Rushing to Judgment Against Those Society Fears

When the Oklahoma City bombings first happened, the first suspects were innocent Muslims.

In Boston, the FBI rushed to search the home of a Saudi student injured in the blast. Why does the Washington Post, when reporting that he wasn't involved, refers to him as a "witness" instead of a victim. He sustained serious burns, why isn't he a victim just like the American victims?

In Texas, there was rampant speculation the Aryan Brotherhood or drug smugglers were responsible for the murders of two Texas prosecutors and one of their wives. The New York Times even ran a chart with pictures of "possibly connected" Aryan Brotherhood crimes. Arrests have now been made. While arrests are not indicative of guilt, one of the two arrested admitted participating in the killings with her husband, a disgruntled former Justice of the Peace. [More...]

Monday was Patriot's Day in Boston. It's pretty obvious by now this was not the work of a foreign terror faction. Was it a lone sicko or a domestic extremist group? That remains to be seen.

I turned off the TV within an hour of learning of the Boston attacks. Why? So I wouldn't have to listen to self-proclaimed experts like this one.

The rush to blame those society dislikes or fears is unfair to them, their families and their communities. It is also an embarrassment to the media which promotes the speculation by booking terror no-nothings it calls experts who ignorantly push the baseless speculation. Muslims are right to be concerned and it's a concern we should all share.

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    We see, and are being trained to accept (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by scribe on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 10:59:58 AM EST
    as normal, scapegoating of the unpopular as the norm.  The singling out of "dark-skinned males" as suspects (which Rev. Al teed-off on yesterday), the gathering of a lynch mob at the US courthouse after the false reports of an arrest having been made, the demands for faster investigation, the singling out of the injured man for "suspect" or "person of interest" status along with hints about Midle Eastern ethnicity, and this congresscritter or that going on the tube to talk about how terrism inspires knuckleheads and gives them ideas.  All these are symptoms of a sick society turning on itself.  I was brought by watching this unfold to think about a movie I haven't seen in years:  Fritz Lang's M from 1931.  The synopsis is that a psycho is stalking and murdering little girls in Weimar-era Berlin, resulting in a police investigation so intense it's getting in the way of ordinary criminals being criminals, who then go to find the killer so as to get the cops opff their backs.  I went to IMDB and saw a very cogent review, from which I'll share the last couple paragraphs, adding some emphasis of my own:

    Beyond its technical brilliance, the keys to M's lasting impact are its psychologically convincing portrait of Hans Beckert's twisted compulsion and the still relevant ambivalence of his capture and "trial." Unlike contemporary cinematic examples of the serial killer, Beckert is not presented simply as a grotesque psychopath. Nor is the issue of how society should deal with him at all clear-cut. To be sure, the gut-reaction of most film audiences is to root on the underworld mobsters and petty thieves who, beating the established authorities to their mutual quarry, capture Beckert and bring him to a mock- formal trial whose conclusion is foregone. Like many in America today, Beckert's accusers are disinclined to listen to insanity pleas and would just as soon be rid of the "monster" in the surest way possible: a summary death penalty with as little fretting about legal rights as possible. Considering the heinousness of Beckert's crimes and the imperfections of a legal/medical system that could well turn him loose to kill again, this emotional response is hard to resist. Yet M is by no means an endorsement of vigilantism - quite the contrary. Through the unlikely rhetorical persuasions of Beckert's unkempt "court appointed" defense attorney and Beckert's own impassioned monologue, Lang strongly implies that impatience with democratic judicial procedure and a paranoid eagerness to scapegoat others (guilty or not) in the name of order are symptomatic of the social hysteria breeding Nazism in 1930s Germany. That the ruthless killer who heads the underworld looks, dresses, and gestures like a Gestapo officer is no accident. Moreover, the letter "M" chalked on Beckert's back by one of his pursuers not only stands for "murderer" but also alludes to God's marking of Cain. While the popular misconception holds that the mark of Cain symbolizes his evil, it in fact represents God's warning to Cain's flawed fellow creatures not to mete out wrathful vengeance, but to leave justice in God's hands. Translated into secular terms (and literally entering the shot from the top of the frame), God's hands in M belong to the legitimate authorities that intervene at the last moment to arrest and try Hans Beckert "in the name of the Law."

    Unfortunately, the hands of the law in today's America are themselves stirring the pot of prejudice, for their own ends.

    Well, the movie deserved one. (none / 0) (#17)
    by scribe on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 01:17:05 PM EST
    IMHO, it's one movie everyone should see.  It's worth learning German just to avoid having to read subtitles.

