Malala: Better Off Without A Nobel?


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When Malala Yousafzai was passed over for a Nobel Prize, an ABCNews story noted Irish betting magnate Paddy Power's odds for her as an 8/15 favorite mere days before the prize would go to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Other betting favorites included transgender Wikileaker Chelsea Manning (25/1) and U2 frontman Bono (100/1), but ABC's piece did not mention the prize's actual winner, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as a contender.

Why would an organization that seeks to prohibit and dismantle chemical weapons, especially in the wake of Syrian chemical weapons use, not be a favorite contender for the Nobel peace prize, even though that organization would win the award over Malala?

The Washington Post's political reporter, Max Fisher, believes he has the answer: because to award Malala with the prize is to formally validate her new Western celebrity, and he concisely argues that Malala's new celebrity status is a subconscious effort by Westerners to cope with the cultural issues they played a role in creating.

"Like a sort of slacktivism writ large, awarding Malala the Nobel would have told us what we wanted to hear: that celebrity and 'awareness' can fix even the worst problems," Fisher wrote. "It would have made us less likely to acknowledge the truth, which is that it takes decades of hard work, not to mention a serious examination of our own role in the problem, to effect meaningful change."

Fisher goes on to note that the OPCW oversaw the dismantling of 80 percent of Planet Earth's declared chemical weapons, a number that included all the deadly nerve agents in South Korea and India.

Unfortunately, as University of North Carolina assistant professor Zeynep Tufekci wrote in his blog, "There is an abundance of them [courageous, oppressed people like Malala], especially in poor, authoritarian countries. If you think Malala is rare, that is probably because you have not spent much time in such countries. Most Malala’s, however, go nameless, and are not made into Western celebrities."

During Malala's Daily Show interview with Jon Stewart, Tufekci felt something telling passed between host and guest when Jon Stewart praises the girl's father only to express his desire to adopt her. "Such a striking sentiment," he said, "in which our multi-decade involvement in Pakistan is reduced to finding a young woman we admire that we all want to take home as if to put on a shelf to adore."

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]