A Message to Marathon Bombing “Truthers”

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Hey you.

Yeah, you know who you are. You’re that guy, the contrarian asshole who has spent the past week using the tragic Boston Marathon bombings as a convenient excuse to wildly fabricate nits to pick about the country you live in.

When you first heard the news of the attack, whatever natural combination of shock, sorrow and anger you might have initially felt was quickly purged from your system, replaced with complaints that people were more saddened by violence in America than violence in non-English speaking countries. You quickly mentioned to anyone who would listen that the Marathon bombings completely overshadowed a series of car bombings on the same day in Iraq that killed 9 and left 79 wounded.

Of course American people were more upset about an attack on our soil!  Is it not an obvious enough fact that human beings inherently feel more attachment towards those they are associated with? I highly doubt that people in Iraq the next day were more concerned with the Boston attacks than those in their own backyard. They shouldn’t have been. By your logic, being more saddened by the death of a family member than the death of stranger is some kind of grand moralistic flaw (one that, in your eyes, seems to only afflicts white, privileged Americans).

You then nodded along with agreement as Alex Jones, the conspiracy mongering dickhead behind Infowars.com, instantly began to assert that this was a false flag attack staged by the government to infringe on people’s civil liberties. You nodded in agreement to the first question Governor Deval Patrick faced from the press on Monday, which strongly insinuated that this was all a false flag attack designed to allow homeland security officials to “stick their hands down our pants on the streets.”

Patrick responded flatly “No. Next question.” The perfect crime!

If you weren’t completely sold on the “Gubmint did it!” conspiracy, you were openly rooting for the perpetrators to be white Americans. Somehow, when a terrorist plants a deadly bomb packed with shrapnel next to a 8 year old child, the important thing to worry about is the color of the perpetrators skin.

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When law enforcement released the now infamous “black hat/ white hat” photos and surveillance video, you instantly declared that this was insufficient. You claimed that this was nothing more than police and the FBI finding a convenient scapegoat. You protested that the footage of suspect #2 placing the backpack at the spot of the explosion minutes before wasn’t released to the public. Ironically enough, you probably would’ve complained if they had released it that law enforcement was trying to incite the public to riotous vigilantism. You claimed that, with such insufficient evidence, any person wearing a backpack could’ve been targeted as a suspect (ignoring the fact that law enforcement showed great diligence by not overzealously targeting false or insufficient leads such as the reddit picture that the New York Post inexplicably plastered on Thursday’s front page).

When the identities and ties to militant Islamic groups of the suspects were discovered, you claimed they were targeted due to their religion. I’m not even going to get into the undeniable fact that extremist factions of Islam exist that consider themselves engaged in a holy war with all Americans, groups who have a bit of a history with this kind of thing. Not only would that be racist, but its not even true! After all, 9/11 was hoax designed to make Muslims look bad. You can read about it on the Internet.

It’s also clearly a coincidence that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hung out with a group of kids driving around in a car with “Terrorista #1” on their license plates. Nothing to see here, folks! Stop this racial profiling!

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You continued to run with your claim that the suspects were scapegoats for a false flag attack, even as said suspects did the following on Thursday night and Friday morning.

  • Ambushed and killed a 26 year old MIT Police Officer Sean Collier
  • Conducted a carjacking at gunpoint, keeping the car’s owner hostage in his own car for a half hour as they drove around bragging about being the marathon bombers and killing Sean Collier. I’m sure the victim of the carjacking was in on the hoax.
  • Engaged in a wild firefight with cops in the streets of Watertown, during which they shot and threw IEDs directly at officers. Clearly it’s a coincidence that these poor, misunderstood and unjustly targeted kids had enough weaponry on them for a small jihadist army.

Then, when law enforcement engaged in a massive manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday, you complained about once again about infringement of civil liberties. To you, the threat to public safety presented by a suspected terrorist who had already proven to be highly dangerous running loose through the city was secondary to the civil liberties of citizens. Thankfully, these Watertown citizens willingly and eagerly submitted to the door-to-door searches, since their priorities were straight enough to realize that civil liberties are pretty useless when one doesn’t feel safe walking outside.

You claimed this set a “precedent” for a “police state.” Sorry to break it to you, but the only precedent this established is that law enforcement is prepared and capable to do what is necessary to protect the public when faced with terrorist attacks.

Once Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody, you complained that he wasn’t read his Miranda Rights. According to you, the events of the past five days weren’t enough to justify a legal public safety exemption, defined as such:

“permits law enforcement to engage in a limited and focused unwarned interrogation and allows the government to introduce the statement as direct evidence. Police officers confronting situations that create a danger to themselves or others may ask questions designed to neutralize the threat without first providing a warning of rights”

Hmmm…Imminent threat to public safety?

