The Reality of Violence

by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

“Non-violence” by Swedish sculptor Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd
U.N. Visitor’s Plaza, New York, New York
A gift from Luxembourg.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last forty-eight hours, you have no doubt seen the coverage concerning the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. If you possess even a minimal level of empathy for your fellow human beings, twelve dead and fifty-eight wounded when their only crime was wanting to see a movie can only be properly described as tragic. Among the dead accounted for up to this point are a man who had been celebrating his twenty-seventh birthday (Alex Sullivan), a member of our Navy (Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer), a twenty-four year old aspiring sports journalist (Jessica Ghawi), and a six year-old girl. Some less responsible outlets are reporting this little girl’s name (Huffington Post, looking your direction), but other more responsible outlets are not. I will not post her name for the same reason others have declined: the little girl remains unidentified because her mother, also a victim of this horrific crime with gunshot wounds to the neck and abdomen, remains paralyzed in hospital and has not yet been told of her daughter’s death. Even in reporting on events, sometimes a little discretion goes a long way and does not impair the “public’s right to know” in any substantive manner.

Over the next few days, you will see many attempts by people with various political agendas trying to monopolize on this shooting to promote their pet causes. In fact, it has already started and in a most heinous manner. During a radio interview on The Heritage Foundation’s “Istook Live!” show, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Friday that the shootings were a result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” . . . and questioned why nobody else in the theater had a gun to take down the shooter. Gohmert in one fell swoop illustrated that not only is he a base political opportunist, but that he apparently doesn’t understand the 1st or 2nd Amendments very well – a common affliction among Texas pols. Others pols are already using this as a way to promote their anti-gun agendas, their pro-gun agendas and the Twitter-verse is filling with statements from “our leaders” about this tragic event and all of them in some way self-serving.

I urge you to ignore these opportunists for a moment and to think about something else related to the Aurora shooting.

Multiple outlets are reporting that the accused gunman, James Holmes, had dyed his hair red and told the police he “was the Joker”.

There is the fantasy of violence. There is the reality of violence. They could not be more different in outcome. This presents the issue of instances like this where the line between fantasy and reality have clearly been crossed in some meaningful manner. Does this problem exist in the individual or in society itself? I submit the answer might be “a little of both”.

Jon Blunk and Jansen Young

Consider this: one of the elements of drama is that the hero (or something or someone the hero holds dear) must be in peril. It creates tension, it moves the story. You cannot have drama without an element of danger or risk and very often that danger or risk is portrayed in the form of physical violence. As a species, we are wired to find this entertaining.  There is nothing wrong with a bit of wish fulfilment in seeing the hero overcome adversity as entertaining.

The reality is starkly different. Witness real heroes like Jon Blunk who was killed defending his girlfriend Jansen Young during this rampage. Witness Jarell Brooks, a 19-year-old from Aurora, who put himself at risk to help Patricia Legarreta and her two young children escape, but not before he and Legarreta were wounded. Witness Eric Hunter, a 23-year-old from Aurora, who found two wounded girls and dragged them to safety in an adjoining theater before blocking the door to Theater 8 and preventing the alleged gunman from spreading his gunfire in to a new room of innocent theater goers.

All three possible outcomes. Death, wounding, escape from physical harm. All three equally heroic in that other lives were saved, some of them strangers with nothing in common but a love of the same kind of cinema and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a funny thing about heroism though. As F. Scott Fitzgerald famously quipped, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” In real life, the tragedies and the heroics are real and have real consequences. The hero does not always win the day as they are prone to do in fiction.

