the shootings in isla vista do kind of raise the specter of a shooting war between the genders (also thematized by maggie rose, below). boys against girls: that was always going to be our species' evolutionary destiny. we've been enacting it since we were cave-toddlers on the darwinian playground. obviously, at most one gender can survive. it's all going to turn on who can recruit the trannies. my advice to both genders and everyone in between: nuke up immediately and think in terms of devastating pre-emptive strikes. otherwise, you appear weak and vacillating on the world stage, which no gender super-power can afford.
one thing about airports: they've become super-illuminated theaters of security: a lot of what is there is intended to convey the message of extreme surveillance, instant response, saturated personnel, etc. i think they've created that partly to make people feel secure, though you'd have to say it has ambiguous effects. but at any rate, these places have been constructed as symbols of the security state in a regime of total visibility. all the surfaces gleam and every corner is transparent to the light. as i say, it's a theatrical space. it will draw actors like bugs to a zapper.
once more on syria. of course i called for a cruise missile through assad's window at the outset. and i'd still support such a step, which would be both 'punitive' and 'strategic.' but i also share my fellow war-mongers(krauthammer, e.g.)'s irritation that you'd proceed by publicly promising for day after day to do x, y, and z, and everyone in the regime has surely spent the time running for cover, even as obama's promising not to target or remove him. i would have tried to assassinate him the next day.
just to try to establish the slightest credibility on this: i was squawking about how ridiculous the pseudo-intelligence was on iraq from the go, in print. that colin powell performance at the un was pitiful; i will never take him seriously again. i do not believe they got the intelligence wrong and believed it; i think they manufactured intelligence and sold it like a used car. now, as far as such things go, what kerry (who i just tried to rip to shreds in 2004; the worst presidential candidate i ever saw; he never even managed to take a position on iraq) presented today was comparatively convincing. however, if you were waiting for the u.s. intelligence to weigh in in order to make up your mind, you're kind of screwed both ways around, because (a) you should never believe what intelligence people say publicly on the sheer grounds that they said it (nothing is better-established ever in the whole wide world), and (b) the evidence was already as convincing as it could be, in the nature of something like this; you should already have known.
i just don't think there is any real room for doubt about what happened. it's frigging obvious. he has the gas and the rockets to deliver it. he did his massacre in a center of resistance to his regime. the on-the-ground vids and accounts from aid workers and ordinary people have more credibility than any cia memo. there just is no plausible alternative explanation unless you absolutely insist that you will only believe what would support your idea of what ought to be done even as the reality is staring you in the face.
i am aware of the tension of this with anti-statism. but also people like me are - or surely ought to be - incredibly repulsed by murderous tyrants. i have an autonomic response of violent hostility; they, and not whoever irritated keith olbermann today by disagreeing with him, are the worst people in the world, and definitely the worst boyfriends. i don't think you get any very clear guidance on this from the sheer fact of being an anarchist.
i wish there was some response to newtown that wasn't merely: suspend the constitution. repress. censor. intern. blame quentin tarantino. indeed, in our current cultural/political climate, no one has any ideas about methods for accomplishing anything at all except to make people less free. this is why, just as progressives believe, the future is unimaginable except as ever-more extreme state domination of every aspect of everyone's life. that's all y'all really want out of life, i see. and i agree, you're gonna get it. you really do understand history.
just a note: were i quentin tarantino, and my name was connected to the mass murder of schoolchildren by hundreds of commentators, for weeks on end, in virtue of the fact that i just made an excellent work of art, i would, as he is, be gettin kind of pissy.
one gambit i love about the anti-free-expression approach: 'by the time a kid turns 18, he's witnessed thousands of murders.' or: 'in these games, a kid marches through a landscape, murdering dozens of people.' well now this seems a bit confused, unless actual people are made of pixels. or: studies show that these games have an 'arousing' effect. gee really? if not, nobody would play. that's the 'entertainment' effect. i'd like to see a careful account of what 'desensitization' is or what effects it might have. now, i don't think kids playing video games are confused as between real persons and pictures of persons, but obviously the experts and commentators are. perhaps they can't imagine that everyone isn't as confused - or perhaps the word i'm looking for is 'delusional' - as they are.