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Check

Police officers confronting a situation that create a danger to themselves or others?

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Check. RIP Officer Collier.

Very plausible suspicions that others were involved in the planning, financing and execution of the attacks?

Check.

However, in your mind, the Miranda rights of a known murderer seem to be more important than finding any potential accomplices and taking them into custody.

The suspect may be in custody, but you’re just getting started. Perhaps you’ve recently been trying to make #freejahar a trending topic on twitter. Maybe you’ve been on MSNBC, desperately trying to claim that ties to militant Islamic groups are as relevant to the bombing attacks as Ben Affleck movies (Seriously, that happened yesterday).

Or maybe you’re claiming that Jeff Bauman, the subject of a photo that summed up the brutality of the attack (and later played a crucial role in helping the FBI identify the suspects), was actually Nick Vogt, a former army officer who lost his legs in Afghanistan in 2011. Clearly, he was planted by the government to enhance the illusion of the false flag attack.

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Of course, if Bauman is real, his role in identifying the suspect proves his involvement in the conspiracy.

This message is for you. It’s for all of you. It comes directly from those of us whose grief for the victims and their families actually superseded any crackpot political agenda. It comes from those of us who actually appreciated the fabulous work of law enforcement, who worked tirelessly for five days to protect me, you and everyone from this lunatic.

Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

No seriously, fuck off. No one wants to hear your unfounded conspiracy theories. You may be so out of touch with reality that you don’t notice (or acknowledge) the steadily growing mountain of evidence against your bullshit, but we aren’t. Have some goddamn respect for the victims and go away.

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Mad Men: Felger Beats out Ordway in Battle for Boston

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Wednesday was a sad day for sports radio.

At 2 pm, Glenn Ordway opened WEEI’s drive time Big Show by confirming the day’s earlier reports that he was getting fired. The news was shocking to many, including myself. Ordway had been a radio fixture in Boston for thirty years, dating back to his days as the Celtics play-by-play announcer during Larry Bird’s dominant 1980s run, and had hosted the afternoon Big Show since 1996.

It was common knowledge that WEEI had lost its stranglehold on Boston sports talk radio since the emergence of a legitimate competitor in 98.5 the Sports Hub. Felger and Maz, the Sports Hub’s competing show in the coveted 2-6 pm afternoon drive time slot, overtook The Big Show in the overall ratings over the past year and displayed particularly dominant numbers amongst the younger 20-somethings that are quickly becoming the next wave of sports talk listeners. The show’s declining ratings were something that Ordway acknowledged while announcing his impending departure.

The fact that ratings eventually kicked Ordway to the curb is not what’s troubling about this. We all know that ratings and their coinciding advertising revenue drive the radio and TV business. Likewise, while I’ll miss Ordway’s presence on the radio, it’s hard to shed too many tears for someone who until recently was making seven figures to talk about sports for a living.

No, what’s disheartening about this entire development is what it shows about what kind of product garners good ratings.

For years, I found Ordway’s Big Show to be borderline unlistenable. Ordway was joined by a rotating cast of co-hosts, with Fred Smerlas, Steve DeOssie and Pete Sheppard being the usual suspects. Remotely intelligent sports discourse went completely out the window. The program regularly turned into a contest to see who could yell over the other. It was rare that one of the hosts made it through an entire, coherent point without being interrupted. In this way, it was disturbingly close to the discourse in the Senate (albeit with more fart jokes).

This period coincided with Patriots success, a Red Sox revival and ratings through the roof. Ordway owned the cities airwaves.

However, by 2011 even the producers at WEEI could see that this approach had run its course. With “new kid on the block” the Sports Hub nipping at its heels, WEEI readjusted its programming. Midday host Michael Holley was moved up to co-host afternoons with Ordway. Smerlas and DeOssie and their jock-o-rama program were gone.

As a result, the quality of the program dramatically improved. Juvenile shouting matches had been replaced with intelligent, insightful discussion. Ordway and Holley quickly developed an excellent chemistry. While they did not agree on every issue, they clearly respected each other and allowed both perspectives to be fully articulated and debated. At times, the program even brought forth legitimately poignant discussion, particularly when issues concerning race (Holley is black, Ordway is white) or sexuality (The Big Show had longtime contributor Steve Buckley on the day Buckley came out of the closet in his Boston Herald column) came up. They also managed to pull this off without sacrificing humor; the show had finally achieved a nice balance between being informative and entertaining.

