Iraq

Chicago Man Burns Himself to Death; Despite His Best Efforts, War in Iraq Continues

|

Malachi Ritscher, a dedicated documentarian of Chicago's experimental music scene, angry at himself for failing to slash Donald Rumsfeld's throat when he had the chance, burned himself to death to protest the Iraq War a couple of weeks back–"near a 25-foot-tall Loop sculpture titled "Flame of the Millennium." Apparently, the chance to vote Democratic on the then-forthcoming election day wasn't enough for the guy.

Ritscher's self-penned obituary.

A Wikipedia mini-history of politically inspired self-immolation.

Advertisement

NEXT: Principal Skinner

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. What, no YouTube link?

  2. Where’s Madame Nhu when you need her?

  3. That’s two days in a row that you’ve posted Burning Man stories, Brian.

  4. So, when do they plan to hold the Malachi Ritscher Memorial Barbeque?

    And is Rachel Corrie’s ghost invited?

  5. I win the contest for being the first to point out the irony of using gasoline to protest a war in the Middle East.

  6. Maybe, but I win the subtlety award for the Madame Nhu reference:

    But though she could be charming, she was also considered ruthless, willful, and arrogant, and her spiteful tongue provoked worldwide outrage when she accused Buddhist monks who had burned themselves to death to protest the Diem regime of staging “a barbecue with imported gasoline.”

    http://www.trivia-library.com/b/where-are-they-now-dragon-lady-of-vietnam-madame-nhu.htm

  7. Portrait of a fatal case of self-importance.

    If he really wanted to give his life for the sake of others he could have gone to Iraq, and thrown himself on an IED.

  8. The article read “horrified commuters,” but being a former Chicagoan and train rider, I probably would gotten off the CTA just to watch the show.

  9. From reading that, it sounded like there was a good chance he would’ve done himself in whether the US invaded Iraq in ’03 or not.

  10. Sorry. You both lose to Jesse Walker.

  11. That’s two days in a row that you’ve posted Burning Man stories, Brian.

    Jesse Walker just became my favorite Reason writer.

  12. Reading his obit, the guy seemed to have a tremendous lack of follow through…except for his suicide, of course.

  13. Maybe he will start a trend. I’d like to see more of you anti-war dolts ignite yourselves in protest

  14. John D:

    And I’d like to see more of you pro-war dolts throw yourself at land mines.

  15. The best thing about martyrs is that they are dead and out of the gene pool.

  16. Postmodern Sleaze

    “And I’d like to see more of you pro-war dolts throw yourself at land mines.”

    Nah. They just go ‘over the top.’

  17. Oh, nonsense, Arensen.

    The worst sacrifice 99% of pro-war dolts are going to give for their country is the contraction of mild carpal tunnel syndrome from repeatedly calling people cowards via anonymous web postings.

  18. But the pun was so obvious!

  19. Afterward, I wonder if the guy was cited for…brandishing a fire arm.

    had to.

  20. Based on the second-to-last line in his self-penned obit, he didn’t know the difference between an “epithet” and an “epitaph”.

    I tried to come up with a joke based on this and failed, so I’m reduced to posthumously mocking his vocabulary.

    Dumbass.

  21. “The worst sacrifice 99% of pro-war dolts are going to give for their country is the contraction of mild carpal tunnel syndrome from repeatedly calling people cowards via anonymous web postings.” – joe

    Funny, I was just thinking that it was usually anti-war types who scream “chickenhawk”.

    I guess the anti-war pacifist is just the flip side of the pro-war antagonist.

    (geek on)
    Or as Spock said about evil Kirk: “You have here an unusual opportunity to appraise the human mind, or to examine, in Earth terms, the roles of good and evil in a man. His negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence; and his positive side, which Earth people express as compassion, love, tenderness. And what is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? We see here indications that it is his negative side which makes him strong — that his evil side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength. Your negative side, removed from you, the power of command begins to elude you.”
    (geek off)

  22. rob,

    “Funny, I was just thinking that it was usually anti-war types who scream “chickenhawk”.

    I guess the anti-war pacifist is just the flip side of the pro-war antagonist.”

    The anti-war pacifists don’t claim to be braver, more steadfast, for more manly than their opponents. A rather relevant detail.

