Sunday, May 05, 2002

In 1770, Boston was under occupation by about 700 British regulars, who had been brought in by the lawful government of the time to maintain order. On March 5, outside the Customs House, a soldier got into a scuffle with an apprentice, who ran off --- and returned with a mob. The soldier called for relief. As it arrived, the mob got increasingly threatening, pelting the soldiers with whatever was handy, mostly snow and ice, and daring them to fire back, which they did (perhaps not hearing the orders of their commander, who was shouting "Don't fire! Don't fire!" in the tumult). Three colonials died immediately, two later on.

By public demand, stoked by radical propaganda, the soldiers were put on trial --- but under the circumstances, even a jury of colonials would not convict. First the commander, then most of the soldiers, were acquitted on all charges; the radicals got only two token convictions for manslaughter, for which the soldiers were branded on the thumbs and released. Some credit for that is probably due to the able work of the defense attorney, John Adams (yes, that John Adams), but much of it reflects the simple fact that the soldiers, at the time of the confrontation, were under attack.

The event has gone down in history as "the Boston Massacre".

Just a thought on the use of the M-word --- and on how it will continue to be used by those with an axe to grind. Palestinian casualty estimates now more or less agree with initial reports from the Israelis, which means only that for Palestinian propagandists and their partisans, fifty-odd deaths are enough. No need to be fussy about the details.

Anyone who thinks the Palestinians haven't scored a propaganda victory here isn't looking outside their own corner.

(Which isn't to say that things are going entirely well for the Palestinians. Take the Nightline interviews with Arafat and Sharon. I've seen Koppel knocked for making Arafat look good. Arafat looked terrible --- and if Ted wanted to make him look worse, he should have asked fewer questions, not tougher ones; every moment that Koppel was speaking was a moment in which the wild-eyed, drooling Arafat wasn't making a fool of himself).


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