Carnage on Your Corner

By Cyberquill 01/12/201110 Comments

So some feeble-minded twerp with a semi-automatic Glock showed up at a political event in front of a Tucson Safeway—apparently not as safe as the name implies—and opened fire. Twenty people were hit, six of them fatally, yet the primary target miraculously survived in spite of a bullet having entered her forehead above the left eye, traversed her entire left cerebral hemisphere, and exited through the back of her skull. Although the extent of Rep. Giffords’s ultimate recovery cannot yet be foreseen, it seems that at least one positive side-effect of the protracted U.S. military engagement in the Middle East has been an increased level of proficiency in the emergency management of precisely these types of injuries.

Probably the scariest aspect about this and similar tragedies is the relative ease with which every little drip can secure him- or herself several days of exclusive 24/7 coverage on all major news networks and attain instant name recognition all over the world. If we feel our lives are going nowhere, it is comforting to know we always have the option to go out as celebrities. No special skills or talents are required save a blend of suicidal and sociopathic proclivities seasoned with a few addlepated fixations, be it the imagined dicta of some Deity, the perceived erosion of grammar in one’s electoral district, or whatever else may weigh heavily on the minds of those who are in no danger of being ranked among the world’s most sophisticated thinkers. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent the publication of the names and likenesses of such perpetrators and have them slither from their crime scenes straight into obscurity where they belong instead of conferring evil luminary status upon them.

A lot of gloating has been going on from the moment those shots were fired on Saturday. First it was the left, as exemplified by this series of injudicious tweets from Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas in the immediate aftermath of the carnage:

And Barbarella immediately opined thus:

But today, my heart and mind is full of the horriffic [sic] news of the shooting in Arizona of Rep Gabrielle Giffords and others by, I am sure, right wing fanatics who have been repeatedly harassing and threatening Giffords, egged on by Sarah Palin and Glen Beck [sic] and Tea Party members.

Once it became clear that the left had jumped the gun on this one, pardon the pun, it was the right’s turn to gloat in pointing that out. In the end, all sides dutifully adhered to the Emanuel doctrine of never allowing a serious crisis to go to waste.

In this case, it appears that Sarah Palin has had the final gloat. The hot gov may be less lucky next time there’s blood on the pavement.

Violent crime rates in the United States rose sharply during the 1980s, peaked in the early 1990s, then dropped precipitously and have stayed relatively low ever since, so there appears to be no detectable correlation between actual violence committed and belligerent rhetoric on talk radio or the rise of the Internet, Fox News, and the Tea Party. And if someone expresses concern over inflammatory rhetoric emanating from the latter two institutions yet fails to be bothered by the incessant vitriol directed against them, then that person evinces a suspiciously selective concern over the tone of the political debate in this country. If you’re worried about the dopey crosshairs on Palin’s map, you should also be worried that some mentally unstable Keith Olbermann watcher and Huffington Post reader may develop fantasies about saving the world by blowing up the Fox News building on Sixth Avenue.

The NRA should just change their name to assassin’s lobby, ’cause that’s what they are. (Bill Maher on The Tonight Show, 01/11/2011)

Naturally, every rampage shooting incident reinvigorates the national discourse on gun control and generates calls for stricter legislation regarding the acquisition and possession of firearms. And perhaps such laws would indeed result in fewer thundersticks falling into the hands of the wrong people. Hard to say. But here’s what confuses me about the logic commonly applied with regard to gun control:

When it comes to border security, who is most likely to invoke the old cliché that for every 20-foot fence there’s a 21-foot ladder and that if people want to sneak into this country, they’ll find a way in no matter what, hence any attempt to seal the borders is a fool’s errand right out of the gate?

And when it comes to the debate over drug legalization, who is most likely to insist that as long as there is a demand for drugs, people will have access to them, legal or not, so why bother outlawing drugs, as doing so merely moves the trade underground?

Exactly. The same people who, when it comes to guns, all of a sudden seem to believe quite fervently in the efficacy of stricter legislation in regulating supply irrespective of demand.

May I suggest that either we apply the “people will have access anyway” logic across the board, or we drop it altogether and agree that tougher laws and their enforcement can make a meaningful difference. Like the aforementioned selective outrage over acrimonious rhetoric depending on whether we happen to like or despise the target of such rhetoric, this is yet another instance of blatantly asymmetric reasoning governed solely by personal preference.

In Arizona, every person 21 years of age or older is allowed to carry a gun, openly or concealed. Unfortunately—as is the case in most shootings of this kind—the Tuscon killer appeared to have been the only person in the crowd to actually carry a gun, and he was certainly the one who cared the least about whether packing was legal or not.

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  • jenny

    I’m weary of all of the issues raised by this tragedy.

    Let’s talk about language instead. Your title turned my head. I’ve been using this exact phrase this week. Curious to see now where else it will turn up.

    • Cyberquill

      Alright, let’s talk about language then:

      If you create one new language then you’re able to create a second new language.

      If you’re able to create a second new language then you’re able to create a third new language.

      You create one new language.

      Thus, you’re able to create a third new language.

      • GlitteredCupcakes

        I understood.. (the youtube videos) I watched the news and the anchor people couldn’t seem to grasp the underlying premise. I am not going to go out and shoot people just because I understand the youtube posting.

        I understand the youtube posting.

        Thus, I am not going to go out and shoot people.

        • Cyberquill

          I don’t understand the YouTube posting.

          Thus, I am a danger to society.

      • jenny

        There’s a fun one act play by David Ives called Universal Language.

        Harvard U?

        • Cyberquill

          Harvard me? No. Me Sacré Coeur Pressbaum.

          • jenny

            Nah. “Harvard u?” is just a greeting in Unamunda, da linkwa looniversahl.

  • Andreas Kluth

    You’re certainly right to point out the asymmetries in the thinking of most human beings. (And most fungi, protozoa and bacteria, too, I suppose).

    Contradictions. Ah, let’s savor them, but let’s be honest about them. It’s always good to make ourselves aware of them.

    As to the tragedy in question, I no longer have the faintest idea what I think about it all…

    • Cyberquill

      I think The Economist is trying to control our minds through spelling.

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