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A Critique of Reactions to Utoya
Posted on Friday, July 29 2011 @ 19:57:06 Eastern

This post began as a comment on Josh Laddin's Manifesto post - "Revolutionary Rant: Video Games Did Not Cause the Norway Shooting".  My comments are too long to post there, so they go here.

To be as kind as I know how to those falling prey to a breed of political animal known as blood dancers*; this is a tragic event, and people want an answer.  An answer that leads to a straightforward political-economic solution (ban violent video games, ban guns, ban Christianity, ban libertarianism, ban any ideas to the 'right' of Josef Stalin) is even better when that solution is no more conceptually sophisticated than swinging a club at shadows.  The desire for this answer is very strong; so strong is the desire that the purported solution may be incoherent, it may be obnoxious and it may cause more harm than good, but it comforts a weary or even frightened mind.

Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories are still alive and well.  In the wake of the Giffords shooting some on the American left were doing contortionist acts to try to blame the shooting on Palin and other conservatives while ignoring Loughner's obvious mental imbalance.  Witch burnings went through a sharp uptick in the wake of the end of the medieval warm period and numerous failed harvests.

Likewise here; I've heard Brevik called a libertarian in the American sense (he was not, in fact, he explicitly rejected libertarianism because it was diametrically opposed to the ideology he claims he was advancing) and a Christian fundamentalist (he was not that either, as his manifesto - which is in part plagiarized from the Unabomber -  makes clear) but a more accurate assessment - that Brevik was unhinged and thus likely to commit acts of violence whether in the name of nationalism or anything else - is not very satisfying to the desire for a clean, comfortable answer which soothes our prejudices, quiets our fears and forgives our consciences.  It does not offer an easy solution or a simple 'insert Tab A into Slot B' approach to prevention of further tragedy.  It does not give us leverage or ammunition to scold our political foes into silence.

Lee Harvey Oswald was a deranged loser who desperately wanted to be somebody.  The Columbine killers were psychopaths whose relationship mutually fed into and reinforced their pathology.  The answer, 'crazy people do crazy things and there's no easy way to predict that' doesn't admit of a simple solution.  Passing a law won't stop them for one cannot legislate sanity.  Blaming anyone whose ideas sound even slightly like the crazy person's won't stop them for the difference between normal people with crazy ideas and crazy people with crazy ideas is in the person and not the ideas.  Banning dangerous objects from private possession will not stop them for they will find new means to commit violence.

"It's easier to pull video games off of shelves than it is to fund mental health outreach programs. " --danielrbischoff

Damn if that ain't the truth.  It is always easier to wield the stick of the law in a vague and self-congratulatory manner in the wake of tragedy (how many laws in America today are named after the victims of high-profile heinous crimes?) than to carefully examine the causes, and to be humble in one's conclusions.  That smacks of hard work and one cannot stop for hard work in the middle of a good blood dance.

* The Blood dancer is the political cousin to the ambulance chaser.  Moving from one tragedy to the next, he does his song and dance routine about how this latest turn of events absolutely justifies his pet policy prescriptions and how 'the debate is over' on the topic.  Some key traits - he will cite 'hundreds of studies' or 'thousands of studies' that 'all confirm one thing' and that one thing is, of course, his policy prescription.  Rarely is a single actual study cited.  If cited, no mention is made of the reception the study got in the peer-reviewed literature, criticisms made, or how they affect the weight the study lends to his thesis.  If one tries to tease out the fundamental reasoning behind the policy the motives of the questioner are impugned.  If he is sophisticated enough to be an ideologue he is also sophisticated enough to lie about it, and does.  In Harry Frankfurt's sense of it, the blood dancer is a pathological bullshit artist whose medium of choice is human tragedy.
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