NEW YORK, NY— The harrowing events that shook the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15 rightfully triggered all sorts of emotional reaction a nation needs to release in the face of terrorism. Many questioned who the individuals were and followed along with the Boston Police scanner as the officers, cementing their position as the nation’s finest, chased Dzhokhar Tsarnaev down the typically scenic Memorial Drive. Others at home questioned why anyone would feel the need to commit such evil, and for those, Time Magazine Senior Editor Jeffrey Kruger presents this pleasant non-explanation: could Tamerlan Tsarnaev have had boxing-related brain damage, that would in no way have triggered his violent behavior?


In a piece titled “Did Damage Caused By Boxing Play a Role in the Boston Bombings?,” it takes little to no time to answer the titular question: no. The elder Tsarnaev’s defining characteristic, according to media coverage so far, is indeed that he partook in amateur boxing. All signs point to him being somewhat more respectable than a complete joke, and that’s where this line of investigation ends. The other lines of investigation include evidence that Tsarnaev and his younger brother were reading Al Qaeda’s propaganda rag Inspire (which famously printed an article titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” by “AQ Chef”), had linked to jihadist videos on YouTube, and that Tamerlan had gone off into Russia at some point to “visit his father,” whatever that means.


But nevermind the obvious correlation between consuming jihadist propaganda, falling off the international map for a few months, and returning to the United States to commit a senseless act of violence. Kluger wants to talk about boxing, and how boxing damages the brain. It is a noble topic, one well worth discussing, but why bother dragging a sport already so far in the mud into this mess of a case? Terror attacks do prompt frantic searches for logic where none exists, and perhaps the intention of the piece was to find a reason outside of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s natural-born evil to explain what had caused this tragedy. If boxing is to blame, maybe Kluger can go to bed at night still believing all human beings are born good.


Kluger does a very bad job of convincing himself of his own thesis. For one, he attempts to cover for how tenuous this link seems to be almost immediately, admitting that it was a “likely no” to the question of whether brain damage caused by boxing triggered the terrorist attacks in Boston last week. A round of applause for that revelation. Kluger also brings in psychiatric professionals to help fully sink his thesis.


Dr. Robert Cantu of Boston University patiently explains that what is commonly called being “punch drunk” debilitates the brain in such a way as to not create criminal masterminds. Neurological deterioration of this kind makes people think slower, not more quickly. This is little more than common sense, and Kluger would not have needed to talk to a medical professional to understand this point—he could have gone to the home of any boxing world champion over 50 and had a five-minute chat.


That Kluger’s attempt to link boxing to such depths of evil fails to the point of comedy does not erase the fact that this article exists, that having penned a piece about terrorism in the frame of the effects of boxing sufficiently links the topics to engender suspicion in an American public that has already fled the sport en masse for reasons ranging from a reputation for corruption to price gouging that makes the water stand at Six Flags look like a thrift store.


The implication Kluger makes is that every boxer, amateur or professional (he makes no distinction despite the obvious safeguards that distinguish amateurs from professionals), is one punch away from mass murdering children. This time it was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but by asking the question, Kluger implies that next time it might be Canelo Alvarez, or Floyd Mayweather, or possibly someone who is used to taking regular beatings, like Zab Judah. It is impossible to exaggerate how offensive that assumption is to the most disciplined profession this side of the armed forces, to people who in a very real sense risk their lives for entertainment, patriotism, and a sort of honor no layperson could ever understand. When people who don’t write for Time magazine make these sorts of harebrained assumptions, we usually call them a string of epithets, and then call them Alex Jones (who Tamerlan was a fan of!). But for Kluger, this is just a regular exercise in asking questions, questions that apparently merit asking despite no signs pointing to any room for disagreement on the answer.


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