    Agree (none / 0) (#27)
    by sj on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 05:02:12 PM EST
    I can't recall the movie I was researching recently, but whatever it was also had a surprisingly literate review. So every now and then they do alright.

    We don't have (none / 0) (#1)
    by DebFrmHell on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 11:02:06 PM EST
    an Open thread for today, but there was a huge explosion in West, TX about 20min north of Waco. AFAIK, at least 40 critical, hundreds others are injured or without shelter tonight. 4 blocks on fire or leveled.

    Live Feed

    I'll start a new thread for it (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 11:03:39 PM EST
    and will have an open thread in the morning. thanks for the reminder.

    layers and layers of speculating (none / 0) (#3)
    by f2000 on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 03:57:33 AM EST
    when reporting that he wasn't involved, refers to him as a "witness"

    Possibly due to the fact that by the time he was listed as not a person of interest, we learned that he was going to be deported for national security reasons. Which doesn't necessarily make him not a victim, but it does sort of muddy the waters. And reporters often struggle in those situations.

    Monday was Patriot's Day in Boston.

    Which, as yet, has no connection at all to any motive beyond the sort of rampant speculation that you decry above.

    It's pretty obvious by now this was not the work of a foreign terror faction.

    That may turn out to be true, but why is it pretty obvious now? All we know is that 2 explosives were detonated and the police have 2 suspects they've identified from videos and photos of the event. Their affiliation and motive is not known.

    Was it a lone sicko or a domestic extremist group? That remains to be seen.

    So.... we shouldn't speculate?

    It doesn't muddy the waters at all (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by sj on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 10:39:27 AM EST
    He is injured.  That makes him a victim. Or is your assumption that all the other victims are in a state of Grace?  They are human, as are we all.

    As for being deported "for national security reasons"... well lots of things that are unjust are being done "for national security reasons".  And I just did a search for confirmation and see that apparently this speculation came out of a Hannity segment and is now being taken as gospel by rightwing sites.  I didn't look at too many -- I couldn't stand the cesspool.  Where did you hear this?


    I hope... (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 11:17:41 AM EST
    the reports the poor guy is being deported are more bullsh*t from the jump the gun media, because that would be ice f8ckin' cold.

    Even the police (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 10:56:40 AM EST
    And federal officials have called him a victim.

    The Saudi Arabian man whose apartment was searched by Boston Marathon bombing investigators is not a person of interest in the continuing search for the persons responsible for Monday's terrorist attack.

    "He has been checked out,'' said a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. "He is not involved. He is just a victim.''

    And even the Saudi embassy refer to him as a "witness", so the Washington Post is not completely off base here.

    Also earlier today, a spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington said US officials had told the embassy Monday night that the man was not a suspect and was cooperating with the investigation.

    "He's been fully cooperating with authorities. We were informed by US authorities that no Saudi is a suspect," said Nail Aljubeir.

    "We want to know about it [the investigation] as much as everybody else. "We're working very closely with US authorities on this. As of yesterday, we were informed that there were no Saudi suspects. He's more a witness than anything else," he said.

    It is not obvious that it wasn't foreign (none / 0) (#4)
    by Slado on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 06:33:46 AM EST
    Really is nothing to substantiate that.

    It will be one or the other.

    We should all just wait and see.

    Rush and judgment (none / 0) (#5)
    by SuzieTampa on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 08:44:36 AM EST
    Early speculation on who is guilty in Boston and North Texas is part of the 24/7 news cycle in which media puts up information not yet confirmed to satisfy readers/viewers. It's why I saw a headline on this blog this morning that read: "Waco Explosion: 60 to 70 Dead."

    The Aryan Brotherhood in north Texas has done plenty to instill fear in their area. (One of my sisters lives there.) People who use or threaten violence to control others shouldn't be surprised if they fall under suspicion when violence occurs.

    Suspicion about Muslims didn't materialize out of thin air. The U.S. is in violent conflict with people who commit acts of terrorism in the name of Islam. But, obviously, the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists, and I decry the guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude of many.  

    Its a double edge sword (none / 0) (#6)
    by Slado on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 08:57:05 AM EST
    Statistics are true and certain types of people are more likely to commit certain crimes then others.  

    However as a lay person, not in law enforcement, I'll leave the use of these statistics to them and wait and see who is guilty of certain crimes.  

    I applaud Jeralyn for her post as she is an honest advocate for the accused but even in her post she makes an uneducated assumption claiming that it's obvious the bomber was home grown.

