Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category
I’m sure everyone in America, except for those in comas, have heard about the Newtown shooting last Friday. Hell, even many people in comas have heard about it, no doubt TVs are turned on in many coma wards. As with any tragedy, it brought out both the best and worst in people. The above is an example of the worst. Yes, within hours of the murder of 20 children, people were exploiting this tragedy to promote their religion. Jesus wept. This above was one of the least offensive responses. There were worse. Up to and including the Westboro Baptist Church which is planning to picket the event. They will get lots of publicity, which of course is their goal. People who worship a child killing God have no shame. Neither does the media. As of Thursday, much of the TV news is still devoted to the shooting. I find it disgusting really. Basically pandering to people’s emotions to get ratings. The classy thing to do would be to let the friends and families deal with their grief in peace, instead of turning it into a media circus. Fat chance. In any event, I waited a week to let the dust settle, let the facts get straight, and think about the shooting and the various points people have made. In no particular order, here are my observations on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and its aftermath:
Everything one hears about an incident like this should be taken with large doses of salt. This is especially true when the news first breaks. Sadly the human tendency is to put a lot of emphasis on the first things people hear, and often people will incorporate all sorts of garbage about an event into their minds simply because they heard it early on. Worse, plenty of people are well aware of this, and will rush to use it to their advantage. This is why I waited a week to blog about it. Even then, I am sure I have some of the facts wrong.
Sigh. Of course the issue of gun control was immediately in the news. On the one hand, yeah, after something like this, it’s reasonable to wonder if there is any way future events could be prevented. It’s even reasonable to ask if there’s ways to keep high ammo capacity semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of unstable people. That was about as far as reason got. The gun lobby almost immediately went on the offensive, at least by proxy. The NRA itself has been laying low I understand. They had some reasonable points, but it was mostly old nonsense. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the 2nd Amendment is indeed an individual right, a responsible citizen can indeed have a handgun in their home. They also clearly stated that the state could indeed regulate weapons and who owns them. So both sides lose. Yes, the government can indeed outlaw high ammo capacity semi-automatic weapons. And yes, no matter what, law abiding Americans have a right to have basic revolvers and rifles in their homes. Issue is settled. One wouldn’t know it from much of the stuff I’ve seen on Facebook. I’m betting nothing but symbolic gun control will be enacted, if that.
The gun lobby has suggested arming teachers as a solution to the problem. While I do not have a problem with the idea that responsible citizens should be allowed to carry some types of guns, this idea has a number of problems. Basically one is suggesting that tens of thousands of school teachers, a demographic about as far away from gun enthusiasts as it gets, are going to turn into Dirty Harries if a gun is strapped to their hip. I can think of all sorts of ways this might not work out as expected. I don’t really think that the police want to respond to a shooting where a bunch of teachers are running around shooting. If school personnel with military or police training want to carry a gun, I don’t have a problem with that. The idea that giving all sorts of teacher guns doesn’t make sense though. It would cause more problems than it solved. It’s a downstream solution.
Many are claiming that mental illness is the issue, and that by treating mental illness properly, many incidents like this won’t happen. Well, yes and no. The USA gave up on its mentally ill in the sixties and seventies by closing all the asylums and putting the patients in halfway homes. The states just never got around to funding/building the halfway homes though, so the mentally ill live with their families or live on the street. What treatment there is consists of finding drugs to control the mentally ill. Basically the costs of the mentally ill have been dumped on their families and society at large, except for profits for the pharmaceutical industry. Since Americans aren’t already up in arms about this perversion, it’s safe to say that a few school shootings won’t make a difference.
