Thursday, June 03, 2010

Running amok: make it 'as boring as possible'

I'm not currently in a position to judge how the British television media is handling yesterday's terrible shooting spree in Cumbria, and I'm also a bit agnostic about the argument that such incidents are significantly caused by the media.

But I thought this segment from Screenwipe by Charlie Brooker makes some good points about the way these events are too often presented. (His comments were sparked by coverage of the most recent Amoklauf in Germany -- a little more than a year ago in Winnenden.)

(Via the Guardian.)

One thing I do dislike, though, are the instant diagnoses that inevitably follow.

Like this one:

So a proud, insecure middle-aged man cannot bear to lose face. Unable to ignore a slight, he seethes inwardly with resentment until he explodes.


One thing is certain: While he was at the peak of the murderous quest, the adrenalin would have been pumping through his body. He would have been on a monstrous high, feeling almost invincible, like Superman, as he discharged the weapon.

Yes, indeed: we can be 'certain' he felt like 'Superman'.

(Taking off on Brooker's point: doesn't this fall into the same kind of category of serving to 'turn this murdering little twat into a sort of nihilistic pin-up boy', albeit this time for the proud, middle-aged and insecure? No doubt many of them wouldn't mind feeling a 'monstrous high' themselves. Sounds almost appealing, now that you mention it....)

Still, Blood and Treasure is on to something in observing that the descriptions being offered by people who knew the shooter -- nice, quiet, normal -- sound a bit familiar:

Obviously, people are partly playing as cast here: he was normal in the sense that no-one was going to think that he was just the kind of chap that would go on a spree killing rampage. The opinions seem to be more a product of people finding something to say to the media rather than a commentary on the individual concerned. But you can get a sort of oblique view of a man smiling maybe twenty times a day, saying the appropriate things at the appropriate times to familiar faces and slowly going mad. Maybe that’s just a product of the standard murderer story too.

For its part, the BBC describes how tough British gun laws are and notes the rarity with which guns are used in crimes there:

Police figures show that there were 39 firearms-related deaths in 2008-09 and that seven of these involved a shotgun. That total was the lowest recorded by the police in 20 years. Guns play a role in just 0.3% of all recorded crimes - one in every 330 incidents.

Though it is, of course, no comfort at all if you or someone you know ends up at the sharp end of that 0.3%.

No comments: