Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mass murder in an age of instant punditry

On the Norwegian tragedy, Chris Dillow writes that, "[C]omment about Breivik tells us more about the commenter than Breivik."

If so, these terrible events and the response to them has something very depressing to tell us about the state of the average commentator.

First up, there was the instant imputation of this to Al-Qaeda or some other Islamist terrorist group. Now obviously this shouldn't have been done and one would hope that the 'experts' that did so have the grace to be a little embarrassed by now.

But the corresponding reaction wasn't exactly the model of reason either. "Ooh, they've blamed jihadists, the Islamaphobes!" - as if Islamist terrorists wouldn't dream of doing such a thing.

I was also surprised that no-one thought to make a point about the nature of our 24/7 rolling news culture. Someone sticks a microphone in front of some academic who researches this sort of thing, says something like, "So, Professor Anorak, you're an expert on all things that explode: who do you think might have been responsible for this?"

Did people really think he was going to say, "Don't have a clue, mate - we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?"

Then when it emerged that this was Oklahoma, rather than 9/11, 7/7 or Madrid? Let's be clear about this: in the face of such carnage and grief, what moved most people to hit the keyboards was the impulse to use human suffering to score points against their internet enemies. "The Oslo terrorist cited Melanie Phillips in his manifesto", declares Liberal Conspiracy.

Yeah - but as Chris Dillow points out, even if these sorts of massacres weren't so vanishingly rare, it would still be difficult to establish cause and effect: does reading Mel make you lose your damn mind, or do you read her and find yourself nodding in agreement because you're already fucking metal? (I'm paraphrasing, naturally.)

But so far, the prize for most tenuous link to the Norwegian massacre goes to Chris Bertram below one of the Flying Rodent's characteristically objective posts. On the whole 'creating the atmosphere where homicidal rampages are more likely' theme, thus saith Mr Bertram:
"The "decent left" shouldn't be let off the hook either since they legitimized some of these lunatics by linking to them, giving interviews to FrontPageMag etc, and generally making them look more respectable than they are. Case in point: Professor Norm, who took down his blogroll link to Gates of Vienna some time shortly after the Norwegian massacres."
So check your links list, boys and girls; you never know if you might be inadvertently killing people with them.

Or alternatively, have a little decorum - and think before you speak, or rather type. To my mind, this from David Osler is one of the very few offerings on the subject that shows any evidence of someone who has done just that. You may disagree but I don't think that necessarily makes you a Nazi.

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