A spitball for the madness in Boston - Macleans.ca

A spitball for the madness in Boston

Colby Cosh on the unfolding true-crime story in Boston


It has been a night of extraordinary scenes from Boston as the late shift gawps at an unfolding true-crime story as extraordinary as any since the O.J. Simpson saga. Earlier in the day the FBI published photos of two suspects in Tuesday’s bombing attack on the Boston Marathon. Men closely matching the description of those individuals knocked over a 7-Eleven in the city Thursday night, then are alleged to have slain a campus cop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and briefly taken a hostage. They were tracked to the suburb of Watertown, where they engaged in a spectacular firefight with at least a dozen different police forces. One man, the suspected marathon bomber depicted wearing a black cap in the FBI photos, seems to have rushed the police with an explosive attached to his chest; he was dead on arrival at hospital and doctors said he presented with “blast injuries to the trunk” along with an uncountable number of bullet holes. The other man, the one supposedly spotted at the marathon wearing a white cap, clambered into a vehicle, drove through the police cordon, and remains at large.

The internet-detective community, which has had a fairly impressive week, believed at times tonight that it had confirmed the identity of White Hat; he was thought to be a troubled Brown University student who had disappeared not long before the marathon, at around the time some pipe bombs went off in Hanover, Mass. That story is now being forcefully contradicted by, at the very least, NBC News and the AP, who are reporting that Black and White Hat are foreign nationals, resident in the U.S. for at least a year, and not students. They were initially reported to be brothers “from a region of Russia near Chechnya”; with the formal identification that followed shortly, that now seems to be an overcautious reference to Chechnya itself. At any rate, the pair are certainly ethnic Chechens, with a social media signature indicating deep devotion to Islam.

The recent terrorist attack most reminiscent of the pair’s activities, I think, is the rampage engineered by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mumbai in 2008. The Mumbai attacks were pure terrorism, random to the point almost of being nonsensical; Lashkar-e-Taiba simply gave 10 attackers some commando training, gave them loads of steroids and cocaine, and turned them loose on high-profile targets. I checked to see whether Lashkar-e-Taiba might have some recent reason for beef with the U.S.A. Turns out it has a fairly big one. I also checked to see whether Lashkar-e-Taiba has a connection with Chechnya. Turns out it has an established recent history of training Chechens in pairs for attacks on Western targets. Take it for what it’s worth (probably not much, but you never know). Here’s a good primer on LeT: the “root causes” crowd may wish to note that its “well-educated recruits defy the idea that poverty and ignorance breed extremism.”


A spitball for the madness in Boston

  1. the “root causes” crowd may wish to note that its “well-educated
    recruits defy the idea that poverty and ignorance breed extremism.”

    Poverty as a root cause of extremism and terrorism was discarded long ago, rube.

  2. White hat … Not black

    • Doh! Hat switch!

  3. That last sentence is the silliest statement to appear in print here so far. It is noteworthy that the dead “black hat” suspect reportedly recently said he had no friends in [Cambridge] because he “didn’t understand them [Americans?].” Could his alienation be a “root cause” or is it something else? Wouldn’t trying to find out, help us understand and make changes? This not-too-thinly veiled and biased shot at J. Trudeau is dumb, just dumb — and it’s insulting to people working to find ways to reduce this sort of violence.

    • Yes! An issue that the Liberals can all get behind, which will change the world for the better! A well organized, well funded effort to eradicate homesickness!

    • The strange thing is that he was described as a ‘fun person in high school and a good friend.” Perhaps he isolated himself from others. He seems to have had a friend in his brother and co-conspirator. They obviously made a pact to die for their cause.

  4. Wow, what the hell is going on with these right-wing journalist? So now the ‘root causes’ are only poverty and ignorance?

    This is just messed up. Stop twisting the truth to serve your own interest.

    • Colby’s done this odd bit before. Of course if poverty were the ONLY factor in terrorism it wouldn’tget very far at all because they’d all be too poor to accomplish anything.

      • Yes, that certainly would rule out Osama bin Ladin. No one could accuse him of being poor.

        • Austin So uses the term symptomatic above, which could be very apt.

    • I’ll bite. What’s your favourite root cause? America? Bush? Wall Street neo-cons? Harper?

      • I don’t have one but I sure would like to figure why this happened. Just like I would like to figure out why the 4 kids from Ontario ended up dead and in prison half way around the globe.

