Tuesday, August 22, 2006

# Posted 6:46 PM by Patrick Porter  

FLIGHT 93: This is getting a little obsessional, its my third post on this theme.

Anyway, I saw the film Flight 93 the other night. It was almost unbearable.

Unlike the civilians whose planes were used as missiles in New York, those on this flight had some advance warning from phone calls, so they had to imagine their imminent deaths with grim evidence, before actually dying. It became mental torture as well as murder.

On the actual day it happened, the very day, I remember two particular reactions from folk I talked to: sheer anguish, and qualified efforts to relativise it ('well, its terrible, but people hate America' /'I kept thinking of the victims of American violence', etc).

Popinjays criticises this mentality:

John Harris has a problem. Talking of the film on Newsnight Review (26th May) Mr Harris proclaimed that the film had a "fault-line". It lacked "context", he said with a passion. It ignored that this terrorist act was "part of a long standing political process with a back-story." He bewailed the fact that the film had nothing to say about the terrorists and was not interested in asking "Why did they do it?"

Yes, Mr Harris, because we cannot have it can we? We simply cannot have a film purely for and about the people who were murdered on that day in September. We cannot show the individuals on that plane as frightened souls, trapped in the cruellest of situations, yet somehow finding the strength and courage to fight their tormentors. It is just not fair. We must of course think too of the terrorists. We must have understanding. We must say "it was terrible what happened, but..."

No, actually, Mr Harris. There is no frame of reference that explains what happened that day. There is no understanding it. There is no but.

I agree with all but the last sentence paragraph. While its hard to get inside the heads of those who carry out these kinds of atrocities, and while much that is evil in the world is never easy to fathom in its entirety, those events don't stand outside time and beyond comprehension in a kind of postmodern suspension.

There are explanations that help to explain the murderous world view of the perpetrators, the pathology of militancy and the cult of death and martyrdom that propelled them, the way they exploited the openness of the society they attacked, and the way hatred of America and its allies is a powerful political tool deliberately wielded by dictatorships who use state media and education to programme their people into a culture of victimhood and hatred, to deflect their people into scapegoating the Crusader-Zionist enemies, aided by fundamentalist preachers.

Lots of other people hate America, who have serious historical reasons to be resentful, but who wouldn't dream of carrying out the kind of slaughter that happened that day. Impoverished Bolivians and Chileans with long memories are not queuing up to immolate themselves in suicide attacks. The hatred has political and spiritual roots which can be named and analysed.

These explanations do not exonerate the act one little bit. In fact, they show it to be even more contemptible. Understanding does not have to entail excusing.
(6) opinions -- Add your opinion

Immediately after the planes hit the WTC, an very left-wing socialist math grad student from Canada openly doubted that it was Islamic terrorists, noting that "well, Bush and the US did for instance walk away from Kyoto as well." I was not sure precisely what it said about him, that he apparently thought that radical environmentalists might slam two planes into the WTC over the Kyoto Treaty. Considering that he considered himself a radical environmentalist, I was especially confused and concerned.

But most groups, even with provocation, simply don't respond in that sort of manner, and I for one would be shocked by radical environmentalist terrorists (the sort that have recently put Molotov cocktails on scientists' doorsteps) going that far. Similarly for the Operation Rescue types.
Mr. Porter: if, as you claim, understanding is not just a path to excusing, then the word you want is "because". Not "but" -- there is no "but".
Hey Sammler,

sorry, what I actually meant was the last paragraph:

'There is no frame of reference that explains what happened that day. There is no understanding it. There is no but.'

ie. I think there is a prospect of understanding it.

I'll make that change to clarify!

Western poeple forget how little has changed since the age of witchcraft. Back them if the crops failed or the livestock took sick, you didn't look for natural causes - you found the woman that did it, and punisher her until things got better.

Belief in witches has faded, but the ancient tribal need to find your enemies among your own has not.

Thus it seems to be an article of faith in some quarters that non-white/non-western people are as innocent of independent thought or moral action as crops and cattle were of 'causing' their own ills.

So whatever they do, you cannot undestand a non-white's acts until you find the witch, uh er, white person, who made them do it.
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