Noilly Prattle: Blood Sport

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blood Sport

    Whatever happened to to the notion of impartial justice?

       Seems as though the “suspects” in the Boston Marathon bombing have been accused, tried and (in the case of one) executed—all as a spectator sport in the mass media. It has been chillingly fascinating to see the reaction of the media spectators clearly on an adrenalin rush, couched in piety, pity, prayer and patriotism. Betraying more about the angry or sorrowful or simply bored character of the spectators than the guilt of the “suspects”, these people were clearly engaging in a blood sport much as if they were at an ice hockey game or soccer match that has gone over the edge.

       The bombing of the marathon was, to be sure, a spectacularly disconcerting (although not particularly surprising) event, as is any act of such violence whether it be a game changer like the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, one of the series of mass killings that seemingly occur on a regular basis or military adventures in foreign countries where the death tolls are quietly swept under the rug. Understandably, there is a great deal of pressure on the authorities to do something to calm the fears and hysteria of the population in the immediate vicinity of the event. The pressure to appear to have things under official control can lead to hasty media interviews to feed the 24-hour media cycle with “news” which tends to end up becoming a loop of fuzzy information feeding on itself and increasing the demand for more action and more spurious information.

       So, we have authorities under pressure, showing grainy pictures and deciding that two of the figures in the clip are “suspicious”, naming them as suspects and go on what can only be called a wild, highly visible Hollywood-flick-style manhunt ending in a spectacular shootout that Sam Peckinpah could have scripted. Yet, the brothers were and still are only suspects, one dead and one in critical condition with Miranda rights waived because of possible terror implications. Should the second suspect die, we will be no closer to understanding the whys and wherefores of the marathon bombing. Yet the spectators were deliriously happy and cheering on the capture of the second suspect—in one case even suggesting waterboarding him—clearly unconcerned whether or not he was really guilty of the crime. Are we witnessing a new kind of participatory interactive blood sport entertainment—movies and video games come live to Main Street in a theater of the macabre?

       Isn't it just possible that a quieter, out of camera range, sober investigation of whatever leads the authorities had might have led to harder evidence, a proper arrest and criminal trial—justice without the spectacle of the media trial and execution we have just witnessed? They used to call this a lynching back in the day.   


Anonymous said...


I live here. I was there, at the marathon. I think that your observation, from afar, might be skewed.

First of all, silly Bostonians that we are, few of us imagined,, maybe the police, but none of us peons could were thinking that such a thing could or would happen. And, the majority of the people that I know, aren't HAPPY about any of this.

There is a real sadness and that two young men, who looked like any of millions of Boston college students, here, seem to have done this. There are lots of questions still to be answered.

You saw celebrating, did you??? Yes, there was a REAL sense of relief. There was an unbelievable pall over our city and our state…fear, etc. So, people were celebrating their safety and the work that the police did and that all seemed to be over.

Don't mistake that for a 'lynching mentality'.

As far as 'quieter, out of the camera range investigation', it seems, in these days of mass media, that isn't possible. That is a sad thing, I agree.


Anonymous said...

Here is a post script, Joe:

Having just come back from taking my cliebt to the Episcopal Church, I wanted you to know that the sermon had the following elements: based on a supposed Native American story...'we all have a light wolf and a dark wolf in each of us...which one wins depends on which one is fed, we all make mistakes,Christ preached forgiveness,etc.' Get the idea? I am not sure WHAT you are being 'fed'butyou can choose to believe it or not. My bet is that people are basically good and that those who show abberant behavior sell newspapers and end up on the news. R

Noilly Prattle said...

Dear Ronnie,

You're point is well taken. When you are inside the crucible it is impossible not to be swayed by emotions. Outside it, as you point out, it is possible to be more objective (as opposed to “skewed”). I see the event from this larger, less emotionally involved perspective (as well as in its historical context). I deliberated over whether to post it or not given that the wound in Boston is still pretty raw. But, I see things as I see things, and I decided to post it knowing that I was inviting criticism (I even thought I might get hate mail).

By historical context I mean that the Boston bombing fits into the general pattern of violence that we are witnessing. And that violence is exploited by the mass media as a kind of macabre form of participatory entertainment—reality TV if you like. I suppose it was inevitable that addiction to media would lead to demand for more and more sensation (even including fear)—and the 24-hour news cycle milks a stunning event like the marathon bomb and ensuing manhunt for as long as it can. This is the point I was making in this post. There is, so far, only circumstantial evidence regarding the guilt of these two “young men”, yet they have been accused, tried and one executed in the mass media. Sorry, but all the emotions of Bostonians cannot justify this trial by public outrage.


Ronnie said...

I agree with you, re: the media. It is a 'feeding frenzy' all over the world. One can only remember Princess Diana, yes?

I chose not to watch the round the clock media.

But people DO have brains and can think for themselves.

ps. my comments were not meant as 'hate mail'…I hope you know that

Noilly Prattle said...

I don't think media is inherently bad, it depends on how it's used. (I know that sounds like "guns don't kill, people do".) Even though people have physical brains and can, theoretically, think for themselves, it isn't hard to condition them, especially in the mass, to think as the conditioner wants them to. Societies all do this. It's what makes people identify as, say, French, or Israeli, or American, etc., and think of non- (fill-in-the-blank) as "the others". I think, to be a truly thinking person, you have to overcome your conditioning and become in effect "international man".

But, getting back to media, the media seems to seek the lowest common denominator encouraging sensation instead of thought in the viewing public. I think this is what leads to the "feeding frenzy" you referred to. This is evident in the whole media handling of the Boston Marathon event as it is in all previous incidents of violence, especially mass killings. Since the viewing audience is rarely personally touched by the victims plight, it can only be that they seek sensations in my opinion. They cannot experience the real grief of the victims' families, they can only be voyeurs making it, I imagine, worse for the real grievers.

Yes, of course I remember the Diana story. It supports my contention.

Ha-ha, no, of course I know that your comments are not hate mail. Feel free to express your own opinions any time. I may or may not agree, but always honor sincere attempts to make sense of things that cannot be made sense of. Life and the universe don't make sense, they simply are.