Posts Tagged ‘Boston Marathon’

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Moments after the explosions in Boston, the rumors and fear-mongering began.  It took law enforcement a couple days to identify the culprits, but the media immediately clamped onto any whisper they heard that held promise.  Not revealing its source, the New York Post reported hours after the bombs went off that a young Saudi man was being held in custody. Internet sites picked this up, and major outlets, most notably Fox News, ran with the story.  Though the story was disavowed by authorities, the media erroneously reported it because it fit a paradigm of Islamic extremism that many within the country hold as gospel truth.

Erik Rush

Erik Rush

The New York Post is known for sensationalism; the truth will often take a backseat to a juicy headline.  But with this ‘breaking news’, the Post opened a Pandora’s Box.  Political talking heads were thrown their red-meat, and they let an inevitable spew of conjecture and invective fly.  Erik Rush, a Fox News contributor, political pundit, internet personality and sometime author quickly took to Twitter, throwing gasoline unto the fire.  After the Post reported about the Saudi man, Rush ‘tweeted’, Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon! In response, one young man complained, You are already blaming Muslims?  Rush tweeted back, Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.

In a public forum, a media personality labelled 2.2 billion people as evil.  He called for the murder of these people, which would include 2.5 million Americans.  After this tweet gained unsurprising notoriety, and Rush faced harsh criticism, he responded with the defense that his ‘tweets’ were obviously “sarcastic”.  Whew!  That’s good. He was only being sarcastic in his call for the murder of millions of people.  I feel so much better now. (Note the sarcasm.)

You know, on second thought, let’s not allow Mr. Rush to get away with this that easily. First of all, Rush’s ‘sarcasm’ defense needs scrutiny.  Not that I necessarily think he was being serious about killing a worldwide religious community, but he should understand something about sarcasm: It only works if it is clear that the sarcasm is the antithesis of your thoughts and feelings. If it seems to fit your past rhetoric, then sarcasm can fall a wee bit short.  This is what happened in Mr. Rush’s case, and why his obvious sarcasm was not so obvious. You see, Rush is an outspoken proponent of what I have labelled in a previous post, our “Age of Hyperbole.”  Here is just a taste of the claims Rush has made during the last year (I could give many more examples, but there is only so much I can take):

– Rush has claimed that gay rights will lead to governmental tyranny.

– Rush suspects President Obama will classify Christians as mentally ill, and ship them off to asylums.

– Rush hints that President Obama is a sign of the coming  Apocalypse.

– Rush wrote an 2012 article titled “Yes, Islam is the enemy.”

Mr. Rush doesn’t shy away from radical invective, including a serious distrust of Muslims.  It is no wonder that his ‘sarcasm’ was missed. But, Rush’s invective, and excuse of sarcasm is a microcosm of a much larger issue facing today’s 17lede_greece-blog480culture. Though offensive, disturbing, or violent language is thoroughly frowned upon, it is increasingly justified or rationalized by what I am terming the ‘ISI’ stance: Ignorance, Sarcasm, Irony.  Rush’s defense of his statement as sarcasm is by no means the only instance of the ‘ISI’ excuse being used recently, with varying degrees of success.  A month ago, Geogios Katidos, a 20 year old Greek soccer player, celebrated a goal by giving the ‘Hitler Salute’ to the crowd.  In a sport where racism and fascism are often simmering under the surface, Katidos was banned for life from playing for his national team.  Katidos’ explanation for why he gave this horrendous sign?  He was ignorant.  He supposedly had no idea what the salute meant (which raises the question of why he was doing it in the first place).  In America, Katidos’ story was overshadowed by a different controversy, but one also intertwined to the ISI method. Country singing star Brad Paisley’s song  ‘Accidental Racist’ made ripples in the blogosphere a couple weeks ago for its depiction of race relations, and Southern American history.  In the first lines of the song, Paisley informs his listeners that his Confederate flag t-shirt does not mean he is a racist; only a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan.  Paisley’s song is about irony; the irony that others see the flag on his shirt as a sign of hatred, when he intends for it only as symbol of his bad music taste. He is innocent.

Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley

Paisley, Rush and Katidos share the same important benefit from the ISI defense that makes it so useful for public figures: It converts them into innocent victims. In the case of Mr. Rush, this is wonderfully ironic, since he hates our culture’s “Cult of Victimization.” Oh sure, he made a malicious and violent statement filled with hate, but he is not to blame; those who misunderstood him are to blame. Rush has been misconstrued by a mean, bad world of those who hope to destroy him. Thus, Mr. Rush’s sad excuse for an apology deflected any personal blame onto the ‘idiots’ who did not recognize his rhetorical gifts. It is our fault we took him serious about murder, not his for saying it.

