Five Best Friday Columns

D.B. Grady on the high-definition coverage of the Boston bombers, Joan Walsh on Ruslan Tsarni's televised outburst, Jack Shafer on the New York Post's irresponsible bombing coverage, John Kass on the information gathering of the Boston bombings, and Joan Wickersham on the words of trauma.

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D.B. Grady at The Week on the high-definition coverage of the Boston bombers How should we grieve victims of the Boston Marathon bombings? "One need not have been in clear and present danger to sufficiently grieve," argues D.B. Grady, who observes the odd dynamic, present in our conversations and on cable TV, that emphasizes physical proximity to disaster. "No one among us needs to see the finish-line scaffolding engulfed in plumes of white smoke, nor that first runner fall to the ground —ball-bearing-shrapnel plunged into his femur — to understand the gravity of the situation, or appreciate the implications for personal safety at public gatherings. Nor do we need the name and face of the child slain in the attack to recognize that the indiscriminate slaughter of children is bad (or more importantly, is the modern reality). None of that is necessary to impart the urgency or import of the matter. But there it is, in high definition." Writing from Newton, Massachusetts, Esquire's Charles Pierce adds that to see his hometown projected on TV is to watch it transform. "Right now, the fundamental geography of my daily life has changed forever," he writes. "It is circumscribed by violence. And I am watching all of this on television. This pretty plainly is not most days."

Joan Walsh at Salon on Ruslan Tsarni's televised outburst As Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of Boston bombings suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, spoke heatedly before reporters and cameras on Friday morning, he communicated what it is to be an immigrant in America, says Joan Walsh. "Tsarni's rant wasn’t exactly what law enforcement might have advised: A soothing person giving young Dzhokhar a reason to come out of his hiding place alive, and to cooperate with officials in revealing whether there may be more hidden bombs as well as what his and his late brother Tamerlan’s motives were," she begins. "But it was a window on an ancient American story: The anguish of immigrants when one of their own becomes notorious, and shames not only his family, but his entire ethnic group." Tsarni's impassioned praise of America didn't go unnoticed, either. "Ruslan Tsarni ... is the definition of a great American," wrote Keith Olbermann. "If his sentiments about USA don't make you tear up, get checked." MSNBC's S.E. Cupp addressing Tsarni, added, "Ruslan Tsarni, don't be ashamed. Your pride in America and Chechnya is remarkable. Your nephews may be losers, but you are not."

Jack Shafer at Reuters on the New York Post's irresponsible bombing coverage Assessing the New York tabloid's instantly notorious "BAG MEN" cover, which insinuating that a local runner and his coach were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, Jack Shafer writes, "The [New York Post] ... appears not to care whether it gets a memorable story right or wrong. It only hopes to produce a memorable story, damn the truth value." Shafer goes on to reject editor Col Allan's defense of the cover, which rests on the paper not calling the two men "suspects": "The Post didn’t call the backpacked and duffel-carrying young fellows on its cover page 'suspects.' It did something more incendiary. It called them bag men, which is slang for criminals who perform deliveries and run errands for other criminals. In other words, the Post transferred the two young men from the category of innocent-until-proven-guilty 'suspects' to criminal carriers, presumably of bombs." The paper, he says, "has defined the basement into which no media outlet that wants respect wishes to descend." Writing at Bloomberg View, meanwhile, Tobin Harshaw argues that social media in some ways bested established media outlets, by focusing on how to make sense of things. "The discussion on Web sites, blogs and social media over the past 12 hours has already pushed forward a number of themes and observations that will be valuable in making sense of what happened at the Boston Marathon finish line. It is certainly an improvement on hours of television anchors filling dead air time with banalities."

John Kass at the Chicago Tribune on the information gathering of the Boston bombings Discussing news network CNN's erroneous reporting that a "dark-skinned male" had been arrested on Wednesday afternoon, John Kass offers a remedy to TV's obsession with delivering information quickly and loudly. "Instead of running crawls that drip with menacing crimson imperative, maybe CNN should try something like this when there's nothing new to report about what happened in Boston: ... WE WANT TO TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENED, BUT GUESS WHAT? ... WE JUST DON'T KNOW YET. … WE DON'T HAVE THE FACTS. …" He adds, "I can't speak for the TV networks. I'm a newspaperman. And newspaper editors love it when reporters bring them hot news. Yet there are eight little words that the best newspaper editors also like: I just don't know. But I'll find out. Those words aren't easy to say, especially when there's a big story and the competition is boiling like a piranha tank." Opinion writer David Sirota echoed the same sentiment in his treatment of pundits responding to the Boston bombings: "At this point in a column published during the official Catastrophe Aftermath, a writer is supposed to authoritatively offer solutions. But I have none. And you know what? That’s OK because it is entirely human to lack answers right now."

Joan Wickersham in The Boston Globe on the words of trauma "Words are being thrown around, but the more they are used, the more layered and elusive their meanings become," notes Joan Wickersham, who inspects certain words being used a lot recently — terrorhealingbravery — and finds multiple dimensions of meaning. One example: "Lockdown. This is a scary, apocalyptic word. What does it mean? It used to be associated with prisons. Now it goes out over school e-mail and voicemail systems. ... There’s a weird dissociation between the alarmism of the word and the lack of clarity about the mundane details of its implementation." About the word "marathon": "It's hard to imagine that anyone will ever casually mention the Marathon again." At The Washington Post Charles Krauthammer ponders the word "terrorism" — and the way our political leaders use it to describe Monday's attacks. "The president said that terrorism is any bombing aimed at civilians. Not quite. Terrorism is any attack on civilians for a political purpose. Until you know the purpose, you can’t know if it is terrorism."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.