Monday, November 27, 2006

I Hear Fanaticism

Take a look at the self-selected face of the extreme anti-war left. It is Malachi Ritscher, a documenter and recorder of Chicago’s avant-garde jazz scene who self-immolated on November 3rd in protest of the Iraqi War (some background). Now there is an effort among extremist bloggers to celebrate this tragedy, with blog posts titled “I Heard You, Malachi.” I won’t link to any, but you can find them on technorati here. Their goal is to publicize Ritscher in the MSM to make him a martyr, and the AP duly picks up the story today.

Those who now seek to canonize Ritscher, and thereby exploit his tragedy, downplay his obviously disturbed state of mind. Ritscher left a statement of intent that includes a fantasy about missing an opportunity to assassinate Sec. Rumsfeld:

“I passed Donald Rumsfeld on Delaware Avenue and I was acutely aware that slashing his throat would spare the lives of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people. I had a knife clenched in my hand, and there were no bodyguards visible; to my deep shame I hesitated.”

He maintained a website titled killthepresident dot net. In years past, these would be considered concrete evidence of mental illness, but violent assassination discourse seems to have been normalized by the anti-war, anti-Bush extremists. For Ritscher, immersion in such a fanatical political climate culminated in his suicide.

Those ghoulishly seeking to exploit this tragedy castigate the media's alleged “conservative” or “corporate” biases for not covering the story in a big way, dismissing the legitimate “copy-cat” concerns, for which news outlets are ordinarily reluctant to cover suicides in general. More than that, a sympathetic media is simply trying to save the extremist left from its self. Making a man who self-immolated and harbored fantasies of political assassination the public face of the “anti-war” movement would not be astute PR move. It might well be appropriate though. What Ritscher did was the act of a fanatic, idealized by fanatics.

Richard Roeper has taken flack from those same fanatics for a column in which he wrote:

“with all due respect, if he thought setting himself on fire and ending his life in Chicago would change anyone’s mind about the war in Iraq, his last gesture on this planet was his saddest and most futile.”

Fanaticism is not attractive to most Americans, so publicizing Ritscher’s suicide would likely prove counter-productive to anti-war extremists. One feels enormous sympathy for his friends and family. It would be a disservice to Ritscher’s memory to make his name synonymous with his final act. Most who are now blogging about this tragedy, would not know Ken Vandermark or Fred Anderson or any Chicago musician from Adam, but it was Ritscher’s work documenting Chicago’s challenging jazz artists that should be remembered as his real legacy.