The shootings in Arizona are still dominating the news.  The alleged shooter's cartoon-like visage leers from across television screens.  NPR, that guiding light of toothless liberalism, runs the requisite stories.  A church of senseless believers wanted to picket the funeral of the little girl who was shot.  (I later read that some radio time was enough to buy them off.)  Even his online gaming habits have been examined.

Tonight I heard it reported that Gabrielle (Gabby to everyone in the news now) Giffords raised her arm.  I half expected the reporter to scream, "It's a miracle!"

NBC, on its nightly "news" program, ran a piece on the alleged shooter's problems at school, with fellow students and administration describing him as "creepy" and possibly being on "drugs."  One fellow classmate was interviewed.  He seemed uncomfortable, yet you could tell this interview would be mentioned on his Facebook page ... a lot.  In the end, it seems nobody was surprised.

Democrats had been saying their own numbers would die since Sarah Palin learned how to get on the web.  Reporters knew it was bound to happen because months earlier they had been reporting about the death threats elected officials were getting (and doing their best to associate those threats with the Tea Party Parrots in our minds).  The suspect's classmates all knew it was coming, too.  So did his neighbors.  You didn't need a psychic to tell.  You could tell just by looking at him.  I mean, look at all those photos they show. The wacky faces.  The frozen grin.  It was obvious that all he needed was a gun and an opportunity.  America knew from his Internet rantings that he was a threat. 


Between all the talk about banning "violent speech" (like those jingoistic speeches every president gives before going to war in some Third World country where toilets are a luxury) and the absolute certainty of everyone in the media and Tucson that Jared Loughner, the alleged shooter, was crazy and going to kill, we seemed to lose sight of something.  Many fine folks may have known it, and a "ban" on "violent speech" may have kept such speech from getting out there, but none of that would have changed a damn thing and nor could it.  Bad people do bad things.  Banning guns and speech won't stop those things from happening.  They may make people feel safer.  They may give people a sense of security.  They won't really make the world a safer place, though.

As of this post, I haven't heard if the shooter was inspired by Palin and her website.  It doesn't really matter, though.  Palin is still a moron with a following.  It doesn't make her any more or any less "evil," as I've heard her called.  Loughner could've been inspired by anyone or anything.  A phone call from one of those credit card telemarketers could've made him mad enough to go buy some ammo.  (I know I've wanted to.)  I think that we when we start to play the blame game on such a large and influential scale (like the news), we do it as a form of healing, a way of making us feel not only better about ourselves by distancing ourselves from the criminal, but also as a way of showing sympathy.  (He's not to blame.  Words drove him to it.  Video games drove him to it.  Misdiagnosed mental illness drove him to it.)  Does that change anything, though?  No.  It actually ends up clouding the more serious points of debate.  By painting him as a lunatic, it allows some very important questions about the politics of assassination to go unanswered.

Eventually the news will drop this story, focusing on either another homeless man with a deep voice or some Lindsay Lohan mishap that is best left unexamined.  The shootings will only be mentioned when it nears the anniversary or a copycat crime takes place.  It will be forgotten, and nothing substantial will be added to the public discourse.  Like Columbine, the media will guarantee that the focus stays on a few narrow, easy-to-understand topics, and in six months we will be none the wiser.  Hell, most of us will have forgotten Gabby's name.

Maybe that is for the best, though.  Maybe we, as a society, aren't ready to deal with the serious questions a crime like this raises.  Maybe we aren't ready to examine the deeper motivations that drive people.  Maybe we won't understand, or don't want to understand.  Maybe asking the substantial questions doesn't matter because even if we know the answers we also know we can't stop this sort of thing, so why even waste time trying to get to the root of the problem?

Me?  I find an examination of the media and public's reaction far more fascinating than the made-up reasons for the crime.  I am highly interested in politically-motivated assassinations and assassination attempts, but this shooting seems more crazy than motivated, so an examination of the coverage and the reactions yields better answers to the questions that aren't being asked.

Loughner is no Alexander Berkman.  He's more like John Hinckley, Jr., which all but guarantees that any public discussion will be centered around the very things that nobody can really control.  Had it been a very serious politically-motivated crime it would be a lot harder to dismiss it.  Instead, he's just another mass murderer with a gun and crazy eyes. 

You think you can stop that?  Good luck trying.


Castiel Cat said...

Yet another great blog post, Doug.

Nikki said...

One of my biggest issue with the whole "video games (or music, books, etc) made him do it" argument is that it fails to recognize that millions of people play said video game, listed to said music, etc and do not go out and kill people. For example, Halo Reach (the only violent game that immediately came to mind) sold 3 million copies in the US. Did 3 million people then go out and shoot people? Did 1.5 million? How about even 9,000, which would put the fatality rate at .0003%. The odds of dying in a plane crash are significantly higher than the odds of someone becoming a murderer after playing a game, yet we still fly. The odds of developing severe complications from a vaccine are higher than the odds of someone going on a killing spree because of the lyrics in a song, but we still vaccinate.

Also, as you wrote, blaming an external source fails to take into account the mind of the person himself (sorry, I'm not trying to be sexist with the male pronouns, but in most cases it's a guy who goes nuts on a large scale). Although I disagree with lumping undiagnosed mental illness into the blame list, since that plays a major role. However, diagnosing a mental illness doesn't remove the threat. Some people are just wrong in the head, and I think they have to be born that way. Life circumstances can bring out the monster, but again, plenty of people survive horrible things and don't go on to murder others. I really think something has to be wrong at a genetic level. A missing piece perhaps. A significant portion of our DNA is "junk," which I think basically means we haven't figured it all out yet.

Society as a whole has an instinctual need to feel safe. In order to feel safe, we need to explain away the bad stuff. This is probably why we (and by we, I mean humans) so willingly accepted the Church's creation of the devil (which was created simply as a means of control and a way to force others to switch over. Poor Pan never saw it coming.) The devil is the ultimate scapegoat. Violent media seems to be the second favorite "go-to cause" for why people suddenly go nuts and shoot up a grocery store.

I just don't think the blame can be placed on anyone except the killer (general killer, not specifically talking about the AZ shooter). Blaming anything else, from bad parenting to video games to society in general, is just a cop-out.

-Doug Brunell "America's Favorite Son" said...

Castiel, thank you.

Nik, if you played the E.T. video game on the Atari 2600 you may be driven to kill. In related news, National Geographic ran a special on the "rage" gene, which featured Henry Rollins. They also call it the "warrior gene," which they have linked to violence in males. If you can find it, I highly recommend it.

Nikki said...

Actually, Super Scribblenauts is inducing some rage in me. I can't figure out some of the levels, and the game is designed for my five year old for crying out loud!

-Doug Brunell "America's Favorite Son" said...

You must use your imagination.