Even then, in some ways the mental illness line misses the point. This particular type of shooting, where someone goes out in public and kills a bunch of people to get revenge on the world, is almost exclusively the province of white males. That bears some thinking about. It won’t get much thinking though. If school shooters were predominantly Muslims or blacks or anything but white males, it would be a huge deal and everyone would be talking about it. And since white males easily have the best access to mental health care, clearly the idea that school shootings are caused by lack on mental health care doesn’t hold water. If school shootings were the result of lack of mental health care, their demographics would reflect society’s access to mental health care. They are the opposite of society’s mental health care demographics. In other words, shootings like this on some level are a symptom of a cultural problem.
That however is fodder for another post. America and its gun crazed, frontier mentality, cowboys and Indians, Dirty harry, white male privilege society. Have a great weekend everyone!
(The above image is viral on Facebook, so I think I can safely claim Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s an offensive image on so many levels, the utter disregard for facts being at the top of the list. Prayer and God are most definitely allowed in schools, the Supreme Court was very specific on the former. So basically people mewling about “no God in schools” are upset because public schools aren’t allowed to promote or endorse their particular religion. Anyone who thinks that a God would murder little children because their particular religion isn’t allowed to preach to and indoctrinate students in public schools … is sick in the head.)
I’ve decided just for fun to write about a few historical mysteries. Unsolved crimes in particular. Why? Just for fun. I’ll start with the Taman shud case. That’s him above. OK, not exactly, we don’t know who this is. That’s the mystery, or at least the core of it. The man pictured above was found dead on a beach in Australia in 1948. European look, 40-45, excellent shape, muscles and bones consistent with a runner or ballet dancer. Good clothes, although all of the labels had been removed. No hat, unusual for a suited man in 1948. No wallet. In his pockets he had a rail ticket, a bus ticket, gum, matches, a comb, and a cigarette package where cheap cigarettes had been replaced by quality cigarettes. His fingerprints and dental records were of no help in identifying him. No cause of death could be established. Despite massive publicity in Australia, no one came forward and was able to identify who this man was. And Australia was a small country at the time, only eight million people lived there.
Six weeks later a suitcase belonging to the deceased man was found in a l,ocker at the local train station. The label from it had been removed. It contained a number of items, none of which shed any real light on the mystery. There was an item that is usually used by merchant seamen. Some of the clothes may have come from the United States. While the suitcase shed a little more light on his movements the day before he was killed, it went no further in determining who he was. A coroner’s inquest didn’t help much either. They noted that his shoes were freshly polished, which was odd since it appeared he had been walking around all day the day before he was killed. The inquest concluded he had been poisoned by some unknown toxin. And that his body might have been dumped where it was found, though eyewitness testimony contradicts that. (The contents of the suitcase are listed here.)
It gets weirder. In a pocket in the man’s clothes was a hand sewn inner pocket. In it a tiny piece of rolled up paper with the words “Taman Shud” printed on it. It was eventually determined to have been torn out of a rare book that had been left in a man’s car the night of our mystery man’s demise. The words are from a book of poems and mean “ended” or “finished.” When the book was examined it was found to have five lines in faint pencil markings:
What do they mean? Who knows. The best cryptographers haven’t been able to make sense of it. There was also a telephone number that led to a woman who seemed to know who the deceased was. He was a man named Alfred Boxall, a seaman. She claimed to have given him a copy of the rare book of poems. It seemed like case closed until Alfred Boxall showed up, alive and well, with a copy of the book of poems that indubitably came from the woman. How had her phone number ended up in the mystery man’s copy? Again, no one knows. Some feel that she knew more than she let on. Sadly she wasn’t investigated further, and the case’s one promising lead was never followed up on. Some think that it was a suicide. Some think Cold War cloak and dagger espionage was involved. I tend to think he was a mentally disturbed person who killed himself. We may never know. A recent investigation tried to get him dug up for a DNA sample, but a judge decided (rightly so) that something other than idle curiosity was required for an exhumation.
