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Friday, December 21, 2012

Shooting Off Your Mouth

In a much-commented-on National Review post earlier this week, someone named Charlotte Allen argued--not that she's blaming the victims!--that the real culprit in the shootings at Sandy Hook is the feminization of our culture, which has made men reluctant to display the kind of manly, aggressive traits that come in hand when villains need to be tackled. As Allen sees it, the school itself had become a dangerously testosterone-free zone. "There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred... There didn't even seem to be a make janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza's legs." She also compared what happened at the school to the take-charge heroism displayed about United Flight 93. Doing his part to help this shit go viral, David Weigel called it "the stupidest thing anyone has said about Sandy Hook," and wrote:

Kevin Anzellotti, the head custodian at Sandy Hook, is a man. Theodore Varga, a fourth grade teacher, also possesses XY chromosomes. I just did the research Allen didn't do, and it took all of fourteen seconds. Beyond that, though -- why does no one who writes this way look into the circumstances of other massacres? The second person shot by Jared Loughner was Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to Gabby Giffords who, hearing the gunshot that would cripple her, turned and stepped toward Loughner. The gunman shot Zimmerman in the head. The fourth person shot by Loughner was Giffords's aide Ron Barber, who survived shots to the cheek and groin. He was saved by John Roll, who lunged at the aide and was shot fatally in the back. Loughner did all of this in less than six seconds. Grown men in good health were cut down, because bullets move faster than people do...  
The terrorists on Flight 93, as I thought everybody knew, were armed with box cutters. The people who tackled them had a long time to plan their counterattack, ducking behind seats and whispering. This is obviously inapplicable to any situation involving semi-automatic weapons. Who thinks like this?

In her response to her critics, Allen concedes that, okay, the part about there being no adult males at the school when the shooting started may not be factual, or maybe it was; she doesn't know if those employees were there that day. (And, you can almost hear you whispering in a Homer Simpson voice, there is no way that anyone can ever know!) But she makes no acknowledgement of the point about how no one slower than Superman could have been anything but defenseless against the weapon the shooter was using. (Meanwhile, she doubles down on her main point, reminding us that, even as we waste our time talking about this gun-control crap, Hanna Rosen is out there threatening to poison a thousand Christmases by urging parents to consider buying their sons Easy-Bake Ovens.)

This imperviousness to attempts to introduce common sense and factual accountability to her method o reasoning underlines the fact that the answer to Weigel's question is: people think like this when they think they always know how things should go down in real-life situations, not because they're informed about what actually did go down and how, or because they've worked hard to imagine what they might have done if they were there, but because they know how similar situations were handled in the movies they wish we were all were living in. Allen doesn't know anything about automatic weapons, or about the likeliest result of heaving a bucket at the legs of someone firing one. (She doesn't even know anything about boys, if she thinks that teaching them to cook at an early age makes any of them less masculine. What it mainly does, if the boys turn out to have any talent for it, is set them up for life, on a planet where a hell of a lot of women think being able to cook is sexy. But maybe Allen is trying to demonstrate just how high her bar for manliness is set, by implying that she thinks Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain are sort of girly.)

But she knows how you take care of a nut with a gun, because she's seen Clint Eastwood do it. Clint's never come up against a gun he couldn't get to in time, so if a nut managed to kill 26 people, the only explanation that makes sense is that they're not making heroes the way the did in Clint's day and age, and the femi-Nazis must to be blame. (The most poignant moment in her comeback piece may be the part where she boasts about how flattered she is to be compared to Megan McArdle, by Charles Pierce, who intended it as an insult. Me, I decided that I'd read enough of McArdle after she wrote about how surprised she was that the Iraq War hadn't gone better, because part of the problem seemed to be that the ignorant natives were less than thrilled to have Americans invade their country and start shooting and randomly imprisoning and torturing their family members. She wrote that she had assumed the war would go swell, because she figured the savages would be delighted to have us take charge of their lives for them and decide which ones got to spend the night entertaining Lynddie England; no other possibility ever crossed her mind. This, too, reflects a mindset that superimposes old movies on real life, but the movies are those Cold War propaganda films that no one over 60 has ever watched recreationally, and McArdle isn't even 40. Does she go to sleep at night and achieve some kind of mind-meld state that locks her imagination to Dick Cheney's Netflix queue?)

NRA master blaster Wayne LaPierre clearly uses the same Technicolor filter. In his delayed-reaction press conference about the Sandy Hook shootings--or, rather, the bad press that hardcore Second Amendments doorknobs have suffered as a result of the shooting--Lapierre said that "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" and asked when "gun" became "a dirty word." This kind of prattle is the end result of coming to believe America became the country it is not through laws and infrastructure and global diplomacy, but because John Wayne and Gary Cooper had guns they could use to free us from the tyranny of Lee Marvin and Walter Huston. So it's a little weird that LaPierre used the occasion to blast Hollywood and "the media" for making people do violent things, by filling their heads with violent fantasy. Maybe nobody can see the nihilism of computer games so clearly and indignantly as an old guy who actually believes that cowboys built America. (Of course, he also thinks that the solution to guns in school is, duh, more guns, but he's because it took him a week to decide that his hair was finally TV-worthy, he was way behind the curve on that. Louis Gohmert, of my home state of Texas--the anchor baby guy--was on Fox News two days after the shooting, saying that he "wish[ed] to God" that the school principal "had had an M-4 in her office." Louis might have more reason that most to be offended at the way LaPierre, in his press conference, spat out the phrase "mentally ill," as if being crazy was synonymous with being a son of Beelzebub. Of course, Louis, whose brain is certifiably not of this world, has never physically harmed a child, because no child has ever tried to get between him and a TV camera.)

"Handguns are made for killing/ They ain't no good for nothing else/ And if you like to drink your whiskey/ You might even shoot yourself/ So why don't we drop them, people/ To the bottom of the sea." That's from "Saturday Night Special," a song not by the Roches, or even Crosby, Stills, and Nash, but the greatest Southern rock band of all time, the high-testosterone, unapologetically white-trash Lynyrd Skynyrd. It dates from a time, which is a lot more recent than the glory days of John Wayne, when responsible gun owners didn't want to be associated with the nuts who thought they had a need of, or a right to, guns whose only purpose was to wreak destruction on other people, let alone armor-piercing bullets and automatic weapons that could do things Ronnie Van Zandt never lived to imagine. That song is less than forty years old, but the mindset behind it now seems like something from another world; that's how successful the NRA has been at pushing the idea that any attempt to draw the line at what kind of killing technology American citizens can buy would be a slippery slope that inevitably leads to the gummint confiscating every gun owner's last peashooter, would would in turn lead to... hell, I don't know, find a moron and ask him. So gun lovers who've gone along with this have no answer to gun anarchy except to demand that everyone in the country be armed, so that gun violence can be a matter of "individual responsibility"; presumably, once we're all packing heat, the onus for any future Sandy Hooks will be on those who were present at the scene but let the killer get the drop on them. (And a lot of gun lovers are Fox News conservatives, which means we can now look forward to the listening to people who think teachers are paid too damn much demanding that the money be found to staff all schools with trained marksmen and self-defense instructors.) Maybe everybody sometimes wishes they could be living in the movie utopia of their dreams, and by encouraging the move to a paranoid America where we're all one fruitcake away from being in the middle of a shootout to the death, the NRA and its supporters have had more success at most in changing the country to better suit their fondest daydreams.


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Mooser said...

I am in complete agreement with you. Everything they know, they learned at the movies or in front of the TV