The killing of Osama bin Laden

As the media launches it’s way into the play-by-play analysis of the Osama bin Laden raid, I’m left here struggling to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. I have come to the conclusion that I feel the same about bin Laden’s death as I do about the towers coming down on 9/11.

Brace yourself; it’s not anything an American living in a Red State will ever admit in public.

I do not feel fear. I do not feel joy. I do not feel any great swell of Americanism that compels me to rush out into the street shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A!” at the top of my voice or run to WalMart to buy the largest flag I can find and fly it from the highest flagpole.

I do not feel like anything life-altering has happened.

I do feel a bit ashamed that we are celebrating the death of someone, even if that someone chose to live his life committing evil and fostering evil and hatred. I do not feel happy or sad that Osama bin Laden is dead but I do feel sad that we are celebrating it with the same sort of cheering one reserves for the Super Bowl.

I feel dismayed that we have created an entire generation that has grown up in fear of terrorism and suspicious of each other instead of steeped in optimism and hope. Osama bin Laden did not do that to us; we did that to ourselves to win elections and to grab the reins of power.

I feel a massive tug of manipulation as the media work desperately to shape the “national mood” to fit a narrative instead of reporting it. I feel this event — like the 9/11 event — is being treated by the media like a book tour, a movie premiere or a CD drop complete with PR spin. They raise questions and then answer them, then treat the answers as if that was the news. Then, they report on what they heard based on what they said.

I feel like we’re being told how to feel by the warm-up guy in preparation for an upcoming election show. If we play our part, we’ll be rewarded with attention. If not, we’ll be ignored as fringe. Problem is, there is a lot of “fringe” out here.

I wish media would have stuck to a headline “Osama bin Laden Dead” instead of “Killed.” “Dead” states a face whereas “killed” injects opinion, conjecture and value judgments.

On Sept 11, 2011, the rest of the world was besieged by earthquakes, landslides and massive flooding. I know this because I had access to the AP Newswire all day at the Dayton Daily News. I had to ignore those stories and search instead for some angle, some news on the 9/11 story. These other stories went almost unreported for nearly a week as media crafted new narratives each day around the 9/11 story. And when that failed, CNN ran taped loops of the towers coming down and reconstructed timelines, much as they are doing now with the raid plans.

On May 1, 2011, tens of thousands of citizens in the South are still homeless as a result of horrific tornados. Fires rage in Texas. Oil still washes up from the Gulf. Gas prices are out of control at $4.19/gallon locally. Health care cost continue to rise at twice the rate of inflation. Housing prices continue to fall. Wages are stagnant. Unemployment is still high.

I think we need to start not only thinking for ourselves, but feeling for ourselves as well. I think we need to start embracing real feelings about things that matter more deeply rather that co-opting boogie-man feelings media report we should have.

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6 Replies to “The killing of Osama bin Laden”

  1. This has been the best post I have read so far about what happened the other night. It was interesting to watch people’s various reactions on Twitter as the events unfolded. Most was extremely inappropriate. Thank you for writing this, Rufus.

  2. Thank you for reading and commenting. I look around and wonder who these people are that the media is referring to. I hate to say that most of my neighbors really don’t care — or rather, they lack the depth of emotional connection — but I suspect there are millions of us out here beyond the media bubble.

  3. I was REALLY looking forward to your take on this. You didn’t disappoint and I’m finding myself agreeing with you again!

    I’m so thankful I don’t watch the news much anymore. I’m sitting here today knowing the ‘fact’ that Bin Laden is dead.

    Sunday night when I heard that the president was calling a press conference that late I actually got a little nervous. I was afraid there was something major going on. We heard Osama was dead, turned on our local Fox affiliate (no cable at our house) and Geraldo came on. It was only about 5 minutes of him blasting Freudian slips when we just turned it off and went to bed.

    Honestly, I’m with you. We have bigger concerns than if this guy is dead or not. He’s been relatively ineffective for the last few years anyway (as far as I can tell).

    If anything his death is just going to cause an increase in terrorist activates, although it’s not like terrorists have been on sabbatical.

    The shameful thing is all these Americans dancing in the streets because some dude was killed a full decade after his biggest attack on us.

    You can be glad he’s dead and all that. I’m not sure why so many are acting like their lives are any better. I do understand the family members of the victims being happy but even that should be tempered by time.

    Thanks for a great post!

  4. I think that celebrating anyone’s killing is immoral on its face. There are people who I would not be sad to see dead, but to celebrate their death is over the line. Regardless, in light of what is going on in the Middle East, the age of terrorism as a political tool may be on the downslide. I hope it is.

    I had the same experience with Geraldo as well. After listening to him yap about what he thought the whole press conference was about, I turned the channel and went to bed. I only woke up by chance as the president was concluding his speech and remembered thinking “that’s done” or something like that. But I was neither happy or sad.

  5. Thanks for this post Rufus. You hit the nail on the head with “I feel a massive tug of manipulation as the media work desperately to shape the “national mood” to fit a narrative instead of reporting it.” Sunday was the culmination of a 10-year propaganda campaign that had nothing to do with national security and everything to do with election campaigns. Osama bin Laden was a useful bogeyman and now that he’s dead who’s the next public enemy #1 I wonder. You know as well as I do that one will be announced shortly. So far as the media are concerned, I caught the headlines about the masses of people celebrating this death. I walked through Times Square at 11am on Monday and all I saw were the usual tourists and more police than usual. There wasn’t any nationalism on display while I was there. Really. The mood in New York was one of dread rather than celebration. Dread over the fact that a traumatized city had had a big nasty scab ripped off again.

  6. Paul, then you will really appreciate this USA Today story

    I consulted my private Millennial focus group 25, 20 and the last thing on their mind was OBL! When asked about terrorism, they each didn’t have a dread fear, just expressed a frustration with the shackles that it wore on their lives, i.e., zero-tolerance at schools, the idiocy of knee-jerk overreactions by authority, the TSA screening at airports, the ubiquity of the “for your safety…” announcements all over they no longer hear…

    They care about finding a good job, the rent being “too damn high” and the burden of student load debt in an economy where getting a good-paying job is almost not heard of.

    By manufacturing a country’s mood like they do, the media risk an erosion of their credibility in an era when we most need an authoritative voice. Sad they are throwing away their public trust for a loud voice, even if they have to make up a story to compete with the truth.

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