On the cheering of Osama Bin Laden’s death (or why @digeratii is wrong)
I decided this needed a post because keeping my viewpoint condensed to tweet form resulted in me implicitly calling @digeratii a piece of shit.
It all started with this:
Apparently, Digeratii, though seemingly against murder, is upset that people are raining on his parade by reminding him that it’s overall in bad taste to celebrate the death of a person. I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel some relief at having attacked a very real threat to US security and neutralizing that specific threat, and I’m not in any way coming to Bin Laden’s defense. Whatever his reasoning was in running a terrorist group, I’m quite certain that it was wrong.
And no matter how wrong his actions were, it just isn’t right to celebrate his death. It wouldn’t be right for someone to celebrate your death, even if you did awful things.
Killing him was probably the right thing to do, and the people who carried out the operation that resulted in his death should be proud of the job they have accomplished. However, that doesn’t make it right for these people to be happy that they killed someone. They were doing what needed to be done.
These are the kinds of lessons that your parents taught you. Sometimes you need to kill (animals, perhaps a human attacker) and you recognize that you need to do that for survival and that is morally sound, but it is most certainly not morally sound to take pleasure in another’s death. When you are taking pleasure in a person’s death your perception of the value of life has lessened. And even though many in the country are cheering you on in agreement, it doesn’t make it morally sound.
If I may start to Godwin this post, let’s look to the Stanford Prison experiment. If you aren’t familiar, this was an experiment in which college students played a randomly selected role in a role playing situation of a prison. Some were prison guards, and others were prisoners. These were perfectly normal college students, mind you. The experiment had to be cancelled prematurely because of the psychological and physical harm being caused to the participants. The “guards” had taken their role far too seriously, and they were hazing the “prisoners” to the point that the prisoners were genuinely convinced that they deserved what was happening to them. And it all started with the “guards” being under the understanding that it was okay for them to wield power over the prisoners, not at all unlike how people in the Twittersphere are trying to convince each other that it’s okay to be celebrating Bin Laden’s death.
In the Stanford Prison experiment, nobody was killed, so perhaps you may not find the connection adequate. But in WWII people were killed. Let’s look to the Nazis. As much as we’d all like to be convinced that these were inhuman killing machines bred to try to destroy an entire people, reality is much more grim. They were a bunch of young, respectable men who were convinced by their leaders and society that the Jewish population needed to be exterminated. It would be a huge burden off of my shoulders to believe that these weren’t just regular young men. But that’s exactly who these people were. It took very little to convince these soldiers that running concentration camps and rounding up Jews was the right thing to do.
It’s so easy to jump into the hivemind and cheer about what happened. It almost seems logically sound. After all, this man led a group of terrorists that murdered many Americans, and he has no been killed, ergo that is good, right? It makes us safer that he was killed, perhaps, but cause for celebration?
If people are unable to even speak out against someone being happy about a death of a (admittedly dangerous) man, are these people going to know when to speak out?
If you’re willing to cheer about someone’s death, how can you argue that you’re a better person than the Al-qaeda operative who cheered on 9/11? Do you think it’s enough to rationalize it with “he was a murderer, therefore it’s okay?” Al-qaeda were likewise convinced that Americans were bad people (hint: that’s why they wanted to be terrorists).
If you see someone kill someone and get giddy about it, then you kill that person to protect others yet you’re giddy about it too, how can you argue that you’re the better man? Because ultimately it is this pleasure in killing someone that makes the difference between the murderer and an innocent person who was acting in defense.
Feel free to weigh in in comments below. @Digeratii, I invite you in particular to provide a detailed response here. I promise that given adequate typing room, I won’t need to get too fierce!