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The War Nerd / April 21, 2011

Somebody with a face finally died in Libya. His name was Tim Hetherington, an Oxford literature graduate who made that documentary Restrepo about an Afghan base.

Hetherington didn’t just have an Oscar-nominated face, it was a real good-looking face too, which all the tributes to him seem to repeat over and over. Take this one from the editor of Vanity Fair, the magazine that sent him to Libya:

“Devilishly good-looking and impossibly brave, he was both a ladies’ man and a man’s man,” he said. “There were few like Tim, and there will be fewer like him.”

I know people are supposed to say dumb stuff when somebody dies, it’s part of the proof that you’re all discombobulated by the passing of the great one, but god damn, does it have to be THIS stupid? That last sentence is pure comedy, whether it wants to be or not: “There were few like Tim, and there will be fewer like him.”

Yeah, dude. One fewer, by my count. Tim minus Tim equals zero, according to my keyboard calculator here.

It’s kind of hard to get too choked up over killed combat photographers because they’re all like Tim, these dashing throwbacks to colonial-war heroes in the Victorian days.

Back then the cool, handsome Oxford grad would dash off to Waziristan to battle the wily Pashtun. Today they leave that to the working class, but that doesn’t mean they have to settle for dull civilian jobs. They came up with a solution that lets them soak up the blood and the cool of a war zone without getting any of it on their hands: they take pictures of it instead of getting dirty shooting people.

It’s exactly the same pattern with the other shooting game these guys used to play, big-game hunting. A hundred years ago, if they were jilted by whatever horseface damsel they fancied they’d go off to the Rockies to shoot Grizzlies, or to the African savanna to slap lions around. Now they go to the same places, but it’s to coddle those Grizzlies, collar them and encourage them to breed, or back to the savanna to frown disapprovingly at the local farmers for shooting lions in an ungentlemanly fashion, with AK bursts.

If you’ve read Michael Herr’s Nam book Dispatches you know what these guys (and they’re almost all guys) are like. Herr has the same kind of man-crush on one of them, Sean Flynn, Errol Flynn’s son, as the Vanity Fair editor had on Tim.

Sean Flynn, beautiful corpse

There’s an article in that disgusting HuffPo where Steve Kettman, another starry-eyed reporter, talks about his crush on Sean even though Flynn’s kid had been a rotting corpse in the jungles of Cambodia before he ever heard of him.

He quotes Herr talking about Flynn in terms so ridiculous I just have to quote it:

“Sean Flynn could look more incredibly beautiful than even his father, Errol, had thirty years before as Captain Blood, but sometimes he looked more like Artaud coming out of some heavy heart-of-darkness trip, overloaded on the information, the input,” Herr writes. “The input! He’d give off a bad sweat and sit for hours, combing his mustache through with the saw blade of his Swiss Army knife.”

Tim Hetherington was the same breed, a “man’s man”—that’s pretty damn clear—“and a ladies’ man” in an age where most men are nobody’s man, just a scared Dilbert in a cubicle. You can decide that makes them heroes, like most people seem to, or decide they’re just decadent freaks, no-touch perverts who want to roll in the gore without getting dirty. Goddamn aristocrats.

And so we commit the earthly remains of our brother Tim to the ground. I should’ve been a preacher.

Anyway, the real military significance of Hetherinton’s death is straight out of the Victorian Brit playbook. I told you in one of my last blogs that the British innovation in making war in the hot countries was never, ever to talk about how many they’d killed but to pick one photogenic victim from their side and plaster his or her picture all over the media. If it was a woman, like Edith Cavell in WW I, so much the better: “lovely womanhood brutally savaged by the Huns”—and never mind the fact that she actually WAS running a spy network in German territory.

Hetherington is perfect for this job. Most of the people who’ve died in Libya til now never got an Oscar nomination in their lives. They weren’t all that good-looking, either. That’s a huge handicap when you’re getting those hanky-fluttering NATO honchos to intervene.

Ordinary Libyan rebel: Looks like Abbot and Costello, no good at all.

You’ve got to have a good-looking face to front for you, like that surprisingly cute Albanian girl who tipped it for Clinton to hit Serbia.

So Timmy has done the right thing here, probably by accident. If he really cared about Libya so much, he’s done the best thing for the rebels he possibly could: dying now and leaving a “Devilishly good-looking” corpse. Just the dead face NATO needed.

Read more:, Gary Brecher, The War Nerd

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Add your own

  • 1. Brothamo  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    People like C. of V. make me scared for humanity.

