Musings and Mirth
The night the Boston bombers were hunted down by the police in an unprecedented show of force unfolding on live television there was another drama unfolding online. Several of us were following a police scanner just as they were on the trail of the suspects. What pointed to their guilt, of course, were the pipe bombs they threw at police and the testimony of one witness whose car they had stolen. His life was spared and he lived to tell the tail of who the two brothers were.
At the same time, several threads on Reddit were tracking someone they thought to be one of the Boston bombers. He was misidentified as a young man from India who had disappeared from Brown University one day, leaving behind his cell phone and identification. That news began to seep out into the mainstream and unfortunately I was one of those responsible for using my own credibility as an internet source to pass on this information. Although hours after my own tweets pointed suspicion at Sunil Tripathi, the FBI released the names of bombers, names they probably had for a lot longer than the public had any knowledge of. Moreover, the FBI would have also known that it was not, nor could not be, Sunil Tripathi. They are the FBI, the internet is, well, not.
When the FBI held up the photos of the Boston bombers and asked the public for help, they were expecting people who knew the bombers to come forward. But what they could not have anticipated, what they have never taken responsibility for, what no one has really discussed at all is whether or the FBI is culpable in helping to whip a potential witch hunt by scared and concerned citizens who were using the powerful tool of the internet to track down anyone they thought might be the bombers.
True, they specifically ordered the public to stand down, to do nothing but report information. They instructed people not to act on the public’s behalf. But was that enough? Have we now crossed into a different era where the FBI should be more mindful of what the public might do with such a powerful information tool as the internet at its fingertips?
The FBI released blurry photos of the Boston bombing suspects, which triggered a flurry of activity online by concerned citizens who truly believed they were helping the FBI find their men. When all was said and done, those who went on the various witch hunts were nailed to the wall but no one said anything about the FBI’s role that night. It comes down to this: in the post-911 internet age the FBI – and any government body for that matter – ought to be fully prepared for this kind of thing to happen with regularity should they once again ask for the public’s help. It is a dangerous game where the word “terrorist” is involved. If you’re talking about a bank robbery or a kidnapping – these Amber alerts we all get on our cell phones – we can cull our resources to help law enforcement find the perps. But when you’re talking terrorists we have been conditioned both by the acts of the terrorists themselves (they are willing to die in order to kill their enemy) and by our own government that when it comes to terrorists and us it is truly a matter of life or death.
Yeah, it’s like that.
So, most of the country with their heads not firmly stuck up their own asses or locked onto their television screens worrying about who is going to win Dancing with the Stars, or spending their limited time on this planet fretting and steaming over the latest thing Gwyneth Paltrow said (really?) now knows that Obama put Tom Wheeler at the the head of the FCC. Who is Tom Wheeler you might ask? He’s a former lobbyist for the cable companies whose agenda has included, for a long time now and fully known to our dear President Obama, to rid the internet of Neutrality. You know, that thing that makes the internet one of the last avenues for free and open speech? You know, the internet where someone like me can build a business with nothing more than a modem (1200 baud baby), an internet service provider and a computer hookup. With those three things I could launch not just a business but an entire industry as I helped do in 1999 when the (insert positive or negative adjective here) Oscar Watching industry was born. I could go toe to toe with the giant corporate media congloms. Yeah, me. Single mother living in a guest house in Van Nuys with an infant on my hip starting my own business. Those days are shrinking fast, thanks to the corrupt 1% and their almost total domination of our democracy. Hoo haw.
There is a new game in town over at Apple. I’ve been a customer of theirs since the 1980s. A loyal customer. I advised everyone I knew, in fact, to buy Apple. I bought or buy a new Macbook every other year or so. I have an iMac, two Macbook pros and one for my daughter. But they have lost me as a customer and I’ll tell you why.
1. They used to care more about customer service and loyalty.
When I went into the Apple store to complain about how Macbook Pro retina display had been damaged — while doing nothing more than sitting in my backpack in an overhead container on the airplane, not having been dropped nor kicked nor had water spilled on it, bought just three weeks ago – their comment to me was “this is accidental damage and we don’t cover it.” It would cost around $500 to repair it. This was THEIR fault, not mine. I’ll explain in the next part.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died at the age of 87. Here is one of my favorite pieces of writing by him:
A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings: A Tale For Children
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
On the third day of rain they had killed so many crabs inside the house that Pelayo had to cross his drenched courtyard and throw them into the sea, because the newborn child had a temperature all night and they thought it was due to the stench. The world had been sad since Tuesday. Sea and sky were a single ash-gray thing and the sands of the beach, which on March nights glimmered like powdered light, had become a stew of mud and rotten shellfish. The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo was coming back to the house after throwing away the crabs, it was hard for him to see what it was that was moving and groaning in the rear of the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was an old man, a very old man, lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of his tremendous efforts, couldn’t get up, impeded by his enormous wings.
Frightened by that nightmare, Pelayo ran to get Elisenda, his wife, who was putting compresses on the sick child, and he took her to the rear of the courtyard. They both looked at the fallen body with a mute stupor. He was dressed like a ragpicker. There were only a few faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in his mouth, and his pitiful condition of a drenched great-grandfather took away and sense of grandeur he might have had. His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar. Then they dared speak to him, and he answered in an incomprehensible dialect with a strong sailor’s voice. That was how they skipped over the inconvenience of the wings and quite intelligently concluded that he was a lonely castaway from some foreign ship wrecked by the storm. And yet, they called in a neighbor woman who knew everything about life and death to see him, and all she needed was one look to show them their mistake.
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