The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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No laughing in the face of death

 No laughing in the face of death
No laughing in the face of death

No laughing in the face of death

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.

My dog has no nose. How does he smell? Awful.

Things just don’t seem that funny anymore, do they?

It’s a well documented psychological fact that human beings often try to deal with threatening situations through levity. But there are some things that just aren’t easy to laugh at – the recent news story of plans to explode a “dirty bomb” in Washington, D.C., for example. The rising concern that Pakistan and India are about to blow each other up. Or that empty feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get when President Bush goes on television to tell the nation that he will be giving the new Homeland Security office funding almost equal to that of the Department of Defense.

At this point an attempt to transcend what we are facing gives way to baser, more elemental emotions – fear, anger, bloodlust, barbarism. It becomes increasingly difficult to keep a high head and avoid giving into those primeval urges.

Speaking of barbarism, there is mounting controversy over the release of the footage documenting journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder. The controversy is not over whether or not to release the footage to the public – on the contrary, that’s already happened. Last week the Boston Phoenix featured a picture of Pearl’s decapitated head in its print edition, and provided a link on its Web page so that people can watch the whole damn thing in the privacy of their own home.

Not that you have to watch it. But you can. Even if you’re a 12-year-old male who has only recently discovered the magical world of action-film violence.

The murder itself only lasts a few seconds on the actual tape, which was manufactured as piece of propaganda and is filled with footage of war atrocities. The Pearl family has already condemned the video, and has been quoted as saying that those who share the tape, “fall without shame into the terrorists’ plan.” Others argue that viewing the footage is important as a galvanizing effort, in the same way the famous image of a Viet Cong being shot in the head galvanized another generation of Americans in the ’60s.

It’s funny what a change in international politics can do to some people. In the decades before the Sept. 11 tragedy and our sudden explosion into the international arena, we were concerned whether it would be possible to hack into closed-circuit broadcasts of the execution of death row inmates. Newspapers that carried images of dead bodies or carnage in third world countries were condemned for being sick, perverted caterers to the lowest common denominator.

Today we applaud those newspapers and television stations that featured dismembered limbs and sounds of bodies hitting the pavement in front of the World Trade Center as realistic, providing a fundamental service. And we support the public release of footage of another execution, despite our objection to, say, the word “Jesus” appearing in an episode of ABC’s “The View.”

Hey, irony is a form of humor, right? See… levity.

The long night of barbarism shall descend, unbroken even by a star of hope. It’s only a matter of time before we are inundated with the repeated image of Daniel Pearl having his head sliced off on the nightly news. At that point it would be a good idea to turn off the television, cancel your newspaper subscriptions and boycott the news media altogether for abandoning its principals and pandering to base animal instincts.

We already know what happened. Pearl was assassinated at the hands of terrorists. We found out about this months ago. It is no longer news. Publicly displaying the tape until it is burned into America’s flashbulb memory is simply a form of propaganda, intended to incite human beings into feelings of anger, vengeance and barbarism. And judging from the other images that were included on the tape, that’s exactly what killed Daniel Pearl in the first place; there was no logic involved.

Perhaps I am speaking out of turn. Maybe CNN, Nightline and other news media will somehow be influenced by the ghost of Daniel Pearl, and have the decency to figure out the difference between a snuff film and appropriate news coverage. Maybe, in this age of technology and higher learning, we can collectively rise above animal bloodlust and approach our problems with logic and objectivity. Maybe our children will be able to attend school years from now, and not have to be forced to sit through a slideshow of a pointless assassination that occurred 40 years in the past.

Anyone up for a matinee screening of the Zapruder film? I’ll buy the popcorn.

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