  • 2. captain america  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    @28: if you know dolan/brecher at all, you know that it’s inevitable that he’s going to hate a guy like hetherington. dude was good-looking, famouser than dolan, popular with the ladies, english, and worst of all, happy.

    @35: so true.

  • 3. fischbyne  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    “Restrepo” was among the most mundane and artless of the documentaries covering Middle East war zones. None of the poetry or feeling of “Iraq in Fragments,” and none of journalistic punch of “Iraq for Sale,” which was way ahead of the mainstream press and Congress on Halliburton. Worth noting that neither of those were embed jobs. In “Restrepo,” Hetherington just follows the guys in his embed at a remote Afghanistan outpost on a ridge. I put almost as much thought into the videos I make about my kids.

  • 4. C. of V.  |  April 23rd, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Brothamo (51)

    you say: “People like C. of V. make me scared for humanity.”
    Care to elaborate what you mean?

    By the way, some of the Chris Hondros (RIP if really dead) latest Misrata pictures are clearly and totally faked. I am talking about the ones in which the Western reporter supposedly followed untrained and undisciplined irregulars in the most dangerous military activity ever, house-to-house fighting…sure.
    Picture number 5, picture number 17, picture number 18.
    Same room, different time, crazy activity, and bullet holes in the wall are different. This is faked imagery.

  • 5. fajensen  |  April 23rd, 2011 at 2:46 am

    Is anybody really so slow not to understand that there never will be “democracy” in the Arab world?

    Two mechanisms at work:

    First, It’s a religious thing.

    Democracy is supposed to be all-powerful, the magick solution to all problems. For many people Democracy is God-like.

    When democracy fails in some area, it is no longer divine and can be discussed, argued about and modified. Democracy is exposed as the 20’th century form of the Viking tribal council – it works when all the participants generally have the same values, it bricks in multicultural settings.

    The Democracy-is-Jesus nuts cannot accept that, so the more democracy fails “here”, the more they will bomb, bribe and swindle democracy onto other people because it HAS TO WORK, DAMMIT!

    Second, psychology:

    The more trouble a person or group of people has, the busier they get with the affairs of other people. To postpone the pain of dealing with their own bad decisions of the past.

    IOW. This shite will go on for a LONG time!

  • 6. Tim  |  April 23rd, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Hey WarNerd, any comments?

    “Two US drones for Misratah vs Russian arms, Chinese intel for Qaddafi ” @

  • 7. scottxcbad  |  April 23rd, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Brecher, you wouldn’t have anything to whack off to late at night if it weren’t for the photos these war corespondents take.

  • 8. scottxcbad  |  April 23rd, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    P.S. Flynn should have brought daddy’s sword to Cambodia.

  • 9. allen  |  April 23rd, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    What separates out your whining from, say the post-colonial variety, is you don’t even have anything to be upset about. And yet here you are bleeting about imaginary offenses — “why, some hypothetical non-white person would probably celebrate if something, hypothetically, happened to me!”

    histrionic. shrill.

    shaddup with the apologetic already.

  • 10. Restell  |  April 24th, 2011 at 4:07 am

    There’s no beta like a jealous beta.

  • 11. postman  |  April 24th, 2011 at 8:05 pm


    White Christian Europe is turned into a Multicultural shithole, and I have nothing to complain about?
    My country is exploited, my nation is turned into debt-ridden slaves, masses of families are unemployed and thrown into the streets homeless by the banks, every day one of my fellow countryman is murdered by one of the colored minorities encouraged by one of the “religious” minorities, and organised self-defence of your limbs and family and property are not allowed, our national symbols and national pride is trampled 24/7, and we are called the evil racists and anti-semites, and I have nothing to complain?
    When the same reaches you in your country, and it will sooner or later and your life and living will be in danger, pray that guys like me will stand by you, because you will not find understanding and help from die Juden and the colored mann.

  • 12. Strelnikov  |  April 24th, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    That cartoon looks to me like it originally came from a Palestinean TV station (note the Dome of the Rock ID “bug”) though the bit at the end with the Libyan flag is from one of those “national anthems of the world” YouTube videos. So is this Fatah propaganda? I don’t know. It is pro-Khaddafi, that’s all I can say.

  • 13. Peter Lovett  |  May 5th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I don’t understand why you are so worked up about this. It has always been the case where the death of someone identifiable has been used to illustrate the deaths of many.

    That people say the dumbest of things when talking about the dead is embarrassing it is also understandable. In my profession of aviation I have seen some of the most stupid comments from friends of a deceased pilot.

    Is this a case of jealousy on your part. Perhaps it is not appropriate from someone looking on from the sidelines in comfort while others get their hands dirty.

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