The tragic events in Boston saddened our nation. But where sadness dwells, so often does anger. And down the street from anger’s rage lives paranoia. While we muddle through the events we must also address the issues arising in their wake.
First, the facts. On Monday, April 15, two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The explosions occurred at 2:50, and roughly ten seconds separated them. According to updated reports, three died and 264 were injured.
Subsequently, the FBI investigated the matter, and the White House considered the bombing an act of terrorism. On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 17, CNN claimed that a “federal law enforcement source” informed the news outlet of a suspect’s arrest “based on two videos taken before Monday’s attack.” Contrary to CNN’s report, the FBI said they had not arrested a suspect and reminded the media to be certain before they report such stories.
Additionally, the details relating to the devices are also of interest. One of the devices, though possibly both, used a circuit board to trigger the explosion, by means of a cell phone calling the device. Most news outlets identify one device as a pressure cooker “[noting the device was contained ‘metal container] investigators could not say if that was also a pressure cooker.” One of the devices contained “nails, BBs and ball-bearings,” responsible for killing three people.
Later, authorities determined that the brothers Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev committed the bombings. The brothers fled. The pair later killed a police officer and stole a car. During their attempted escape, the brother shot at police officers, who fired back. Tamerlan died during this incident, though Dzokhar escaped. On April 19, a homeowner found the wounded Dzhokhar hiding in the homeowner’s boat, stored in his backyard.
These are the basic facts relating to the bombings. Even though the bombings are, in a sense, “old news,” one expects other details to continue trickling through the media. But in the meantime, we continue pondering. In the event’s wake, several issues came to light. These issues represent the greater implications that the United States must deal with—questions we must discuss and answer. Naturally, it is vital for conservatives and libertarians to discuss these issues.
One minor issue that eessentially disappeared in the bombings’ wake was that of miranda rights. When police arrested Dzhokar Tsarnaev they did not read him his miranda rights. But there was a reason for this. The police did not read Tsarnaev’s Miranda rights because they wanted to flex their statist power and oppress him, but because of immediate safety concerns. In short, the police invoked an exception to reading Miranda rights due to the danger Tsarnaev presented. The issue here is the alarm from many on the right. Yes, the government should not unjustly use this provision of danger in order to read suspects’ Miranda rights, but there is a great difference between government aggressing against a citizen and a dangerous terrorist. Additionally, if such an abuse came to light (i.e. government did abuse this “public danger” provision) concerned citizens would bring it to light through the media and internet.
There exists a second issue, though it remains almost entirely confined to the un-informed conspiracy theorists. Some maintain that the bombing was an act of terror committed by the American government. (The motivating reasons vary, but they generally include the government using the “crisis” as an excuse for taking away Constitutional rights and restraints on government.) The justifying basis, in terms of Boston, for this strange belief rests upon several factors. Some suggest that the presence of bomb-sniffing dogs evidence that the government knew a bomb was at the event. TheBlaze refutes this fact as evidencing that bomb-sniffing dogs are not uncommon at events of such scale in that part of the country, or their presence might have been a mere exercise. As a philosophy student, I am reminded of David Hume’s quip, “A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence,” and its applications. Speaking broadly, might the government be responsible? Perhaps. But, thinking in such terms, existentialist rain gods might have caused the drizzling outside my window. The important word in the former statement is might and not “probably” or “most likely.”
A final issue brought to light from the Boston bombings involves the “militarization” of police. Writing for Lew Rockwell’s website, Ron Paul touched on this question. But let’s examine this question. What does “militarizing” the police really mean? If, by this, we mean the police possessing assault weapons, machine guns, armored vehicles, then it seems more an issue of principle, with a smidgen of context. Of course, a small town with a police force armed for Helmand Province is illogical. But more often those concerned with “militarization” state the problem incorrectly. The questions of police armed with M-16s and M60s are completely valid, as are the potential for wrongdoing on the police force’s part. Rather, this “militarization” question involves police acting as though they are in a war zone. In a greater scope, this question deals with civil liberties and the government, or the term “police state” we often hear of. Responding to this, conservatives and libertarians agree that government’s power must be checked and severely limited.
We must be especially diligent in our discussions relating to the Boston bombing’s issues. Although the conversations should happen, as with any event, it is necessary to apply care and diligence. In our discussions and debates we must take care to ensure differentiation between facts and speculations and define the matter at hand. But there will persist those who cannot do these simple tasks. They will anxiously continue speculating and constructing weak theories. In regards to these citizens, let us keep David Hume’s quotation in mind. Perhaps if one is going to spend significant amounts of time speculating and developing baseless assertions, one might be better suited to read David Hume. One might not agree with all his points, and no one expects agreement, but at least reading Hume might broaden one’s horizons more than what one otherwise might have spent his intellectual energy on.
Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac