Sunday, July 22, 2012

Never Waste a Crisis

That's become a meme, purportedly part of the Saul Alinsky rules for radicals. No better example than listening to a national radio news program on the day of the Aurora shooting.

The expert guest laid blame for the events of the day at the feet of social media, and the prospect of copycats due to the 24x7 nature of Twitter. He implied that the gunman may have been inspired or agitated to his acts through consumption of so much information.

At one point, the guest alluded to the 1980s when we didn't get news this fast, then the 1990s when we got cable news and things sped up, then today with its immediate news through social. I almost had to pull the car over.

Was this person really saying that social media had a cause in this? Was he really implying that because we have MORE information that was leading to violence like this -- or Norway, or Fort Hood? I can see the bumper sticker now: Guns don't kill people; Ideas kill people.

When later revealed that the assailant was either social media agnostic or a great deletion expert -- no traces of accounts anywhere (even MySpace was invoked in that news report) -- I am left gobsmacked with what the original commentator was really trying to say.

Was the point that we need to go back to the times where certain knowledge was held by the high priesthoods -- ranging from the literal ones in the church to the cultural and intellectual ones among the educated elites?

A nation ignorant of its history is easy to sway. Things have never been like this before. This is unprecedented. No, the sad reality is in the history of human endeavor there has always been -- and regretably shall always be -- inexplicable evil.

What may be said for the networked media is that we can learn about it faster and in greater detail than previous generations. Let me trot out my history lecture on presentism, and reformat it to the events in Colorado.

Does the name Andrew Kehoe ring a bell?

In 1927, Kehoe went on a vengful rampage in the small town of Bath, Mich. Killed 45 people -- 38 school kids -- and wounded another 58. You can read all the sordid details, but the similarities are important. Kehoe rigged several bombs in really evil genius ways to take out as many people as he could.

Kehoe didn't need assault weapons. Or costumes. Or the internet. Or social media. He used his considerable anger toward society, his intelligence and a commitment to cause rampant violence.

By the time I'd drifted back into listening to the radio, the next expert came along to talk about his work that showed that these kind of massive killings tended to happen in states that were more rural and lower affluence. The tone was in those ignorant back waters you get things like this happening. I had to turn off the radio. And write it out.

At this time, there are no news stories in the Googleplex that include the name "Andrew Kehoe". Anyone want to bet me that he won't become a part of the current narrative?

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