If you’ve watched any cable news at all this week, you’ve seen a YouTube clip of apparent Libyan militia members diving into a pool from a second floor balcony, probably accompanied by some sort of dire, poignant commentary about the state of the region, and if you paid any attention, wondered why the fuck this was news:
Every time I’ve seen it, the video has been accompanied by a disclaimer from whatever news agency is playing it that the video “can’t be confirmed,” and variations on the theme that the video features Libyan “militia” who have “taken” a U.S. Embassy compound in Tripoli, and are flouting their prize. Kinda like this:
“In a country free falling into chaos, Libyan gunmen celebrate. They’ve just taken an American diplomatic compound, so they take to the swimming pool, a symbolic moment they want the world to see.”
That was on MSNBC last night. On Fox News, they’re “jihadists” who took over a “CIA complex.”
While the militiamen pictured technically did “take” the compound, they didn’t take it from the United States, which abandoned it in July, they took it from some other militia, and according to the Libyan government, the guys in the video are in charge of protecting it. The pool also isn’t at the embassy, but at a residential annex.
Over at CNN, the import of the video is, apparently, that it “reflects the anarchy that currently reigns in Libya’s capital.”
No, it fucking doesn’t. At worst, it reflects the Libyan militiamen’s recklessness in the face of E. coli and severe head trauma. We’ve got people being beheaded in Syria, and you’re worried about some guys blowing off steam at an abandoned swimming pool? Maybe this was news two months ago, but if you abandon an embassy in the middle of Libya, and the worst you get is a scuzzy reboot of Meatballs, I don’t call that anarchy, I call that madcap fun.
Look, you don’t have to have a serious news hook for every cool-ass piece of video. Nobody tried to sell Dramatic Chipmunk (actually a prairie dog) as a symbol of panic on the Arab street, and I’m pretty sure that water-skiing squirrel isn’t part of an amphibious assault on Benghazi. If you want to play a cool-ass video, don’t try to news it up into Pork Chop Hill, just fucking play it. There’s real shit happening in the world.