Sloppy Thinking at the Boston Globe

Via Hot Air.

Full Headline: Islam might have had secondary role in Boston attacks

In light of all of the irresponsible speculation preceding the identification of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the Boston bombing suspects, I actually welcome this kind of careful headline. The truth is that until the facts have been gathered and analyzed, we really don’t know for sure what motivated these two. Radical Islamism may indeed have been second to these guys being violent sociopaths. Stranger things have happened.

What bothered me about this story was the lack of imagination exercised by the reporter, embodied in two paragraphs. When discussing what is believed to be Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s YouTube page, Lisa Wangsness writes,

[T]he page also includes music videos featuring Timur Mutsuraev, a singer who is a hero in the Chechen fight for independence, sympathizing with the insurgents seeking independence from Russia.

Fundamentalist Wahhabis see music as “the work of the devil,” said Monica Duffy Toft, a professor at the University of Oxford.

Wangsness seems to see this as a contradiction, that a terrorist who is inspired by radical Islamism would naturally shun music because of what Wahhabis believe. This misses something pretty obvious: There isn’t only one strain of Islamism; it’s a broad tent that stretches over multiple continents. That means that what works in one region might not work in another, and what attracts one person will repel another.

In other words, it’s not a top-down movement. A man in his twenties living in Boston and brought up in a mostly secular family is not going to respond to the same influences that the same man in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan will. And having been a man in his twenties once, I know that what attracted me at the time was what was cool, what set me apart from others and, perhaps ironically, what helped me to fit in. Like music that a select group of people listened to.

I don’t think that this is a bad piece at the Boston Globe. I just don’t think that it was necessary. And it kind of shows that reporters are either desperate to publish something by their deadlines (totally understandable) or that some can’t read between the lines.