobs.
Spectators of the Boston bombings were called upon by police task forces to send in their footage in order to create an almost 360 degree view of the crime by piecing together photographs, videos and security footage. As we can see now, the joint efforts of the F.B.I., the Boston police and the evidence from individuals were key in pinpointing the two brothers who are now accused of carrying out the attacks.
However, it was the images, not the speculation, provided by the citizens of Boston that led officials to the suspected brothers. Between the bombing on Monday and the manhunt on Thursday, so many fingers were pointed and stories drawn from thin air to provide conclusions, throwing the nation for a loop. Although armed with good intentions, the speculation did nothing but put others in harm’s way, accusing innocent people of acts they did not commit and putting the investigation itself in jeopardy.
Local high school track athletes Salah Barhoun and his friend Yassine Zaime were two of the innocent bystanders at the marathon who were falsely accused of carrying out the attacks. After appearing on the front page of The New York Post, they were reported as being scared to leave their homes to go to school or work. CBS news reported that Barhoun “was so fearful on Thursday that he ran back to the high school after a track meet when he saw a man in a car staring at him and talking into a phone.”
Users of the online networking sites Reddit and 4chan created an entire section on the Boston bombings where users could place speculations, images and ideas about potential suspects. On the photos, scribbled arrows and boxes of large text were pieced together atop images, looking more like the creations of a child using Microsoft Paint than a technological sleuth.
With exponential growth of mobile technology, we have to step back and remember that although we may believe ourselves to be crime-stoppers, we certainly are not.
Because we took the investigation into our own hands, the manhunt effectively turned into a technological witch-hunt. Social media sites, even reputable news sources, strove to be the first to get to the bottom of the case, with or without hard evidence provided by the F.B.I. and police. Where is the journalistic integrity to use good sources, to provide accurate accounts? When the lives and reputations of innocent bystanders are put into question because of the careless actions by news sources journalists, shouldn’t there be consequences?
Even though the manhunt has ended and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lays in a Boston hospital bed with a respirator tube down his throat, we continue to speculate as to why and how the two brothers carried out the attacks. By probing into his past, his tweets, his Facebook photos and his friend’s accounts, we attempt to piece together the image of a murderer.
The problem is, we have found too normal of a guy.
Instead of focusing on taking care of the survivors and the families of the victims or trying to find clues at the scene of the crime, we focus on how his character may be questioned from every angle possible. Dissections of their online diaries revolve around their Muslim ties, their Chechen background, the older brother’s supposed alienation, as if any of these factors has credible causality with what happened. Guess what — there are plenty of young, Muslim refugees who do not bomb a city.
And yet, the witch-hunt continues. On one side, we have mounted the alleged perpetrators, and on the other, we pack on the stereotypes and images that most convene our social jury.
So, who really cares about the 82 things Tsarnaev tweeted about or what they may have followed or watched on YouTube. Heck, if someone were to check my YouTube views, they would be pretty confused, from documentaries on necrophilia to spitting llamas. What we should care about, and focus on, is the hard facts — the evidence that will stand in a court of law. Because what we should be proud of and maintain is the sense of dignity and integrity of people who do not use emotions to speculate, to draw conclusions, to actively accuse, before proven guilty.
If and when Tsarnaev is convicted in front of a jury and deemed responsible for the death of the three bombing victims, the death of the MIT officer and countless injuries, then justice will be carried out. There is no justice, and no purpose, in attempting to draw conclusions and answers from half-informed journalists and commentators.
So let’s leave the criminal and justice system to do their job and, as well-intentioned citizens, support them by being witnesses, offering testimonials and aid in investigations, instead of opening our own search.
Nicole Lopez del Carril is a staff writer. Email her at
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