In the wake of the Aurora shootings, the uncontrollable urge to blather

The shooting last week in Aurora, Colorado, was and is a big deal.  Something important happened there, not just for the victims and their families, but for the society writ large.  That warrants thought and conversation.

What it doesn’t warrant is blather.

And in the days since, I have been fundamentally dismayed by the behavior of many of my colleagues — in journalism and in the blogosphere — who have obeyed the apparently irresistible urge to say…something, anything.

Especially given the pop-culture tie-in, the quotient of sheer clap-trap to meaning is extraordinarily high.

One Slate columnist fired off a front-page missive today acknowledging that “this isn’t a think piece, it’s a feel piece, a quick, instinctive burst of anger and revulsion and despair…”

Great.  That’s exactly what was needed at this moment.  Not Be Calm and Carry On but Share Your Instinctive Burst of Anger and Revulsion Despair.

And because writer Dana Stevens couldn’t find anything meaningful to say about the why’s or the how’s of the violence, she decides to ask the question “why there?”

I’m not suggesting that the young men of America are being brainwashed by Christopher Nolan into going on Bane-style killing sprees.

Nor am I arguing for censorship or bowdlerization or any increased degree of interference with the content of entertainment. But James Holmes didn’t burst into a screening of Happy Feet Two.

Nice.  Anger, Revulsion, Despair and Sarcasm.  Now we’re firing on all cylinders.

And professional journalists aren’t the worst of it. The social media is crawling with ick. I’ve seen blather smeared across my private Facebook page that made my skin crawl, everything from political rants to conspiracy theories.

(The shooter was trained and equipped by the FBI!)

Through the muddle and chatter, I was particularly drawn to an essay in the New York Times, where Dave Cullen – author of a book about the Columbine rampage — made this observation.

You’ve had 48 hours to reflect on the ghastly shooting in Colorado at a movie theater. You’ve been bombarded with “facts” and opinions about James Holmes’s motives. You have probably expressed your opinion on why he did it. You are probably wrong.

We know, of course, that something terrible happened in Aurora.  It should be a wake-up call and a concern, I think, that our society doesn’t have better mechanisms to talk and think out loud about an event of this magnitude.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps the first, most obvious step would be that time-honored mental and spiritual exercise:  a moment of silence.



19 Comments on “In the wake of the Aurora shootings, the uncontrollable urge to blather”

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  1. Kathy says:

    I happened upon the prayer vigil last night in Aurora, which was on television. One women who spoke got up to the microphone and said something like, “Hello, Aurora!” and continued as if it was a pep rally. Was this her awkward moment of fame? It was almost as if she forgot why she was there.

    Having lost a son myself, I wanted to jump in between her and the front row of family and friends to protect them. Their hearts are gaping wounds right now.

    Yes, we should be so sober that we are speechless.

  2. George Nagle says:


  3. That’s how I feel about the interminable “analyses” of the presidential race… many of which have little do with actual issues and more to do with pointless “strategy”, polls, etc.

    But fundamentally, the blather and “analyses” are really more about how the news media has become less and less about actual journalism and more and more about opinionating, speculating and pontificating. Punditry is not journalism but increasingly, journalists seem to not know the difference.

  4. Terence says:

    I think I saw the same broadcast as Kathy: it made me cringe. Also, a surprising number of people are congratulating themselves on their own good fortune for not being in that theater, statements like, “Wow, it could have been me!” Yes, but surely it’s not the best thing to say out loud, right? Can you imagine going to a funeral and telling the bereaved, “Well, at least it wasn’t me!”

  5. Kathy says:

    Terence, the other thing was, “God protected me.” Well, I understand the adrenalin rush and the thankfulness – but it leaves others to think, “What, God didn’t protect my loved one?”

  6. Jeff says:

    Moment of silence. I agree. That is the value of experienced editors. Not that all will be perfect but I think I could expect more level heads. Too much air time. Maybe three networks was enough. Shut up Nancy Grace. Now it really is All the news that fits, we print… or speak.

  7. Paul says:

    can’t imagine what the families of the victims or the folks that were there and survived are going through. Wouldn’t even try. I lived in Denver when the shootings at Columbine took place we were all in shock.

  8. Ken Hall says:

    If comments that do not espouse that one “Be Calm and Carry On” are considered dismaying yet “thought and conversation” are warranted; how about some thought and conversation about national actions which could reduce the probability of similar occurrences. Noticeably absent from the rhetoric from both the current POTUS, the wannabe POTUS and the Congress is any mention of a FEDERAL gun control law superseding the hodgepodge of state statutes which go from relatively restrictive (NY) to packem if you’ve gottem (AL) and the ludicrously ineffective Federal Gun Control Act of 1968.

    As long as states such as Virginia allow the selling of just about any type of hand or long gun (including fully automatic fire capable), to resident or non resident purchasers with virtually no tracking of, how are law enforcement personnel in any state going to have even a modicum of a chance to intercept someone with a gun intent on mayhem?

    Any opinions as to why the POTUS, wannabe POTUS, Senators and Representatives are mum about a universal, enforceable Federal gun control statute?

    I have one. The 1%ers or 0.1%ers, who own the weapons manufacturing consortium in the US, the NRA and most if not all of the, Republican as well as the Democratic politicians in the country, do not want any laws which might interfere with the ability of said corporations to continue to build and sell millions of weapons and their requisite munitions to fearful Americans every year.

  9. mervel says:


  10. Ken Hall says:

    (AL) should have been (AK)

  11. Gary says:

    In certain situations it is best to say nothing. “It is best to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than open it and remove all doubt.”

  12. Larry says:

    So much for resisting the urge to blather! Gun control, 1%, NRA….is there a cliche that wasn’t mentioned? It’s no wonder that our reaction to tragedy usually involves makeshift memorials of flowers, candles, stuffed animals and other garbage. When did we lose our dignity and ability to express ourselves beyond trite, imitative and bathetic displays? In the face of such horror we ought to be more thoughtful or, at least, quiet.

  13. Ken Hall says:

    Gary, Are you intimating that I am a fool?

  14. Ken Hall says:

    Et tu Larry?

  15. Pete Klein says:

    What happened was a tragedy. Enough said.

  16. Ken Hall says:

    Any of the “do not regulate my guns” crowd listening to the current NCPR presentation of “On Point”?

  17. Paul says:

    This string had some restraint. But it didn’t take long for the blathering to begin.

  18. Walker says:

    One man’s wisdom is another man’s blather… It’s just another pejorative term.

  19. Ken Hall says:

    Ellen Rocco just posted an excellent article under the All in Blog called “Aurora, Colorado is our backyard…” concerning this subject.

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