Concrete web-magazine

7Jan/130

Someone’s got to be guilty

Society desires a certain kind of evil: the stranger, the outsider, coming in the dark from somewhere far beyond our cozy, clean and suburban neighbourhoods. The fact that said society itself is tainted to the core by all the things it perceives as moral vice - greed is necessary to survive against competition on the market; violence is an everyday occurence to enforce the compliance of the poor, the women, the socially deviant or those who happen to live on top of the ressources we consume - it doesn't mean that bourgeoise society may accept the sinner as children of their own. To the contrary, it creates a pressing psychological need to perform an excorcism on those who have drawn public attention for their crimes, to find something that excludes these people from the sacred church of suburbia and makes them different from us.

The gunman of Newton, who killed his mother, then drove to the school where she was a teacher and proceeded to kill another 26 people, including 20 elementary school children before finally committing suicide - he's a perfect example. His murders will probably maintain a shred of mystery for us. All puzzle pieces taken together may paint the picture of a man who felt the need to take revenge on his parents and the community he grew up in, but it remains a distant crime, even more so than other school shootings, because many of the victims were so young. I don't believe myself able to explain these events. However, the list of explanations given by others, by journalists and politicians, philosophers and priests, is potentially endless. They all have in common that they tell us more about the people trying to explain the massacres, than those committing them.

An almost automatized explanation of the past, however, has seemingly vanished: "The video games did it." There is a subtle, psychological fear in that explanation, stemming from the technological revolution the introduction of modern computing brought to the economy. Many workplaces became obsolete as computers could do the same job faster and more efficient than humans. It may sound like a long shot from the fear of being "rationalized" to blaming video games for massacres, but there is a subconscious connection: the fear that computers take over our life, that, even where they don't replace us, they at least take control of our lifes. Movies like Terminator or later Matrix where symptomatic for that era. And if computers can take our jobs, surely they can as well command our children to kill?

That era is over and with it vanished the popularity of that explanation. Computers are part of our lives now, part of our daily lifes. The basement dwelling nerds of the 90s have grown up to become parents of their own and they wouldn't dare to blame something they grew up with and which caused seemingly no harm to themselves. Moreso, the rationalization of our own lifes has proceeded to a point where we have begun to accept and internalize all the new hardships which mobile phones and home computers have made possible. We are available to our bosses 24 hours a day, we share all our steps through social networking, we optimize our bodies and minds for capital accumulation - and we download the apps that structure our life for capitalism voluntarily.

The occasional, irrational killing spree remained and so did the need to explain it - somehow. If the shooter is black or brown or yellow - or in some other way a foreigner, the explanation is easy. We won't speak it out openly, western society believes itself above racism, after all. But the ethnicity of the shooter will be hinted on, with a varying degree of subtlety. And society will be content with the assurance: he was different, he wasn't one of us. The Virginia Tech massacre was one such case. Cho Seung-hui didn't just sound foreign, he wasn't even an US-citizen. However, the recent Newton shooter, Adam Lanza, he was white, he was one of us, the child of one of the teachers and a child from the community he committed the massacre in. This has caused some truly spectacular explanations to emerge, of which the insistence that he had Aspergers syndrome is the most glaringly unjustified.

It doesn't matter of that was true or not: Aspergers does not make you any more likely to take your mothers gun and shoot her and her pupils. Children with Aspergers syndrome aren't ticking time bombs with a tendency to violence. They are different, however, and that is the key to understanding this explanation: it makes Adam Lanza "not one of us". We don't have to face our society's very own demons, we don't have to deal with the fact that it was his mother who taught him how to shoot and whose guns Adam Lanza used. We don't have to deal with the question whether or not, perhaps, something caused his anger which we could understand or that maybe we find that he had issues the people around him consistently ignored, just the same way we ignore the wrongs that occur around us still. No, "Aspergers did it" sounds so much easier, even though people with Aspergers tend to follow the law more strictly than others because they tend to view issues in simpler schematics, more "black and white". We don't have Aspergers, that's what counts.

The victims of this public scare, of course, are the children who actually do have Aspergers syndrome and who are now stigmatized wrongfully as "potential massmurderers".

If, however, you don't want to blame Aspergers for the shooting, the world offers you a vide array of scapegoats to choose from instead. How about the German journalist Walter Hollstein, who blames feminism for school shootings? According to him, schools drown young men in "feminine morals" without allowing room for their masculinity and this "broken masculinity", Hollstein claims, provokes those excessive killings. I don't feel the need to dig any deeper into this pile of anti-feminine gibberish. It should be glaring obvious that this neither makes any sense, nor is applicable to any of the school massacres the world had to witness. What makes this explanation more perfidious -and worth noting at this point - is that this goes beyond the need to exorcise the culprit from our communities. He is taken back in, instead, only to redefine the boundries and limits of what's "normal and accepted" in favour of a traditional (you may say: reactionary) image of masculinity and femininity.

There is little room below that in terms of depravity, but someones got to fill that remaining gap: Iranian journalist Ali Haj Mohammadi gets straight to the point on the state-run website qodsna.com and blames the jews. In fact, he claims, Adam Lanza was a jew, suffering from a mental disease common amongst western jews. Aspergers Syndrom drives jews to not only kill children of an elementary school, but also to oppress the people of Palestine.  This is worse than Hollstein, because "normal and acceptable" is no longer associated with behaviour and morals, but with ethnicity.

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