Sadly, the improved product didn’t sell. Felger and Mazz continued to gain ground on The Big Show before finally overtaking it in the ratings this past fall. Part of this can be contributed to more advertising and visibility (Felger and Mazz is also televised on Comcast SportsNet), but a lot of it is simply the fact that Michael Felger has a considerable fan base, something that is even more disheartening.

Felger’s tried and true tactic of spewing constant overbearing negativity and cynical pessimism has proven to be an effective way to get attention. It also makes him an unlikeable douche who looks like he masturbates to his own mental image of how “edgy” and “controversial” his style is. The sheer arrogance in face every time the conversation turns to his favorite subject (taking a battle ax to the reputation, game and character of Rajon Rondo) is second-to-none.

That’s saying nothing of Massarotti, a man whose similarities to George Constanza include fatness, shortness, baldness and excessive emulation and imitation of a more talented and charismatic friend. Maz’s Felger imitations range from adopting his misguided and seemingly personal stance on Rondo to making long, whiny rants with vague political undertones. Even more annoying is the face Maz makes whenever he makes a joke on the air. As his face scrunches up from giggling under his breath at his own joke, he looks first to his right (to Felger) and then to his right (to headlines guy Marc Bertrand) to see if they are as impressed with his humor as he is. He probably does this 20 times a broadcast and I want to punch him in the face through the TV every time.

The fact that this show, full blatantly calculated cynicism, arrogance, whininess and often full-on character assassination (hell, Felger is openly contemptuous of basketball as a sport) has taken down a legitimately good program with open, wide-ranging discussion is troublesome.

Put it this way: Glenn Ordway was the Don Draper of the Boston sports radio world. Years of hard work and natural talent had established him as the best in the business; a force to be reckoned with that dominated the landscape of his field. Ordway certainly wasn’t without his flaws and missteps, but he had earned and was continuing to earn his keep by merit. Finally, like Draper, Ordway was beginning to hear the footsteps of a younger generation behind him, coming closer and closer and leaving him one misstep away from being cast aside in a notoriously cruel business.

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In this analogy, Felger is Pete Campbell. Like Campbell, Felger has an immediate youthful (Ok, youthful relative to Ordway) charisma that his mentor doesn’t. Like Campbell, Felger is clearly arrogant, occasionally petty (ask Heidi Watney about Felger’s mudslinging ways) and certainly ambitious. Just as Campbell was brought up in the advertising world by Draper, Felger got his start on talk radio filling in as an occasional co-host on, you guessed it, Ordway’s Big Show. Campbell wears the Blue Suit; Felger wears the Black Sweatervest.

Wednesday, Don Draper was kicked to the curb in favor of Pete Campbell. We all knew it was eventually inevitable, but something about it still doesn’t feel right. Pete Campbell has won.

A sad day for sports talk radio indeed.

The Super Bowl: American Decadence in a Nutshell (Cracked by Psy!)

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This year’s Super Bowl broadcast reinforced a theory that had floating around in my head for a long time. There isn’t a single day or event more inherently American than Super Bowl Sunday. Not Christmas. Not Thanksgiving. Not even the Fourth of July can compete.

Last Sunday night well-over 100 million people eagerly huddled around their TVs. They were ostensibly there to watch the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers play a football game. However, many of them hadn’t watched a football game in its entirety all year and couldn’t name a single player from either team. They were watching more for the commercials, the pyrotechnics or Beyonce. They were watching for the spectacle of the whole thing.

The truth of the matter is that last night wasn’t about football. It wasn’t about the Ravens and 49ers. It wasn’t about the Harbaugh brothers. It wasn’t even about Ray Lewis.

It was about Bud Light, E-Trade and Mercedes. It was about CBS. It was about inane bullshit. The whole thing was one giant fucking commercial. In the end, the only purpose of the whole thing is to try to get you to buy some shit.

Of course, you’d be naïve to be surprised by this. Any regular season football game, even those far removed from a national audience (the entire Jaguars season, for instance) is littered with ads for beer, cars and boner pills. After all, it’s no secret that television programming is fueled by advertising dollars. That’s just how things are and we’ve largely come to accept that.

This is exactly why this is the most American event of the year. Does anything represent American culture more than the entire country eating pizza and watching a bunch of ads and pyrotechnics occasionally interrupted by a football game?

