Murderous assaults and massacres of the innocent accomplish more than a temporary shift of media focus away from election-year politics. They terrorize society by leaving people feeling helpless, fearful and uncertain about the risks in an otherwise peaceful community.
Capitalizing on the fear and confusion, or reflecting it, media coverage of the mass murders in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater seemed at once erratic, frenzied or even ridiculous. Emerging from the chaos of this coverage were three common themes:
- Why did the perpetrator do it?
- How can we prevent such events?
- Descriptions of the event.
Why Did the Perpetrator Do It?
People say James Holmes must be insane. This is difficult for people to reconcile with his history as thus far revealed. There has to be a better explanation. People may not want to admit that the perpetrator has simply been acting with free will and using his intelligence, which are separate attributes.
A simpler assessment is that further investigation will show that he has had difficulty in dealing with life and the responsibilities of being a mature adult. He has made too many irrational judgments with unsatisfactory results. He is not happy. At this point it is worthwhile to comment that his being a “loner” is hardly significant. Plenty of loners cope—with difficulty perhaps—but they stop well short of mass murder.
Holmes is probably suicidal. He has given up on his life and is prepared to have someone else lead him through it, whether it ends in a life term in prison or execution. Even so, there is far too much emphasis on motive considering the facts of his actions on Friday.
How Can We Prevent Such Events?
“We” can’t. Many think modern society is tasked collectively with reducing risk rather than protecting rights. There might be some utopian speculation about a perfectly secure society, but it would be difficult to imagine human life under such conditions.
There is no way the police can be everywhere and constantly on guard. There is no way to identify every potential perpetrator without violating the rights of everyone. One thing each of us can do is to take more responsibility for our own safety.
It is not difficult and requires no special training or certification. It is as simple as being aware of your surroundings and taking appropriate action.
For example, I think large crowds are inherently dangerous and require that one be on high alert. In a crowd it takes very little to create chaos and a means of escape should be planned. Simpler yet is to try avoiding crowds altogether.
Descriptions of the Event
Most people do not speak too precisely but I would expect more from media and public figures commenting on the slaughter in Colorado. Appropriate descriptions abound, but under no circumstances was this event a tragedy as it is excessively labelled. Where is the tragic figure? Call it what it is: a massacre.
©Copyright 2012 Edward Podritske