governor hickenlooper of colorado yesterday said of holmes: 'this person...almost a creature.' i understand this impulse: we want to make something and someone like this alien, inhuman, completely incomprehensible. one thing we're doing when we express this is saying i would never do something like that, which is indeed an important thing to say to oneself and to other people. i certainly do not want to connect to someone like that, but on the other hand i do want to say that the indiscriminate rage and obsessive thinking cannot be entirely incomprehensible to people who have had a range of human experiences. i think that the first step would be to try to understand how an action like that emerges from human beings like us. consciously, pointedly rendering it incomprehensible isn't fully honest and it's not helpful in trying to understand what happened.
right now the cliche explanation is 'social isolation.' again it's amazingly non-explanatory, and just another fad. even if it's true that most people who do something like that at least feel themselves to be socially isolated, it's at least as likely that they are isolated because they're weird as that they're weird because they're isolated. it gives you the vague idea that everyone would be ok if they were just relentlessly social: well, that's your own vision of what human life should be. but this is really what happens with something like aurora: without regard to the facts, we just feed it into our machine and explain it in a way that would, if taken seriously, drive our other agendas. on the morning after the massacre, i heard some 'expert' on cnn blaming "facebook, text messaging, and iphones," portrayed as elements in social isolation. that's probably even less engaged with reality than instantly blaming marilyn manson for columbine without any information about anything. you might see if you can respond by letting the event be what it is, at least for a few moments. a plausible explanation would begin by taking the specific, bristlingly complex event seriously as something you do not yet understand. one problem is that we want a sense of control over events like that and what they suggest about events in the future, so we leap instantaneously to any explanation we have already pre-cooked.
it's worth saying that the two impulses - 'of course we cannot make sense of someone like that at all' and 'it's facebook' - are completely opposed: the event is both inexplicable and explained instantly. these are responses of people who are called upon to talk but who just do not actually know what to say.