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Monday, July 15, 2024

Column: Osama-jectivity

This week has been a veritable smorgasbord of media coverage on the death of Osama bin Laden, and for once, such a banquet is justified. Unlike Donald Trump’s campaign to delegitimize the circumstances surrounding President Obama’s birth, this story is a swift reminder that whether our President was born in America or not, his executive heart is with the families who lost their loved ones in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 and there is simply nothing more American than that.

With a story as big and as shrouded in secrecy as this, the news should be doing nothing other than presenting objective information about the operation as they collect it. The news’ primary function is to offer the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys and hows of such stories. It should not take a military operation 10 years in the making to remind them to keep the secondary partisan point-scoring to a minimum.

That being said, when the media (in a wild, yet brief, transformation of the status quo) is only presenting objective information, we become the mouthpieces for everything subjective. Each American becomes an opinion columnist when the media stops playing that role for us, and this week we’ve each expressed our opinion by how we chose to commemorate this event.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out on “The Daily Show,” the media’s job right now is simply to “give the information to an American public that is incredibly hungry to hear it … because even if you’re not one of those people who are singing in the streets about it, we are all having an emotionally cathartic reaction to it.”

This emotional catharsis has taken many different forms since Sunday. Students at The George Washington University showed it by congregating outside the White House and chanting, “cancel finals, cancel finals,” among other things. Some UC Davis students chose to organize a peaceful rally on the quad with celebratory signs. Others got shitfaced in their American flag board shorts they bought for Houseboats from Walmart.

Another UC Davis student chose to write to The Aggie to criticize all of these students publicly.

He claimed that these students’ responses are objectively “not the response of true American patriot[s],” and that he had never “been so ashamed of my fellow Aggies as I was in that moment.”

There is no right or wrong way to commemorate the tactical killing of a man responsible for thousands of American casualties. To claim sobriety (in both senses of the word) is objectively better than binge drinking in the name of one’s country and celebrating this man’s death is to do what the media does all too often – force one narrow understanding of an event down the throats of a public desperate first for objectivity.

When one becomes an opinion columnist, whether unwittingly as we each did for a few hours Sunday night, or consciously as Steven Sharp did in Tuesday’s paper, one’s job is the opposite of the news’. The occupation of the opinion writer is to present his or her understanding of an issue as subjective, as only one way the reader could choose to understand an issue, not as objective, or the best way to understand it.

By and large, I agree with the view that Americans can be politically arrogant and often fail to take into consideration the perceptions of those in the Middle East and abroad. But some, including Tuesday’s guest opinion, equally often take into consideration these foreign perceptions before those of their fellow Americans. This is objective fact. Which of these is better is not for me to decide for my reader.

I’ll never forget where I was when CNBC reported Osama bin Laden was dead. I was casually sitting in a living room in front of a television. I didn’t celebrate by planning an impromptu party and buying a keg for my 50 closest friends, but I certainly wasn’t surprised or disgusted that others were. For me, it was a lot like Picnic Day – live and let live.

In that moment, the death of Osama bin Laden was many things to many Americans, but using it as an opportunity to criticize how fellow Americans choose to grieve (if we can call it that) is putting an objective mask on one’s opinion. We get too much of that already from the media during the other 364 days of the year, so please don’t infringe upon others’ right to commemorate this day with whatever amount of fanfare they choose, and they’ll leave the others to do as they see fit.

JOSH ROTTMAN will be supporting his #24-ranked Swaggie Laxers in the first round of the WCLL Playoffs as they take on #22 Stanford this Saturday at Novato High School at 11:45. If you’d like a ride, reach him at jjrottman@ucdavis.edu.


  1. @ katielicious — I couldn’t disagree with you more. While I’ll admit that racism exists just about anywhere, the common American attitude is one of tolerance of differences. We do not hate Arabs or Muslims, nor is it our goal to kill those who are innocent. In fact, the Muslims I know are well-educated, hard-working, smart, and highly successful people.

    There is no shame in celebrating the end of a mass murderer. Osama is responsible for killing thousands — including other Muslims. In America, women are free to go to school, wear whatever clothes they want (now, don’t get crazy with me here…), date whoever they want, and speak their minds, among other things. Osama explicitly told us that he hated us for that reason, and the killing would continue until we followed his way.

    Bottom line, and I know this sounds harsh, but if you enjoy your freedoms as an American college student, you should be happy this happened. We are incredibly lucky to live in a country that values human dignity and freedom, and we are constantly elevating our standards.

  2. I don’t really have a strong opinion about how people choose to respond to the news. I don’t have quite the passionate view that Sharp expressed. But I think he made some points we should all think about. It is not so black and white as Osama being some crazy evil nutjob who has this unfounded drive to hurt innocent people. He certainly deserved what he had coming to him. Of course I wouldn’t excuse his behavior. I just think that we should acknowledge our role in the violence that has been taken against us. We were not randomly chosen to be the enemy. We have made ourselves the enemy. The perception in the Arab world (for good reason) is that we hate or at least don’t care about Arabs and that we unfairly murder them (directly or indirectly). I’m not exactly condemning any reaction to the news. I don’t think even the most extreme celebrations are necessarily wrong. I just think that it would only be in our best interests to behave with a little more dignity and class. I think we are reinforcing stereotypes that the Arab world holds of us. It’s not right or wrong. I just don’t think it’s in our best interests. I don’t agree with Sharp in being ashamed of fellow Aggies. And you make really good points. I just think that it is appropriate to encourage an elevation of standards in the name of our own interests (without condemning anyone’s response, as there is no wrong way to respond).

    Also, I don’t think it’s about considering foreign perceptions before those of fellow Americans. It is because we are American that we can only challenge ourselves to elevate our standards. It is not saying that we are worse than the opponent. It’s just asking ourselves for better because you really can only ask that of your own self/people/school/nation.


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