Please note: I am not the Devil.
The Aurora shootings have kicked off what some would call a debate, but what I would call the latest rehashing of tedious assertions that this sort of horrific mass murder always brings to the surface. Those with particular axes to grind seize on this sort of tragedy to justify their iterations of their personal prejudices. They seem to forget that people have died and people are grieving and instead use ghastly, evil acts such as these as an opportunity to score cheap political points. Stay classy, fucknuts.
But on and on it goes. So we’ve heard that this tragedy is about lax gun laws, missing the point that humans don’t need guns to commit evil acts. We’ve heard that this is an indicator of some sort of fallen culture/society; an idea propounded presumably by those who favour a better yesterday and this thoroughly and continually miss the point that such a yesterday never existed and violence has always been and remains very much a constant of human existence. They’ll also be those tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy types, who will mutter terms like “false flag” and then go on to explain – normally in a way that redefines the word “incredible” – how the shootings were all part of a government conspiracy to make us all eat more spam or other such shite. And then we hear that it is all the fault of the movie-makers.
A good example of the latter position comes from the Telegraph’s gobshite in chief when it comes to all things American: Tim Stanley. Stanley, one of the few people in the media in this country to treat Rick Santorum as anything other than a feckless fundamentalist (and thus showing himself to possess dubious judgment at best), writes that “movies like The Dark Knight Rises – which glorifies vigilante justice and wallows in sadism – could equally be accused of responsibility.” Evidently he has not seen The Dark Knight Rises, since it does not glorify vigilante justice (indeed, it seems to consider such justice an at best reluctant choice that deeply harms those who undertake it, and if it glorifies anything it is self-sacrifice) and, far from wallowing in sadism, it shows that pain hurts and is catastrophically unpleasant. Of course, that does not mean that movies cannot inspire negative actions from some; after all, the Emperor character in Return of the Jedi apparently helped to inspire Jeffrey Dahmer in his terrible crimes. The point, rather, is that Stanley – like so many others – is, from a position of basic ignorance if his comments on TDKR are to be taken seriously, taking this tragedy and twisting it for his own ends and to support his own purposes. And given this is a tragedy that has left people dead, wounded and in mourning, it is at best a cheap thing to do.
However, the quote from Stanley above does give us a crucial clue as to what all of these people are allegedly trying to do with their witterings – find out who is responsible for these heinous crimes. Which makes them stunningly myopic, in my humble opinion. Because it is very easy to find out what – or rather who – is responsible for these killings and woundings. Based on the available evidence, he’s in police custody: he’s called James Holmes.*
Seriously, he is the one who dressed himself in protective clothing, dyed his hair, put on a gas mark, dropped cans of tear gas into a crowded cinema and then started shooting. From all accounts, he acted alone. Therefore he is responsible for it as he chose to do it.
Of course, no-one exists in a vacuum, and there are all sorts of influences and pressures pushing us towards the choices we make. So maybe Holmes was influenced by the media, or by the easy availability of ammunition and weaponry. But that does not and cannot change the fact that the person who chose to commit these crimes was Holmes. I don’t doubt that there are those reading this blog who have, at times, been tempted to lash out at people they know or to physically vent their frustrations on those they don’t. But they choose not to. And that is the point; we are responsible for what we choose to do. Even if someone puts a gun to your head and says that they will shoot you dead if you do not kill the person sat next to you, you still have a choice. There may be mitigating factors, but you still make the choice and have to take responsibility for the consequences of that choice.
No doubt, if the defence team at Holmes’ trial has any sense, then they will raise the mitigating factor of madness. Now, it is more than possible that Holmes does suffer from some sort of mental illness. Then again, many people do, yet few resort to mass murder as a way of dealing with that illness. Plus, this was not a spur of the moment attack. Everything – from the equipment to the booby-trapping of his flat – shows a calculated, planned attack. Which then leads us back to the question of choice and the conclusion that Holmes was in control and therefore chose to do what he did, which then makes him responsible for it.
Now, I’ll hold my hands up and say that I have been savage at the top of this post with those who have sought reasons and influences on Holmes’ actions, and they could legitimately raise their hands and point out that they are just trying to reduce the risk of this happening again, which is a noble (if often misguided) aim. That may be true, but we all know what the road to hell is paved with. Furthermore, no-one at this point should be seeking to reduce the responsibility of the man who pulled the trigger.
The long and the short of it is this: Holmes could have gone to the cinema last week and enjoyed a satisfying, if overlong, film**. Instead, he chose to go back to his car, get his gun, get his tear gas, and unleash carnage on an audience of innocent people. It was his choice meaning that it is him – not lax gun laws, not a fallen culture, not a shadowy, manipulative government, not Hollywood – that is responsible for these terrible killings. It is both naïve and morally suspect to attempt – intentionally or otherwise – to diminish Holmes’s responsibility for his own heinous actions.
*Ok, ok, innocent until proven guilty. But, from what has been reported, there is a lot of proof heading in his direction to show how guilty that man is.
**I was going to publish a full review of it, but time is not my friend today…