Opinion: the Death of Osama Bin Laden, the Ethics of Assassination, and Next Media Animation

As you all know, Osama Bin Laden was killed by special U.S. op forces a couple of days ago in Abbottabad, Pakistan. According to Obama’s remarks in the immediate aftermath of Bin Laden’s death, Osama Bin Laden died in a firefight when he resisted capture.

Personally, I am ambivalent about the killing, especially the circumstances of Bin Laden’s death. The Whitehouse at first suggested Bin Laden put up resistance, but is already retracting that narrative.

I am especially skeptical of the U.S. sense of righteousness. To the extent it is wrong to assassinate a leader, I think the assassination of Osama is not justified. Some may point a finger: but Bin Laden is a terrorist. My response: to the extent Bin Laden is a terrorist, one might label the U.S. to be a terrorist, too. Al Qaeda may have a casual disregard for American life (about 3,000 died in New York), but so do the U.S. have a disregard for Muslim life (110,000 civilian deaths in Iraq9,000 civilian death in Afghanistan).

One might want to distinguish between Osama and U.S. based on intent: the New York civilians were the target of Osama’s operations while those in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the intended targets of U.S. operations; they died as collateral damage….

That is wishful moralizing. To say Osama’s goal is to kill the 3,000 per se, not to achieve greater political objective, is to buy into the American good vs. evil rhetoric without critical thinking. To think the U.S. does care about the 120,000 civilian deaths it caused is also to dwell in wishful thinking: imagine if those had been American civilian deaths, would the American public have allowed the war to drag on?

The truth is both Osama and the U.S. had political goals to achieve, and in the calculation of both, the human lives wasted (3,000 in the case of Bin Laden and 120,000 in the case of U.S.) were acceptable collateral damage, in their views, for achieving their goals.

Anyways – be that as it may, to the extent the U.S. sets the world order, and the small frys are called terrorists and celebrated when killed – I accept reality.

The original purpose for this post was however to also write about Next Media.

Yesterday, Next Media, a Taiwan based company that specialized in graphic depictions of news events, callously put up a video it titled  ”Bin Laden Dead: Video Animation of Terrorist Leader’s Final Moments.” The animation video depicted Bin Laden getting killed, with American troops celebrating pissing on Bin Laden’s body, referring to the act mockingly as part of the “Islamic burial ritual.” The video then panned to what was presumptively Bin Laden’s first moments of afterlife, where instead of meeting angels, he was greeted by the a horned devil and led to a door to be greeted by 72 pigs, not virgins. A clearly disgruntled Bin Laden was then promptly pinned down by one of the piglets in an act of bestiality.

The video – with the link http://www.nma.tv/bin-laden-dead-video-animation-terrorist-leaders-final-moments/ – has since been removed.

I don’t know what the people at NMA were thinking. Some may think this funny, some may dismiss it as merely tasteless. But given the way it mocked not only Bin Laden, but Islam (pissing as a theme of Muslim burial rights, virgins shown as piglets), I consider it borderline hate speech.

Even though NMA has decided to take down the video (for whatever reasons), NMA has done so many tasteless things recently, I think someone must call them out.

It is because of junk like these that I think governments such as those in China has not only a right, but a duty to censor. What social value does such junk add? Some may argue, but value of things lie in the eye of the beholder, we should let the people – the market – decide what is foul and what is not.

If we really believe the people, the market, can regulate everything, we can just disband government. When a need for bridge arises, the market will provide a bridge. When social ills arise, the market will provide institutions that solve the problems. When companies make things that are bad for people, supply and demand will drive bad businesses out of business.

This is unfortunately not how things operate. We need government to ensure that the market works – that the people live in a just society. Just as we need laws to regulate toxic mortgages, we need laws to regulate toxic speech as well. The market may produce sensationalist things that appeal to the vulgar mass. It may produce things that tailor to the rich.  It is government – however – that is ultimately tasked with protecting the people.

This may be the ultimate lesson of the death of Bin Laden. Governments matter in people’s lives. Power rules. If you let foreign powers weaken your government and dictate your life, your lives matters little; your country matters little; and your leaders matters little beyond being called terrorists.

Written by Allen (Taiwanese American)

Originally from Hidden Harmonies China Blog

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