Just a brief reminder that news is bad for you. No, seriously: publicly available news media in the 21st century exist solely to get eyeballs on advertisements. That is its only real purpose. The real news consists of dull but informative reports circulated by consultancies giving in-depth insight into what's going on. The sort of stuff you find digested in the inside pages of The Economist. All else is comics. As there's an arms race going on between advertising sales departments, the major news outlets are constantly trying to make their product more addictive. And like most other addictive substance, news is a depressant, one fine-tuned to make you keep coming back for more.
When a particular incident like today's bombing of the Boston marathon kicks off a news cycle, a common pattern asserts itself. First, there's photographic evidence and rumour. Then there's some initial information—immediate numbers of dead and injured, scary photographs. But the amount of new information coming out tapers off rapidly after the first hour or two, and gives way to rumour and speculation. There probably won't be any meaningful updates for a couple of days: but the TV channels and newpapers have to fill the dead air somehow, to keep the eyeballs they've attracted on the advertisements, so they cobble together anything they can grab—usually talking heads speculating without benefit of actual information. Such speculation in turn increases anxiety levels and causes depression, bringing the onlookers back for more.
Which is why I am about to back away from the keyboard, stop looking for more updated news from Boston, and go swimming. Terrible though the bombings may be, we won't learn anything significant about the responsible parties for some time: and in the meantime I see no reason to allow my emotional state to be manipulated for the benefit of advertisers. (And neither should you, unless you're a Bostonian or a relative or friend of someone directly affected, in which case, you have my deepest sympathy. This goes for you, Dan.)
Update: And here's Bruce Schneier with some words of sense.
Additional update: The comments on this blog entry are not intended for wild speculation about the identity and motivation of the bombers; comments on those lines may be deleted, especially if I think they amount to hate speech directed against minorities.