Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"Shocking and deplorable"

At the top of headlines today: a story about a youtube video of a U.S. marine throwing a puppy over a cliff in Iraq. In a statement, the marine corps called the video "shocking and deploring" and said "We do not tolerate this type of behavior, and will take appropriate action" Apparently lots of American are kind of freaking out about the video, and the marine's name and address have been published. Comments on the web include: "I hope the Marine who did this dies over there" and "[He] should have been aborted."

Meanwhile, in the past 7 days, U.S. and U.K. forces have killed 5 civilians in Iraq, including a teenager and a mother and child. Any of that in the major media? I think not. Anybody freaking out about that? Hardly. Maybe it's not real unless it's on Youtube (there's actually an argument to be made about that).

Am I missing something?


byron smith said...

I think you're onto something with "it's not real unless it's on YouTube" - or even, it's not real unless I experience it (e.g. via YouTube). Furthermore, puppies are part of many westerners everyday experiences, but occupying armies and insurgencies are not.

Victor and Rachel J-L said...

I think the point is the CRUELTY of the act. Of course, any death is a tragedy and the effects of was are terrible, but cruelty should always be shocking. And cruelty found in the hands of someone with the power to do such extensive harm should be alarming. It's not news because a dog died. Death is not the issue or the shock, but cruelty.

Benjamin Ady said...


Wow we're self centered by definition, aren't we?


yes cruelty. But it seems to me that what you are saying is that we are more sensitive to ... much smaller, slighter, individual acts of cruelty than we are to gargantuan, unencompassable-by-our-minds-because we-refuse-to-develop-those-categories *institutlionalized* cuelty. Does that sound right?

I mean ... I guess I just don't see the soldier as "someone with the power to do such extensive harm". I see him rather as "part of a machinery which *is* currently doing such extensive harm".

To put it another way, why are our eyes so open to non-banal evil, but so tightly shut to banal evil, which is by orders of magnitude the more hateful, evil, terrifying thing?

Maybe because *we* are the source of the banal evil, whereas "that other" is the source of the non-banal evil. We are lying to ourselves. A deeply human and deeply perfected skill, methinks.