“Can’t jump over your own shadow” is one of my favorite sayings. Like you, perhaps, I recall testing out its truth when I was a child. More usefully, it speaks to a number of higher order syndromes that go under more obscure headings: “return of the repressed,” “double bind,” “subtext,” “unintended consequences,” “zero sum,” “immanence,” “hypocrisy,” “self-sabotage,” and so on, but what made me feel like indulging in and expanding upon this favorite saying today was reflection upon the case of Nir Rosen.
Here we have a self-styled anti-imperialist, would be voice of the voiceless, enemy of war and hypocrisy, crusader against the neo-Crusade. He got in trouble re-expressing or passing on a kind of brutalization of the senses and the spirit that he seems to have absorbed and integrated into his personality. One suspects that he had already absorbed it, heavier than the usual doses of it that are near-universally absorbed and integrated by human flesh and possibly encoded in the genome or maybe life itself, macho life itself anyway, before he ever set out to be a freelance foreign correspondent, but his job description – tell the world how the Taliban & Co. see the world, from the battlefields and aftermaths – suggests a long-term program of brutality-reinforcement.
Whatever the explanation, news came of an assault on a colleague whom he despised, and his immediate response was to join in, before he even knew anything about it – if you accept his story. Putting up a few ugly tweets is hardly the same thing as joining in on a gang rape or lynch mob, but it reflects the same impetus, and puts a recognizable face on the atrocious act, gives us someone to gang-lynch for the crime of gang-rape. You want to say he “asked for it,” except that’s what he and even cruder observers mainly from the rightwing nutsosphere said about Lara Logan.
If Nir Rosen were a good American, he’d call himself a victim of trauma, the many traumas he’s witnessed or been threatened with, and announce that he is now under treatment. If he had some touching tale of childhood abuse to add, all the better. Most important would be that he identify himself as psychologically injured or impaired, but seeking help. To immunize himself further from criticism, he’d take his counseling from some civilian adjunct of the U.S. military, enabling him to pose for photographs with at least one prominently placed uniform.
And it would make sense, too, not just for Nir Rosen, but more generally, because the people of the post-colonial Islamic world, including multi-cultural correspondents like Nir Rosen, can’t jump over their own shadows, and the brutality of conflict and oppression in the Middle East and environs lies within the global shadow of our culture, within our ideological, moral, and religious shadow, our historical shadow, our economic and geopolitical shadow.
At Tom Ricks’ blog, where Nir Rosen has occasionally guest-contributed, Ricks asked whether he should be banned. Perhaps predictably, the commenters, responding in larger number than usual at “The Best Defense,” were divided all along the spectrum from “death penalty” to “more!” You can’t jump over Nir Rosen: What he has reported and what he seems now to have embodied, at least for a social media moment, must be dealt with, engaged.