    Everyone just needs to calm down and save the political thoughts for after we find out who did this.   At that time we can weigh in on what it means for us and our society.    Until then let the police do their job.


    I believe that Jeralyn prefers sticking to (none / 0) (#7)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 09:04:07 AM EST
    what has been proven, what can be proven, or what is in the process of being proven.

    Without that standard blogs can quickly degenerate into rumor mongering and paranoid frothing.


    99.9% of the time I agree with you (none / 0) (#8)
    by Slado on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 09:32:42 AM EST
    But she did make the statement

    It's pretty obvious by now this was not the work of a foreign terror faction.

    That simply is an opinion at this point.


    This is a rush to judgement (none / 0) (#12)
    by ding7777 on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 11:16:54 AM EST
    It's pretty obvious by now this was not the work of a foreign terror faction.

    If Only People Would Stop Speculating... (none / 0) (#15)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 12:56:47 PM EST
    It's pretty obvious by now this was not the work of a foreign terror faction.

    While I agree, it's still speculation.

    It's human nature, it's what drives innovation and advancement, and there is nothing wrong with it so long it based on something beyond fear.  It's how the human brain solves problems.  

    The real problem to me is 'news' organizations, who people look to for facts, have long ago realized that there's money in speculation, even when they are wrong.  News should be the source to take all the speculation and and investigate and reveal what happened, not what some clown thinks probably happened.

    For the record, the Brotherhood speculation was based on a lot of things including the prison admin who was just shot and the killer being found in the area of the other murders.  It was sound speculation, like believing Boston was not the work of foreign terrorists.  That is miles from speculating an explosion was the work of Muslims.

    the websites where amateur sleuths are .... (none / 0) (#16)
    by magster on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 01:15:18 PM EST
    posting various theories about whodunnit from available pictures and video, I have to admit, are interesting.

    Supposedly the Lord and Taylor's department store has video of someone dropping the backpack, and that the photo will be made public.

    I heard on the news (none / 0) (#18)
    by MKS on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 01:32:41 PM EST
    that the investigators will hold off for now on releasing photos of those dropping the bags.....because they will be inundated with calls and tips and right now they may be able to identify and catch the perpetrators with what they already have by themnselves.  They will go public if they can't find the perpetrators on their own.....Or so they say.

    And (none / 0) (#20)
    by lentinel on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 01:53:38 PM EST
    then there is also the possibility that the people shown in the photos may not be the actual ones who placed the bombs.

    Circulating the photos before the investigators are absolutely certain of the culpability of those shown could have disastrous results for people who might be innocent of any crime.


    I thought the L & T video.... (none / 0) (#22)
    by magster on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 02:04:45 PM EST
    is pretty definitive, from what I've seen on the news, for whatever that info is worth.

    I (none / 0) (#23)
    by lentinel on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 02:15:16 PM EST
    hadn't yet seen it.

    Thanks for the information.


    I should have said heard on news. I (none / 0) (#25)
    by magster on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 02:40:12 PM EST
    haven't seen it either.

    There (none / 0) (#19)
    by lentinel on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 01:47:48 PM EST
    term, "Rush to Judgment" which leads this thread, was coined by Mark Lane, an attorney, in the early nineteen sixties relating to the mob mentality generated by the media regarding Lee Harvey Oswald and the presumption of guilt.

    That was over fifty years ago.
    And we have not progressed one inch.

    Who are you to judge us? (none / 0) (#21)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 02:00:58 PM EST
    I'm (none / 0) (#24)
    by lentinel on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 02:27:11 PM EST
    not judging you.

    I'm saying that the phrase, "Rush to Judgement" was coined over fifty years ago relating to the quick pronouncements by the police and the media regarding the assumed guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald.

    It is still in use today because we still experience the same hysteria, particularly from the media, but also from some sectors of law enforcement - although I will say that the police and FBI have been very cautious in their pronouncements regarding the tragedy in Boston.

    But the media seems to me to be as over the top and out of control as ever. I think we have just seen it with the bogus pronouncements by CNN and FOX - and the likes of "experts" like the one linked to by Jeralyn above.

    If the phenomenon of rushing to judgement was not still current, we would not still be using that phrase - fifty years after it was coined.

    That's all I meant to say.


    I was just playing. (none / 0) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 06:25:20 PM EST
    Re the FBI released images & video... (none / 0) (#26)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 04:49:18 PM EST

    I could be wrong but that guy doesn't look old enough to have built up a good head of resentment about the tax system/April 15th.