Right on Schedule

You'll be relieved to know that the world's most rational, thoughtful and intelligent people, internet message board posters, have the whole Virginia Tech tragedy figured out.

Y'see, it turns out that the fucking lunatic who murdered 32 people in cold blood isn't really to blame, after all. It's all the fault of the movies. According to the internetters, one of the photos the lunatic sent to NBC "resembles" a scene from the South Korean movie Oldboy.

This news is meant to be, I donno, shocking, or revealing, or something. To me, it means we're just right on schedule with this shooting.

It was right around this time-frame after Columbine, a few days later when the dust had settled and "Why?" was taking over for shock and grief, that people started blaming Marilyn Manson and "Doom."

I understand that trying to figure out why it happened is an important part of the process. I also understand that it's a question without any satisfactory answers. In the absence of satisfactory answers, a lot of people go straight for ludicrous ones. Back in 1999, guys like John McCain and Joe Lieberman were calling for the movie and video game industries to take "accountability" for their "part" in the tragedy. People were making strained connections - "Those boys listened to Marilyn Manson, and we find Manson and his music to be personally distasteful. Ergo, it was his devil-music that inspired those boys to become killers."

And now it begins with Cho and Virginia Tech. Last night, advertising their airing of the video that Cho sent them, NBC ran a promo saying something like, "Inside the mind of a killer," which is absurd on any number of levels. To begin with, a video he made specifically to send to the media is little more "inside" his mind than anything else. It's a performance, a presentation of an on-camera persona which may or may not bear any resemblance to reality.

Here's my question, though: Why do I want to get "inside the mind" of this lunatic? Frankly, I'm glad that I don't understand the mental state that makes someone murder 32 people. I'd rather that this sort of thing remain incomprehensible to me. If you could easily understand the "why" behind Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or the Amish school shooting, wouldn't that worry you a little? It would cause me to doubt my own sanity, at least a little, if the actions of a lunatic made sense to me.

The world very rarely makes sense, and tragedies like these make the least sense of all. But it seems to me that the most rational response to senselessness is to accept it for what it is. Assigning blame to Marilyn Manson, "Grand Theft Auto" or Oldboy achieves nothing. It gives the talking heads on TV something to argue about, and I suppose it satisfies the need for a convenient scapegoat. It provides something to gaze at so that we don't have to gaze long into the abyss of human nature.

People like to quote that bit of Nietzsche - "When you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." But almost no one knows the line that directly precedes it: "He who would fight with monsters must take care, lest he thereby become a monster." The monster here is the inherent incomprehensible and arbitrary nature of murder. Fight it at your peril.