        • Having read a CBC article on the four from Canada who were by all accounts very happy teenage “Canadianized” high school students, one really does wonder what sent them to Allgeria to kill people. What makes young men, some of whom had privileged lives (swimming pool in the back yard, nice close knit family) join an extremist group and burn people alive? Any thoughts on the root cause?

          • Anthony Blunt was of the Oxbridge educated elite, an erudite, ‘epicene’ art historian who, along with other privileged members of the Brit elite, sold out his country for the Big Red Lie. Narcissism frustrated by reality as a root cause? Good luck eradicating that with a social program.

          • Starts with a P but I don’t think you will ever guess what is is.

          • Prejudice?

    • Colby Cosh is a “right-wing journalist”?

  5. This is by far the most complete account I’ve spotted online. Nice job. Except that last sentence, of course. Asking the question “why did these monsters become monsters?” is a necessary exercise.

    • You can ask the question “why?” but there is not always an answer that satisfies. If people are truly “monsters”, then they are sociopaths. There is no answer except that they have no conscience. If people “feel” slighted, then the answer is that for some reason, they perceive that they have been ignored or mistreated. The reality may not match their perception. Then there are religious ‘jihads’ where people feel their religion is under attack. How does a society change that perception? How about psychoses, when people have a completely altered reality?

      • “They are sociopaths” is still an answer, even if it is unsatisfying. Not that we actually know the answer yet.

        • Yes but that doesn’t do anything to stop this same thing from occurring over and over again in the future. It doesn’t even really help us to identify people who might perpetrate this kind of awful crime.

          • So? Most people still want to know why they did it.

          • Okay fair enough but we may never get an answer and if we do it might not be something we can even fathom.
            I remember the story of two young educated men in the 1920’s who picked up and murdered another young man. When they were arrested, they said they did it because they were “bored”.

  6. We all should reserve comment on this tragedy until Justin finds the nearest camera and tells us what the root causes are.
    The Police may have to suspend their search for the terrorist while Justin heads up a UN Committee to investigate root causes.
    Or. we could listen to the uncle of these killers who just said on CNN that this is crazy $hit —-killing 6 year-old boys for some insane cause.

    • Trudeau never said his first action would be to look at root causes. Hence “in the days following’ which is exactly what will happen. A search for the reason why will be undertaking.

      Just stop lying, you do yourself no good nor the rest of humanity.

      • And the day after innocent children are killed on the streets of Boston your new leader should shut his mouth about root causes of the reason why these monsters choose to set of bombs amongst innocents.

        • No. We must never ever stop trying to understand and prevent.

          Your way just means more dead children.If there is anyone in your life you love and would not wish to see murdered, you MUST understand this.

          • It appears that only you and Justin have managed to get inside of the heads of these monsters who killed innoncents in Boston. You say that you and Justin will prevent all terrorist killing of children in the future. And my way of capturing and prosecuting the murderers will mean more dead children.
            I say you are a self-righteous liberal prig—typically accusing those who disagree with you of wanting evil for the world—–so this will be Justin/s campaign slogan.

          • no.

        • And Prime Minister Stephen Harper should shut his mouth instead of lying and trying to gain an political advantage over such a tragedy.

          If your upset at what Justin said you should be really upset at what the PM said…but you won’t because you are not an honest person.

          • I do not know if you are wilfully lying or naively stupid and unlike you and most liberals I will not accuse you of anything—-because the issue is the silly remarks Trudeau made about root causes of the motives of mass killers the day after the killing.
            You appear willing to live in a country led by such a naive person—-I think it is wise of the PM to remind people of the mistake to allow such a person any power.

          • “I do not know if you are wilfully lying or naively stupid and unlike you and most liberals I will not accuse you of anything…”

            At least wait until the next sentence before contradicting yourself.

            If you get any dumber we’ll have to start calling you Bubba.

    • Or not comment at all until we all have Steve’s permission…and yours of course.

      Wondering about root causes doesn’t preclude the necessity to condemn the actions of crazy *hits…which Trudeau did, Just not to your and Harper’s satisfaction. Nothing he could have said would have pleased either of you.JT’s young,he’ll learn – which is more than i can say about you or Harper.
      Trudeau chose the wrong time to pontificate, no more than that. But go ahead and blow it out of all proportion to anything he was generalizing about. I’d expect nothing less from you.

  7. Turns out the Indians may have been right all along when they were trying to convince the West to pressure Pakistan to shut down LeT. The US didn’t cooperate with them. And it refused to extradite an American citizen who was a suspect (David Headley).

