Saturday, July 21, 2012

The tragic events in Aurora Colorado provide a great opportunity for us to show how sensitive and thoughtful we can be

There really aren't adequate words to describe the horribleness of the murders that took place during a Dark Knight Rises screening in Aurora Colorado early Friday morning. 12 people were killed, and 11 more critically injured. Dozens of others were also injured. Families have been devastated. The survivors are now part of a solemn fraternity of unknowable and frightful pain.

What do you say? What do you do?

For one thing, you can use your network television platform to speculate as to the motives of the murderer. Once you get his name, why not scour certain political websites? If you find someone listed who has the same name, you can then speculate that this might be the same person, but, you know, we're not sure.
[ABC News's Brian] Ross came under attack again Friday when he reported that James Holmes, the suspect of today’s theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., may have connections to the tea party — basing that on a single web page that listed an Aurora-based “Jim Holmes” as a member of the Colorado Tea Party Patriots. 
“There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the tea party last year,” Ross reported on Good Morning America. “Now, we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes – but this is Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.”
And if your speculation turns out to be completely and utterly wrong, you can always apologize for it later. After all, we're just trying to make some sense of tragedy in this modern world of 24 hour journalism. Sometimes you're going to make a few mistakes. The important thing is, you were out there, trying to get a story.

You can use the events to advance your own particular worldview, such as was done by a Texas representative called Louie Gohmert, who believes that there's just not enough god in America today.
You know, when people say, where was God in all of this? Well, you know, we don’t let … in fact we’ve threatened high school graduation participants that if they use God’s name that they’re going to be jailed, we had a principal of a school, and a superintendent or a coach down in Florida that were threatened with jail because they said the blessing at a voluntary off-campus dinner. I mean, that kind of stuff … where is God? Where, where? What have we done with God? We told him that we don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.
Is this the same god, I wonder, who killed people for practicing birth control? The same god who claimed that just thinking about committing adultery is the same as actually committing adultery? The same god who murdered every single innocent man, woman, and child in the world because he was angry with a few "sinners"?

You can see how much sense that makes.

Faced with such a profoundly traumatic event, it's difficult to practice restraint. That's why the words of someone called Elizabeth Rappe, writing at, are so refreshing:
It’s too early to speculate on why this madman committed such a heinous act.
It takes genuine fortitude to make such a statement. Sometimes the simplest thought, concisely expressed, is the best, and I applaud Ms. Rappe for writing that sentence.

Oh, wait. Hold on a second. I just saw the title of the long essay in which that single sentence appears. The title is
Why 'The Dark Knight Rises'? Is Fandom Too Violent?
Now I admit I'm confused. It's too early to speculate on the madman's motives, but the title of the essay is a speculation on the madman's motives. But surely the title is just rhetorical? I mean, she says in the essay that it's too early to speculate. So the essay itself probably doesn't have any speculation in it.

Oh, wait.
It may very well be that this man was obsessed with DC Comics, Christopher Nolan and Batman. He may be one of the very people who was sending death threats to critics. He may have been too into Nolan’s world, a sick mind who fancied himself a supervillain, and wanted to make his mark on a piece of pop culture in a louder way than in a comment field. We’ve seen the positive sides of fandom – fan-made posters, trailers, web comics, costumes, charity events – and it’s constantly thriving and shaped by people who want to be a part, on some level, of a property. Where there’s good and honest people who just want to join with others, celebrate and even leave the world better than they found it, there are people who want to hurt, maim, and ruin in the name of obsession.
So -- bearing in mind that it's too early to speculate on this -- it could be that the madman in question was obsessed with DC Comics, Christopher Nolan, and Batman. But, again, it's too early to speculate. Then again, fandom might be "too violent."
This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. “Fans” have been sending death threats to anyone who dared give “Rises” a less than stellar review. Websites and comment fields have been shut down. There was already a discussion forming about civility, rationality and fandom.
Fandom might be too violent, because people have made nasty comments. Nasty comments equal violence. Just as Louie Gohmert's god has said that merely thinking about something is the same as doing it, so too has Elizabeth Rappe decreed that making nasty comments is the same as committing an act of violence.

You just have to get something out there. Show that you're really struggling with this. Maybe he's politically motivated. Maybe god's mad at us for kicking him out of our public school graduation ceremonies. Maybe he was a fanboy. It could be all of those things, and it could be none of them. But at a time like this, it's important to be saying something.

And, as long as we're saying something, let's not be afraid to politicize this. That's the message of someone called Michael Grunwald, writing at Time.
It’s telling that the people who get paid to analyze politics recoil at the notion that its practitioners should connect it to real-life pain. They think they’re covering a sport, an entertainment. But politics matters, because policies matter. “Obamacare” and “gay marriage” are not just issues that might play badly with swing voters or turn the tide in Virginia; they’re issues that affect people’s lives. Gun control and the Second Amendment are issues, too, and now seems like a pretty good time to talk about them.
All right, Mr. Grunwald, I'll take the bait. I won't be afraid to politicize this tragedy, as the title of your post suggests.

Imagine you're at a crowded gathering somewhere in public. You're with a few friends, but the majority of people there are people you've never met. You have a family that you love and who loves you. All your life you've tried to do the right thing, but you've lived in difficult circumstances. You don't always have as much food as you'd like. You don't have reliable, regular access to electricity. You earn only a small amount of money. Still, you manage to get by, and you even make time to get together with your friends and go out for a fun shared experience, such as you're doing right now.

Suddenly, the scene is shattered by chaos. A rumble. An explosion. Debris rains down upon you -- there is blood everywhere, but you can't tell if any of it's yours because your entire body seems to have gone numb and there is just so much of it, everywhere. There are -- no, it can't be -- there are limbs flying around you. People are running, screaming, panicked, the air is thick with smoke. You're choking on it, your lungs are burning, then there's another explosion, and the structure collapses upon you, and everything goes dark.

The public place where you'd gone was targeted by the leader of a foreign power who decided, in secret, that someone who happened to be at the same place at that time was an enemy of his government. So he made the decision to use a flying drone to drop a bomb on that public place. Because you happened to be standing within 25 feet of "the target," and you happened to be a military-aged male, you were deemed to be an enemy combatant yourself, even though you'd never actively participated in any combat in your life.

When the US government targets people in a public place, it's all part of the "War on Terror." When a lone "madman" does it, well, we just don't have enough god, or it might be the tea party, or he just read too many comic books.

Do you see how I politicized it, Mr. Grunwald? Thanks for giving us permission to do that -- we're all the better for it.


Thrill Fiction said...

It is somewhat easy for those of us on the side of the world to watch/read the news about another American shooting spree and think it's just another day in the capitalist paradise. After reading this sensitive and searing oped I am reminded that it is the American people who are under siege and not the fat capitalist in his ivory tower catbox.

You remind me Sprague.

Ricky Sprague said...

It's easy to forget, thanks to the media, that the vast majority of humans are decent and good.

At least four men died while protecting their girlfriends:

Unfortunately, in America we use the imagery of war for political purposes: War on Drugs, War on Terror, War on Poverty, etc, etc. Our "betters" are awfully callous.