Special Bulletins

As someone who still associates mornings like this one with the old “Special Bulletin” program interruptions the major networks used to run back when they were the only public sources for breaking news, and when such “Bulletins” usually involved something pretty important if not terrifying–the way the information is flowing out of Boston is very disorienting. Check out this “more than you’d imagine, less than you need to understand anything” report from Slate‘s Dave Weigel about the dead terrorist suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev:

Readers have pointed out that Johannes Hirn made Tsarnaev the subject of a photo essay, “Will Box for Passport,” taken before the boxer competed at National Golden Gloves competition in Salt Lake City. The captions give us a micro-profile of the suspect.

“Tamerlan, who studies at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston and wants to become an engineer, took the semester off from school to train for the competition.

“Tamerlan fled Chechnya with his family because of the conflict in the early 90s, and lived for years in Kazakhstan before getting to the United States as a refugee.

“Originally from Chechnya, but living in the United States since five years, Tamerlan says: ‘I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.’

“If he wins enough fights … Tamerlan says he could be selected for the US Olympic team and be naturalized American. Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia.

“Tamerlan says he doesn’t drink or smoke anymore: “God said no alcohol.” A muslim, he says: ‘There are no values anymore,” and worries that “people can’t control themselves.'”

BTW, my own first thought when I read the line, “God said no alcohol,” was that this is what a lot of my Southern Baptist friends and relatives think, too.

Most of these quotes are from the photo essay Weigel mentioned, done prior to the Golden Gloves competition in 2009. But Weigel’s account gets even weirder:

UPDATE: Justin Hart located Tamerlan’s Amazon wishlist. Among the hits:

How to Make Driver’s Licenses and Other ID on Your Home Computer

The I.D. Forger: Homemade Birth Certificates & Other Documents Explained

Secrets Of A Back Alley ID Man: Fake Id Construction Techniques Of The Underground

The Lone Wolf And the Bear: Three Centuries of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule

Organized Crime: AN INSIDE GUIDE TO THE WORLD’S MOST SUCCESSFUL INDUSTRY

And, of course…

– How to Win Friends & Influence People

In a separate post, Weigel debunks a fake Twitter account attributed to the younger Tsarnaev brother that’s drawing massive attention.

So while there’s a bewildering amount of fragmented information out there even as the police search for this deadly young man, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. The old reliance on some grave man in a suit to tell you what you needed to know on a small screen had its merits along with its frustrations.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.