By now you may have seen the selfie that broke the Internet in a way that a photo of Kim Kardashian's butt could only dream. When EgyptAir Flight 181 was hijacked on Tuesday, passenger Ben Innes decided to literally smile in the face of imminent death. The 26-year-old British health and safety worker asked his would-be murderer if he would pose for a selfie. Hijacker Seif El Din Mustafa obliged.
Innes told British newspaper The Sun, "We were sitting around waiting. I thought, 'Why not? If he blows us all up it won't matter anyway."
Reaction on social media has ranged from heralding Innes as a hero to labeling him a moron who could have gotten everyone killed. So which is it? We asked Sergeant Major (Retired) Karl Erickson, a former Green Beret who serves as Director of Special Projects at T1G, an elite military training facility.
"The gentlemen that shot the selfie has a blatant lack of situational awareness and no self-preservation instincts, but what he did is actually brilliant," says Erickson. "If that hijacker was a real terrorist and he escaped, you couldn’t ask for a better photo to help track him down. It has precise facial features, you could get his exact height and build comparing him to the selfie taker. It's perfect."
Erickson continues, "Psychologically, this is a big step in building a rapport and camaraderie with the terrorist. You let them know that you are a human being, not just a statistic that will increase their body count to get on the news. If they see you as a person, you are less likely to be the person they take outside to shoot or behead in front of the cameras."
"At T1G, we teach people in hostage situations to not be the hero. We tell them to be 'the grey man.' Just sit there and turn your brain into a recorder. Observe how many terrorists there are, what they are armed with, where they tend to stand. Often a handful of hostages are released in standoff situations, and if you are one of them, you are an invaluable intel tool for the assault force who is trying to save everyone else. In keeping with all that, this guy’s selfie is priceless."
Innes' intention likely wasn't to provide evidence for law enforcement. But the photo is a challenge to all of us to selfies in a different light, beyond mere self-promotion.