In Bruce Willis’ seminal work, Die Hard, blowhard banker Harry Ellis tries to negotiate with the terrorist Hans Gruber (played by the late Alan Rickman).
Harry: Hope I’m not interrupting.
Hans: What does he want?
Harry: It’s not what I want, it’s what I can give ya…now personally I couldn’t care about your politics. Maybe you’re pissed off at the camel jockeys, maybe it’s the heebs, Northern Ireland. It’s none of my business! I figure you’re here to negotiate. Am I right?
Hans: You’re amazing. You figured this all out already?
Harry: [laughing] Business is business. You use a gun, I use a fountain pen.
Last week, Seif Eldin Mustafa hijacked an EgyptAir flight to Cyprus. After landing, he allowed most of the 62 passengers off the plane, but he held a few back including 26-year old Brit Ben Innes. During the tense stand-off, Innes decided that, with nothing to lose, he would ask for a selfie with Mustafa.
Innes spoke to The Sun about his motivation:
“I’m not sure why I did it, I just threw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity. I figured if his bomb was real I’d nothing to lose anyway, so took a chance to get a closer look at it.
“I got one of the cabin crew to translate for me and asked him if I could do a selfie with him. He just shrugged OK, so I stood by him and smiled for the camera while a stewardess did the snap. It has to be the best selfie ever.”
The best selfie ever.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gongloff was less kind.
— Mark Gongloff (@markgongloff) March 29, 2016
People react strangely under duress. In 1989 when United Airlines Flight 232 lost all hydraulic control and it seemed as if a crash was inevitable, the pilots joked with the control tower while desperately trying to save the lives of everyone on the plane. I wanted to give Innes the benefit of the doubt after reading a typically insightful analysis on “Reading the Pictures,” but I simply came away with the same conclusion. A vain young man thought it would be lulz to get a “selfie” with a terrorist. If in life and death, we can see a person’s true character, please never throw me in a foxhole with Innes.
Business is business. Mustafa uses a fake suicide belt, and Innes uses Twitter. The glorification of self in the face of death is not just “zero fucks” being given, it’s a tragedy of a generation that’s been led to believe that “likes” trump decency and life. This is not the tipping point as Gongloff suggests. It’s the nadir.
The selfie has myriad forms, but the terrorist selfie is an ignominious act and nothing more. I am a self-professed fan of the selfie, but I hope this particular sub-genre goes away quickly.