And that’s that. Well, the core of it at least. Like so many things, if one wants to dig into it further, there are all sorts of other minor hints and clues. And some of the above may be wrong, as this site attests. There’s all sorts of websites on the case as a Google search of Taman Shud reveals. Will the case ever be solved? Maybe. Does it mean anything? Probably not. Why did I write about it? Because it’s a weird and interesting case. I think the only real conclusion that can be reached is that he wasn’t from Australia. It just seems unlikely with all the publicity the case got that no one in Australia recognized him. Even that’s not completely firm. Maybe he was a recluse. Maybe he altered his appearance before his death. Is there any connection to UFOs or ancient aliens? I don’t think so.
In any event I am sorry I have posted so infrequently lately. I sometimes have these interludes that interfere with blogging, it’s called my life. They tend to be brief so i am sure I will be back soon. Have a great week everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is arguably a historic image, and I got it off Wikipedia. He’s still in the news, here’s a recent article on the case with lots of pictures and recent developments.)
Oddly enough, yes, Japan was a safe haven for Jews in World War Two. How the hell was this possible, wasn’t Japan an ally of Nazi Germany? Yes, yes they were. Didn’t Hitler want the Japanese to round up their Jewish population? Yes, yes he did. Why did the Japanese refuse? And how come there were Jews living in Japan in the first place? It’s an interesting story, and that’s bread and butter for Doug’s Darkworld, so here it is …
As one might expect, Jews are a recent arrival in Japan. Very recent, mid nineteenth century recent. There may have been the occasional traveler, but no Jews settled in Japan before then. In fact Japan lived in splendid isolation until 1848, when the USA forced them to open their country up to foreign trade. Shortly thereafter, small numbers of Jews settled in Japan. I don’t know why, but suspect it was the usual reason, they visited the place and liked what they saw. Also there was no antisemitism in Japan, and they were generally welcomed as knowledgeable westerners who would help bring Japan up to speed with the west. And no doubt the occasional Jew settled because some cute Japanese girl (or vice versa) caught their eye. People are people.
All was well for the tiny handful of Jews living in Japan up until the early 20th century. Then the wave of antisemitism sweeping Europe from such things as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” arrived in Japan, and some Japanese bought into the conspiracy theories surrounding the Jews. Most didn’t though, and while there was some antisemitism in Japan, it never reached anywhere near the levels it reached in European countries. If anything the Japanese are a pragmatic people, and their government’s reactions to rising Nazism and other antisemitic tropes was pragmatic indeed. The early 20th century Japanese government instructed their intelligence agencies to look into the whole “The Jews are secretly plotting to rule the world” theories. Japanese intelligence agencies investigated carefully, and determined it was all garbage, there was no secret Jewish conspiracy, and Japan’s Jews were not a threat to Japan in any way.
And that was that. The background at least. And then came the war. A lot of people know about the Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who gave travel documents in World War Two as German armies approached, Chiune Sugihara, saving thousands of Polish and Lithuanian Jews. He was just the best known Japanese citizen who helped saved Jews, partly because he saved so many and partly because he was a diplomat. He wasn’t the only one, numerous other Japanese citizens, mostly ones working abroad for the Japan Tourist Bureau, also did what they could. And all for the right reasons as far as I can tell, IE, pure humanitarianism.
How many Jews escaped to Japan and Japanese occupied territory before and during the war? I couldn’t find consistent figures, but upwards of 20,000 is reasonable. It’s a complicated story. There is even the idea that Japan planned to start a “Jewish Homeland” in Japanese occupied China, the so called Fugu Plan. While most sources still treat this as fact, apparently it’s based on some very limited scholarship by one author, and other historians are not convinced anything of the kind was ever planned. That’s one of the problems with history, it’s not nearly as cut and dried as many people would think.
