TYRRELL: Forget the creep

Sensationalizing mass killers only encourages copycats

Story Topics

What does James Holmes, the Colorado accused killer, have in common with Jared Loughner, Andres Behring Breivik, Seung-Hui Cho, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris? They all linked to the massacre of innocent people on a massive scale. Yet they have something else in common. They are all nobodies or losers, as the phrase has it.

All were on a downward incline from a not-very-lofty ascent. They were troubled, but there are other troubled souls in our society. They were fascinated with violence, but so are others. Why else would major entertainment corporations invest so much money in clang-and-bang, blood-and-guts entertainment — for example, childish movies, idiotic video games and rap music?

They were quiet loners and dreamy isolates. My guess is they have watched a lot of TV with canned laughter and implausible sound effects. I do not see a lot of participation in sports with these young heroes’ lives.

They were fascinated with guns but also other tools of destruction. Mr. Holmes had sedulously strung up his apartment with explosives so that it would be turned into an inferno when the authorities arrived. One thing that troubles me is that others are out there dreaming similar dreams. I fear we shall discover that there are ever more of these creeps.

Commentators across America are all rummaging through their minds to ferret out something arresting to say about Mr. Holmes. Well, all I can say is that he is a creep with no special talent, but what if there are more like him out there? Though I have not seen anyone mention it in all the commentary about the Aurora slaughter, my fear is that the massacres are increasing in frequency. Could it be that there is gathering a subculture of a subculture of a subculture of young men peering out at the drama of Aurora, Colo., and preparing to surpass the carnage of Mr. Holmes and his peers? Perhaps it is time that the cameras and the commentators shut down about them. Forget them. They most assuredly seek attention. Let us agree not to give it to them.

It takes only a person of mediocre intelligence, no particular courage, and what Hannah Arendt, the 20th century political theorist, famously called “the banality of evil” to commit a crime of the magnitude of the above losers. Let us stop commenting on them and turn to other things, for instance, the way journalists report these events.

Shortly after the Aurora massacre, the New York Times headlined that the atrocity was “Reviving Debate.” What debate is the New York Times talking about? Five paragraphs into its story, the newspaper elaborated, “the nation was plunged into another debate about guns and violence.” Actually the New York Times, along with the brain-dead liberals, wishes that the nation would be “plunged into another debate about guns and violence,” but the debate is in the eyes of the beholders. There are now more than 200 million guns in America. The time for debate was around 1900, and does anyone think that Western cowboys, for instance, would have given up their guns easily? Perhaps among thoughtful people the debates would never have taken place. Today, Americans cannot even secure their borders. How are we going to collect all those guns? My guess is that if there is a debate, it will be among liberals. The rest of the country does not know what to do about public massacres. That is a problem. The liberals’ solution is no solution at all.

Back in 1955 in Chicago, about the time of the area’s Schuessler-Peterson murders, I heard a famous police reporter tell my parents that reporters of his era reported on such grisly crimes reticently. They did not reveal things that they knew might betray the investigators’ plans to probe the murder. And another thing — they did not write much about the perpetrator of the crime once he was nabbed. They knew others like the creep would be encouraged to undertake “copycat” crimes.

Right now, I fear that we may be at a point where copycats are planning to outdo Mr. Holmes and his colleagues. Let us leave them to sulk in their lonely cells. After all, there really is not much to say about them that is very interesting.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism” (Thomas Nelson, 2012).

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