Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev: Did Taxpayers Fund Boston Bombings?

"What nerve."

That is the headline of the Boston Herald's issue on Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after they stopped receiving state benefits when they passed the income ceiling in 2012, but reports are asking the heinously ignorant question of whether taxpayers paid for the bills that allowed the brothers plan and orchestrate the Boston bombing.

This is tabloid journalism in its worst form. As authorities continue to question Dzhokhar, it is highly unlikely he will point to, for example, his college scholarship from the city of Cambridge as a crucial aid during the poorly planned attacks. The blame instead seems to be pointed at Tamerlan's increasing religiosity and conspiracy theories as the momentum behind his radicalization, but why are we not asking how he ended his boxing ambitions that made space for it? 

Understandably, in this stage of the investigation the public and media is eager to find out the motives and mindset that could have let these two seemingly normal young men to execute such horrible actions, but that does not mean we try and blame the programs that were trying to sustain them.

The Tsarnaevs were legally entitled to the welfare programs they received, including the food stamps which Katherine Russell Tsarnaev received for her and her 3-year-old while working 80 hour weeks as a home health aide. Can we blame this hard-working young woman as having supported her husband's terrorist ambitions because he stayed at home?

Welfare programs were a major platform agenda for the Republicans in last year's election, and one that they seem to have not yet surrendered. The Boston Herald was unable to get the exact timeline of when the Tsarnaev family received benefits, so they are unable to fully link the programs to the incident, but they will certainly try. The only confirmation the media has so far is that no assistance was provided at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing that left three dead and 260 injured because Governor Patrick has issued an order to keep records of the Tsarnaevs welfare accounts sealed.

Governor Patrick and the state agencies in question are mandated by Massachusetts law to protect the personal data of any citizens to the general public, but that only allows for further fear-mongering. In a further egregious example of post hoc ergo propter hoc, Fox and Friends hosts on Friday equaled Massachusetts Governer Deval Patrick's order to state agencies to not release any information about the Tsarnaevs' welfare accounts to aiding terrorism:


This is a scary reminder of the 'if you're not with us you're against us' phase of post 9/11 America, but this time with added partisanship. It was easier in 2001 to point to the Taliban with their beards and caves as an example of this 'other,' but the brothers Tsarnaevs were culturally American which makes this situation so much harder to understand.

Instead of trying to piece together the details using the partisan propaganda we know, should we not be focusing our energies on discovering the facts we don't?

Tell me what you think in the comments below or on Twitter @shwetika.

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Shwetika Baijal

Shwetika is PolicyMic's first columnist and writes for the Millenials and the Media column. She focuses on how the media frames policy and cultural issues, how the media's framing effects public opinion, and in turn how public opinion affects the policies and issues under discussion.

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