ISIS burned Muadh al Kasasbeh, a captured Jordian fighter pilot, to death. They doused him with an accelerant. His captors set him on fire. Muadh al Kasasbeh desperately tried to put out the flames. ISIS recorded Muadh al Kasasbeh's immolation, produced a video designed to intimidate their enemies, and then circulated it online. ISIS's burning alive of Muadh al Kasasbeh has been denounced as an act of savagery, barbarism, and wanton cruelty–one from the "dark ages" and not of the modern world.
American Exceptionalism blinds those who share its gaze to uncomfortable facts and truths about their own country. For almost a century, the United States practiced a unique cultural ritual that was as least as gruesome as the "medieval" punishments meted out by ISIS against its foes. What is now known as "spectacular lynching" involved the ceremonial torture, murder–and yes, burning alive–of Black Americans by Whites. Like ISIS's use of digital media to circulate images of the torturous death of Muadh al Kasasbeh by fire, the spectacular lynchings of the Black body were shared via postcards and other media. In fact, the burned to death images of the Black body were one of the most popular types of mass culture in 19th and 20th century America.
This account of the horrific murder of Sam Hose by White Americans is an even more grotesque and exaggerated version of the cruelty visited upon Muadh al Kasasbeh by ISIS:
The White-owned newspapers of the South had long gorged themselves with exaggerated or fabricated accounts of such violence. In the papers' version, the fight between Sam Hose and his boss became transformed into the most enraging crime of all: the rape of the White man's wife. White Georgians tracked Hose down and prepared for his lynching. Two thousand people gathered for the killing, some taking a special excursion train from Atlanta for the purpose. The leaders of the lynching stripped Hose, chained him to a tree, stacked wood around him, and soaked everything in kerosene. The mob cut off Hose's ears, fingers and genitals; they peeled the skin from his face. They watched, a newspaper reported, ''with unfeigning satisfaction'' as the man's veins ruptured from the heat and his blood hissed in the flames. ''Oh, my God! Oh, Jesus,'' were the only words Hose could manage. When he finally died, the crowd cut his heart and liver from his body, sharing the pieces among themselves, selling fragments of bone and tissue to those unable to attend. No one wore a disguise, no one was punished.