The following does not aim to endorse or debunk any of the emerging conspiracist narratives surrounding the Boston marathon bombing. Rather, it is intended as an ad hoc reception history, an attempt to track the dissemination and development of these ideas in real-time. I may update the post as things develop, particularly if these narratives take unexpected directions.
As you will by now be aware, around 2:50 PM local time on Monday 15th April 2013, two explosive devices were detonated close to the finish line of the Boston marathon, killing 3 and injuring at least 100 more. As I write this (Wed 17th), we still know almost nothing about the perpetrators or their motivations and aims – the Huffington Post today quotes an expert as saying that it is likely the work of either domestic or foreign terrorists, which is really saying nothing at all. Mark Jurgensmeyer, a respected scholar of violence and religion, has penned a short piece for Religion Dispatches pointing out that the signs point to it being the work of right-wing Christians, and I would tend to agree with him.
Alex Jones doesn’t. Within an hour of the event, infowars.com had three pieces up which point out similarities between the marathon bombing and other recent terrorist acts. In particular, one piece claims that when several witnesses asked why there were bomb-sniffing dogs on the route, they were told that a training drill was in operation. This claim is also made for 9-11 and the 7-7 bombings in London, and apparently not without some justification. But Jones’ claim that this proves it was a “false flag” (that is, an attack made against your own people but ostensibly by your enemy) is predicated upon the belief that 9-11 and 7-7 were false flag attacks.
For Jones, the motivation behind such a false flag attack is to demonise himself and other Tea Party activists, and thereby discredit their opposition to further restrictions on gun control. He points out that CNN were broadcasting an op ed stating that “Right Wing extremists” could be behind the bombs less than 2 hours after the event, and in lieu of a suspect.
Dan Bidondi, a local host for Infowars, was dispatched to the press conference, where he hijacked the Q&A by repeatedly asking if it was a false flag event, and at a second asking about the security drill:
Other now familiar tropes emerged quickly too. This video claims to show that the facebook Boston Marathon Memorial page was set up before the bombs went off – something which was also a feature of the conspiracist take on the Sandy Hook shootings.
Jones has not yet claimed that he predicted the attack. However, Cindy Jacobs, an ”Apostle” in the Pentacostal organisation the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders (ACPE) tweeted last week:
Cindy Jacobs @cindyjacobs 9 Apr
Must take threats from North Korea seriously-possiblly April 15th. Need to pray protection for both the US and South Korea and Japan.
11:38 AM – 9 Apr 13
In the aftermath, however, and in a perfect example of what I have called “rolling prophecy”, she was now claiming that she had predicted the marathon bombing (Thanks to Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion for this):
Cindy Jacobs @cindyjacobs 15 Apr
Bombings in Boston, Massachusetts on Patriots Day, April 15th. I had been warning we needed to pray about danger today. Please pray!
2:30 PM – 15 Apr 13
By the early evening, http://www.bostonmarathonconspiracy.com/ had been registered, containing a short holding message to PLEASE KEEP THE VICTIMS OF THIS EVENT AND THEIR FAMILIES IN YOUR THOUGHTS. It turns out that the registree was one of the admins of the conspiracy debunking blog, Screw Loose Change, as a preemptive strike.
A final thought: why is this an “act of terror” and not an “act of terrorISM”? Why the shift in terminology?