From the New Republic:
…I am worried that A Mighty Heart falls into a trap Bertrand Russell would have recognized: the paradox of moral equivalence, of seeking to extend the logic of tolerance a step too far. You can see traces of this logic in the film’s comparison of Danny’s abduction with GuantÃ¡namo–it opens with pictures from the prison–and its comparison of Al Qaeda militants with CIA agents. You can also see it in the comments of the movie’s director, Michael Winterbottom, who wrote on The Washington Post’s website that A Mighty Heart and his previous film The Road to GuantÃ¡namo ” are very similar. Both are stories about people who are victims of increasing violence on both sides. There are extremists on both sides who want to ratchet up the levels of violence and hundreds of thousands of people have died because of this.”
Drawing a comparison between Danny’s murder and the detainment of suspects in GuantÃ¡namo is precisely what the killers wanted, as expressed in both their e-mails and the murder video. Obviously Winterbottom did not mean to echo their sentiments, and certainly not to justify their demands or actions. Still, I am concerned that aspects of his movie will play into the hands of professional obscurers of moral clarity.
Indeed, following an advance screening of A Mighty Heart, a panelist representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations reportedly said, “We need to end the culture of bombs, torture, occupation, and violence. This is the message to take from the film.” The message that angry youngsters are hearing is unfortunate: All forms of violence are equally evil; therefore, as long as one persists, others should not be ruled out. This is precisely the logic used by Mohammed Siddiqui Khan, one of the London suicide bombers, in his videotape on Al Jazeera. “Your democratically elected government,” he told his British countrymen, “continues to perpetrate atrocities against my people … . [W]e will not stop.”
Danny’s tragedy demands an end to this logic. There can be no comparison between those who take pride in the killing of an unarmed journalist and those who vow to end such acts–no ifs, ands, or buts. Moral relativism died with Daniel Pearl, in Karachi, on January 31, 2002.
There was a time when drawing moral symmetries between two sides of every conflict was a mark of original thinking. Today, with Western intellectuals overextending two-sidedness to reckless absurdities, it reflects nothing but lazy conformity. What is needed now is for intellectuals, filmmakers, and the rest of us to resist this dangerous trend and draw legitimate distinctions where such distinctions are warranted.
My son Danny had the courage to examine all sides. He was a genuine listener and a champion of dialogue. Yet he also had principles and red lines. He was tolerant but not mindlessly so. I hope viewers will remember this when they see A Mighty Heart.
Hat tip to Adam.