By Sarah Bennani, BSc Economics
Both the tales of Shamima Begum and Gypsy Rose caught people’s attention, sparking debate, moral dilemmas, and varying degrees of empathy. These two controversial figures are riding an exhilarating oscillation of social change as they separate from one another.
Debates about radicalisation, personal responsibility, and citizenship have been dominated by Shamima Begum’s story of leaving the UK to join ISIS. The mixed reactions to her situation were varied, with several differing opinions formed around her behaviour and actions. On the one hand, some tried to understand her and maintained that she was a vulnerable teenager controlled by extremist ideology. On the other hand, some held a negative opinion of her and claimed that she intentionally left home to pursue terrorism-related activities.
Similarly, there were mixed reactions to Gypsy Rose Blanchard, the orchestrator of her own mother’s murder after years of alleged abuse. The case of Gypsy Rose takes on a sinister tone, with empathy and doubt present throughout. Numerous individuals sympathised with the young woman who declared herself a Munchausen sufferer and comprehended the desperate actions she took to escape her supposed confinement. Meanwhile, some questioned the authenticity of her victimisation and claimed that she had done it intentionally.
The conflicts of responsibility and compassion that exist between Shamima and Gypsy are inseparable. While some believe it is important for individuals to be accountable for their actions, others maintain a sense of responsibility regardless of their circumstances. The dichotomy between personal agency and external influence resonates in the public debate surrounding these cases, with the legal dispute between Shamima Begum and Gypsy Rose fueling these tensions. A recent controversy surrounding the rights of individuals who willingly joined an extremist group has arisen due to Shamima’s efforts to fight for her return to the UK and regain her citizenship. After Gypsy was incarcerated and put on trial, it was uncertain how effectively the legal system dealt with cases that involved psychological abuse.
These arguments have turned into battlegrounds on social media sites where hashtags and trending topics reflect a range of perspectives. While Gypsy Rose films Get Ready With Me (GRWM) with her personal stylist and makeup artist, her TikTok comment section is filled with people calling her an icon and professing their love for her. As she enjoys the newlywed bliss with her husband, whom she married last year in prison, she simultaneously defends him on Instagram, proclaiming that those with an issue with it are “jealous because you are. [He is] rocking my world every night… yeah I said it, the D is fire. Happy wife, happy life.”
Conversely, some people believe that Shamima Begum was an unrepentant individual who willingly enlisted in the ranks of terrorism. Speculation has mounted since saying that she has been honest about her faults, with some warning that there could be ‘safeties’ waiting for her to come back. The debate surrounding Begum goes beyond her personal story and becomes emblematic of the broader challenge of combating radicalisation and extremism.
The court of public opinion is both unreliable and infallible. Many have voiced their thoughts fervently, with varying degrees of empathy and outward condemnation. Ultimately, the reaction to the stories of Shamima Begum and Gypsy Rose reflects the complexity of human nature, the moral dilemmas surrounding their narratives, and the difficulties that society faces in balancing empathy with responsibility.
Despite the ongoing stories about these controversial individuals, one thing remains unaffected: the divisive public eye will persist as a clear reminder that the human experience is not inherently monochromatic but rather characterised by contrasting sentiments, beliefs, and cultural norms.