Friday, May 14, 2004


I've been feeling like I ought to say something about the horrible murder of Nick Berg.

I haven't been feeling like I have something to say about it, you understand, just that I ought. Precise measurement and comparison of outrage (Abu Ghraib v. Nick Berg) has become the right-wing talking point of the day, a simple metric to determine who a blogger (or a Congressman, or a news editor) likes better: Al Qaeda, or America. Wade through enough of that stuff and you do tend to start asking "so why haven't I posted about it?" But it's more than just that, of course. I looked at pictures of Berg's grieving family yesterday and thought, the world should stop. What happened to their son is so outrageously awful that the world should just stop, for a moment.

Someone wrote to Josh Marshall accusing him of caring more about partisan politics than he does about Berg's murder, saying that "the fact that you've gone on a rant over Sen. Inhofe's comments (which is probably appropriate) and continued your assault on the the president and have neglected to give even one line to this guy who was brutally slain for being one of us just sickens me." Here's Josh's response, every word of which could have come from my own head:
You've just misjudged how I run the site and why I do so. I don't write about everything I think. I don't write just to say that X is good or Y is bad. I write when I feel I have something I can add to a discussion, and only then. I could write a post saying that I thought Berg's execution was horrifying and awful and that I couldn't get to sleep last night because the ugliness of the images wouldn't leave my mind. But what would that tell you? That al Qaida is awful and that I think they're awful too? Perhaps I simply have nothing to add. The online world has lots of vociferous me-too-ism, going on record saying in fist-clenched tones things I think we all know we all feel. That's fine; I just don't like doing that.
Some blogs do a pretty good job of comprehensive coverage. If you want lots of short reactions to events as they happen, read Atrios. If you want in-depth analysis of every aspect of the news and American politics, read Kos. That's not my style. Like Josh Marshall, I pretty much just post when I think I have something to add - some new slant or overlooked point or, especially, some scientific expertise. That doesn't happen on every story.

If I were to make an analytical post about Nick Berg's execution, I'd say this: They claim they murdered Nick Berg in retaliation for the Abu Ghraib pictures. Get real. Berg had been missing since April 9, long before the pictures hit the net. They probably were waiting for a good propaganda moment to kill him, but they would've found another one - some military action, some civilian death, something to "justify" what they'd been planning to do all along. Al Qaeda doesn't need a reason to kill American civilians, remember? Especially not Jewish civilians. If they'd really wanted "retribution" for American military abuses at Abu Ghraib, wouldn't they have gone after one of the 150,000 members of the American military who just happened to be on hand? They picked an unarmed civilian because that's always been their favorite target. And all the right-wingers blaming Berg's murder on the U.S. news media's decision to release the photos - they all know that. Never before have they accepted the idea that Al Qaeda had to be incited to commit atrocities.

That's what I'd say if I were going to make an analytical post. But this is all I really want to say about what happened to Nick Berg:

They made him recite the names of his family members to the camera, and then they cut off his head. What the hell kind of a world is this?