Notes on Osama bin Laden’s Death Party

Osama bin Laden is dead, buried at sea.

Maybe you’ve heard, Osama bin Laden was killed yesterday. The People of Twitter told me so. Or at least, told me I should step away from my computer and sit back down in front of my television to watch a press conference. But the press conference didn’t air when they said it would, so I started losing interest. I flipped through channels and caught scenes from a show called Saddle Ranch on VH1 that briefly set me in a panic about the future my children will inhabit. Fist-fighting strippers, angry bartenders, tales from a scantily clad present-day dystopian steakhouse. It distracted me long enough to miss half of the President’s address. Though I knew the gist: Jihadist #1 was dead. Cue the nationwide death party.

New York took it to the streets first, massing at Ground Zero in a celebration of inebriated nationalism. U-S-A! U-S-A! and all that comes with it. Sailors mounted telephone poles; women screamed and lifted their shirts; and of course, fashion statements were made. It seemed a bizarre spectacle, as the The New York Observer‘s Azi Paybarah wrote:

The ground was littered with empty beer bottles, crushed Four Loco cans and torn open cases of Budweiser. At one point, a man sitting on top of a pay phone got the crowd to cheer “USA aint nothing to fuck with,” modifying a popular Wu-Tang Clan song from the late 1990s. Later, on top of that same pay phone, were two men in red kilts. Blowing into bag pipes, they belted out the song Amazing Grace.

America celebrates the death of Osama bin Laden.

To celebrate death the same way cities do Superbowl championships or World Series titles feels uncommon, even for America. Looking at the death party photographs from New York and Washington D.C., it feels inevitable that it could all be reduced to a Tumblr/Blogspot/Wordpress site called “Osama Death Mob or Sports Victory Celebration?” And in truth, such treatment might be met with unflinching approval. It’s hard to know.

The scene in Washington D.C. echoed the sentiment in New York, but mobs of people draped in flags at the gates of the White House looked alien. When was the last time a celebration erupted on this stately stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue? The high so many felt from that raucous inauguration wore off long ago; leaving lots of regret and political (and economic) depression in its wake.

State College: Students at Penn State University celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death.

At Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, students filled the streets in a celebration that could not “possibly be described in words,” according to John Tecce:

Following President Obama’s announcement that US Special Forces have killed Osama bin Laden, thousands of students gathered on Beaver Avenue between McAllister and Garner streets to celebrate the event. Costumed characters crowd surfed down the street, students shot off fireworks, papers were thrown from balconies, and even a small fire was started in Beaver Canyont.

Though Tecce may have had a hard time summing up the experience in words, this photo gives the impression the Nittany Lions have just won the national championship. But death parties seem to be strange that way, stirred by an emotional current that nobody really understands.

“It’s weird to celebrate someone’s death,” 22-year-old Laura Cunningham told the Observer‘s Azi Paybarah. “It’s not exactly what we’re here to celebrate, but it’s wonderful that people are happy.”

What Cunningham says may sound simplistic, but it holds truth. To the nation, the death of Osama bin Laden seems to represent more than retribution for the attacks of September 11th. Perhaps Americans are so euphoric because the government, with all its flawed and hobbled machinery, has finally accomplished something. And at this point, it doesn’t much matter what that something is. Maybe we are astounded that a campaign promise that had become stale with age has miraculously (and violently, how else) been honored.

Perhaps we all just want to have some reason to be happy (and share that happiness with a large crowd), and if a death party is all we get, well, let’s make the most of it. Given the heartache wrought by bin Laden and company, witnessing such a weirdly joyous public reaction to death may be, after all, not all that weird. TC mark

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  • Alina Trifan

    it is WEIRD and PATHETIC.

  • Michael Koh


  • jyopp

    When Dorothy killed the wicked witch of the east the munchkins sang, had a parade, and handed out lollipops. But yeah, I'm sure there was at least one munchkin in the back, wringing his hands in guilty self-reflection.

  • Kobayashi

    I will never think that celebrating death is ok, not matter who's death it may be, we're no better than the people we're claiming to abhor.

    • P. H. Madore

      How many children have you paid to wear explosives and murder civilians today?

      If you haven't done that, and if the celebrators haven't done that, then you and the celebrators are better people than Osama or anyone that worked close enough to him.

      • Kobayashi

        If you feel you have the right to judge people you don't even know, be my guest. A human being is a human being, personality and beliefs aside.

      • P. H. Madore

        Deeds not aside, though. Here we have a man who not only claimed responsibility for, but was proud of, the deaths of thousands of innocents — some from all over the world, many from his own neighborhood.

        Shut the fuck up.

      • Lisbon

        Wow, you're a jackass. Threatened by a differing opinion? Or are you just an ass? He may have a very liberal view of this, but you're no better.

        STFU yourself.

  • P. H. Madore

    I wish I was watching the news yesterday instead of fucking. I could have probably got a lot of free drinks.

  • P. H. Madore
  • P. H. Madore

    Roger Sterling: Now, I know that your generation went to college instead of serving, so I'll illuminate you. This man deserved what was coming to him. He lived his every breath hoping that one day he would die in a hail of bullets from the infidel. All we can hope is that he gets 33 of his 99 virgins.

    • Kobayashi

      “He lived his every breath hoping that one day he would die in a hail of bullets from the infidel.”

      So you're saying that we gave him exactly what he wanted? That will teach him! Um, no. Killing never solves shit. Your posts (of which are numerous) are not only crass, they are rude. You would get farther with eloquence and understanding.

  • Me

    With what evidences Osama has been judged? Will they judge to us with the same rules? We are a helpless society, a false democracy. Americans, take control over your governors, they are killing the world in the name of nothing, they are the real terrorists. Everyone has their responsabilities. The future will judge the empire. Your obsequiousness me ashamed.
    North Americans, USA's people: open your eyes!!! Please, do something real from the inside.
    What is justice for you? Kill anothers without judge them, without proofs?

  • Serge Bourgault

    I'm Canadian, but for me, Obama bin Laden's was something to celebrate. Almost 10 years ago that act of terrorism alone* changed the international landscape, not only are those fears still looming in our minds across the globe, but also that the turmoil we are witness to now are aftershocks of that event. Watching the live stream's of American's celebrating his death in the streets, I initially felt the political-uncorrectness/morbidity of it, but my own feelings of closure overwhelmed the initial ones. I believe that feeling is something to celebrate; and end to an era. His death is a symbol and despite the possibility of further retaliation, the US has stated without empathy, “We will get you.”

    Furthermore, bin Laden's body was never dragged through the streets or strung up for all to see, he was given an respectful and traditional Islamic burial. Despite the fact it was at sea, it was probably a ceremony he did not deserve. We all know that if it were the shoe were on the other foot, we wouldn't receive that degree of respect.

    Good Job USA!

    (*Not including other acts such as '93 world trade center bombing and '98 US Embassy bombings)

  • MediaMentions

    As of the ‘death’ of Osama Bin Laden, I find there's been a metaphorical cloud of mystery surrounding the consequences. I myself have been doing a bit of reading and have found the following article one of the more clear and reliable ones. (here's a link, if you'd like a look:… Well anyway, hope this helped a little with context, and I'm sure more will come up as the media fuss calms down a little.

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