Thursday, April 23, 2009

Supervillains



In the fictional world of the DC Comics Justice League, the much beloved superheroes are aghast to find out they have doppelgangers from an alternate Earth. These self-styled Justice Lords see everything in terms of black and white (good vs evil) and reveal the darker side of absolute power and moral authority. Nothing asserts the righteousness of these heroes than a coming together of the nexus of all evil--usually in the form of supervillains that have found common cause. The recent Somali pirate issue has given a sensationalist media, and some fear-mongering politicians, a chance to recreate this comic book theme of supervillains and a superbly moral superhero. This time the ne’er-do-wells are poverty created sea-brigands who are allegedly teaming up with radical Islamists, who themselves are often inflated into one group. This danger to civilization as we know it poses an ultimate threat, that must be handled heavily and decisively--a job for the Justice Lords, played by the US and its allies, who don't waste their time with silly things like "nuance." But as John Feffer at TomDispatch points out in his article Monsters Versus Aliens, this superhero analysis is grounded in deep misunderstandings and flawed moralist logic that can lead to dangerous real-life consequences.

Feffer's article after the fold:


Monsters vs. Aliens
Tuesday 21 April 2009

by: John Feffer

In the comic books, bad guys often team up to fight the forces of good. The Masters of Evil battle the Avengers superhero team. The Joker and Scarecrow ally against Batman. Lex Luthor and Brainiac take on Superman.

And the Somali pirates, who have dominated recent headlines with their hijacking and hostage-taking, join hands with al-Qaeda to form a dynamic evil duo against the United States and our allies. We're the friendly monsters - a big, hulking superpower with a heart of gold - and they're the aliens from Planet Amok.

In the comic-book imagination of some of our leading pundits, the two headline threats against U.S. power are indeed on the verge of teaming up. The intelligence world is abuzz with news that radical Islamists in Somalia are financing the pirates and taking a cut of their booty. Given this "bigger picture," Fred Iklé urges us simply to "kill the pirates." Robert Kaplan waxes more hypothetical. "The big danger in our day is that piracy can potentially serve as a platform for terrorists," he writes. "Using pirate techniques, vessels can be hijacked and blown up in the middle of a crowded strait, or a cruise ship seized and the passengers of certain nationalities thrown overboard."

Chaotic conditions in Somalia and other countries, anti-state fervor, the mediating influence of Islam, the lure of big bucks: these factors are allegedly pushing the two groups of evildoers into each other's arms. "Both crimes involve bands of brigands that divorce themselves from their nation-states and form extraterritorial enclaves; both aim at civilians; both involve acts of homicide and destruction, as the United Nations Convention on the High Seas stipulates, 'for private ends,'" writes Douglas Burgess in a New York Times op-ed urging a prosecutorial coupling of terrorism and piracy.

We've been here before. Since 2001, in an effort to provide a distinguished pedigree for the Global War on Terror and prove the superiority of war over diplomacy, conservative pundits and historians have regularly tried to compare al-Qaeda to the Barbary pirates of the 1800s. They were wrong then. And with the current conflating of terrorism and piracy, it's déjà vu all over again.

Read full article here.


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