Does our propensity for dramatic entertainment, let alone dramas involving violence, feed a propensity for violence? This is a question as old as drama itself. On one side of the argument is the catharsis argument put forth by Aristotle in Poetics; that in viewing tragic events, the audience’s negative feelings like fear and pity are purged. This line of reasoning was later supported by psychologists and psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud and A.A. Brill. On the other side are modern researchers who have found correlations between watching violence and the rate of violence in society, but causal connections between the two in the general population have been difficult to pin down. What is clear is that “exposure to media violence does not produce violent criminals out of all viewers, just as cigarette smoking does not produce lung cancer victims out of all smokers. This lack of perfect correspondence between heavy media violence exposure and violent behavior simply means that media violence exposure is not a necessary and sufficient cause of violence.” (“Media Violence and the American Public” by Brad J. Bushman and Craig A. Anderson, Iowa State University, American Psychologist, June/July issue, p. 482, 2001.) That a small segment of society seems particularly susceptible to being prodded in to violence through the consumption of media violence though seems undeniable. To me, this seems to comport with the rate in society of people with mental problems revolving around empathy like sociopaths and psychopaths. People who lack empathy would naturally not connect the actuality of violence with the fantasy of violence as they don’t care about the impact of their actions on others to begin with. Correlation is not causation and the root causes of violence are more complex than just a person’s entertainment choices. There are also environmental, social, economic, and personal history to consider. Some people in certain situations are simply going to be more prone to violence. While causation in the general population has been found in desensitization toward violence and violent entertainment, causation of real life violence with fictional violence has been more elusive although desensitization in itself has been can “[increase] aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal and aggressive behaviors, and decreases helpful behaviors.”

As a society, do we have a duty to mitigate all factors that can induce violent behavior in individuals? Even if that susceptible segment of society is a very small percentage of society? With complex compound causation, this is a practically impossible task, and even if “perfect mitigation” of contributing factors was had there are a certain percentage of society that are going to be violent psychopaths no matter what their environment is like. Where to do we draw the line a social inputs that can encourage violence and personal responsibility for individual action? Consider this as well: do we have the same duty to mitigate when the violence perpetrated by sociopaths and psychopaths is economic (as in the banking industry shenanigans that birthed the OWS movement), is purely psychological (as seen in pathologically verbally abusive spouses) or is purely political (as in the religious far right attempting to trample history and the Constitution to institute theocratic laws if not outright theocracy)?

Perfection is not possible. Evil cannot be eliminated in the world for without it we have no definition of good. The perfect removal of error from complex systems is a mathematical impossibility. Does that mean we should not try?

What do you think?

Source(s): (1, 2), (1, 2), Huffington Post (1, 2, 3)

~ submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

UPDATE: The names of all the victims have been officially released by the Arapahoe County coroner’s office. These are the names it is important to remember. Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6, Jessica Ghawi, 24, Alex Sullivan, 27, Jonathan Blunk, 26, John Larimer, 27, Matt McQuinn, 27, Micayla Medek, 23, Jesse Childress, 29, Alexander Jonathan (AJ) Boik, 18, Alex Teves, 24, Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32, and Gordon W. Cowden, 51.

A Personal Note to the Aurora Victims and Their Families and Friends:

My sincerest condolences. May your loved ones lost live on in your memories and may your memories be long, robust and full of happiness. May the wounded heal and take every advantage of their good fortune at surviving this senseless act of violence. May this harm done to you and yours not keep you in the depths of lament, but transform to a celebration of life – both theirs and yours. Peace, love and long life.

Gene H.

NOTE: For those of you waiting for the next Propaganda installment, I’ll either publish it tomorrow or publish next weekend depending upon time constraints. I thank you for your patience in the face of breaking news.

270 thoughts on “The Reality of Violence”

  1. GeneH,

    I acknowledged the moved comments being off topic.

    And I added that which was new, not the old.
    So it is not cherry picking. It IS complete.
    Those who want to read the old stuff can go there.

    As usual you can’t see anything but your bias against me.
    Thanks for the attention. Meeting me again with BS.
    No news.

    And you’re still quibbling about populism leads to fascism.

    Which as I said to Bron, could have been taken care of with one sentence instead of a “I can best–you can least” rant which your comment is.

    Bron and I INSTEAD talked about essentially is the subject of ruling America. And this was the most active place to move it to.

    Am wasting time on you—-again.

    Ho hum.

  2. “Populism leads to fascism.”