The players were far from the only ones dealing with dramatically heightened stakes. The sheer amount of viewership creates massive potential for profit, turning the entire broadcast into a thinly-veiled exercise in mass-marketing, subtlety be damned. Behold the Hyundai Super Bowl Pre-Game Show, the Blockbuster-Total Access Halftime Report and the Pepsi Halftime Show, which cost a small fortune to produce. Hell, this kind of promotion is so prevalent that it’s been wound into the tradition of the game, made evident by the Super Bowl MVP’s annual following of Disneyland’s product-placement script. Of course, in addition to a trip to Disneyland and countless millions in contract negotiation leverage, Joe Flacco gained a shiny new car last night courtesy of the Cadillac Post Game Report.

Nothing can beat the Super Bowl for sheer volume of sponsorship, but nothing from this year’s game even competes with the most mind-numbing moment of shameless cross-promotion sports broadcasting has brought us. That would be from the 2011 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, where Brent Musburger’s infamously said “This is for all the Tostitos” as Auburn kicker Wes Byrum lined up to kick the game-winning field goal. It was a moment that stands alone on the pantheon of soulless corporate shilling. Let us take this opportunity to observe a moment of silence for Musburger’s dignity.

Thank you.

Now, lets take a look at the phenomena of Super Bowl advertising. 30 seconds of airtime cost somewhere between 3.8 and 4 million dollars. Of course, that staggering figure is merely the cost to reserve that airtime. It doesn’t even factor in the amount spent on actually producing the ads, including what surely were expensive cameos from celebrities such as William DeFoe, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Lebron James and Stevie Wonder.

Come to think of it, the most expensive cameo had to be Bar Refaeli, right?

Let’s take a look at the circular logic behind the phenomena of Super Bowl advertising. The ads undoubtedly have a sense of heightened importance; after all, it’s the only day of the entire year where people watch TV more for the ads than the actual programming. Many companies notoriously build their marketing schemes around Super Bowl buzz.

However, there is a major logical fallacy driving the whole thing forward. More people watch the commercials because they supposedly are “more important”, but they are only more important because more people are watching.

Of course, the viewers are who came first in this “chicken or the egg” scenario; without the massive amount of viewers, there is no advertising hype. Nevertheless, if you remove yourself from these illogical preconceived notions about the Super Bowl ads, they become just that: ads.

No one benefited from the hype machine this year more than CBS, who took advantage of its turn broadcasting the big game by slapping shameless cross-promotion wherever it could for anything remotely connected to the network. The nerds from The Big Bang Theory wearing shoulder pads? Sure! Two and a Half Men’s aptly named Jon Cryer donning eye black? Why not? David Letterman tossing a football to Andrew Luck? You betcha! The two sluts from Two Broke Girls looking all slutty? ‘Merica.

The explosion of football’s popularity has created a downward (or upward, if you judge only by revenue) spiral, to the point that the sheer level of spectacle and hype is overpowering. Like the NFL, the Super Bowl is too big to fail; its mere occurrence is self-sufficient. It doesn’t matter if the game is boring, the ads aren’t particularly great, or the Black Eyed Peas suck (and suck did they ever).

Even more than the multitude of products that each paid a small fortune to throw their hat in the Super Bowl advertising dog-and-pony show, the biggest product sold was the spectacle itself. This is the goddamn Super Bowl, and all the build-up, advertising hype, extravagant halftime show and everything else ultimately serves the purpose of selling us the idea that this matters more than a sporting event. It’s as if we need all this bombastic pageantry, all the pyrotechnics and commercials, celebrities, glitter and buzz, to maintain the illusion of grandiosity needed to distract millions of casual viewers (many whom are far from the demographic of football fans) from the fact this is actually nothing more than a sporting event.

Yet, we don’t care and we just keep on buying it. This year’s Super Bowl was the most-watched (and almost assuredly the most expensive) televised event in human history. Despite the embarrassing power-outage, questionable officiating and an overwhelming sense of tackiness, everyone made a certified fuck-ton of money, making it an undeniably rousing success.

What could be more American than that?

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Ray Lewis is a Fucking Murderer: Stop Lionizing Him

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This Sunday, Ray Lewis will take the field for what could be his last game (although Vegas seems to be more convinced of that than I am). There will be a million shots of him before, during and after the game. Ray Lewis dancing! Ray Lewis giving a pump up speech! Ray Lewis looking intense on the sidelines! Ray Lewis jumping on the pile at the end of a six yard run! The words “future Hall of Famer” will be breathlessly repeated time and time again by Simms and Nantz. We will hear about his “leadership”, his “dedication to the game” and his “work ethic”.

We won’t hear at all about the inconvenient fact that he most likely was directly involved in two murders and got away with it. For some reason, that little bit seems to have been stricken from the record with Ray.