Sadly the Japanese who helped Jews escape weren’t exactly popular with their countrymen. I’m not exactly sure why, though some, at least in Chiune Sugihara’s case, suffered career-wise because they had acted against the wishes of their superiors. Still, their contribution to humanitarian values is has recently become more acceptable in some circles, and efforts are being made to identify and thank them. One such person was Tatsuo Osako, a young employee of the Tourist Bureau at the time. He died in 2003, and seven photos of Jewish escapees were found in his diary. One of the photos is reproduced above. The identity of the people in the photos is not known, but efforts are being made to find out and track down relatives. Holocaust survivors and escapees got out with very few personal effects, so these photos are a precious and rare reminder of a sad and terrible chapter in human history, and the undeniable fact that there are always a few people who do the right thing no matter what the risk to themselves.
It frankly is the only thing that gives me hope for the race, and it’s a slender hope at best. Next up, another story from World War Two Japan … Japanese war resistors, were there any?
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. God only knows who holds the copyright, since it’s not being used for profit and indeed is posted in the hopes someone may recognize the young man, I think I’m good. Do any of my illustrious readers recognize him? He doesn’t look like anyone in my family, plus they were all farmers back then.)
What’s the connection between Ted Bundy and Halloween? Well, there isn’t one really. At least not directly. Indirectly, as monsters go, Ted Bundy is about as monstrous as it gets. Halloween is the time for monster stories, here is the story of the man who probably more than any other helped popularize the term “serial killer.”
Bundy was born in 1946. His upbringing was unremarkable, if not exactly mainstream. He was born out of wedlock, and raised by his grandparents as their own. Unusual at the time, but Ted didn’t know that his parents were really his grandparents, so for him it was a normal life. He was a shy kid and didn’t socialize easily, again, nothing really abnormal here, some people are just shy. He went to college where he was an indifferent student. He fell in love, was dumped, found out his sister was his mom. After a period of depression he reinvented himself and went back to school, even wooing his lost love back into his life with his new persona. Nothing terribly odd here, Ted was smart and charming and good looking, he was going places. Almost everything he owned was stolen, it was almost a point of pride with him. That’s not normal at all, but most people didn’t know it.
Then it gets really weird. In 1975 police in three (count em) states knew they had a terrible problem. Young women were vanishing, sometimes their bodies and bones were found. They had all died of head trauma. A few women had escaped an abductor, the police had a rough description of a man and his van. Then the police got lucky, Ted was caught after trying to run from a routine traffic stop. Under his front seat they found items like a mask, handcuffs, an icepick, and a crowbar. Ted claimed they were burglary tools. The police weren’t so sure. Ted and his van matched the description of one of the attempted kidnappings. He was convicted of attempted abduction and sentenced to 15 years in prison, he was also a strong suspect in a number of murders at this point.
Still, Ted denied everything and claimed he had been convicted purely on the basis of coincidence, the direct evidence linking him to any crimes was thin at this point. He still had many supporters, people who believed his claims. I mean, he was a charming and educated man with a future, not the sort of man to hunt and murder women in his spare time! Ted was charged with murder in Colorado, and moved there for trial. At this point he was still allowed a lot of leeway as a prisoner. He wasn’t shackled for court appearances and wore a suit. He was allowed access to the courthouse library when he was there to testify in hearings and such. And here Ted made a mistake. In an unsupervised moment he jumped out a window and walked away. He had made no further preparations, wasn’t able to get out of town, and was recaptured within a week. Most of his supporters deserted him at this point, but some were still convinced of his innocence.
Imprisoned in Colorado, Bundy made elaborate plans for his next escape. Basically he was able to walk out of the prison one Friday night in civilian clothes with several hundred dollars in his pockets … and it was 12 hours before the prison realized he was gone. Ted was several states away by then, and quickly settled in Florida and resumed his murderous ways. In Florida Ted’s compulsions to kill, if that’s what they were, overwhelmed his prior cautions, and he left plenty of evidence at his crime scenes. Suspecting the police were closing in, he panicked, stole a car, and tried to flee Florida. An alert Pensacola police officer spotted the stolen car, and after a struggle, apprehend him. He still had a tiny coterie of supporters, but they couldn’t fight the overwhelming evidence against him this time, and Ted was sentenced to death.