    Utter nonsense. Populism can lead to nationalism and/or scapegoating and nationalism is a key feature of fascism, but fascism in any of its forms is inherently anti-populist as it is an oligarchical form of government in all its varieties. However, populism without the nationalism or scapegoating is not inherently dangerous. People very often reject the notion that their political ideology might be populist in part because argumentum ad populum is an informal logical fallacy and perhaps they don’t want the association of the value loaded word, but in its definition “populist” means a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people (especially often capitalized) and/or a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people. This is in effect what a democracy is, which is defined as government by the people; especially rule of the majority and/or a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

    For comparison, you can see this in the Nazi Party which co-opted the language of populism to put fascists in to power. The message of the Nazis on their rise was a populist promise of socialism, but tightly bound to nationalism and scapegoating of the Jews. Once the Nazis gained power, they quickly abandoned any pretense to a populist ideology, purged the party of true socialists during the Night of the Long Knives, and let their fascist nature be known freely. Contrast this to the populist movements that led to the American Revolution, the fall of Apartheid in South Africa and to Glasnost and Perestroika in the former Soviet Union. All populist movements with non-fascist endings. No. Populism doesn’t necessarily lead to fascism any more than wheat necessarily leads to bread. Populism is simply one of several paths to political power – gaining the consent of the people by claiming to give them what they want. A means to an end but not an end of itself unless you are looking to form a democracy.


    You should really be complete in re-routing comments instead of cherry picking.

    The topic of this thread IS NOT the “reality of who rules the nation”.

  3. Moving two comments here does not rate as jacking I feel.
    Here are late comments from a defunct thread which I feel have value in the reality of who rules the nation.

    Jt is watching out, as every parent does for his, and for our country. But what happens to the majorities’ kids educations in the meanwhile?
    And when do we beccme the democracy which we are now in name only?

    1, July 27, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I dont know if populism leads to fascism but Mussolini, Hitler and Huey Long were all very popular and appealed to the masses.

    So while populism may not lead to fascism, I think it is OK to say that the 2 largest fascist movements in recent history, Germany and Italy, were populist movements by charismatic leaders who appealed to the masses.

    It seems all dictators come to power by populist movements, Lenin, Mao, Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Min, Castro so maybe the correct statement is that populism gives rise to dictatorships/totalitarian regimes of all stripes.

    So while populism doesn’t necessarily lead to dictatorship it is a necessary condition for the potential dictator to come to power.

    I think you are on the right track.

    55 idealist707
    1, July 27, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Thank you for your considered thoughts.

    Of course my concern is with America. And the realization that we are many, but the moneyed have power to manipulate us.

    Mostly they try to create 50+ oercent populistic support. I hoped that the percentage favoring the “corporates” would have to be much higher before populism (our version of democracy) would advance towards fascism.

    This hope is in vein, as is shown by the measures now taken on several fronts:
    —–denial of voting rights
    —–denial of assembly to petition, protest, and demonstrate
    —–denial of free speech, setting up of free speech zones
    —–threatening with indefinite incarceration through the 3 most recent acts which prescribe so for those suspected of material support to those listed as terrorists.
    Where free speech is thus hindered, actually or implied.
    —–denial of ones right to your own person (contraception and fetal material)
    Etc etc etc

    Having increased their police powers restricting our rights, and militarizing our police, a culture which thinks, in self-confession, “there are police and there are A**holes”, which can be heard here.
    Thank Shano for that one with a retired police captain from Philadelphia, who said what was the attitude found in the corps.

    We have a big battle ahead.
    And while some may make academic quibbles about what I said, it would have been better for the discussion to simply say: “Populism is a state which can lead to fascism.”

    I am for my part concerned with the heart and spirit of the attacks on us and democracy, as opposed to aristocracy.
    DEM means simply “the common people”, ie us. And democracy means as some have said here, that we the people are to appoint our leaders and give them guidance.
    Given that premise and goal, then it behooves the elite, who think themselves so, to elevate the understanding of the plebes, not oppose education, as is popular now, especiallly among Republicans.

    Whew. Lots more to go

  4. ah Malisha you made me even more depressed. All true. So, here is a spot of some frightening levity on drones for you:

  5. So Fox News started a rumor that there was an insider in the FBI who described to Fox News that James Holmes sent a notebook to a psychiatrist at the university where he was studying, and that the psychiatrist didn’t get the notebook, because of some delay or something, and as a result, the carnage did not get interrupted, but went forward, and so it is all the fault of the psychiatrist/university. Now stories fly around reporting on the report and all the reports reference only “it has been reported” and that things happened “reportedly” and the speculation gets piled on top of the speculation. What is this? It is a well planned out attempt to deflect attention from the guns/ammunition issue onto the “psychiatrists must protect us from crazies” idea. Now it is not a gun that kills, and not even a person who kills WITH a gun, but it is a doctor, and a university, that kill by ignoring a person who can then get a gun.

