Last night on the "Rachel Maddow Show", Sbignew Berzinsky chided Maddow for making a joke about Bin Laden.
"This is a complicated problem which cannot be reduced to simple formulas, and for that matter should not be a matter of ridicule. You know your introduction to Osama was very... funny - but this is a very serious challenge to us. He is a symbol to many millions in the world, unfortunately, and we have to take him very seriously."
Maddow responded later that she made fun of Bin Laden because she would hope that he'd see it and feel bad. But I have to say, they're both completely wrong.
First off, her response is weak. "I want to make the bad man cry." Well, you're not going to. Because he doesn't really care about what an American commentator has to say. As Berzinsky pointed out, "He doesn't watch your show." But this misses the point as well.
Making fun of a guy like Bin Laden isn't about making him feel bad, but that doesn't mean there isn't a reason to do it. Making fun of Bin Laden has an important function: it's how we take away the power that he wants.
Bin Laden is, no question, a dangerous and evil guy. No question. No one denies it. This guy is bad, and the fact that he's still out there in the world, that sucks. But let's look at what exactly Bin Laden is: a terrorist. Terrorists want to gain power over the rest of us by making us afraid. That's what they do. Bin Laden doesn't want real political power. He doesn't want to be at the head of some country, the guy is smart enough to realize that he wouldn't have thought one about what to do if all of a sudden he became the leader of Pakistan or Afghanistan. The guy exists to fuck with us, and that's all. When we allow him to screw with our heads, he's won. That's a fact. If Bin Laden is scaring you, he's achieving his goals.
That's the point of making fun of a guy like Bin Laden. That's the point of making him into a figure of fun. That's why I'm with guys like Penn and Teller when they say that the biggest "Fuck You" to Al Qaeda would be to rebuild the twin towers, just like they used to be. Because that sends a real message. It's not some stupid Texan saying "Bring it on," it's the message that he will not stop America from being America.
Don't make fun of Bin Laden because you want to insult him. Not that he doesn't deserve it, but the fact of the matter is, he doesn't care. Make fun of Bin Laden because you refuse to let him win. You refuse to let him cast the image in your mind that he wants. You say, "You want to be the boogie man? Fuck you." That's why you make fun of Bin Laden. Own it, Maddow.