What could have been done?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jason Alexander, best known for portraying George Costanza in Seinfeld, offers a round of sarcastic congratulations in the wake of the Arizona shootings over the weekend. There is no originality or other intellectual merit about the piece -- and it is hardly the only example of obscenity of its kind out there.

The only thing that may be noteworthy about the piece is that, accidentally and rather circuitously, it brings up something I thought of when I considered what, if anything, might have prevented the Tucson massacre, which claimed six lives and put a Congresswoman in the hospital.

After ticking off the usual list of scapegoats -- anyone who opposes the left or doesn't support it enough for his satisfaction -- Alexander says the following:

In the end, reader/friend, I know that this is likely to be the mad act of a lone, sick man. We have had such men and such acts, always. But I do fear that our media, our internet, our health care system, our educational system, and the alienation we have thrust onto each other because of our desperation and ideologies - are going to create more such tragedies.
In other words, as with the first criminal-coddlers in the sixties; and everyone who claimed that doing anything war-like in national self-defense after the atrocities of September 11, 2001 would only "create more terrorists;" Alexander blames society for churning out people like this gunman.

I was first tempted to say of the above excerpt that Alexander was "covering his bases" in case anything came to light indicating that the gunman was, indeed, left-wing, insane, or both. But, in fact, both the timing of Alexander's tirade and that paragraph indicate that he regards the gunman's explicit motivation as irrelevant: The (capitalist) Devil made him do it, whether by failing to indoctrinate him sufficiently, leaving any need of his unfulfilled, or granting him access to dangerous things like guns. Indeed one of Alexander's fellow travelers in Congress is preparing a gun control bill as you read this. The target isn't guns, but personal freedom, as this deterministic view, and the fact that anything can be dangerous in the hands of a criminal both attest.

Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), with her gun-control bill, and Alexander (who slams the NRA), with this rant, will profess concern with preventing such things from happening again, as far as is possible. But their focus on curtailing freedom raises a legitimate question for anyone who understands the value of personal freedom (including having the government recognize our right to own guns for self-defense): What can be done to reduce such occurrences in the future?

The answer isn't to have the state even further reduce the freedom of all; but for good men to speak up, and to work towards greater freedom so as to be able to be more effective when we do. It is noteworthy that one of the gunman's classmates (as well as their algebra instructor) saw him as dangerous, but couldn't do anything about him:
Class isn't dull as we have a seriously disturbed student in the class, and they are trying to figure out how to get rid of him before he does something bad, but on the other hand, until he does something bad, you can't do anything about him. Needless to say, I sit by the door.
I can think of a whole litany of reasons -- all due to government interference in our affairs -- why this student couldn't have simply been kicked out of school. (Of what form of illegal discrimination -- discrimination is not inherently good or bad -- would the school, the teacher, or this diarist have been accused?) In fact, I am confident that there would have been many things for which this student would have received a slap on the wrist or a little bit of psychological counseling, even if he had done "something bad," the concerns of his teachers and his fellow students be damned.

The shabby secret of this incident and, doubtless, many like it, is that there were blatant signs that this person was dangerous for quite some time, but that many of the individuals in a position to see the developing problem were stripped of power to do something about it. For example, students would not have to fear classmates like this for long, were schools privately-owned and -run and not subject to lawsuits due to irrational laws. Perhaps an early-enough discipline or expulsion would have at least identified (or further identified) this person as criminally-inclined. Perhaps more common gun ownership among the general, law-abiding population might have seen this rampage stopped earlier, or prevented altogether.

(I will state now that I have not carefully considered whether there ought to be a government requirement for background checks for prospective gun owners. However, it is clear to me that even if there weren't such a requirement, legitimate vendors could create a database of people to whom they would refuse to sell, and that the profit motive might cause them to err generously about who would get included on such a list.)

Those who advocate further restrictions on our freedom in the name of "protecting" us from the criminally-inclined have already failed. We don't need even more of their snake-oil. We need the government to return to its proper function, of protecting our individual rights, including (among other things) the right to associate (or not) with whom we please, and to bear arms in self-defense for those times that the government can't protect us.

-- CAV


Mike said...

I think it is pure rubbish to say that political language caused this event. No, insanity did. That the rather inane Sarah Palin wanted to "target" the district for a Republican win had nothing to do with the attack. I've seen similar language from people on the Left.

Gus Van Horn said...

Agreed. And even IF the gunman weren't insane AND had non-leftist political views, the notion that political speech "caused" him to act as he did is rubbish.

Tom said...

Here in Britain the coverage of this event has been absolutely bizarre. Anyone watching the BBC coverage would think violent tea party rhetoric and websites supported by Sarah Palin were responsible for this man’s murderous rampage, despite the fact he was described by one of his classmates on a college course as "a left wing pothead". What universe are these commentators living in?

Michael said...

here is a response from one liberal:

Contrast that with Right Wing Hate Radio, with an audience in the tens of millions. There simply is no analog on the Left. You're acting like there is some kind of "they all do it" symmetry between the Left and the Right, and it just doesn't exist. You can always find something intemperate that one person says one time. What you can't find from the left is the demonization of half the country like we hear EVERY F'ING DAY from the Right. Just today I heard Limbaugh calling Democrats "conspirators" who were wrecking the future of his listeners children and grandchildren. His whole act is about demonization of Democrats. Not Left Wing Extremists, just plain old average Democrats. That's the problem.

Gus Van Horn said...


Tom's comment, although from across the pond, answers the left-wing canard that there is "no equivalent" to Rush Limbaugh. Since basically every media outlet aside from Fox News has a left slant and primarily leftist commentators, that complaint is ridiculous. (It's not AS bad here as in Britain, but that doesn't mean the left is exactly voiceless here.)

That said, to call this a "conspiracy" is ridiculous. The fact that many people are motivated by the same (left-wing) philosophical ideas will cause them to think and act similarly, and even feel similar emotions about certain things after they evaluate them. (Just look at the seething rage of Jason Alexander's piece vis-a-vis the ALL CAPS f-bomb in the little piece of enlightenment you quote here.

All that said, let me re-state my agreement with Mike earlier: The left is conveniently forgetting that there is a difference between free political speech and incitement. I have never heard of Rush Limbaugh (who often does have intelligent things to say) or Sarah Palin (who never has anything intelligent to say) doing the latter.


I'm not sure how well it would translate culturally, but permit me to recommend I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican. You sound even more besieged than its author, and the war stories may do you some good.

That said, certain reactions following this episode leave me similarly nonplussed. Thanks for sharing with me how bad the coverage is over there.


Mo said...

I think what you're seeing here is the fact that the left does not want its ideas to be openly debated and challenged and so they are resorting to their typical smears, "climate of hate", blaming Sarah palin, "The other side's rhetoric made him do it!" "The other side is hate! (and therefore wrong) Hate hate hate! Timothy McVeigh Timothy McVeigh Timothy McVeigh!" and so forth. Ironically they help foster and create such a climate.

Gus Van Horn said...

"Ironically they help foster and create such a climate."

Well said.