4/21/2007

Seung Cho had 99 problems but a bitch ain't one

Cho was Asian...

Cho was disturbed...

Cho was an immigrant...

This is the retoric with which the nation is reacting to the virginia tech shootings.

Bellatrys lays the connections down between this set of shootings, the history of randomised gun killings, and our post-9/11 responses to revenge ourselves upon afghans and iraqis with... randomised killings.

Of course while everyone else is psychoanalysing crappy vent fics by Cho, I think I'll focus on psychoanalyising the nation itself.

Because for one thing, the context in which he wrote those are gonna get retconned to make him fit into easy stereotypical conceptions of the lone gunman.

Of course as with all other past shootings, the proceedings are quickly devolving into what is hard to describe as anything other htan a good old fashion freak show.

Here's what Fox has on it's front page right now:


"A Loner", "Disturbed Writings", "Quietly Seethed"...

Aside from the way FOX has decided that a woman sniffing some purple panties should be the face of the virginia shootings hysterics (unless prince was somehow involved)... It's also funny how, year after year after year after year after year these things occur and yet, despite the fact that the gunmen are always revealed by our benevolent news media to be the stereotypical Wolfman Lone Gunman, and there's never a lack of apparent warnings about the state of mind of these monsters... they still happen.

Of course once you're portraying something that horrifies you as monstrous, and describe it using the same route narrative structures and memetic constructs you used the last time some horribly monstrifiable event occurred you're acting in a way that most psychologists would describe as "compulsive" if it's how you react to something.

And the thing is that the more I think of it, the compulsive disassociation that tends to mark the national reaction to these events is pretty normative for it's reaction to anything that's salaciously horrific, the attention of the news orgs seems...to...slip past the true horrors, and cut everything down into simple, pre-existing, concepts, each of which do the exact same thing to all the wildly different topics they're used to cover - whether it's terrorism, or war or whatever - put emotional distance between the readers and the events that unfold, the world gets cut down into peices because if you focus on one shard of the mosaic you can't see the bigger picture and so don't have to deal with the full implications of it all.

There are probably thousands upon thousand of "loners" in this nation, seething and festering and undoubtably entertaining wonderfully histrionic revenge fantasies* - however only one of them shot up Virgin Tech on monday, but even a passing familiarity with the news media would tell you that despite the fact that him being a loner was probably only at best partially the issue with him going postal, this is the probably going to be the core aspect of the reporting of the massacre.

Of course the point of that is to of course mark him clearly as outside the community, outside the connections that would place an obligation upon the community he lived in to either have some way of dealing with people who were as socially disfunctional as Cho was, or to at the very least attempt to find solutions to this recurring problem - not to shift the "blame" as the news orgs are doing when they're not monstrifying Cho, which of course is just another way to disassociate from the tragedy, except instead of Cho being the Outsider, the victims or the school for whatever reason, because if we can peg someone with the blame and Other them, then we can absolve ourselves of any responsibilities we as a society have for what went on that day.

However, let me point out that no matter how I look at the events that day, the school authority could be said to have done anything but fucked up after the shootings began - the hyperfocusing on the "domestic dispute" hypothesis, combined with the apparent blase attitude towards the fact that there was, no matter how you cut it or interpret the initial murders (which included both a man and a woman, and thus makes the whole domestic dispute excuse somewhat nonsensical), a murderer loose upon the campus.

Now you don't need to have a magic 8ball to realise that not warning people that there was an armed killer who wasn't particularly picky about who he killed, and that the VT authorities dropped a rather large ball that turned out to be filled with 30 corpses inside it on that count.

But here's the thing: VT's problems are the nation's problems.

That's what's missing in so much of news coverage, it's so rife with this constant compulsive need to disassociate the readers and viewers from whatever is being covered - not just geographically or emotionally, but socially as well.

This is very interesting because newsmedia and the rightwing especially use disassociation very selectively, and quite maliciously.

You see, the VT authorities' reaction to the shooting didn't just happen - there was a cause, a cause made of a smidgin of racism coupled with a soup con of misogyny on top of a big heaping pile of the it-could-never-happen-heres all of which mean that instead of two murders and a suicide that VT would have been hard pressed to stop, we've got 30 more dead, taking with them not just their personal futures but ideas and concepts and knowledge that will probably have to be recovered from wherever the students and professors killed last decided to write down their notes.