so i said i didn't want to understand or humanize adam lanza. and of course i don't know; maybe he was a completely delusional schizophrenic, the kind of person where it really does no good to search for comprehensible motivations. but let me try this. he had trouble making any sort of social connections or even holding a conversation, we're told. perhaps the spectrum he was farthest on was the shyness spectrum; he could barely speak to anyone but his parents. i've known four-year-olds like that. but even if the extreme shyness came from him, he also believed (insert a 'perhaps' in every clause for me, if you would) that the fact that he couldn't connect with people was partly their fault: they should have reached in, seen who he really was, fallen in love with him, and so on. people weren't much but a source of mortification, abandonment, and pain. everyone who ever smiled at him and then didn't know what to do because he was so strange, and so sidled off uncomfortably, betrayed him. then perhaps he worked this up into a kind of moral fury in which you're judging everyone all the time, hyper-emphasizing the negative.
let that infest your thinking and then spend a few years reading the news; it is possible to see the monstrousness of human beings every day, from the regional murders to the overseas wars: syria, say. watch politicians in action; mitt romney ran for president this year, talking about his fundamental convictions, har har. think about what we do for entertainment from the point of view of my hypothetical adam lanza, furious moralist. or what we do to the environment. and yet everyone is talking love, hope, democracy, leadership, etc.
then maybe his only relationships were with his parents, and what we would think of as the normal wrenching crap around their divorce and then also his mother's threat to commit him showed him that he had absolutely no one. then the thought perhaps occurred: homo sapiens is a species of frauds, hypocrites, and killers: we are liars; we are lies. then, with ever-growing conviction: the world would be better off without us.
now perhaps adam lanza was happiest when he was little, in 1st grade, say, or at least he remembered that as the best period of his life. in his head, i am speculating on god knows what grounds, he was saving these children by killing them: saving them from being victimized, and from becoming hateful lying monstrous teenagers or adults. he couldn't save all the children; but whatever shred of decency he had left demanded that he save as many as possible. so he went to where there were a lot of children together and opened fire. he was armoured up to keep going as long as possible. he might have wanted to kill hundreds of children. he would release them, and punish their parents and his own. and he would show the whole world, in a way that could not be ignored or ameliorated or explained away, the real essence of destruction that lurks within us. for of course he was a people himself: he was himself what he hated most. he too deserved to die. well, hard to quibble with that part by the time he'd finished up. it was always part of the plan.
what does it mean that perhaps i can see this or envision a project of trying to see something like this? well now that disturbs even me. if something along these lines was his train of thought, he was, i believe, not entirely wrong, sadly. but he was not entirely right, thank god. i pondered writing this entry in the first person, as adam lanza. but even though that is what is called for aesthetically - a first-person novel or whatever - i would not want to own that series of thoughts even with a fictional displacement of the 'i.' and yet it was me who assembled this series of thoughts from whatever shreds we've gotten, so i can't disown them exactly either.
one of wayne lapierre's sugestions at that nra news conference (interrupted repeatedly by protests) is that there should be a national database of the mentally ill. i think facial tattoos might be a good idea too.
you'd have to assume that there's a run on sales of semi-automatic rifles right now.
it's amazing to watch all the people saying that the most important thing is to make it easier to involuntarily commit adults. also one theory seems to be that adam lanza killed his mother and went on his spree after she threatened to commit him. it's sort of a classic response: our solution is to stigmatize or dehumanize a certain bunch of people who share some vague set of qualities with the disasterer. really what's being said is we need more incarceration, preventive incarceration based on a shared profile; or, people like that should interned until the conflict is over. and if you think that the psychologists have a good taxonomy of the relevant illnesses or account of their etiology or effective treatments etc - or, for example, if you think that psych profs are the sort of people who are likely to be developing such things in the future - you have not been watching; trusting them to convict or exculpate possible future criminals is an extraordinarily bad idea. we tried that kind of stuff before.
it's rough being a loner these days, and every psychologist starts with that in the profile of the killer. i have heard social authorities actually telling people to be on the lookout for loners. the loner is the contemporary version of what previous cultures referred to as the 'barbarian' or 'savage': people not quite completely subject to our relentless socialization and picture of what it means to be human (=like us). direction of causation as well as extreme vagueness are problems with this analysis. are we loners weird wacky killer-people because we don't belong to the kiwanis, or do we avoid the kiwanis and they us because we're weird wacky killer people? anyway, i just want to alert you to the fact that even more elaborate efforts to socialize us loners or require us to party with you chumps is likely to have a reverse effect; you're becoming ever-more relentlessly though only semi-seriously caring, obnoxious, and indistinguishable from each other, and we tend to react badly.