    Fox’s personal psychiatrist has now come out saying we should test all students at universities to find the crazies and report them before they kill.

    So what we have is: Our protectors are killing us; our corporate and governmental structures are brutalizing us and denying us any protection; and on top of that all, whenever something happens, our doctors have done it by not turning us in if they thought we were not “normal” enough.

    We will end up with preemptive prisons and no civil rights at all, and still, nobody will be safe from the Holmeses or the Zimmermans or the private security forces.

    Be very careful.

  6. So, Halliburton et al have won all over the world. No escape from the ‘security state’ ?

    Anyway I have a theory why this cop attacks this attractive, fit young man. A simple gay crush. Notice how he grabs the young mans balls, oh! a pinch too! And then tries to fold his youthful head head into his own groin while demanding the boy put his hands behind his back.

    . Yes, this is a highly erotic film, no doubt!

    And then the mild embarrassment on film, the dropped badge in his ardor, the fumbling with the phone. He only has a few precious moments with his catch before he has to let this nubile youth go. You can see him thinking about letting him go, oh, so fleeting. Looking forward to the ride to the station with him, though. Ah, what we do for love.

  7. Shanon.

    What can we do and how long etc.

    You tell me. You are doing your bit here. You bring in reality, to a stage with mostly set pieces for the select to amuse themselves with.

    But if you and others need to influence at other places is not my call at all.

    The idiots here tried the “Reclaim the streets” here and got quashed—-fully by the police. They disappeared. But there is little need for protest here. So most of our stuff is aping USA model movements, as we did the Paris stuff in ’68.

    Sure, Power rules here. but not as much as there. We let the USA secure our oil, or count on begging it from Norway. And parliaments by nature sit looser than Presidents. We don’t even have personal parliament elections. We choose a party in a district, and all candidates on the list go in. Weird.

  8. And yea, idealist , he was lucky the cameras were there. The cop looks like he is having a rage on for no reason.

  9. We saw an exemplary show of police correctness. His reason for the arrest can not be judged from this.
    The young cop had been well coached what to do with cameras on him.

  10. Is this what they mean by “Stop and Frisk”? Because if it is, then no wonder the community is freaked out.

  11. Two other outcomes possible: third rail or letting him go to then shoot—–all stopped by the cameras there.

    I know enough spanish to hear what the camera man said at the last: “Don’t say any more”. No diga

    mas, And “hear me!” or “Do you hear?” Oité!

  12. Shano, You have been posting disturbing clips. Don’t stop. Amazing. The cop rousts a kid who’s alone, minding his own business, The kid cooperates but jumps when the cop grabs his genitals, then gets violently thrown to the floor. I’m surprised the cop didn’t go for the video, but he was outnumbered and their was more than one camera. The people are organizing.

  13. 707,

    Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent. He in joined in the lawsuit by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg; Noam Chomsky; Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, Kai Wargalla, an Occupy London organizer, journalist, activist and author Naomi Wolf and Alexa O’Brien, an independent journalist who founded US Day of Rage, a group that coordinated a day of protests on Wall Street last September against the use of corporate money in US elections,

    The law is written such that Hedges, or any journalist, who does their job by contacting involved forces in any altercation, foreign or domestic could be subject to military detention. The administration can identify any entity as an enemy and then detain anyone who has had contact with them for any reason, an icy shower for those whose chosen profession is to report the story.

  14. We are supposed to get protected by this?…… I was over here getting a caramel apple from Coney Island and you slam me on the floor.”

  15. “I’m not resisting, what are you doing? You just slammed me on the floor for no reason”

  16. How long will the people take this kind of abuse and violence from the police? Seriously, when does the tipping point come into play in America?

    Yea, idealist, things are crazy here right now:

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