The fact that the majority of the public and media has willfully chosen to ignore this is beyond frustrating. The fact that Lewis is undoubtedly a Hall of Fame level player shouldn’t overshadow involvement in a murder. The fact that the rehabilitated Ray does plenty of charity work, openly speaks about religion and is beloved by his teammates shouldn’t overshadow his involvement in a fucking murder!

How is this difficult for people to grasp?

Oh, so you say Ray’s name was cleared in court. That technically is true; Ray notoriously struck a deal with the prosecution, resulting in his murder charge being dropped in exchange for testimony against his two friends also entangled in the murder case and an obstruction of justice charge.

However:

We know that the murders happened. Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker are not dead by accident. They were brutally stabbed repeatedly in the heart and liver. Their wounds suggest that the knives used were twisted once within their bodies to maximize the damage. This clearly was a case of cold-blooded murder.

We know that the stabbings occurred in the midst of a brawl between the two victims and Ray’s entourage. In other words, Lewis, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting were in a fight with Lollar and Baker which resulted in those two men getting viciously stabbed and left to bleed out in the street.

We know that the three men fled the scene in Lewis’ limo. We know that Lewis’ white suit, stained red with blood, was mysteriously disposed of and never found. We know that Lewis told everyone in the limo to “keep their mouths shut”, a statement that played a large role in his being charged with obstruction of justice. We know that Lewis admitted in court to giving a “misleading” account of the past night’s events.

Does any of this seem like the actions of an innocent man?

Evelyn Sparks, a female passenger of the limo, testified under oath that she saw another passenger dispose of a laundry bag in a trash can outside a fast food restaurant. What seems more plausible? The prosecution’s suspicions that the bag contained Lewis’ evidence-stained suit? Or Lewis’ claim that he simply has no idea what became of that suit? Amnesia sure is convenient, huh Ray?

Oakley and Sweeting were cleared of their charges largely because the testimony of Ray Lewis was vague as hell. It was also a steaming load of horseshit; Ray knew what happened. It he was actually as unsure about what happened as his testimony claimed, he wouldn’t have known of anything to tell everyone to shut up about in the limo.

What seems more likely? That Ray Lewis and his friends are completely innocent men? Or that the combination of suspicious cover-up behavior and the kind of legal defense a four year, $26 million contract can buy was able to manipulate the system enough for all three to walk?

Are we seriously naive enough to think that acquittal, particularly acquittal of a rich, powerful celebrity, in the US Justice System is equivalent with innocence?

Finally, in the end, was there enough concrete evidence to convict Ray Lewis of murder? No. Is there plenty circumstantial evidence that strongly suggests that he was heavily involved? Abso-fucking-lutely. At the very best, he explicitly helped two men get away with murder. Pardon me for convicting him in the court of my own goddamn opinion.

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Shhhhhhhh…that was like…a long time ago, man

Many have pointed out the irony of Ray being hired by ESPN, noting that the Worldwide Leader is a subsidiary of Disney. When Lewis was voted the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, less than a year after this aforementioned, ahem, “incident”, it was quarterback Trent Dilfer and not Lewis who delivered the famous “I’m going to Disney World!” catchphrase.

However, the fact that a company that once shunned Lewis is now hiring him isn’t a sign of his “redemption.” It’s a sign of how full of shit everyone who have fallen for Ray’s act are. None of the details of the murder case have changed. The only thing that’s changed is people’s perception, as they seem to stick fingers in their ears and shout “LA LA LA LA LA LA!” instinctively whenever they are confronted with a realistic interpretation of the evidence surrounding that case.

You know whats a crime? (Well, besides a famous athlete literally getting away with murder). Ray’s last stand has received non-stop, slobbering coverage while Tony Gonzalez has been relatively ignored. Let’s compare these two. Both are clearly in the discussion for best ever at their respective positions; sure fire, first-ballot Hall of Famers. Both are renowned for their incredible longevity. Both are beloved by their teammates and fans. However, Gonzalez has long been known as one of the good guys in the NFL. Ironically, he is known for saving lives, not taking them.

Also lets not forget Tony G. is a much better football player at this point in his career than Ray is in his. When was the last time Ray made a play close to as good as Tony’s toe-tapping touchdown last week?

In the end, I don’t care how much Ray’s teammates love him. I don’t care that he talks crazy-as-all shit about God.  I don’t care about his stupid fucking dance. I don’t care about how much he undeniably loves the game. I don’t care how good he is at obnoxious self-promotion (and he’s great at that). He was heavily involved in a murder and got away with it.  I hope this weekend is his last game and that the Ravens lose in an unfathomably heartbreaking fashion.

I’ll miss Tony Gonzalez. I will be happy to see Ray Lewis gone.