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.
Tags: news media