Boston, the US, and phobia

Considering that this is a final push homework week, I have been getting most of my information of the world online over the past few days. I watched the Boston Globe site and followed Boston Police’s Twitter feed for my news during the city-wide voluntary lockdown (and stayed home!). Perfect example of using social media to learn about what is going on, as I taught my 11th graders this semester. They were learning about the Arab Spring.

Which brings me to a couple interesting points.

With the Boston Marathon bombing, social media went berserk. People found “suspects” who weren’t really suspects. A Saudi person here as a student was fingered as a suspect simply because he is Saudi and was injured in the bombing. Social media say there were Craft International operatives because they saw two guys with the skull logo on their hats (which, by the way, looks like the Punisher logo. And anyone can buy the hat). Social media fingered a missing Brown student as a suspect when this student has been missing for months. They pointed out a Boston student and the NY Post ran with the article based solely on social media. I think the International Business Times article sums it up well. Sites, like Reddit, are against d0xxing (hunting for and disseminating personal information) and still created so much havoc in the news in regards to this tragedy.

The Boston Marathon bombing suspect, who is now in custody, is an American citizen who came from Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders Chechnya, when he was younger. He went to Cambridge Ringe and Latin for high school. It is thought he recently became an anti-American extremist, but no one will know a motive for sure until after he can talk again.

This does not mean that every person from Russia is an extremist. This does not mean that every Muslim (because news is saying the brothers were/are Muslim) is an extremist. This is like saying that every Baptist is like Westboro Baptist Church.

I have friends across many nationalities, many backgrounds, and many religions. I cannot imagine if one of them were pointed out by social media as a terrorist suspect because they were racially profiled. Does this mean that every Irish person is part of the Irish Republican Army (Óglaigh na hÉireann)? Does this mean that every Italian person is part of the Mafia (cosa nostra)? Believe me, if that were true, I would have some serious connections, especially since I still have family in Sicily!

I think my points are this:

1) Social media is not always a reliable source. Sometimes, it can be downright dangerous. I’m not saying that social media is bad, far from it, but we need to be careful about what we share and believe online (which is exactly what I told my students);

2) Cite your sources. Evaluate your sources. Compare news. Just because the one source says something, doesn’t mean it is true;

3) Racial profiling is bad. Period.


That being said, I highly suggest that everyone read Little Brother and Homeland by Cory Doctorow. A little paranoia is a good thing, because not everything is always as it seems. However, that does not negate anything I said above. After all, CISPA passed in the house again.


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