Even on death row he was a cunning and manipulative SOB. He called a woman to the stand at a hearing as a character witness, and then invoked a forgotten law that allowed them to declare they were married. They had to allow her to visit him, and even though conjugal visits weren’t allowed, Ted managed to bribe guards into some alone time with his wife. And he fathered a daughter, even if he couldn’t escape, some of his DNA did. He tried though. He managed to saw through one of the bars in his cell once after obtaining some hacksaw blades, it was discovered before he could finish sawing the others. At the very end he started confessing wildly, hoping that some prosecutor or judge somewhere would halt the execution to extradite Ted for another murder in another state. Basically he offered to show where the bodies were if he lived. It was a desperate strategy, and it failed. On January 24, 1989 he was executed by the state of Florida. A crowds cheered outside the prison.
And since it’s Halloween, and this is Doug’s Darkworld, what, exactly, did Ted Bundy do to his victims? He would snatch them using as ruse like a cast and asking for help, often from very public places. He then killed them quickly with blows to the head. Then he had sex with their bodies, returning to where he had dumped them afterwards until they were too putrid to have sex with. Sometimes he would take them home and dress them up, do their hair and nails. Biting and other violence often accompanied the necrophilia, a more accurate term than sex. And sometimes he just quietly crept into women’s rooms at night and bludgeoned them to death as they slept.
(Image credit and copyright: Florida Memory Project, Florida Photographic Collection, #DND0671 Author: Donn Dughi. I believe the image is being used legally under Florida copyright law. It’s Ted Bundy in Court in Florida in 1978 or 1979. I hope everyone had a good Halloween.)
Sadly, not in America. The gun lobby delivers so many votes to the GOP that no national debate is possible, and has millions of Americans not only convinced that gun violence isn’t a problem, they are convinced that any and all attempts at gun control are part and parcel of liberal plots to confiscate American’s guns. Yes, Obama, who passed more pro-gun legislation than his predecessor, is secretly planning to use his second term to take away American’s guns. That’s right on up their with some progressive’s belief that in his second term Obama is going to show his true liberal stripes and actually fulfill the failed promises that got liberals to elect him in the first place. As an aside I think it’s fascinating that so many people are convinced that Obama isn’t really who he appears to be. I strongly suspect that the endless propaganda the past few years about how Obama isn’t a real American, wasn’t born in America, is a secret Muslim, etc. is driving these beliefs. I’m not sure there’s ever been a president who was so widely thought to be hiding a secret agenda. Kennedy maybe. However, even if gun control won’t be discussed in Congress, where they are too busy discussing vagina control, I can discuss it here. Here then are three modest proposals for reducing gun violence in the USA:
1. Buyback programs. This is where a government agency offers money to people who turn in guns for disposal. People voluntarily turning in guns for disposal, who could possibly object? Gun nuts of course, who insist that this is both a useless waste of money, and a step towards total gun confiscation. The argument being that criminals aren’t going to turn in their guns, so how can this help? It helps because it gets crappy guns out of the homes of people who don’t want them and don’t know how to store them, let alone use them. Think widows whose husbands have died who left a pistol. These are the sorts of guns that get stolen by burglars or found by children with tragic result. Or how about parents who confiscate a gun from one of their kids. Or any number of situations where a gun is removed from a home where it didn’t belong and was just an accident or a murder waiting to happen. There’s a problem with getting a gun out of circulation, especially if it was circulating in the wrong hands? Criminals may not turn in their guns, but that doesn’t mean their relatives, spouses, or partners won’t turn them in.
2. Education. I see no reasons why public school children shouldn’t be taught about the hazards associated with guns. The equivalent of the Red Asphalt movies about the hazards of driving would impact some kids. And there’s nothing wrong with kids being taught the basics of gun safety. Don’t point it at people even for fun, store them properly, don’t leave them loaded, etc. Yes, some progressives will claim this is teaching kids about guns, the same way that some people claim sex education will make kids want to go out and have sex. Both are full of it. Kids will have sex, and they will encounter guns, better they know the risks and how to avoid them than to pretend that ignorance is safe.
