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07:40 pm: rolling my eyes at the globe
I don't read the Boston Globe very often. I don't know if this is the first time they've tried to do something along the lines of "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev." I can't tell if it's meant to be truthful like an honest news story is truthful, or truthful like a good novel is truthful. It worries me to think the Globe might not recognize there is a difference, even though some stories have both kinds of truth.

If it were a novel, it would be incoherent. Even knowing that real-life motivations don't have to make any sense (and frequently don't), there are several places where it looks like the Globe is trying to make some kind of scandalous innuendo but I can't tell what. Is the idea that traumatized immigrant parents were overwhelmed by a difficult new life and thus failed to recognize their son needed mental health treatment? Or that they were freaks doing all this weird foreign stuff and that's why the family was so dysfunctional?

One chapter (the second one about the elder brother) seems to be mostly speculation on the family's mental illness. It's neatly framed by investigative journalism--somebody at the Globe talked with a psychiatrist in Los Angeles, who treated the father of the accused in 2003 (and who explained some health problems but "declined to elaborate" about others.) That sets the stage for a urologist to speculate about the mental health of a young man I'm not sure he ever met. (This was not called "taking the piss," for some reason.)

Boxing and other kinds of violence are mentioned on the same page, but not really discussed together, other than the urologist saying "I told Niss that Tamerlan had some form of schizophrenia. That, combined with smoking marijuana and head trauma from boxing had all made him ill." Is it possible to look at a connection between violent sports and this kind of crime without doing horrible things to medical privacy? Head trauma is obviously part of it, but I'm also wondering about the emotional context of going to the gym and routinely punching somebody in the nose.

I was puzzled by the chapter about the sisters. It seemed a little vague on distinctions, between the sisters, between them and their brothers, between them and their parents. So we should be outraged at how the family insisted on the Chechen custom of a girl a man her parents chose for her, when she was 16? But one of the girls didn't marry the guy her family chose. And the one who did was already pregnant?* Her husband turned out to be an abuser. Years later, she was arrested for possession of marijuana. WTF does this have to do with whether her parents were too traumatized to raised children, or whether her brothers belonged to an international terrorist organization, or with whether her older brother was hallucinating monsters or simply a malicious asshole?

I had trouble with the chapters about the family coming to America. The idea that it matters so much whether one is fleeing a proper war between one government and another, or a recognized but improper one between a government and some internal oppressed group, or an even less official war or conflict. And of course, the marathon bombing was part of the war on terror, not crime at all. Oddly (VERY oddly, in the context of an article about the marathon bombing) they didn't seem to acknowledge that the traumatic effects can be pretty similar if you can't get away.

I don't seriously expect you to read the whole thing. I know you have important things to do, children's books about science museums** to recommend to me, socks to alphabetize. But I got the weird impression that the author was judgmental about different things than I was, and it felt peculiar. I'm not horrified, or frightened, or scandalized that a young man might have had schizophrenia. It's awful that he couldn't get treatment for it, but the idea that it's horrifying/frightening/scandalous contributes quite a bit in that direction. (Odd that the article didn't mention that.) And I am outraged that his father's medical privacy is not being respected.

In another direction, I know boxing is a respectable sport requiring strength and skill. Nevertheless...when a young man spends a lot of time either hitting people or training to do it better, it seems like a red flag unless that boxer has very very good control over his temper. The article seemed to treat boxing as if it was a sport like track or swimming; a competitive thing Tamerlan trained hard for and was good at. It felt like it was missing an important point about violence because the author doesn't see boxing as even slightly problematic.


*Because of the peculiar lack of emphasis, I couldn't tell if she was marrying the father of her child, or if her parents wanted her to marry somebody else (as in Tam Lin.) There's a lot of story there, hardly any of it included in the article, because the Globe isn't trying to tell her story. It's trying to tell her brothers' story

**Not the one where children run away from home, hitchhike to Dearborn, break into the Henry Ford Museum, attempt to spend the night in the Allegheny Locomotive or the back seat of the Corvair....

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/18806.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.

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[User Picture]
From:the_smith_e
Date:December 16th, 2013 06:25 pm (UTC)
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I don't see boxing as problematic or tied to terrorist violence. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:adrian_turtle
Date:December 19th, 2013 03:56 pm (UTC)
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Boxers can be responsible people with good control of their tempers. You certainly are. But I don't think it goes without saying that all of them are, or that the average boxer controls his temper as well as the average non-boxer of similar age.
[User Picture]
From:the_smith_e
Date:December 19th, 2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, interesting argument. You know, they aren't all Mike Tyson. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:chienne_folle
Date:December 16th, 2013 09:24 pm (UTC)
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That sounds like a very disturbing story! The Boston Globe has done a lot of good -- at least, its Spotlight Team has -- and I'm distressed to hear that they've run such a slanted, sensationalistic article. "These people are NOT like us" is often the message when something awful happens, yet it seems to me that the way these people ARE like us is probably a more useful analysis. Of course, those with mental illnesses are often stigmatized as being so VERY different from "normal" people, but conflating mad with bad seems, to me, at least, as if it's at least half of the problem.

I've long thought it strange that our society accepts boxing as a healthy sport for manly men, even though the GOAL is to induce a concussion, but carefully beating someone with a paddle or flogger in such a way as to cause no permanent damage is seen as weird or sick. If I hit someone in the head with my fist in a boxing ring and cause them brain damage, that's a good thing, but if I hit someone on the butt with my fist in her bedroom and cause some easily-healed bruises, I'm a sexual deviant? Truly, the mind boggles.

*hug*
[User Picture]
From:adrian_turtle
Date:December 19th, 2013 04:48 pm (UTC)
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Hey, sweetie. I'd like you to meet Mr. Smith, who responded above. You have some interests in common (other than boxing, obviously.) He understands about controlled and ethical violence such as you describe above, and I trust him.

"These people are NOT like us" is often the message when something awful happens, yet it seems to me that the way these people ARE like us is probably a more useful analysis. Of course, those with mental illnesses are often stigmatized as being so VERY different from "normal" people, but conflating mad with bad seems, to me, at least, as if it's at least half of the problem.

It may not be a useful analysis, but it's hideously tempting. Look at us sensible people doing it ourselves. The article put my back up in the first place because I didn't want to think of a terrorist (or a garden-variety violent criminal who abuses his family) as "like me" just because I have mental illness. And then the comment above objected because he didn't want to think of a violent criminal as "like him" because he is a boxer. Then you jumped in because it's important to you that nobody think a violent criminal is "like you" because you play with violence in bed.

It's scary to think of evil as being part of us, as being a deeply human thing, rather than "inhuman" and monstrous.
[User Picture]
From:the_smith_e
Date:December 19th, 2013 05:06 pm (UTC)
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And, now you have me blushing. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:the_smith_e
Date:December 19th, 2013 05:02 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I have found boxing has become less popular and more judged while the NFL has a much higher injury rate. However, I share your other interests in both directions. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:the_smith_e
Date:December 19th, 2013 04:52 pm (UTC)
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We are all capable of darkness and evil, sometimes for reasons we perceive as good. Violence and anger, at some level, are part of the human condition. I just question connections that would say boxers or BDSMers are linked to terrorism.

By the way, he wasn't a very successful boxer. That may have added to his alienation. I read up on that sometime back.
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