“Yet it is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people, who thereupon take leave of sanity and responsibility. And it occasionally happens that this underworld becomes a political power and changes the course of history.” – Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide (1967)
Attributing blame incorrectly. We all do it at some point or another. As I was running late for work earlier this week I, completely irrationally, radiated contempt for the series of blasted red traffic lights that compounded my delay. Of course it wasn’t their fault, nor was it the fault of the other road users (as tempting as blaming Cape Town drivers may be), nor the fault of the colour of my underpants for that matter: I should have left the house on time: I was at fault. It is a very human thing to blame other variables for our own failures and shortcomings, but the rational minded among us know that this is nothing more than hypocritical self-deception.
Not all of us are rational minded, though.
There exists a large swathe of anti-everything people out there, and they have since the dawn of modern civilisation busied themselves with assigning blame for atrocities to things other than the perpetrators themselves. These ignoble, hysterical imbeciles seek to envelop us all in their whirlpool of ridiculously disproportionate panic by infecting the populace with their false narrative, and so-doing achieve their aim of taking civil liberties that they feel we should not have away from us. The fact that nothing they propose will ever prevent another massacre from being committed is completely irrelevant.
After the Columbine Massacre in 1999 the media went absolutely berserk. Talking-heads (like the rotund and odious Michael Moore) and so-called subject-matter experts (like Carolyn McCarthy from “shoulder thing that goes up” fame) blamed everything from music (Marilyn Manson got a particularly bad broadside during the aftermath), to video games (Id Software’s Doom being the particular target), to violent movies, to guns (the Intratec TEC-9 specifically). Fortunately a few reasonable people kept their heads screwed on tightly, and we subsequently learned that the two perpetrators suffered from psychosis and depression, and that they were the victims of years of bullying.
Did these kids shoot up and pipe-bomb their school because they consumed mass media like millions of other teenagers their age, and because the Second Amendment exists, or rather because there was something very seriously wrong with them? The evidence very much points to the latter.
Allow me to elaborate. It has been repeatedly ascertained that no link between chronic violent behaviour and the consumption of media exists. Study after study has failed to provide even remotely sufficient evidence as to a causal relationship between violence and video games, comics, movies, or guns. The science speaks for itself here folks. Still this has not stopped the hysteria. After every massacre the newest media (and guns) gets the blame, and Orlando has been no different. And it is, of course, all bullshit.
When I was just a child my parents begrudgingly allowed me to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They thought it was a trashy show, but they didn’t buy in to the early-90s narrative that the TV program somehow encouraged violent behaviour in children. My dad did after all read pretty violent comics back in the 50s and 60s, and my mom listened to Black Sabbath, and both of them turned out alright. So why should I be any different? The media I consumed was less important to my development than their love and involvement as good parents.
So here I am now, a couple of decades later, and I have consumed all that is evil, vile, and repugnant…at least according to the anti-everything Fun Police. Heavy Metal and Industrial? Listened to it all, my man: Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Slayer, Metallica, Rob Zombie…you name it. Violent computer games? You bet! Doom (including the latest one, which is awesome…but be warned: it is a 50 gigabyte download), Carmageddon, Wolfenstein, the whole bang shoot. Violent movies and comics? All the time since high school dudes. Guns? I own an AR15 (with high-capacity clips, a shoulder thing that goes in, and it is black), so I guess that answers that question.
According to the criteria laid down by the anti-everything club, the above admissions puts me somewhere between Satan Incarnate and Ebola, only less cool. It is probably nothing short of a miracle that I haven’t yet gone on some sort of deadly rampage at the nearest Builders Warehouse (the service there will do that to you) and set fire to every animal shelter in my neighbourhood. I am, after all, the media I consume…right?
Except for the inconvenient fact that I am daily entrusted with the lives of around 200 people on every flight I operate. On average, I hold the lives of roughly 72 000 innocent people in my hands annually…and I have not killed as much as a single one of them. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I regard their safety and wellbeing while they are in my care as the highest priority of all and of utmost importance. Despite the music I listen to. Despite the games I play. Despite the movies I watch, the books I read, and the guns I own and shoot. Holy smoke. I must be really special.
Except I am not.
There are literally millions of people just like me out there right now. They are among you every day. They are your friends, your family, your colleagues, your classmates, and the strangers on the bus and train. We may have varied interests, and probably disagree about a lot of things, but chances are that at some point in our day we are going to consume a form of media, or participate in some sort of activity, that the anti-everything crowd would preposterously refer to as “dangerous to society”. Because a negligibly small minority of people, who coincidentally consume the same things, decide to raise Hell in search of their 15-minutes-of-fame…or whatever other diabolical purpose drives them.
Massacring innocent people is not a normal behaviour folks. I hesitate to even go so far as to label it abnormal. It is so far off the scale of what is considered to be in the realm of normality and abnormality, as to be something else entirely. The people who perpetrate these heinous crimes have one major thing in common with each other: the fact that something is very, very badly wrong with them. Their actions aren’t caused or driven by the guns or bombs they use, or the music they listen to, or the books and movies they read: their actions are caused and propelled by a much deeper and darker motive that is harboured in their psyche.
This is not a problem that is easily fixable or even preventable. Acknowledging that the problem exists, that it is incredibly complex, and that it will be difficult (and perhaps impossible) to fix would be the right place to start in search of solutions. It is of course very disturbing and uncomfortable to face the reality that society harbours monsters who are capable of extreme violence, and that we have so far repeatedly failed at preventing their creation. It is so much easier banning guns, and video games, and movies, and music instead. It won’t make a difference, but then again we have always been a species seeking the easy way out of a complicated problem.
I do hope that society proves me wrong. Because if we keep reacting to terrible events by taking rights and freedoms away, we will one day very soon not have any society left to save.