3. Magazine control. I’m sorry, but there is no legitimate sporting or self-defence need for a semi-automatic gun that can shoot a hundred rounds without reloading, give me a fucking break. What, a herd of rabid deer is going to attack a hunter? And as Mr Holmes just demonstrated, they most certainly can be misused. Sure criminals will be able to find them, but why make it easy? And if they aren’t legal, manufacturers will have no reason to make them! That will reduce the number in circulation dramatically, making it that much harder for criminals and the insane to get them.
That just scratches the surface, but it would prevent some shootings. The real problem is a culture of violence and a gun cult mentality that pervades a huge section of the population and is impervious to reason or facts. Just do a google image search for “gun control,” it’s scary. Cartoon after cartoon promoting absolute silly shit about gun control. If taking away guns caused crime, Canada and Europe would be plagued with crime. Instead, they have trivial levels of gun crime compared to the USA. It’s complicated though, and America’s problems with violence are deep rooted and not due to the availability of guns. And of course not only does rejecting gun control get votes, it also makes money for Hollywood. Damned if I know how to address that issue though, we’re kind of a sick culture when it comes right down to it.
On the plus side, a wonderful video just came out of Hollywood. The first step to solving a problem is to admit there is a problem, this video gives me hope, enjoy: The most honest three and a half minutes of television, EVER…
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Since I’m promoting discussion of gun control, hopefully the copyright holders won’t mind me using it. Credit and copyright: Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. Coming soon, something more upbeat, maybe a post on Syria.)
I admit it, as a young man I was a gun nut. I mean, yeesh, it was easy. Walk into a store, give them money, walk out with guns and ammo. Drive out to the desert and shoot everything in sight, how could I resist? I didn’t, I must have fired thousands of rounds through dozens of guns in my day. Even worse, I was an irresponsible gun nut. There were times and places where I should not have been shooting, and there were times and places where I stored or used guns in a terribly unsafe way. I can recall two accidental discharges where it was only a matter of inches and a terrible tragedy would have resulted. So I was a lucky gun nut, I grew up and became a responsible gun owner before something terrible happened.
I look back now, and yes, it was too easy for me to get guns. And some of the guns I was able to easily get were dangerous or completely beyond any reasonable sporting or self defence need. And the “education” I was required to get in order to buy and use these guns was a joke. There were reasonable and practical laws and regulations that would have made me a much safer gun nut. I wasn’t some lunatic who was determined to get a gun and kill people; and if I had been, yes, laws and regulations wouldn’t have stopped me.
Which highlights the first and possibly the biggest lie the gun lobby uses to derail discussion of gun regulation. The claim that “criminals and lunatics will be able to get guns no matter what the laws.” True. As far as it goes. The problem with this “argument” is twofold. If a law makes it harder for criminals and lunatics to get guns without taking away law abiding citizens rights, that’s a fucking problem? Arguing that criminals will always be able to get guns so gun regulation is useless, is literally saying “we should make it as easy as possible for criminals and lunatics to get gets.” Excuse me, but that’s fucktard insane. As Mr Holmes and many like him have more than amply demonstrated.
Secondly, and more insidious, the “criminals will get guns” argument completely ignores the fact that a tremendous amount of gun violence does not involve criminals or lunatics. More than half the gun deaths in the USA are suicides, over 15,000 deaths a year. And there’s more 20,000 accidental gunshot injuries in the USA every year, including over 500 deaths. Again, if laws and regulations might make some of these suicides and accidents less likely, there’s a problem with that? Wait some are saying, if someone is going to kill themselves, they will find a way, how can gun control prevent those deaths? Listen closely, because this is something that a lot of people don’t want people to know gentle reader. A lot of human behaviour, and that most certainly includes suicides, is impulsive. It’s not planned, it’s not premeditated, it’s just a spur of the moment combination of opportunity and impulse. We know this, both from people who survive suicide attempts, and from the fact that when “suicide magnets” like the Golden Gate Bridge are made suicide proof, local suicide rates go down. And, obviously, a certain percentage of homicides have to be impulsive events as well.
