The #UBLRaid Tweets: An Exercise in Grandstanding & Glorification


The #UBLRaid Tweets: An Exercise in Grandstanding & Glorification

Illustration: Namaah/ Arré

As I write this, the CIA is live-tweeting the operation on “Usama Bin Ladin” [sic]. Before this minute-by-minute (ish), blow-by-blow event on Twitter played out, I believed the CIA to be this imaginary entity, dreamt up entirely by Hollywood blockbuster film screenwriters, and inspired by our very own Bharat Mata Ki Jai CID. I thought they mostly fought aliens on behalf of the whole world. It was enlightening to know that it’s a real organisation, with a blue tick and everything.

“To mark the 5th anniversary of the Usama Bin Ladin operation in Abbottabad we will tweet the raid as if it were happening today #UBLRaid”, went the first tweet. From there on the saga began. Names like POTUS, DCIA Panetta, and JSOC commander Admiral McRaven (has there ever been a more American name?) were thrown at us with approved execution times (1.25 PM EDT, in case you were wondering) and soldiers got ready for combat. Some did sock-shoe-sock-shoe; others did sock-sock-shoe-shoe. Then they got into their helicopters, all-American destruction machines with cheeseburgers, cheerleaders, and capitalism hanging off the sides.

Whatsisname again? Usama, Asuma, Osimu? Who cares, brah? Let’s kick some serious terrorist ass. They sang a Bruce Springsteen all-American anthem and decided to destroy them fuckers, even if it meant the accidental death of over 26,000 innocent civilians (you know, how the death of one Usama is bigger than the lives of hundreds of nameless children…).

Forgive me if I’m way off here, I truly feel sadness at the 9/11 attacks. I’m even somewhat glad that Usama was “sent off to Belize” in the most badass way possible. After the attacks happened — my memory is a little hazy here — there were a bunch of what we refer to today as “viral videos” released by Usama’s people, featuring the man himself, taking responsibility for the great loss, glorifying the act using flimsy excuses as justification. But surely there is something comically off when the CIA, a State-sanctioned organisation, whose Twitter description proudly states it’s the “Nation’s first line of defense”, thumps its chest much like Usama did?

The excuses may not be as flimsy here, no doubt, but at what point do we decide what’s good glorification and what’s bad glorification? Will there be live-Tweeting of all the drone mishaps next?

Assassination, murder, execution, justice, call it what you will. It may incite debate, but I’m strictly and principally against capital punishment, or this very Indian fetish for “encounter killings”; and this celebration of a killing — a digital version of gleefully chucking tomatoes at his severed head showcased on a wall in the White House (presumably) — leaves a sour taste. It feels like something that would happen in an imaginary dystopian society.

Surely there is something comically off when the CIA, a State-sanctioned organisation, whose Twitter description proudly states it’s the “Nation’s first line of defense”, thumps its chest much like Usama did?

Why re-open old wounds? Why beat chests made of all-American steel and Ambuja cement? Wouldn’t a simple, well-framed, victorious, respectful (of the victims of terror) announcement about the achievement be more than enough? Is #UBLRaid, painting its protagonists — like Admiral Badass McRaven — as farcical characters straight out of Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, really necessary?

Having not experienced the same personal loss as thousands of others did, I realise I don’t have a reasonable say in any of this. Not being a citizen of the country at the receiving end of the attacks makes me even more of a distant observer; and I’m not trying to come off as an apologist. But it’s merely a point of view, and an open question. Is this an attempt to provide catharsis to sufferers — and does it work? Does closure have an expiry date, after which you need to bring those same difficult questions up again and re-close? Or is it just grandstanding and an assertion of dominance? You know, just to remind people about certain events in an election year. Or maybe it’s just a prank? Are we all living inside the solipsistic brain of a young author trying to write dystopian fiction?

It could be some grand reminder to us all that Big Brother still rules the roost; that you don’t mess with them because this is what they’re capable of. Or, you know, it could just as well be a couple of old veterans with a bottle of Wild Turkey and access to the CIA Twitter account, reminiscing the good old times. Either way, I guess we’d better get used to the chest thumping. It’s all part of making America great again.