  23. “The anti-war pacifists don’t claim to be braver, more steadfast, for more manly than their opponents. A rather relevant detail.” – joe

    Of course not, they simply contract “mild carpal tunnel syndrome from repeatedly calling people cowards via anonymous web postings.” Funny how they can make that judgement call without knowing anything about who they’re insulting.

    You think that someone’s personal opinion of themselves somehow legitimates an insult about another person’s opinion? Wow, that’s a mind-bender. I fail to see how someone claiming to “be braver, more steafast, or more manly” than I am would legitimate my calling them a coward.

    In other words, it’s like a kettle and a pot calling one another names. They’re both guilty – the guy who insults a principled anti-war pacifist and the guy who insults a principled pro-war antagonist. They’re even using the same insult.

    Funny how you only stick up for the guy you identify with ideologically, rather than denouncing the nonsense on both sides.

    Typical…

  24. Where can I get pictures, or better yet, a video of this flame out?
    Thanks.

  25. Wow, what a bizarre thread. Jihadist suicide bombers get big headlines and no small amount of grudging, even fearful respect all over the blogosphere, including HnR. But those who sacrifice only themselves to make a point — certainly the libertarian position — can only get jeered in here.

    You know folks, if you don’t start showing the courage of your alleged libertarian convictions, people will think you are just GOP shills. I expect Comedy Central and Leno/Letterman/Conan/Ferguson/Kimmel to make jokes about this, but I would think the people in a supposedly “libertarian” forum would take a moment to salute someone who didn’t initiate force to pursue a political/social goal. Burning to death is a horrible way to die.

  26. Many hawks say that their support for the War, and lots of other wars, stems from their being braver and more manly than people who don’t like lots of wars.

    They often call their opponents cowards and wimps on the internet, for not supporting the wars they like.

    And yet, this questioning of other people’s courage and manhood is almost always the most dangerous, most manly thing these people do to support the wars they claim are so important – which is neither a courageous nor a manly thing to do, and makes the claim that supporting wars demonstrates your manhood look hypocritical. When they do this from behind anonymous fake names, it is even more hypocritical. These things are hypocritical because the people making the claim of “too cowardly to fight” are, themselves, not fighting, and behaving in a cowardly manner.

    On the other hand, when people who don’t claim that their position on the war demonstrates superior cojones call these hawks on this hypocrisy – by pointing out that posting under anonymous names isn’t very courageous, or by noting the difference between their states beliefs and their actions (aka calling them chickenhawks), there is no such hypocrisy.

    As much as you might revel in thinking of yourself as a victim, no one is calling you a chickenhawk for your position on the war, or even for supporting a war you’re not fighting in. It’s the assertion that supporting the war makes someone a better, more courageous man, coupled with the refusal to anything manly or courageous in support of that war, that warrants the charge of “chickenhawk.”

    Look at the quote you objected to so strongly: I didn’t denounce anyone for supporting the war, or even for not joining up to fight it. I denounced people who do both those things, and still assert that their feelings make them more courageous and manly then those who do not support the war.

  27. Please do not conflate some nut-job’s suicide with libertarianism.

  28. JAM

    It may have escaped your notice, but libertarians are not big on a) “self-sacrifice”, b) guilt trips, & c) grandstanding, all of which are apparent in this guy’s actions. His actions did precisely nothing to advance the position of those of us who oppose the war. In fact, it did the opposite, in that he made opponents seem ridiculous.

    The mocking comments may be tasteless, but reflect the fact that his actions were more farce than tragedy.

    I save my respect for the dead for people like the passengers on flight 93, who fought to live.

  29. Obviously, one can take a principled pro-war or anti-war position. One can also take an idiotic pro-war or anti-war position. On this forum we should at least attempt to distinguish the difference.

    The lecture is over.

  30. I save my respect for the dead for people like the passengers on flight 93, who fought to live.
    Shouldn’t that be fought so others could live?

  31. Maybe they were blown out of the sky, & their fight was cut short. We;ll know in 20 years.
    Setting yourself on fire comes in two flavors: deep conviction, think the Viet monk. And personal demons, which grab on an external to light the match.
    There was a chap who set himself alight back in the mid 80’s re: mass murder in El Sal.
    Obviously a fool. Unlike the Serious Thinkers that lit his fuse……

  32. J sub D

    Both, I think.