  8. I don’t know who thinks terrorists are bred out of poverty. It is generally because a group of people are crapping on another group for decades. Poverty is generally symptomatic of that “relationship”.

    These were 20 year old kids kids (seem familiar?) that apparently immigrated to the US when they were children. Kinda like the Canadian kids from London who ended up blowing up the oil rig in

    There is something more going on here on a societal level, and JTs comments are all the more relevant.

    • Yes I agree there is “something going on” but I am not sure it is at a societal level and not just at a personal level. I think they are looking for some kind of fulfillment and they find it in religious extremism. The odd thing is that like the Canadian kids from London, this guys were described as happy, party kids in high school. What happened after graduation? I am not sure that these kids are a whole lot different than kids who buy and gun and shoot up their school. It is the same sort of disenfranchisement. These kids just join a fraternity of sorts.

      • Newtown and Colorado were also committed by males in the early 20s. The London kids were in their 20s. To me, that suggest something more beyond religious extremism.

        • If you check the reports, there is strong evidence that the Colorado shooter has schizophrenia (he believed he was a character in the movie Batman) and the Newtown shooter also suffered from mental illness.
          The problem with looking for “root causes” is that you can apply that to virtually every human phenomenon. For instance, what is the root cause for the reason that so many Americans feel the need to arm themselves with guns to protect themselves? If we start looking, we can see there are root causes for everything. Can we really make people feel less isolated so they stop joining religious extremists groups or is the best we can hope to do is to identify those who are most at risk to indulge in that kind of behavior?

          • I don’t disagree with that. But mental illness doesn’t necessarily lead to violent behavior. Nor does a child exposed to a violent upbringing and subjugation. Even if all you choose to do is to be able to identify/anticipate them, you still need to understand and profile them, which again boils down to “root causes”. Addressing those “root causes” is another thing altogether.

          • Mental illness almost never leads to violent behavior. Although in the case of the Colorado movie killing, a psychiatrist who treated the man called the police and tried to have him committed to a psychiatric unit based on his plans. Police failed to act. Israel is a country that attempts to anticipate problems and identify them. LAL Airlines ask questions and screens for psychological behavior to identify terrorists.
            Even if you understand what the root causes are…resentment, mental illness, etc….what is to say you can do anything to change that they exist?

          • Indeed. Why bother. And why try.

          • We are bothering and we are trying and honestly the best be can do until we find cures for mental illness and ways to ensure people get treatment is to ensure that the police at least pay attention when a psychiatrist calls and warns that a patient has a delusion and has intentions of acting on it in a violent way. Psychiatrist report these things because they are required to do so by law. Further police can take people for psychiatric evaluation when they act in university classrooms like the shooter of representative Gelford did prior to the shooting in Arizona. The shooter’s university professor called campus police and advised that the young man was acting bizarre and frightening in class. The young man was removed from the campus but never taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. That oversight likely cost lives.

          • There were TWO SHOOTERS in Col,There were at least 3 shooters in NewTown,both were done by the Obama people as a exuce to take away Americans guns and declare Marshail Law,same shit here in Canada where it is now a crime not to treat NON WHITES as Gods,only white people have to follow the law here,so expect more pissed off dehumanized white people to start going POSTAL

      • There’s 6 billion people in this world, and it only takes 1 or 2 of them to commit an act like Anders Brevik or the Boston bombings. If these acts are the result of a societal issue, we have to shift the mean a lot to eliminate the small, long tail responsible for these acts: for every ten million of pissed-off people, only a couple actually act out. Even if you placated the ten million, I’m still not sure that a couple of crazies wouldn’t pop out of the crowd.

        • I agree. When you are dealing with what are a person’s perceptions of reality v. what might truly be reality, it is a crap shoot to try to change anything that might make the person feel less isolated; less angry; less marginalized. When people go “postal”, do they have a legitimate reason? In their own minds, they do and obviously in the end that is all that counts. How can we possibly change people’s perceptions if their reality is skewed? The definition of people who are extremists or psychotic is that they have a skewed reality.

      • the kids in London are innocent,they framed the white kids,cause this is LONDON HATES WHITE PEOPLE CANADA

  9. .

    Cobes. About as insightful as when you blamed the riots in Parisian banlieues a couple years ago on the architecture.
    Stick to things you know: hockey, right wing Alberta nationalism, fried food and where to get drunk in Edmonton, not necessarily in order of importance.