And let’s look at the accidental deaths thing a bit more. A lot of these are children. Again, if we can reduce these deaths without infringing on anyone’s rights, what the hell is the problem? In fact (look it up,) the gun industry has managed to insulate itself from most simple product safety law. It’s, literally, as if the automobile industry was able to prevent mandatory safety glass or seat belts. A great example, the Ruger company for several decades until the seventies manufactured and sold “Old Model” revolvers. These were revolvers built to a nineteenth century design. They were simple, they were elegant, they were beautiful … and if jarred or dropped, they would fire. At least 600 deaths, many children, have resulted from this company’s decision to market an unsafe gun. To this day they have avoided being required to recall them. Americans have a right to buy unsafe guns? Give me a break.
Speaking of infringing on rights, the NRA and it’s supporters ignore the fact that a few years back the Supreme Court ruled that the second amendment means that Americans do indeed have a right to bear arms. They continue to rant (yes, that’s the word) about how liberals and/or Obama are going to somehow confiscate American’s guns. Can’t happen without changing the Constitution, and that’s not about to happen anytime soon. Their hysterical preaching encourages Americans to buy and stockpile guns and ammo. One would think they were just a shill for the gun industry. Actually, that’s exactly what I think. I’d call them a prostitute for the gun industry, but that would be an insult to prostitutes. They do everything they can to glorify guns, and wrap themselves in the flag while they are at it. The NRA was once a fairly responsible organization, I know, I was a member for years.
And while on the topic of glorifying guns, Hollywood has a lot of blood on its hands too. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the single person gun massacre is a late 20th century phenomena in the USA. Endless movies glorifying gun violence, and more importantly, glorifying retribution on your enemies by getting mad and shooting a bunch of them is a central theme in Hollywood. A meta-study of 5,000 studies looking at the the link between media and violence found that all but 18 of them found some linkage, and 12 of those 18 were funded by media interests. Sure, normal healthy people aren’t going to run out and shoot people because of violence on TV or in the movies, but not everyone is normal and healthy! Basically it’s a fact that media violence plays some role in inspiring real world violence, monkey see, monkey do.
My point, is that gun violence encompasses a vast array of violence with multiple and complex causes. It’s simplistic and wrong to claim that guns are the problem, though frankly not as simplistic and wrong to claim that guns aren’t part of the problem. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” may sound all righteous and holy, but how the hell does that translate into “We shouldn’t do anything to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics and criminals?” It doesn’t of course, and there’s all sorts of things that could be done to address the problem without infringing on anyone’s rights. Which will be the topic of a upcoming post.
And yes, I decided to post this blog today because of yesterday’s mass shooting in Wisconsin. The details aren’t all in yet, but we do know that Wisconsin has some of the most permissive gun laws in the nation.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. That’s a recent cover of the NRA’s magazine, which used to be called “The American Rifleman” back when it was a reasonably responsible organization. Replace “election” with “organization,” and it describes the contemporary NRA quite nicely.)
Sigh. Some nutbar opened fire in a movie theatre in Colorado and killed a dozen people or so. It’s a terrible thing, If you have thin skin, stop reading now, you’ll just have a stroke. Trust me, a stroke is no fun. In no particular order (I’m sometimes using poetic license when I say that,) my reaction to the Batman shooting.
