Your Lying Eyes

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15 December 2012

Laying Blame

Where do we lay blame after the horrific murders yesterday? Will the search be exhaustive and illuminating, or just settle into political cat fights? Some things I think we should be discussing:

Guns. Understandably, calls for gun control will be very strong. While the killer brought a semi-automatic rifle to the school, he apparently did not use it. He did however use two automatic pistols. But no one is talking about banning expensive pistols. Connecticut could surely pass very strict laws on gun ownership if it wants to - for example, banning all automatic or semi-automatic weapons. That might have worked - it seems unlikely to me that the killer would have confidently blown out the glass windows and strolled into two separate classrooms to shoot 27 people had he only been armed with a single-action revolver or even a pump-action shot gun requiring frequent re-loading. However few gun-control advocates would be satisfied with anything less than nation-wide bans. Symbolic bannings of so-called assault rifles could well be passed, but eliminating all the guns capable of such mayhem seems rather quixotic.

It would be nice if there could actually be an informed discussion on this topic. Imagine those who actually know a lot about guns - not just police, but NRA-types - without interference from those who don't know what they're talking about, like suburban housewives or billionaire mayors - all getting together to come up with a workable national strategy. It shouldn't be that crazy an idea - the NRA used to be all about gun safety.

Mainstreaming. Most of the recent mass shootings were perpetrated by individuals known to be mentally abnormal (I know we're not supposed to delineate anything as 'normal/abnormal' these days, but I think we can do away with such niceties for now) and this case appears to be no exception - though this killer apparently had Asperger's rather than psychosis. Still, from early news reports, it sounds like he was notably weird and a little scary to some. Our society expects these individuals to simply function normally as adults, with some counseling and medication. This should be re-examined. I don't know if it's feasible to identify those at-risk among this class of individuals, but we should certainly think more seriously about the implications of these 'special' children becoming adults rather than just accepting our pollyannish status quo.

Video Games and Violence in Entertainment. The closing episode of Boardwalk Empire, an OK show overall, depicted a preposterously violent climax where about two dozen men were triumphantly slaughtered.  In particular, it featured a sympathetic character marching through a large house armed with several weapons, going from room-to-room picking off bad guys. This was followed by the protagonist's allies ambushing and slaughtering some dozen men riding in a convoy. Such violence has no basis in history - it is merely the product of the juvenile imaginations of the show's creators (among whom is Martin Scorcese, whose thirst for blood has only grown as he has aged). Yet the press bends over backward to praise these infantile revenge fantasies, whether it's Scorcese or Tarantino or Stone.

But more likely the killer was a gamer, and video games glorify - if not tutor - search-and-destroy tactics. I don't find it at all surprising that an Asperger's individual who might also be angry and disturbed would adopt these gaming tactics and methodically pick-off little children, for whom he has no more of a personal connection than he has with pixel-images on a screen. I am surprised it doesn't happen more often, thankfully. Presumably such unstable people rarely have access to such dangerous weapons.

While I don't think government regulation is the answer, I would hope that public shaming of those who glorify violence would be more common. Would it be too much to ask that newspapers hire grown-ups to review movies - adults who would actually condemn or at least mock the childish gore-fests of our supposedly elite film makers. As for video games - well, these have been targeted for decades now. I don't expect there's much we can do there, except to understand the kinds of individuals who are at risk of acting on them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears Lanza used the semi-automatic Bushmaster, not the pistols, in the murders.

December 16, 2012 12:41 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Yes, so it does. The amount of incorrect information that has been reported on this incident boggles the mind.

December 17, 2012 7:14 AM  

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