11 May 2011

Rushing Dehumanisation

A weird aspect of the death of Osama Bin Laden that I've noticed. Naturally, we went all out to dehumanise him. If not pretty, it's fairly unsurprising. Obviously dehumanisation is bad for what it allows us to do to anyone we perceive as less than us. But also if we pretend to ourselves that those who do evil things aren't human, we will only ever underestimate the evil that we as humans are capable of, and so probably won't be that good at preventing it. This is why I don't like dehumanisation: it lets humanity off too lightly.

But that's not what I found weird. The first weird sign was The Sun calling him a "beast". Dehumanising, yes, and ten points to Slytherin for that, but it's dehumanising in the wrong way. "Beast", to my ears at least, is not appropriate for terrorists. It's for dehumanising sex offenders and people that steal Billy Bunter's cake. I doubt Bin Laden had time for either. Plus aside from that, "beast" is a bit of a mild term for a mass-murdering religious fucknut.

Second was the man on Question Time (at around 18m13s, there may still be time to see it on iPlayer), who said
I just wanted to say that I'm very offended by Mr Ashdown's referral to Osama Bin Laden as a "man"
Aside from the fact that he later uses the term himself, this is strange, especially followed up with "let's tell it like it is", which you might expect to be vaguely scientific and take into account his human DNA.

What disturbs and slightly baffles me about both of these is that dehumanisation has become the norm. We've obviously been doing it too long. It's not enough to demonise your defeated enemy, to show him as less than a man. To even refer to him once as a human is offensive (we may have been over how easily ultra-PC right-wingers take offence), while the quality of dehumanisation can go utterly to pot, just so long as nobody has the audacity to call Osama Bin Laden what he was - a (shitty, shitty) human being.

We're no longer at the point where it is acceptable to see our enemies as less than people. We're now not allowed to do anything else.


  1. This is nice, you posting much more frequently.

  2. This is nice, you posting more frequently.