Sunday, April 21, 2013

What really happened in Watertown

Everybody's an armchair tactician. One of major sources of contention on the internets in the last 24 hours has been over how law enforcement handled the search for the Boston bombers. Early on it was all about whether they should have crowdsourced the photos. That sequed into the wisdom, or lack thereof, of shutting down the city. I'm not judging anybody's take. I'm as guilty as the next guy of second guessing the primary tactics in any given major event.

Tom Watson made the best case for why shutting down Boston was unwise. I'm sympathetic to the argument that it sets a bad precedent for overblown LEO responses to less than super extraordinary events. It discomfited me to see tanks on the streets of Watertown, MA to take down a 19 year old kid. I'm concerned when I see citizens ordered to stay in their homes while SWAT teams conduct house to house searches. This is not the America I grew up in.

Thing is, the America I grew up in has changed many times over the years. There are millions of more people in it. Lots of them are crazy. And violent. Society changed. It's greedier. More restless. Easily bored. The demand for instant amusement is constant and insatiable.

So I can see what the LEOs were thinking. The intertubz were exploding like busting pipes in an aging water system. It was flooding false leads into the media that were about to drown out any semblance of reliable information. The public was being assaulted with conflicting reports. Panic and hysteria ensued. Innocent people were being hounded. From their point of view it must have been a choice between chaos and controling the search zone.

Tom Watson lives in NYC. He's seen bigger stuff. So have I in my worldly travels. But Boston is not New York. Watertown is not downtown Boston. People live quiet lives in their houses with flowers along the front walk and maybe a boat parked in the back yard that they put in the water on weekends. Nothing ever happens in Watertown. Until it did.

Easy to dictate what's best in the big picture when it's not your neighborhood hosting major gunfights on a street where shots haven't been heard since the Revolutionary War. In the end I look to the people who live there to judge the wisdom of the tactics. I think this pretty much tells that story:
Dan Adams: Incredible scene at #WatertownPD HQ. Grateful, tearful residents arriving every minute w home cooked meals, pizza, flowers, cards.
And then read Charlie Pierce's eyewitness account of the bomber's capture. In fact read Charlies blog for the last few days. It's a whole different picture than the manufactured media hysteria on the TV.

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