Yesterday afternoon on KUT, the Austin public radio station, they broke away from All Things Considered for a segment of â€œCentral Texas News.â€ It was only a few hours after the bombs in London, so they had some vacationing University of Texas journalism professor on the horn from her London hotel room, talking about how she just didnâ€™t have quite the same enthusiastic joie de vivre following the bombings. She invoked 9-11, since it is illegal in Texas not to. She mentioned how she had been taking the Tube everywhere, but now the thrill of sightseeing had lost its luster. She didnâ€™t feel like watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, or eating fish and chips, or having tea at the Savoy, or going to see the Elgin marbles, knowing that 37 people were dead.
1) This was not Central Texas news.
2) Nasty though it is when 37 people die in London, is this woman unaware that people are, in fact, dropping like flies all over the globe? The pointless deaths of 22,000 Iraqi civilians, for instance, didnâ€™t stop her going on vacation. Hell, 30,000 people starve to death every day, yet there she was, booking her transatlantic flight, visions of pints of bitter in quaint little authentic pubs dancing in her head, imagining how hilarious it will be to drive on the wrong side of the road.
Why am I giving this gal a hard time? After all, itâ€™s only human for a vacationing Austin journalism professor to get bummed when a bunch of people are murdered somewhere in town in a random act of senseless violence, and only natural that KUT would broadcast her response to the folks back home.
Or is it? Would, for instance, the Austin journalism professor have been on the radio in Texas talking about her sudden case of the blues, had she been in, say, Jakarta when 37 Muslims died, say, in a fire? Or even if the London bombings had turned out to be the work of the IRA?
No. She would not. Nobody in America gives a ratâ€™s ass about random deaths of Muslims, or the IRA.
Of course, the Austin journalism professorâ€™s views on the impropriety of post-tragedy sightseeing are irrelevant, but KUTâ€™s having put her on the radio reminds me of that thing that Americans do. You know the thing. It’s responsible for our love affair with white teenage Christian cheerleaders who go missing. Itâ€™s what Judith Butler calls the narrative perspective of US unilateralism, and its flipside, the preoccupation with Third World culpability (see â€œAxis of Evilâ€).
The truth is that some deaths have more value to Americans than others. The truth is that Americans have an endless capacity to endure the suffering of brown people because it protects their notion of patriarchal American entitlement. The truth is that the 30,000 daily dead from starvation go unremarked because they didnâ€™t have full human status when they were alive.
But Londoners, we imagine, are like us. Sophisticated. Civilized. White. Christian. Members of the First World. Totally down with American imperialism. So human they even speak English, the language of Jesus! So (to continue with another of Judith Butlerâ€™s themes), when brown people kill Londoners, the deaths are slaughter. Not like when, for example, Israelis kill Palestinians. Those deaths are justified.
Just so weâ€™re clear, Iâ€™m no Al Qaeda apologist. What a bunch of male supremacist fucktards. Itâ€™s barbaric that they killed those 37 London civilians (if, in fact, it was Al Qaeda). But is it any less fucking barbaric that the US and its allies and what W calls his â€œideology of hopeâ€ have killed 22,000 Iraqi civilians? No, it is not. In fact, in terms of sheer enormity, the Iraq war is 594.6 times as barbaric.
A comparison of the wall-to-wall news coverage of outrage over the London bombings, to the wall-to-wall news coverage of justification for the Iraq bombings, reveals that Iraqi lives have less value to Americans than British lives.
Patriarchy is fucked-up.