Violence and Blame Part Four: Reactions
by Liberty Speaks
Homicide is the act of a human being causing the death of another human being. The words ‘only a gun’ can accomplish this act are not found in this definition, nor does it state that an object other the human being is to blame. It is just that simple.
However, when we see the words ‘multiple homicides’ and guns are involved, the first reaction is to blame the “method” by which they died and not the individual who killed them.
The blame response is immediate, selective and ‘in your face’ because of 24/7 media coverage. It’s only in hindsight that warning signs, cracks in the system, and other failures that, if recognized prior, may have prevented the violence. However, apathy, denial and hypocrisy muddy those waters and history often repeats itself.
The issue of blaming guns, as well as free speech, has been discussed in depth throughout this series. For the sake of argument, let’s address the assignment of material items such as music, video games, movies, and now certain “historical” flags which have all been deemed the ’cause’ or the ‘catalyst’ of violent multiple homicides in this country.
None of these reactions are substitutes for prevention. When it comes to placing blame squarely on anything but the shooter, we become short-sighted. Specifically placing blame on a material item only seeks to dismiss the underlying causes of this form of violence.
The following scenario took place after a book penned by Stephen King was published.
They were wildly popular in the late eighties, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. I owned one as well. Rage however, was the controversial novella in question.
The book Rage, which is the story of a psychologically disturbed teenager who murders teachers at his school and takes his math class hostage, is one such “object” that had been blamed for or has been the ‘suggested cause’ of four school shootings and hostage situations. The book was either found in the possession of the shooters or the shooter had read it. (see link)
In a very personal and bold move King himself took the book out of circulation in the late 1990’s stating in a Business Insider article:
“I pulled it because in my judgment it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do,”
There had been no calls for the book to be banned, but King believed it had been a catalyst to the violence.
In an article from International Business Times Stephen King made a statement that touches on the underlying issues with all the shooters — mental illness.
“My book did not break [these teenagers] or turn them into killers; they found something in my book that spoke to them, because they were already broken,”
As a private citizen, King chose to remove something he felt may be causing harm. However, this action did not stop further school attacks from taking place over the last 20 years. Plus, the book could not have been the cause or catalyst of mass homicides for 70 years prior to that.
To this day, it is not Sandy Hook, nor Virginia Tech that is the worst school attack in US history. I believe this incident is not discussed more because it doesn’t fit today’s narrative on gun control and the current blame culture.
In 1927, Andrew Kehoe killed 45 adults and children and wounding dozens more using explosives during the Bath Township School Massacre. Kehoe killed himself as well with his own explosives.
There wasn’t a book, a movie, or an obvious catalyst that explained his madness. The only trace of a motive were the words “Criminals are made not born” that was stenciled on a suicide note found at his farm. (*Further examination into this statement will be in Part Five and Six.)
Bernstein later did in interview with Christian Science Monitor in 2012. Here is one of the questions asked by interviewer Randy Dotinga to Arnie Bernstein:
Q: What can we learn from Bath Township?
A: One lesson is that you cannot stop someone who’s determined to do something like this, who doesn’t have that switch in their head that says to not do it. You cannot stop them any more than you can stop an iceberg.
That really is the lesson — Those who are intent on doing harm will find a way by any means.
This violence should not be relegated to simple explanations by placing blame on a weapon, or concluding that the prevention can be accomplished by taking books of a shelf, removing a flag, or infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens. The majority of these mass murderers showed early warning signs, suffered from mental illness, and were already in our criminal justice system. To use Stephen King’s words, ‘they were already broken’.
Society tends to blame something else on what it doesn’t understand or could not stop. The blame should always be placed on the broken individuals, however, it is society’s responsibility to pay attention to the warning signs that present themselves prior to these acts.
Family, friends, teachers, co-workers, mental health professionals, and others who interact with these individuals have a moral responsibility to intervene, if possible, before they kill. Otherwise, no amount of blaming weapons, flags, books, music, video games or movies will prevent history repeating itself. It is that simple.
In part five of this series I will discuss five individual murderers, their relation to the blame culture and society’s curious reaction to their crimes. Please tune in and remember, just breathe.