Sunday, December 03, 2006

Obscured: the self-immolation of Malachi Ritscher

On Nov. 3, at the base of the 25-foot sculpture, "The Flame of the Millennium" in downtown Chicago, a man set himself on fire, an apparent suicide. He left behind a sign that read "Thou Shalt not Kill," and a video that has yet to be released by police.

This is what the Sun-Times reported on Saturday morning, in a small item in the metro section. The story, however, is much larger than the space given in the tabloid newspaper. Bigger in the usual ways that mainstream media usually finds extraneous and redundant-personal history, motivations-but this underreported story is bigger in principle and carries relevance outside of its tragic casing. The man who burned himself to death in public last week was Malachi Ritscher, a local musician and anti-war activist, whose suicide on Friday was an act of self-immolation, his final protest to the Iraq war.

This story was not reported on the evening news. Nor was it reported in the mainstream newspapers. Ritscher's story has only been spread on the web, through fans of jazz and independent music (Ritscher recorded local musicians) and other indie blogs. .............

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