We have been so incurious about last year’s bombing, as Boston has prepared for this year’s marathon. The Boston Strong motif is back. Publicly, no one seems to care what actually happened last year. You would expect that after a year of investigation, we would know more about the crime now than we did April 15, 2013. Yet we don’t. Prominent events like the FBI’s murder of Ibrahim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, suggest we know a great deal less about the crime now than we did when it occurred.
That situation should make us curious. The first anniversary would be an occasion for asking questions, identifying what we don’t know, and confirming what we do know. Instead, we have story after story of what we can call propaganda pap. On the surface, these stories honor the people who died and were injured in 2013. Underneath, though, the victims start to seem like supporting characters in the Boston Strong campaign. Who can even name the four victims of April 15-19? We apparently don’t want to know why the victims died or were maimed in the first place. For Boston Strong, those questions were settled a year ago on April 19, when Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured.
If you think the story that officialdom put out on April 19, 2013, is the whole story, you really have to learn something about how the government handles information. You cannot ever accept government’s account of a crime as an accurate version of events. Its entire motivation is to get a conviction, not to find the truth. Why would you believe an explanation from people who are not even motivated to find out what actually happened, and who have plenty of reasons not to find out what actually happened?
Curiosity and public truth-finding do not advance government’s aims all that well. Once government officials have said something about a crime, they have committed themselves. With every detail they put out, they lose flexibility. That applies whether the information is true or not. If the information is true, prosecutors may reveal information they would prefer to keep confidential. If the information is false, they have to be forever careful to arrange everything else so as not to be caught in a lie, or in some other violation that would cost them a conviction. Authorities find themselves in an information bind, where the rule – especially before trial – has to be less is better.
That’s why we have learned so little about the crime since April 2013. Government authorities have plenty of disincentives to release more information. Non-government entities – such as journalists, PR people, and the public who listens to them – seem content with the information we have. After the dramatic events of April 19, 2013, when an army of government enforcers nabbed the Tsarnaev brothers, what more do we need to know? Boston Strong becomes a comfortable coverlet and rallying point for incuriosity.
Meantime, you know that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will not receive a speedy trial. That’s a right we did away with a long time ago.