July 21st, 2015
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, people on the internet have taken to groundlessly speculating on the identity of the attacker or attackers based on photos and videos from the scene, a process known as “procrastinating at work,” or “crowdsourcing.” What they have uncovered is that the attacker is possibly one of a dozen or so people in the vicinity of the bombing wearing a black backpack.
Here is a guide to the internet’s amateur sleuthing, which has so far relied on a few dozen hi-res photos from Flickr and news reports. (More than 2000 FBI agents are currently poring over tens of thousands of photos.)
1) Blue Robe Guy
Reddit, which has an entire subreddit dedicated to tracking down the attacker, and a bunch of weird right-wing bloggers have singled out Blue Robe Guy as a possible suspect. This is because he’s carrying a black backpack that has markings vaguely resembling an FBI photo purporting to be of a black backpack that contained one of the bombs. Also, he’s wearing a blue robe. Who does that? (Also it really looks like a fleece, not a robe.)
Blue Robe Guy has already been made into a meme.
2) Running Away Guy
A series of photos show a man sprinting away from the first bomb site in torn clothes directly after the bomb exploded. The Daily Mail and local Boston NBC affiliate WHDH have singled out Guy Running Away In Torn Clothes because he ran away instead of being stunned or crouching like many of the others at the bomb site. This ignores the fact that there is a guy right next to him who runs away even faster than him. See:
3) Brown Sweatshirt Guy
He had a backpack, and then he appeared not to have a backpack. Gateway Pundit asks: IS THIS THE BOMBER? Man With Black Backpack Before Bombing – Then Without Backpack Moments Before Blast
As the New York Post will tell you, any brown people in the vicinity of a bombing are suspect. Now, Reddit has shown the power of the crowd to racially profile more quickly and efficiently than any old media organization: Redditors and people from 4chan have identified a few brown people wearing backpacks in the area who appear to be communicating via some sort of in-ear radio.
4) Basically Every Brown Person Wearing a Backpack
This album from imgur, titled 4chan ThinkTank is probably the most definitive look at the internet hive mind at work. It’s a mess of captions and blurry close-up photos that apparently show the work of 4chan members in trying to track down the bomber. Currently it has over 350,000 views. Most of these are repeats from above, but also identify a handful of additional brown people with backpacks, sort of like racist Where’s Waldo.
5) Suspicious EBay Purchaser
Reddit has already identified the brand of pressure cooker apparently used in the attack as a FAGOR brand pressure cooker, based on FBI photos of remnants of the bomb. Now someone on Reddit found a guy who bought two pressure cookers on Ebay. Another Reddit user was skeptical: “Bad week to have bought pressure cookers in the last year. ‘Hello Sir, we are from the FBI, some people on The Internet sent us.'”
Are people on the internet on the right track? Given that there is almost no information about the attackers, it is impossible to say. No doubt the authorities are examining many of the same photos the internet is. But one thing is certain: If any of these details turn out to be remotely correct, the 99% that weren’t will be ignored and this will become the story of “How Reddit Solved The Boston Marathon Bombing.”
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Your Guide To The Boston Marathon Bombing Amateur Internet Crowd-Sleuthing,