There is no right way to mourn a national tragedy. But there are wrong ways, like fanning flames of bigotry or using the occasion to stump for racist legislation.
The New York Post quickly published an article declaring that the Boston police had a Saudi immigrant in custody for the crime. “Honestly, I don’t know where they’re getting their information from, but it didn’t come from us,” said the police spokesperson. The Boston police did not take any suspects into custody on suspicion of the bombing, but 24 hours later, the Post still has its “Saudi arrested!” article up, with no update or retraction. This is exactly how bigoted rumors get started: Media broadcasting reports based on unreliable, often biased sources. This incorrect report perpetuates racism. Another outlet that tweeted news of a suspect being under guard at a hospital didn’t lead with description of his race and immigration status.
The Post’s report gave Iowa Representative Steve King the opening he needed to discuss the tragic events of the day. Now is the time, King said, to write national legislation based on complete speculation.
“Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa,” King told the National Review. “If that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture… We need to go far deeper into our border crossings… . We need to take a look at the visa-waiver program and wonder what we’re doing. If we can’t background-check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where?”
King’s referring specifically to the big immigration reform bill—which is hopefully based on more solid research than paging through the New York Post.
But King’s not alone in thinking this way. He just happens to be a person who helps write our national laws. There are plenty of regular people who think like him. Among the folks on Twitter who leaped to blame the bombing on all Muslim people or immigrants was Cake Boss star Anthony “Cousin Anthony” Bellifemine. “We keep letting all these Animals into our country so they can keep attacking us… we even pay for them to go to school, how’s that!” he tweeted. When many of his followers told him to STFU, Bellifemine continued on the attack, comparing immigrants to animals.
Sounds like Cousin Anthony is BFFs with Fox News contrbutor Erik Rush who “jokingly” tweeted that, “Muslims are evil.” That joke might be funny in some alternate universe so free of Islamophobia that no one take the idea to heart. “haHA!” we’d chuckle to ourselves. “That Erik is so dang silly! No one would ever consider that all Muslims are evil! Now, excuse me while I take tea with a time-traveling space bear.”
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Now that you’ve lost your faith in humanity, go read these smart and beautiful responses to the tragedy. Our hearts are with the people suffering in Boston—let’s hope we find more real facts, not speculation, in this incident soon.