in terms of beefed-up background checks, you might want to give a questionnaire: when was the last time you ate out? you don't sit in a study alone writing books (manifestoes, epic suicide notes, etc), do you? anyway, i just hope that the next mass killer is like a preppy frat boy with a thousand beer-soaked friends or a junior leaguer from dallas or a gay trelevision chef.
it really is amazing how wrong everybody got the story, in virtually every respect. they misidentified the shooter as his brother. for like 24 hours everyone was asserting with complete assurance that his mother was a kindergarten teacher at sandy hook. then they said he went there as a student. all that is wrong. they said he left the assault rifle in his car and fired all the shots with handguns; now all the shots came from the bushmaster, and so on. now, in any particular case, maybe it's the police who are giving the wrong info or maybe it's the media developing it independently. and of course, reporters are human and will make mistakes. but i say that they can and should do better than that. i'm impatient too, but you really do need to take deep breath and think about sourcing, confirmation, etc.
the familiar problem gathers: everyone wants to know what's going on, wants to participate in some wise in the mourning. so all media gather and engage in saturation coverage. the town becomes a kind of truman show or something. after the fortieth time they put on a psychiatrist to tell you how to talk to your kids or pay tribute to the victims, you begin to lose the emotional thread and participate in a media spectacle. the more attention they bring and the more they insist on telling the story, the further it starts to recede into a kind of fiction, with a kind of pre-determined narrative shape: the heroes, the community pulling together, etc. not that any of that is exactly false, but one begins to experience it as though it were a fictional narrative: they want to construct it that way for us and it attenuates the immediacy in a way that both helps everyone turn a corner, and puts the thing away somewhere where we have it contained. the narrative form requires some sort of resolution, and that requires at a minimum a process of systematic simplification. again you lose the excess, where the reality of an event like that enters into our experience: the moment where you can't face up that is the real response.
after awhile you start to worry that you want to watch people in pain as a kind of entertainment. you're getting it right where you get your sports and romcoms. you start to doubt the sincerity of the anchors' and politicians' formulaic emoting. you start to doubt your own.
lisa's having trouble commenting, and i do note that comments have been very few lately, even when views spike. other people having problems? maybe i will make adjustments; the spam filtering might be too much. here's lisa:
I confess I can't fathom the kind of rage you were talking about. I can only understand it in the most abstract, intellectualized sense.
I can understand it with people who've been brutalized -- who've been to war, or who've been tortured or beaten -- or watched someone else be brutalized. That I get. But an ordinary middle-class kid? I'm glad to know about it, I think it's important to have these discussions, but I can't say I understand it.
The autonomy thing, yes, that I totally get. If anything, girls understand this even more deeply than boys. We're shoved along a rigid path, with ridiculous societal expectations, from the get-go. If I had lived 100 years ago, I probably would've been full of rage. And, like so many women then, driven mad, or just stuffed into some hell-hole asylum for being insufficiently obedient an "unwomanly."
Anyway, as I said, it's important to have these discussions.
(I still say a monthly shot of estrogen for all men would calm the world down considerably!)
it's funny but that was me like 13 years ago. i don't think i did much of anything in that interview by way of explanation; he asked me like 'why are these kids so angry?' and i said 'it's about some kind of rage.' not exactly my most brilliant insight. what i did want to do and think i sort of did in that interview was to make the thing a little more human, or to say i could somehow connect to harris and klebold, little as i wanted to. and my view then was that we tried to find an explanation that would distinguish them from us, but that them was us, just bent a bit further. now i'm 54, even less attuned to my own adolescent experiences. and also i will say this: newtown is deranged in a way i just do not understand at all. and i really in a way also do not want to understand it. i want to not understand it, as i said before. so maybe now i'm the one insulating myself or disavowing them.
i think it is a betrayal of the dead to turn them instantly into an example of something, immediately to put them to use in your endless prosecution of your case. 'it's all about guns': no it is a real human situation: it's about emilie parker, 6, and her people. maybe her death can lead to change etc; well, maybe, and that might be good; but this moment just can't be primarily about how to put her death to use. i saw a woman on tv saying 'it all is because of one thing: we need laws to make it easier to commit people involuntarily. but emilie has to have somewhere the status of a particular person and not a case, an example, a projectile to hurl at your opponents. i think in a way the immediate resolution to put her to use as a debating point is narcissistic; it makes emilie an apparition or a symbol or an illustration, something that exists primarily inside your consciousness instead of out there in the world where she did live and die..
