Tuesday, June 25, 2013

25-Jun-13: Dogs, psychopaths and the Internet

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There's a wry expression that says "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog". It was the caption to a cartoon by Peter Steiner published in The New Yorker on July 5, 1993. We think it stands for the way ideas can be freely exchanged via the Internet; its anonymity and ease of access let people air the widest range of viewpoints with little fear of repurcussions: the outlandish, the offensive and everything in between and beyond. 

This post is not actually about cartoons or dogs, at least not in the conventional sense, but how evil is done again and again when ordinary people tolerate it or - worse - give it their active support.

Two individuals, more than anyone else we know, inflicted brutality, pathological hatred and lethal violence on our family, leaving us devastated and in constant, enduring pain. 

One is Abdullah Barghouti, a Kuwaiti holding a Jordanian passport who built and delivered a cleverly-engineered bomb disguised as a guitar case and intended to kill civilians and - by means of a thick layer of nails - to maim and disfigure the greatest possible number of people in range. 

The other, Ahlam Tamimi, a Jordanian student of journalism and 21 years old, scouted suitable sites during several undercover visits and eventually picked a site - a pizza restaurant in the center of the city where we live, popular with teens - for delivering the bomb right up to its doors. She then walked the bomb there before fleeing for her own safety back to Ramallah where she was working as a television news-reader. 

The explosion and killings they engineered - in short, their barbarism - are detailed in a piece we wrote, "The massacre at the Sbarro restaurant". In addition to those killed, more than 130 others suffered serious injuries.

Barghouti and Tamimi, heroic figures in the estimation of many, are spoken of in reverential tones in  large parts of the world. Their victims, including our fifteen year old daughter Malki - not so much. 
The Facebook page that honours Barghouti the bombmaker
Since we are now in the age of social media, notice that Abdullah Barghouti's Facebook page (above) has attracted (as of Tuesday morning) more than a hundred Likes for each of the 66 innocent Israelis he murdered. His career is not over. To stay in touch with recent developments, consider reading what we posted here a few days ago: "20-Jun-13: Abdullah Barghouti, terrorist, bomb-maker, killer of 66 innocents, has some demands".

Ahlam Tamimi, the woman who delivered the bomb to the restaurant, and who was sentenced to 16 life terms, walked free as one of the 1,027 terrorists exchanged by Israel for the life of Gilad Shalit in October 2011. This happened even though the court that convicted her strongly recommended to the authorities that she never be eligible for pardon or for early release "by any other means". (We fought a campaign to have her name removed from the go-free list. But we failed.) She now lives a public and unfettered life, newly married, pregnant, a regional celebrity, an invited speaker at rallies and on television programs throughout the Arab world, and proud of the children she killed. She is the host of her own weekly TV program beamed via YouTube and a Hamas-owned satellite network to all parts of the Arabic-speaking world and widely promoted because of the pro-terror message it disseminates.
Ahlam Tamimi on Facebook
Her Facebook page also attracts its share of Likes. She was convicted (on her own admission) of the murder of 15 people, but there was also a sixteenth - a young mother who had brought her two year old child to Sbarro and has been in a vegetative coma from that hot August 2001 afternoon until today. So if we say 16 victims, then Tamimi's hit rate for Likes is 177 per murdered victim. Is this a Facebook record? Her TV show and video recordings of her speeches are all over the web. Her YouTube presence is prodigious.

The unfathomable evil that these two people, and their deeds, represent is clear. It almost goes without saying. For civilized people, self-confessed murderers are their own advertisement. The barbarism they do, and encourage others to do, removes them from the realm of decency and common morality. End of discussion.

But what happens when civilized people send messages to those for whom the Tamimis and the Barghoutis are genuine heroes, figures of mass adulation? And what if those messages convey understanding? Or sympathy? Or support? What does this mean for such cornerstone societal values as justice

It's not an academic question. By not facing up to such matters, we - as a society - do huge harm to ourselves. Being wrong about terrorism and those who do it causes real and irreparable damage to our societies. 

Two small and little-noted instances from the past 24 hours:
  • Under pressure from the US, Israel is said today to be considering the further release from prison of an unspecified number of convicted Palestinian terrorists [Times of Israel]. No one is suggesting this is because they have repented of their crimes. On the basis of an argument that is 100% political, it's proposed that convicted killers and other long-term prisoners be released to freedom even while justice is not being served, judicial sentences are being ignored and the civilian population of our side, Israel, are going to be exposed to an increased threat from deeply committed and unrepentant perpetrators. Does this make sense to someone?
  • We learned that, next week, a prominent Anglican church will host a well-publicized photo exhibition honoring the children of Tamimi's ancestral village in order "to promote constructive dialogue around the challenges faced by Palestinian youth... in order that they reclaim hope and build a positive future for themselves". We would want to explain to the organizers that standing up for the rights of disadvantaged people (if that's what people choose to believe about Nabi Saleh and its inhabitants) is one thing. But willfully turning away and averting one's gaze so as not to have to confront the violence and the hatred that infects the population of Nabi Saleh is another. We intend to explain, if we can find someone there who will listen, that if they think this is simply about standing should to shoulder with the weak, there is a very dark other side to this.
As for the social media, they are, of course, not the problem. But they sometimes express something larger. It would be encouraging to hear expressions of outrage from time to time at the way Facebook, YouTube and other such channels play a central role in placing hate-filled psychopaths on pedestals. Meanwhile it seems the terrorists and their friends know how to leverage them than the rest of us do.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Readers should contact Google and Facebook and ask that they remove the sites mentioned in the above article.

The World Around Me said...

I really enjoyed this article and I loved your title - it was actually the thing that got me reading it. Thanks for sharing your view.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Roth their not civilized people.Their cruel and evil,and many of them are probably despicable Jew haters,who want another Holocaust to happen. Unfortunately,there is also a Charles Manson Fan page on FaceBook as well. As well as other murderers too. It seems like the world is becoming more evil all the time,and there are a lot of people in this world today that sympathize with pure evil like the kind Manson represented,or the kind that murdered your precious child and 14 other innocents on that terrible day 12 years ago. I can't understand because I didn't lose a child to these wicked murderers,but I certainly can empathize with your's and Frimet's outrage. Don't lost heart though in the end God will have the final word and good will triumph over evil.