Political Animal


April 19, 2013 11:42 AM Special Bulletins

By Ed Kilgore

As someone who still associates mornings like this one with the old “Special Bulletin” program interruptions the major networks used to run back when they were the only public sources for breaking news, and when such “Bulletins” usually involved something pretty important if not terrifying—the way the information is flowing out of Boston is very disorienting. Check out this “more than you’d imagine, less than you need to understand anything” report from Slate’s Dave Weigel about the dead terrorist suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev:

Readers have pointed out that Johannes Hirn made Tsarnaev the subject of a photo essay, “Will Box for Passport,” taken before the boxer competed at National Golden Gloves competition in Salt Lake City. The captions give us a micro-profile of the suspect.
“Tamerlan, who studies at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and wants to become an engineer, took the semester off from school to train for the competition.
“Tamerlan fled Chechnya with his family because of the conflict in the early 90s, and lived for years in Kazakhstan before getting to the United States as a refugee.
“Originally from Chechnya, but living in the United States since five years, Tamerlan says: ‘I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.’
“If he wins enough fights … Tamerlan says he could be selected for the US Olympic team and be naturalized American. Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia.
“Tamerlan says he doesn’t drink or smoke anymore: “God said no alcohol.” A muslim, he says: ‘There are no values anymore,” and worries that “people can’t control themselves.’”

BTW, my own first thought when I read the line, “God said no alcohol,” was that this is what a lot of my Southern Baptist friends and relatives think, too.

Most of these quotes are from the photo essay Weigel mentioned, done prior to the Golden Gloves competition in 2009. But Weigel’s account gets even weirder:

UPDATE: Justin Hart located Tamerlan’s Amazon wishlist. Among the hits:
- How to Make Driver’s Licenses and Other ID on Your Home Computer
- The I.D. Forger: Homemade Birth Certificates & Other Documents Explained
- Secrets Of A Back Alley ID Man: Fake Id Construction Techniques Of The Underground
- The Lone Wolf And the Bear: Three Centuries of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule
And, of course…
- How to Win Friends & Influence People

In a separate post, Weigel debunks a fake Twitter account attributed to the younger Tsarnaev brother that’s drawing massive attention.

So while there’s a bewildering amount of fragmented information out there even as the police search for this deadly young man, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. The old reliance on some grave man in a suit to tell you what you needed to know on a small screen had its merits along with its frustrations.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on April 19, 2013 11:57 AM:

    Hey, it's been a while since the paid terrorism "experts" have had a chance to waggle their tongues, so they're maxing-out their face-time while they can.

    I'm with you, Ed, on the 'Good Ol' Days.'

    I remember Jonestown, I was in college, and there was some brief news blurbs on TV and radio that day, and on the evening news - especially since a US Congressman was killed before everyone committed suicide.

    But I had to buy the NY Times the next day to get the details, and watch Uncle Walter that evening, as he tried to make sense of all that for me.

    Now, it seems the TV channels are have more people on, than even ran in the Boston Marathon.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on April 19, 2013 1:14 PM:

    Well, I guess I'm lucky I don't have cable tv (or a twitter account). I bet I'm missing an epic performance of sound and fury. Really I'd just prefer to wait until someone who knows something can cobble together a somewhat accurate and informative piece.

    Kinda reminds me of my first stop-everything-and-watch-even-if-nothing-is-actually-happening event: O.J.'s white Bronco low-speed chase. I remember being annoyed because it was the Friday night when summer vacation started after the 4th grade, and they interrupted the "T.G.I.F." prime time lineup on ABC (totally ruining Boy Meets World).

  • smartalek on April 19, 2013 1:20 PM:

    So, apparently "terrorist mastermind" will not be one or the sobriquets to be applied to this boy.
    I wonder what the bell-curve of IQ looks like among terrorists of different political stances?
    And I wonder just what, if anything, is on MY Amazon wishlist that might prove... embarrassing... if it were publicized?
    (*scampers off to check*)

  • rrk1 on April 19, 2013 1:26 PM:

    A media orgy of the first order. Reality TV, except it is real.

    NPR in the Boston/Mass. area has had continuous but quite responsible reporting. Mindless speculation and sensationalism have been notably, and mercifully, absent. New England Cable News, a 24/7 Comcast mill, on the other hand, is in the mode of talk-for-talk sake, nothing to report, but talk anyway. It quickly becomes tiresome. This morning they had a retired FBI 'expert' on Eastern Europe, with an accent to match, constantly saying, "Well, I don't know...We can't know that...We'll have to wait and see..." in response to just about every question she was asked. Riveting television.

  • bos'n on April 19, 2013 1:45 PM:

    As I pointed out in a comment elsewhere, I am disturbed by the hysteria surrounding this manhunt, without any presumption of innocence. I was furious about the bombing, and wanted quick justice as much as anyone, but I've seen law enforcement make too many mistakes to want the kind of vigilantism I'm seeing on our screens. Hope our legal system can do the right thing.

  • smartalek on April 19, 2013 1:47 PM:

    Mods, apologies for duplication of comment -- here it is without the links that probably sent it to moderation hold:

    Always forget something, I do.
    Musiclovers -- and Mr K in particular -- might find interesting, and apt in several respects, the.tune I've had stuck as an earworm for most of the last week or two:
    "When Universes Collide," by Gogol Bordello.
    I first heard it on npr, paired with a TED Talk on, of course, multiple universes.
    But the lyrics aren't about physics, and are chillingly apt as a soundtrack for the events of the last 18 hours or so.
    Wikipedia calls them a "Gypsy punk band," so their tunage has roots within a few thousand kilometres of the right part of the world.
    You can easily find many copies of the song, both live and in its album form, on U-Tube.
    Fair warning -- many of their tracks are highly infectious as earworm material.