Hopefully, Mr. Rush will disappear from the public scene after this media din. But unfortunately, I fear his ‘Ignorance, Sarcasm, Irony’ has no bounds.


By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

When I was in third grade, I made a new friend in class named Ryan. Given that I was in the same school system K-12, many of the faces stayed the same throughout the years, and Ryan was no different. However, like many kids, just because we knew of each other didn’t mean we were friends. When we did become friends, Ryan invited me to come hang out with him and his already established group of friends on the playground during recess.

The group was standing in a circle waiting for us. Ryan brought me over to them and promptly introduced me by saying, “Everybody, this is Paul. He’s funny!”

Everyone turned and stared at me.

The introduction was flattering, but what was I supposed to do now? Talk about creating immediate expectations. So, I pulled a microphone out of my back pocket, turned it on, and started with, “So, what’s the deal with the cafeteria food….”

Okay, I actually just said, “Hey,” and received a mumbled chorus of “Hey” in return.

How spectacularly anticlimactic. The group had to be disappointed, like buying tickets to see Louis C.K. and instead getting Carrot Top. I didn’t know I was going to be introduced like that, though! I didn’t know I was supposed to have material ready! I wish I had the perfect thing to say that would have made everyone in the circle laugh.

And this story comes to mind because of what happened in Boston on Monday.

A couple weeks ago, I told my esteemed colleague and “Father of the Flaneur’s Turtle” Michael Stelzer Jocks that when it comes to the Turtle, he is the intellectual counterbalance to my idiocy. In his posts, he explores history, delves into psychology, compares and contrasts cultures; I make jokes about Easter candy.

However, the eclectic nature of The Flaneur’s Turtle  is one of its strong suits. The authors are not many faces with one voice; we are all individuals with our own interests, personalities, and writing styles. Consequently, each author has a different role. My students have told me I fill the role of “hopeless romantic” or “comedian” depending on the post.

Today, I’m sort of a hopeless comedian. Like everyone else, I find what happened in Boston to be horribly sad and deeply tragic, and I feel an additional touch of kinship with all of the victims and families because of my obsession with running.

But, I am terrible at comforting people during grief, loss, and hardships. I don’t know what to say, and even if I do, I say it wrong. And I could try to be intellectual about a tragic event like this, just as Michael was in his last post, but he’s smarter than me and I can’t pull that off.

However, I can occasionally make people laugh. So, I set out to write a diversionary post. During bad times, I don’t want to laugh in order to hide from reality or diminish the significance of what has happened; I merely want to provide some momentary escapist entertainment. During races, there are water stations along the way for the runners. The stations aren’t meant to be places where runners stop and quit, but rather where they get a boost as they carry on with their struggle. At times like this, I like laughter to be the water station. We can all acknowledge there is a long road ahead and more hard times to deal with, but we can use a little boost to help us along.

Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself grasping for funny, having nothing witty to say, no water to offer, and no clever one-liners to impress the gathered circle.



By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Like millions of Americans, I was saddened and shocked by what happened in Boston on Monday.  Three people, including an 8 year old boy, were killed, and over 170 were injured in the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  As we have seen so many times, American national bonds after such tragic events always seem to be strengthened.  Whether Democrat or Republican, the President inevitably leads the people in mourning. Public officials reassure citizens that justice will be served.  Psychologists remind us that we need to go on with our lives, and not be overtaken by fear. As with Oklahoma City, the Atlanta Olympics, and even 9-11, we will mourn, we will find justice, and we will keep living.  We hope that this will not happen again in America, but, unfortunately, we assume it will.

In other parts of the world, there is no assumption of a future bombing; only assurance. Two days removed from Boston, and I can’t stop thinking about the ubiquity of crude terrorism in other nations.  In Syria, Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan, explosions in public places are a weekly, sometimes daily occurrence.  Of course, I realized that before Boston.  But, how many times have you (and I know you have, because I do it to) simply shaken your head when you hear of 50 women and children killed by a car bomb in Kabul?  When such news comes across the wire, the radio, or the internet, most Americans turn the page, decrease the volume, or navigate to another site.  I accuse Americans of this because I am an American, and I am guilty.  Afghan, Iraqi, and Syrian children being killed by pressure cooker bombs doesn’t shock Americans any longer; but, it should.  After Monday, we need to appreciate that Boston and Kabul are not that far apart.