The PJ Tatler

Fallacies Abound in Massacre Analysis

While surfing the comments on Rick Moran’s excellent reflection on the Colorado massacre, I came across this sagacious comment from “Bugs”:

Why do the media and the politicians ALWAYS follow the same script every single time something like this happens? Sometimes they start within minutes of the news breaking. Same questions, same opinions, same “solutions.” You’d think they’d have learned by now: We’re not in charge. Chaos is real. Shit happens. You can’t predict everything, you can’t prevent everything, you can’t control everything, especially things in which human beings are involved.

In a couple of weeks, after the cops have analyzed this guy, we’ll hear the talking heads reading their other script: “The man was obviously troubled, obviously a risk, why didn’t somebody catch the warning signs and DO SOMETHING?” We are not Skinnerian robots. We can and do make random decisions – or at least decisions based on factors so complex and so cryptic that we ourselves aren’t conscious of them. We wake up one morning and decide to go fishing. Or we wake up one morning and decide that today’s the day for that massacre we’ve been dreaming of for so long.

The trouble with people is, maybe they will and maybe they won’t. The guy’s mom supposedly recognized him as soon as she heard what happened. So why hadn’t she called the police before he acted? Because maybe he would and maybe he wouldn’t. In our society, people generally get the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think we should trade that principle for the illusion that we are safe from chaos. Unfortunately, that is exactly what some versions of the script say we should do.

This is eminently well stated. One of the problems with politics and ideology is the tendency to form narratives that are resistant to the random chaos inherent in everyday life. When something like this happens, people resort to their memorized scripts. The left thinks all we have to do is implement “gun control,” even though Norway, the social-democratic anti-gun utopia, experienced its own frightening massacre last year. Some, but not all, on the right bluster about how if only others in the theater had had their own weapons, this could have been stopped. This wannabe commando tough-talk ignores the fact that it was a dark, crowded theater filled with panicking men, women, children, tear gas and a body-armored psychopath. You think some average, terrified guy is gonna pull a Steve McQueen in conditions like that and take the guy out with a double-tap center-mass without also killing the kid clutching his popcorn? Everyone needs to stop lying to themselves and realize that there comes a point at which political theory ceases to give us answers and the chaos of the real world sets in.