Behaving badly in the wake of tragedy

A tragedy and crime such as the Boston Marathon bombing should not be downplayed but I want, instead, to talk about an event related to, and because of,  but in no way linked to the bombing. At least it shouldn’t have been. We as a nation, but especially those in the media, owe Abdul rahman Ali Alharbi an apology. If you don’t know him by name, you might know him as the “Saudi national” or, the “Saudi who was briefly a suspect in the Bombing before being cleared”, or perhaps, the “cash cow that unscrupulous conspiracy nuts (and occasional major news outlets) have been milking since roughly an hour after he was injured from an Improvised Explosive Device laid near him at what was supposed to be a wonderful event on a beautiful day in Boston”.

Let us create a map of the various wrongs that have been thrown on him for no other reason other than his name, his religion and his ethnicity. I want you to keep in mind that it is year 2013 and this all happened in the United States.

First, a couple of brothers placed bombs near where he was standing and detonated them, killing three and injuring close to 200 others. That’s horrible, but unlike the other victims who were greeted with an outpouring of support, well wishes and concern, he was greeted with suspicion. He was immediately investigated by the police about his involvement in the terrorist act. And they cleared him. Because he was innocent. Which we now know.

But of course, that didn’t stop the New York Post from declaring him the terrorist. They based this on nothing more than that the man was being looked at by the police (who were at this point, mere hours after the bombing, looking at anyone because that’s what police do when there has been a crime with an unknown motive and unknown perpetrators). Oh, and because he was Saudi Arabian and Muslim.

The New York Post did a lot of misreporting that day though so what’s one more? I almost can’t blame the New York Post, they’re just an amoral news organization who gambled on a scoop and lost. If they hadn’t, someone else would have. Probably CNN.

Flash forward a few days and I wake up to find “Saudi” trending worldwide on twitter. “Hm,” I think. “That’s strange.” And I should have known but because I’m too trusting and not cynical enough and some might call me naive I even thought “I hope he,” and yes, I already assumed it was the same Saudi from the days before, “hasn’t died from his injuries.” But one click on the trending word cast that theory right out of my mind. I saw the dreaded words. Glenn Beck.

English: Television and radio host at CPAC in .

Mr. “Chalkboard and salty tears” himself (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I should have known. I should have known Glenn Beck couldn’t keep himself away from wild, xenophobic speculation. After all, the guy he FIGURED would blow up Americans was right there. He wasn’t going to let reality take that from him. So he, or his site, rather, posted this:

On radio this morning, Glenn broke the news that Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, the Saudi Student who was reported as a person of interest in the Boston Marathon bombing, is set to be deported under section 212 3B of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) – “Security and related grounds” – “Terrorist activities”.

An FBI source has told TheBlaze that the Saudi Student was “taken into custody”. This means, when we he was reported as a person of interest, he was actually a suspect the entire time.

Which sent every conspiracy theorist with an axe to grind towards Muslims (that is to say, most of them) running to fill in the blanks of this bombshell turn of events. The only problem was, it was “categorically false“. Oh well, there are at least two upsides. For Glenn Beck, it meant being in the spotlight he craves so desperately, if only for a day. And for us, it provided this incredible screenshot:

the blaze fail


So, we’ve got an opportunistic paper and an opportunistic blowhard, what about opportunistic political operatives? Is there an angle for them? Of course. You just have to lost your moral compass and have no sense of shame.

It was widely reported, and unsurprising, that President Obama and the First Lady went to many of the hospitals that were treating the wounded. That’s what Presidents and First Ladies are supposed to do. That’s what they always do. But apparently, and again this is only if you have entirely lost your footing with right and wrong and where once there was a loving, caring person there is nothing but a hollow shell of a man, it was controversial because, yep, Michelle saw the two Saudis that were injured. The headlines expose the bias: “Saudi News Site: Michelle Obama Visited Saudi National in Hospital on Thursday” one says. Maybe it should have mentioned that Michelle Obama visited a lot of the injured that day, of which, the “Saudi National” was one. It’s only newsworthy if there is an implication that there is something wrong with her visit.

In the utopian world that envisions, a Great President would not only stop apologizing for America but apparently also stop visiting 22 year old bombing victims who had just come out of surgery because they were tainted by the vague suspicion of guilt that comes from their ethnicity. Stick to selling gold, Glenn.

So, we owe Abdul rahman Ali Alharbi and Noura Khaled Saleh al-Ajaji an apology. They deserve better than this. We should demand better for them. Our country has a spotty track record when it comes to protecting minorities but it also has an ever growing and inspiring commitment to tolerance, and what happened here was intolerance that shouldn’t have happened here. It’s important to note that while predictably terrible people began these accusations and falsehoods, many in the more “respected” and “mainstream” media ran with the stories and many in the public believed them without question. I am ashamed. If Abdul rahman Ali Alharbi does go back to Saudi Arabia when he’s healthy, voluntarily and past suspicion, I won’t blame him if he holds a certain distaste for our country. Not because of what the bomb did to him, that was out of anyone’s control but the people who put it there, but what we did to him afterwards, which we chose to let happen through fear, or prejudice, or a mad desire for relevancy.

And in one case, all three.

English: Political commentator Glenn Beck at t...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


One comment

  1. Pingback: The anatomy of a conspiracy | jamesonstarship

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