    All the information I have seen indicates that the passengers on flight 93 knew they were doomed if they did not act, so it was a fight to live in that sense.

    They also appear to have known that, if they merely submitted and accepted their fate, others would also die.

  33. MUTT – what *did* those ‘barbequed’ monks in VN accomplish again? Given the subsequent events/actions of the JFK/LBJ admin (assassination of Diem, political chaos in S.VN, massive US intervention,) I can’t say that their actions had a particularly positive effect. If anything they goaded JFK into making the decision to wax Diem, which took the US on the road to large-scale involvement in the war.

    And I hadn’t even *heard* of the El Salvador chap, though I remain unmoved. An odd statement — life is too precious, therefore I’m going to kill myself.

  34. Burning yourself in protest of war? That is soooo derivative.

  35. Jesse Walker | November 15, 2006, 12:16pm

    That’s two days in a row that you’ve posted Burning Man stories, Brian.

    OMG — We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!

  36. “Many hawks say that their support for the War, and lots of other wars, stems from their being braver and more manly than people who don’t like lots of wars. They often call their opponents cowards and wimps on the internet, for not supporting the wars they like.” – joe

    Undoubtedly there are some idiots who do this. That doesn’t excuse the idiots on the other side from making unfounded ad hom attacks, either.

    “And yet, this questioning of other people’s courage and manhood is almost always the most dangerous, most manly thing these people do to support the wars they claim are so important” – joe

    Says you. How do you know that the guy you’re anonymously arguing with isn’t career military?

    Calling someone names isn’t the same as arguing with their point and it isn’t something anyone should defend.

    You think calling someone a “chickenhawk” is acceptable because you don’t think there is an inherent hypocrisy in a pacifist’s position that exists in the guy you call a “chickenhawk.” Right so far?

    I could be wrong about your stance, but that seems the upshot of what appears to be your defense of name-calling, while I think calling someone a coward is pointless, stupid, and wrong regardless of that person’s political stance.

    Frankly, anyone who “makes the claim that supporting wars demonstrates your manhood” is stupid, regardless of whether it makes them “look hypocritical.”

    However, calling someone a coward because you think their pro-war stance is due to their ability not to have to do the fighting is equally stupid.

    “When they do this from behind anonymous fake names, it is even more hypocritical.” – joe

    A desire for anonymity doesn’t always stem from fear, joe. In an anonymous forum, you can never tell what the person you’re arguing with has done in his/her lifetime. It’s just ridiculous to throw around such insults.

    “As much as you might revel in thinking of yourself as a victim, no one is calling you a chickenhawk for your position on the war, or even for supporting a war you’re not fighting in.” – joe

    Do you mean me, specifically? Because other than a thread a while back where some troll went off, I don’t think I’ve ever been called a chickenhawk. I know that I’ve never accused anyone of being a coward for their political position on war.

    “It’s the assertion that supporting the war makes someone a better, more courageous man, coupled with the refusal to do anything manly or courageous in support of that war, that warrants the charge of ‘chickenhawk.'”

    When I see that argument around here, joe, I’ll make sure to denounce it. Basing your support for war on how manly you think it is would be like basing your manhood on the car you drive: juvenile and foolish.

    “Look at the quote you objected to so strongly: I didn’t denounce anyone for supporting the war, or even for not joining up to fight it. I denounced people who do both those things, and still assert that their feelings make them more courageous and manly then those who do not support the war.” – joe

    I honestly can’t think of anyone on HNR who has
    1) come out as “supporitng the war”
    AND
    2) refuses “joining up to fight it”
    AND
    3) “assert[s] that their feelings make them more courageous and manly then those who do not support the war”

    So who were you “denouncing,” joe? I’m sure you’ve got some anonymous coward’s chest-thumping HNR post where he claims his support for war makes him more manly than some anti-war guy.

    Especially since you feel so strongly about denouncing the hypocrisy you bravely sacrifice yourself to rebut with cries of “chickenhawk,” “coward,” and “hypocrite.”

    Once again, I think this is an example where I think anyone who someone a coward is an idiot, while you are defending people who behave badly because you agree with their politics. Don’t you ever get tired of defending the dumb guys just because they’re ostensibly on your side?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.