Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Politics of Mass Murder (The Batman Shootings)

I am going to assume that if you have gotten here you are sufficiently informed about the Aurora Batman shootings that you will not need links to everything. I'm writing on my laptop and don't have the wherewithal to annotate everything. You've read it all (or seen it on TV) already.

What I want to talk about for a moment is the politics of Mass Murder itself and a little about my take on it.

The Politics Of Mass Murder
 For certain there is a political corona around the Aurora shootings even if the core is politically empty. ABC suggesting that, hey, maybe it's the Tea Party guy with the same name directly echoes the Giffords shootings. Yes: Palin had a flier with crosshairs on it. Yes: when you do that--and then some psychopath shoots up the Congresswoman you targeted you look bad ... the optics are bad. So maybe you shouldn't just go do that even if it fires everyone up. On the other hand to suggest with a straight face, as many did, that (a) It might be directly responsible or that (b) even if Laughtner hadn't seen the flier that he was absorbing right-wing rhetoric and turning it into bullets is about as classy as theater etiquette self-appointed hall monitors going off on the fact that there were young kids in the theater.

There's a time and a place to examine that stuff and in the midst of a massive human tragedy is NOT it.

It's also clear that the gun-control advocates have, again, come out to let us know that their policies would've or could've prevented this. Australia's gun control laws do seem to have cut down on gun violence there--so why not here? Certainly having a policy proposal that might have prevented loss of life is more acceptable a topic than theater politeness etiquette but even advocates seem to have a resigned nature: Americans don't seem to connect gun ownership with extreme violence (perhaps because so many Americans own guns and so few commit mass murder--especially the kind of non-crime-related mass murder Aurora saw).

There has been some questions about violent movies: did Batman have anything to do with it? We don't know yet--but as far as I can tell, other than some usual suspects this question doesn't have a lot of traction either. We're saturated with violet media and the kind of violence Aurora represents is still noteworthy enough that the president flies in to console the families of the dead. If violent media is the primary cause it isn't doing a very good job of it ...

On the other end of the political spectrum there is the suggestion that this Will Be Used to grab guns. Stats and history showing that Obama doesn't seem to care about guns is Just Further Proof He's Laying In Wait. This is the kind of circular logic-proof thinking that leads people to read "You Didn't Build That" as talking about the business instead of roads and bridges. Was his statement ambiguous? Yes--but knowing what he meant because you already know what he meant is the kind of argument that unerringly convinces the already convinced. 

If The Fast And Furious gun-walker plot to Overturn The 2nd Amendment hasn't garnered enough press for low-information voters to even know what it is, there is no reason to think this will work. 

What Do I Think?
First and foremost: the execution of this slaying was frightening. He bought a ticket, entered the theater normally, went down to the bottom and exited--propping the door. He suited up with a bullet proof vest and gas mask. When he entered he threw two tear-gas grenades (or something similar--were they home-made?) and then fired into the ceiling (from an eyewitness). When the predictable stampede away from the shooter began the patrons were "herded" to a choke-point (the door) where he opened fire with his higher capacity weapons.

He had booby trapped his apartment with incindaries or explosives explicitly to kill police. There has yet been no manifesto found to explain his motives.

This is a "professional job" in my opinion. He is certainly deranged but not disordered. I draw correlations to Breviek--the Norway shooter who operated at a similarly high capability level in his planning.

The second thing I think is that these tragedies are like Rorschach ink-blot tests: they bring out what's inside of us since the act itself is such a bank-template of nonsense it's the psychological equivalent of the white screen The Dark Knight Rises was playing on in the theater. We can project our fears onto his motives and our beliefs onto the consequences.

I suspect the reality will be a hash of meaninglessness and outrage. In the end these things accomplish nothing as they teach a lesson we already knew: There are bad people out there who will do bad things. They are the exception, not the rule, and the learnings are more around how we put ourselves back together than how we change our lives around their disease.

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