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Mass murder is the text...

By Michael J. Smith on Saturday January 8, 2011 03:24 PM

... which generally provokes a disappointingly low grade of commentary.

(Some of you old-timers may recognize the image above. Answer at the end of this post.)

More morals have been drawn, in the last couple of hours, from today's shooting of Representative Giffords (and a number of bystanders), than pints in all the pubs in Dublin on St Patrick's Day. Matty Woodchuck's is, not surprisingly, the most glorious cocktail of shallowness, heartlessness, and silliness:

I think a deadly political assassination is an ideal time to remind people that violent rhetoric should be avoided.
"Ideal time"! Twitter really is the ideal medium for folks like Matty and Melissa Haruspex-Perspex, isn't it?

Matty's theory seems to be that if only the memesphere were a less polluted place -- if only our public discourse were more civil and reasonable -- then folks like this Arizona gunman would leave the semiauto at home. Or perhaps never pick it up in the first place.

More broadly in the pwoggienet, there seems to be universal agreement -- based on what, I don't know, other than wishful thinking -- that the shooter must have been some Teabagger type. And of course this has fuelled a new torrent of brownshirts-on-the-march garment-rending and hair-tearing from the usual Chicken Littles.

Events like this seem to be so useful for all of us that perhaps it's no wonder they happen so often. I mean, if you look at the thing sociobiologically.

Of course it's quite possible that the guy was a Teabagger. Arizona, and all that. He's certainly not likely to have been a Pwog, for sure -- they're all talk. And there are a lot more highly motivated right-wing crazies than left-wing crazies; we don't seem to have even enough vitality to attract crazy people.

Now I don't approve of shooting legislators. Don't get me wrong. Hell, I wouldn't even shoot Joe Lieberman. There's no point. They just go find another one, without missing a beat, and the supply seems to be endless. That's why only a crazy person would bother to waste the ammo -- if politics really had anything to do with it.

Presumably we'll find out more about this would-be assassin -- whose name, it seems, is Jared Laughner, according to a recent update. But even if he turns out to have been a devoted Teabagger, I'd argue that that doesn't explain why he did what he did -- though it might perhaps explain his choice of targets.

The great American culture medium seems to nourish, every few years, a person who just can't sleep at night until he's blown away a dozen or so strangers. The image up top shows one of the first of these who came to my own attention when I was young -- Charles Whitman, the 1966 Texas Tower sniper.

Being an 'umble obscure person myself, I personally would selfishly prefer that these folks, when they finally snap, should go after notables and officials and celebrities rather than climbing a tower and opening up on ordinary pedestrians like me, innocently going about our pedestrian occasions. At least it takes us out of the line of fire.

But this seems to be almost the opposite of Matty's feeling on the subject. If Laughner had just shot up a shopping mall, one rather thinks that Matty, had he deigned to comment at all, would have simply filed the event under "random craziness". Since it was a Congressperson, however, and a Democrat at that, it's a far more weighty matter, for Matty -- an assault on the very structure of society, perhaps; a sacrilege.

Of course, it's worth thinking about what processes produce individuals like Laughner. Perhaps it's not even culture-bound at all; how widespread, across the world, is the phenomenon of running amok? Is the characteristic American variant simply more lethal because we're a better-armed people than the average?

I dunno. But if it's true that we do run amok more often than other people, the explanation has got to be more structural than anything Matty is interested in thinking about. Those kids at Columbine weren't wound up and set on their course by Republican campaign ads.

Comments (9)


It seems pretty clear that the guy is just schizo.

If anything, I'd chalk this one up to analytic philosophy:


Al Schumann:

Here's what I found (via Corrente) of him on the web.

I had favorite books: Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver's Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno

That's from his YouTube page

There's a transcript of one of his video messages. That perseverating didacticism is hard to describe.


That transcript should be read by Shatner.

Al Schumann:

I'm in broad agreement regarding analytic philosophy as a cause the desirability of the Shatner recitation.

I feel a little guilty for laughing, but what is analytic philosophy if not perseverating didacticism and who better than Shatner for the performance?

We will always have the insane among us, but we are not required either to arm them or to permit irresponsible money-hungry media hounds to demonize individuals so that the crazies find a target for their rage.

As for Arizona which really sets the standard for crazy hate-mongering, I would suggest President Obama call up President Calderon and offer to give Arizona back to Mexico. We won't miss it and they need the money.


Personally, I think we ought to give everything west of the Mississippi back to the "lazy" Mexicans. Take some of that crazy progressive edge off.


"Personally, I think we ought to give everything west of the Mississippi back to the "lazy" Mexicans. Take some of that crazy progressive edge off."

Fine with me! We'd have all the movie stars, and you'd have Robert Rubin.


Little Bobby hangs out in Berzerkely these days, does he not?


Why is it clear that we run amok more than other countries? We are a large, prominent nation and we live here, so it seems to me that there will not only be more incidents but more attention paid to them.

For fuck's sake, you ponder the cause as if there's much to learn from this, but the example you site most, Whitman, had a brain tumor that made him aggressive!

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