let me try to do something on guns. the entries below, contrary to how people have responded online and off, do not defend gun rights. they only insist that you not run to the most automatic and partisan interpretation, because this interpretation abandons the event itself and enters into a realm of abstractions. the political polzarization in this country is just absurd, and there is nothing, nothing, that everyone won't just feed into a pre-existing interpretation machine that they themselves had nothing to do with designing: everyone just reciting the same lines, like barbiies with a pull cord. it gives you the illusion you understand something or could do something about it. some people are almost explicit about this. gail collins, for example, says 'this is all about guns,' which is silly; it's about all sorts of things including guns. then she says, just as explicitly as possible, "We have to make ourselves better. Otherwise, the story from Connecticut is too unspeakable to bear." first of all, banning guns doesn't make anyone any better. and second, the event is - it is - too unspeakable to bear. it is too unspeakable to bear. that is why gail collins takes less than a second to figure out what it's all about and prescribe a quick symptomatic cure. you have to rush through that process as superficially as possible, to deal with your own emotional response. collins just almost says that straight up.
every time something like this happens - particularly after virginia tech and this one - i think to myself that i am wrong to oppose gun control. my problem is that i can't support it compatibly with the rest of my political philosophy. i understand that this is actually a problem for my political philosophy. i will just note, however, that the other position is that only state agents should be armed, and i think if you look historically you might reach the conclusion that that would not necessarily be a formula for reducing violent death. but when someone can grab his mom's assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammo and walk into a school, you just have to think that this is absurd. you can say that the weapon is not the thing: e.g. that guy in china stabbed 22 children a couple of days before newtown. but note: none of those children died. all the children died at newtown, each riddled with multiple gunshot wounds. at any rate, at least at moments like this, i do not know what to say about gun control, and i do not intend to avail myself of the usual knee-jerk arguments against it.
i myself have never owned a firearm and i don't intend to. and i'll tell you what: i can't really in good conscience or consistency advocate, for example, a ban on assault rifles, but if y'all manage to move in that direction, i won't even blog against you.
you do not have a good explanation of this event. it's loners; it's masculinity; it's guns; it's relativism; it's video games; its militarism; it's mental health. perhaps it's all these things and a lot lot more. how fast you got to an explanation is a measure of how hard something like this for you to face. well, it is hard to face. but even as we figure out what happened etc, this event needs to retain a penumbra of incomprehensibility that hints that we are unknowable to ourselves; you must not deprive an event like this of its excess; you have to try to hold on to a feeling of being overwhelmed or disassembled in the face of this. the disorientation you felt before you remembered 'guns!' is the right response. you have to not figure it out, quite, and you have to keep trying, or else you have betrayed it and yourself.
fox is blaming relativism, video games, and the end of school prayer. in other words, democrats blame republicans, republicans democrats. obviously, if we just had fully-funded mental health services... it gets to the point of 'blood on your hands,' etc. that'll make it pretty tough to compromise on tax policy, i feel. also it is ridiculous. also it entails an immediate loss of the actual specific event and people; it's rendered over immediately into an abstraction. it's just a particular way of not facing up. think about it as a particular human event, not an emblem of something, in particular not an emblem of your prepossessions. think instead about a teacher reading to students in a closet as the carnage is unleashed, or the teacher who told her kids she loved them because that should be the last thing they heard. in that, and not in compulsory prayer or a new bureaucracy or a house-by-house confiscation, is where there is a flash of hope.
in my opinion, y'all immediately go 'gun control' in order (1) not to face the thing emotionally, (2) to offer yourself some sort of explanation, (3) to use these deaths as a political club. i'd suggest trying something else for ten minutes first.
to pull back from the abyss for a moment: the guns were all owned by the mother. a kindergarten teacher who owns an assault rifle and two 9s? that seems odd.
the way they're securing these schools (and all these strategies will now certainly be redoubled) also converts them into traps. they were leading kids out the front door past the (dead) killer and the horror. a fortress makes you feel secure until you can't get out.
it's hard not to read these mass killings, especially of children, as a sign of the apocalypse, an apocalypse welling up from within us. what kind of beings are we, that contain this reservoir of death? at a moment like this, you just have to think: how sick, how evil, how bent are we? what has gone wrong? what is the process by which a human being makes that possible for himself? the same thing just happened (again) in china. is this the kind of thing human beings have always done? or you just wave vaguely at something sick in the culture, or some chemical in the water, or really anything; it just fills you with a feeling of your own wrongness too and the wrongness of the whole, a sense of our species or our culture or our world as profoundly depraved, something that deserves annihilation. then the next day it's back to the commute. we forget again that we are ourselves the end.