shooting the messenger: a boston marathon bombing survivor blames the wrong person.

carlos-arredondo-after-boston-marathon-bombingSeems David Gregory can’t catch a break these days. Over the weekend, he and his Meet The Press Sunday news-talk show were in the middle of a dustup over a roundtable discussion about the Boston Marathon bombings.

Bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet-Davis was a scheduled guest on the show. Her only condition: that Meet The Press not say the names of the bombing suspects. She left the studio, reportedly in tears, because her request had been ignored by Meet The Press. NBC is now being criticized for their decision.

You may think I’m an insensitive ogre, but I’m on NBC’s side. I have nothing but empathy and compassion for Haslet-Davis and all the other victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. But her request of a news program to censor itself and not mention the names of the suspects—and then to storm off the set when her request was not met—is a bit of unnecessary aggression. She is projecting her anger at a news program for having the audacity to be a news program.

I understand her intent. She does not want to glorify the bombing suspects. That is her decision. But to insist a reputable news agency treat Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev like they’re Lord Voldemort HE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED! is a bit much. It is also a rather unreasonable expectation to have a panel discussion about a terrorist act without ever once invoking the names of the suspected terrorists.

We must get out of the business of censorship. Insisting on banning words and phrases—the “b” word, the “r” word, the “n” word, etc.—is counterintuitive to the very thing those insisting on doing this are trying to accomplish. By trying to take power away from the pejorative uses of these words, you only make them more powerful. By insisting on never ever saying their names ever again, you automatically turn every utterance of “Tsarnaev” into a moment of gasping outrage. How has that accomplished your mission? It hasn’t.

Should we, as a society, celebrate the heroes and victims of that tragedy? Absolutely. Without question. And we have seen that take place over the past year, as survivors and others have been honored at events across the country. I think we all can agree that is a positive thing. But let us not believe in a false equivalence that speaking the names of terrorists who commit acts of violence and cowardice celebrates and honors them in the same way. It doesn’t.

Without question, Adrianne Haslet-Davis’ reasons are understandable and, if in her presence, I would certainly not try to say something that would obviously cause emotional pain. But you can’t expect a news organization to maintain credibility by doing that. There is a time and a place for that level of treatment. I do not believe Meet The Press and other reputable news outlets are those venues.

David Gregory and NBC will be regarded as bad guys for a few days and then it’ll blow over, because they are not the bad guys here. I think we know who are the real bad guys. But I guess I’m not allowed to say their names anymore.


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