First off, how people initially react to this sort of event is often a great indication of their prejudices and biases. So far pundits have blamed this shooting on: The Tea Party, OWS, bullying, media violence, teaching evolution, and anti-Christian values. (Mike Huckabee took the cake though.) Pretty much covers all the bases there. The only people who haven’t been blamed yet are Hezbollah and Iran. I’m sure my reaction is biased too. I think violence that results in the death of innocents is wrong. If that belief tarnishes my view of this event, so be it.
Gun control. Many will see this as a way to get gun control back into public debate. Good luck, aint gonna happen. The NRA by promoting gun control hysteria makes oodles of money for the gun industry … and oodles of votes for right wingers. The NRA didn’t skip a beat when the Supreme Court ended a century of debate and ruled that yes indeed, Americans have a constitutional right to be armed. If winning the battle didn’t make the NRA want to compromise and discuss reasonable ways to keep guns out of the hands of lunatics, why would this event? I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think this will lead to any meaningful efforts to regulate gun ownership in the USA.
Media inspired violence. Oh, please. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that media violence inspires violence in some people, the issue is closed to debate. How many readers are upset that children under 12 were at a midnight showing of a movie that is steeped in homicidal violence? The mainstream media is intensely profitable, and for deep rooted psychological reasons people love violence, until that changes this is also off the table. Hell, getting mad at your enemies and killing them all in a wild shooting spree is bread and butter to American moviegoers, how could that not have played an influence in this man’s thinking? Like I said though, I think this debate happening is even less likely than a meaningful debate on gun control.
Random factoid. The first shooting incident like this in the USA was in 1949. There have been dozens since then. Make of this what the gentle reader wants. There was certainly plenty of homicide and murder before then, but individuals going on shooting sprees like this is new. The technology to do so has existed since at least the US Civil War, so it’s more than just weaponry. People have also committed mass murder with swords and knives. Even of children. Best not to think about.
The professionals don’t have a whole lot of insight into this crime. That’s because it is both exceedingly rare, and even then, the perpetrators often don’t survive. And when they do, they aren’t the most cooperative research subjects. Whatever factors are common to them, they share with millions of other people who don’t go on shooting sprees. Maybe someday science will have an answer as to why particular individuals snap, but for now, despite a lot of general understanding, specific causes elude definition.
I tuned in to watch President Obama’s first press conference on the shooting. I was sickened. I had to turn it off. The man is a psychopath. He said with amazing sincerity how terrible this shooting was. The empathy, the caring, the terrible injustice of it all, he was so convincing. This coming from a man who was giving orders within weeks of taking office that he knew would result in the deaths of women and children. I’ve yet to see any sign of caring about those innocent lives lost. He was so warm … it was as cold as ice.
This illustrates the psychopathic dichotomy about America that makes me angry and despairing. We live in a culture steeped in violence and violent imagery. We glamorize violence in our movies and video games. Our language itself is brimming with violence: war on poverty, war on drugs, etc. We glorify retribution, the death penalty, and the idea that our enemies must unconditionally surrender to us. We routinely commit violence abroad, not to mention violence against nature. We arm and train brutal regimes around the world. We are the world’s arsenal of violence, shipping more weapons abroad than any other nation. And yet somehow, in some fashion that yet eludes me … Americans are shocked and wronged when somehow such violence strikes us at home.
“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” —Matthew 26:52
Lastly, and what compels me to write this, and compels me to write period, is just the senseless loss. People, people who had their whole lives before them, everything they would have experienced and done … gone. Maybe just ordinary people, with loves and lives, maybe future Einsteins and Shakespeares and Ghandis … gone forever. Lost to us. Never to be.
I don’t understand. God rest their souls.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, it’s probably public domain for all practical purposes. It’s Thelma Irene MacDonald. She died at age nine in 1927 in the Bath school bombing, when another madman killed many in his rage against society. The bomber also booby trapped his farm in an eerie similarity to the Batman shooter. Thelma had two sisters that lived until a few years ago, but her life was cut off so long ago that it is ancient history to most people. Just a photograph of a life that could have been. Madness.)