  10. That last sentence is testament to the long reach of PMO speaking points.

  11. Drop some drones on their sorry heads. That’ll make the suckers
    love and respect us.

    • Yeah. Brilliant one there, einstein. Bomb the country that had nothing to do with it, and see where that leads.


      • Strangely enough, that is EXACTLY what happened in Iraq…

      • I guess I shouldn’t try to be funny in a place where funny is
        endemic but purely accidental. I’ll leave it there while I surf
        through non-western sites where they tell us why they hate
        our freedoms to float Hellfires on their kiddie goatherds.

        • Or use your sarc tags next time. :) Mind you the humourless are often immune.

        • haha, whoops. It’s true, sometimes you can’t satirize the right because they are beyond satire.

        • my bad…

    • Its because America is bombing countries left and right that has people pissed off at them,the American way is this,”SO what if we kill 500-1000 INNOCENT KIDS as long as we get the 1 BAD GUY”

  12. What’s Colby up to here – providing the journalistic equivalent of Harper’s response? Shoot the bad guys first, don’t bother asking any question cuz they’re all eeevil anyway!
    There are root causes for the mess in Chechnya – it just doesn’t have anything to do with those poor folks in Boston. If anyone is to blame in that regard it’s the Russians and ethnic hatred more generally.In this case, as CC notes it may be as it looks, basically senseless revenge, directed at the most politically effective and soft target.
    It might even be completely unsolvable on any level once ruthless individuals decide that the ends do ultimately justify the means…at some point we do have to call that evil…but there’s nearly always a reason, no matter how twisted and distorted it has become and orphaned from the original injustice.
    Not everyone in the IRA was crazy or a rich cosseted individual, or even seemingly without just cause; as anyone knows with even a modicum of background into how the English have always treated the Irish. Of course it justifies nothing [in my mind anyway] The first time you even accidentally kill an innocent child in retaliation, you’ve blown your whole moral advantage – everything afterwards becomes mere rationalization. You can’t kill your way to justice. For that reason there are no excuses in the end. Killing is a choice you have to live[ or die] with.

    That’s not the same as saying there’s no history though…even Bin Laden had a reason once upon a time. Just pulling him out like a magic trump card as CC and some others have done is disingenuous. There are distinctions to be made here CC, they just don’t reduce our need to condemn politically motivated violence.

    Obviously Gandhi was right; if you believe an eye for an eye is always the right response, we all will end up blind and in the ditch. The search for justice demands much more than mere revenge. But ultimately it requires a judgement even on those who may appear powerless. For many, particularly in the third world though, that judgement often appears oddly one sided.

    Asking questions is never a bad thing. Just so long as it doesn’t become an excuse to excuse or evade individual responsibility. I guess CC was going to bring these points up in his next post.

  13. I’ve watched two ‘liked’ videos from the purported older brother youtube account, a cleric railing against Harry Potter, and a music video with themes like: “government releasing poison in the air, Saudis aren’t the enemy the enemy is around us, fluoride, George Bush the grandson of, Obama born in a test tube, black pope in Solomon’s temple, Vatican assassins, Pyramids built with electrical power, Polio vaccine, tv hypnotism”. (music video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnhjNzlJzPg)

    If it’s the guy I think it’s more Anders Breivik than Bin Laden.

  14. “the “root causes” crowd may wish to note that its “well-educated recruits
    defy the idea that poverty and ignorance breed extremism.”

    And if we don’t all actually think that, what does that do to your premise?
    At least give people who don’t share your world view the credit for having as much interest in rejecting concepts that now seem to not hold up to empirical scrutiny as yourself CC.

  15. At some point …

    We should consider the root causes of a problem – a liberal view

    At no point should we consider the root causes of problems – a conservative view (?) Retribution will suffice.

    As a former Montrealer who has experienced terrorism firsthand, being closeby when a bomb exploded at the Monreal Stock Exchange in 1969, injuring two dozen people at least; who read for a number of years reports in my morning paper of numerous bombs exploding or being defused ; I can only say this.

    You have to have a strong government, the authorities must pursue and arrest suspect, the guilty must be jailed, and have the political courage to debate the root causes of these problems.

  16. Want to know this happened? Simple it was done so the government could practice their marshail Law scenario and you people in Boston Fell for it like good sheeple,this was a False Flag Attack designed to take away more rights and allow Obama to suspend the next election and declare himself f the FUHR of America