The disassociation from people like cho, and the victims and the events last monday, is the reason why we'll probably have another similar tragedy as a result of the it-could-never-happen-heres - the media Othering of not just the killer, not just the victims (who's personalities are erased quite neatly by all the 2-Dimensional and deeply objectifying "tributes" to the dead while the Pundits are musing on what the victims did wrong, like they foolishly jumped in front of the bullets for giggles and shit or something) but of the event itself.

I didn't pick the term "freak show" up thread as an empty perjorative, the media disassociation of these events, their perpetrators and the victims is the velvet rope or the glass barrier seperating the freaks from the audience - it marks the clear Us/Other dichotomy that is essential if you're gonna suppress any sort of feedback either into teh greater society as a result of the event, or into the specific society that it occured in as result of the greater society's reaction to the event that trickles down to the focus point for all the waves that would otherwise be created by the central event itself.

And what's interesting is that this effect extends far beyond the VT shootings, and is present in the reporting of things ranging from the various middle eastern crisii to Imus or Kramer's respective bigotry blowups.

In the Kramer incident we get this wonderful effect whereby, when he starts making jokes about lynching black members of his audience, the white majority audience hoots and laughs but then he says "nigger" and suddenly, BAM! The trained disassociation kicks in, as suddenly he is marked as outside and other.

Which is a wonderful way to deal with the problems of societal racism, you know, by always marking anyone who says the wrong trigger phrase - not the horrible concept that black folk should shut up and be thankful that they can be in the presence of white folk without getting lynched, oh no - as outside the racist society itself so that their actions can't be linked to any sort of wider propensities towards racism that is posessed by soceity itself.

This of course means that this whole disassociation dance that is so apparent in Cho's treatment by the news orgs, is yet another aspect of Political Correctness.

And of course it works in reverse too, because once you're able to just randomly declare members who, by any sane way of reckoning things, are actually part of the community and society they get disassociated from by the pundits and media, it becomes equally easy for those same pundits and media to associate people with groups and people who they are in no way connected with.

Of course the greatest trick involved in that is to of course create or adapt mythical groups that permeate the racist, sexist, heteronormative and cisgender dialogue, and attach things or behaviors or people to those groups - and then when you want to say attach behavior that you want ot present as abbarent among a favored community to some community of people who are targeted for hate - Imus is a classic example of this because not only did he try to excuse his actions by declaring that "the black community" said stuff like that all the time**, but the media coverage of that event played into that and linked his behavior, and hence himself considering that people are defined by their actions, into the "black community" (whatever taht is).

Which is why when a racist asshole tries to get a public appearance with an african american, and I'm talking largely to you jackson and sharpton, as though you were the frigging pope of the negros and able to absolve him of all sins - DON'T DO IT! No person from an Othered group can absolve a white person of being a racist, forgiveness can be given, but there's no real point to it other than to get you to shut up about it - but for the rest of us white folk, those connections to the black community are crucial becuase they absolve his listeners and the station and the entire rest of society from any responsbility for finding his bullshti to be perfectly acceptable until he tripped over the PC phraseology that requires this complex system of othering.

becuase what the media did was paint imus up in black face - which doesn't say "imus is racist" as hamsher and billmon thought blackfacing would do becuase htey're idiots who didn't bother to even try to research the nasty little concept they were using, but labels imus as black, I.E. Non-White and thus outside the confines of any greater need for the other white folk that made Imus to accept guilt or repsonsibility for making Imus pretty normative for public figures these days.


And this all again applies to the virginia shootings just as much - they declare Cho to be korean or a loner or a nut case, and then they say "We Are VT" and all that other trite bullshit that serves to assure people that they are affected by the shootings as much as those in VT are when they're not, nor could they be.

Imagine if instead of saying "we are VT" we talked about how "Those Around Us Are Cho" in the wake of this tragedy, and we faced up the pain and anguish and challenges this tragedy presents us now...
Could such a thing happen again in that sort of country? Probably, but would it happen as often, and would as many people die?

I doubt it somewhat. And mores to the point, not even trying, not even attempting it, demonising Cho and disassociating from both the tragedy and him, is plain Wrong, no matter how you look at it, no matter you religion or faith or personal ethics, marking him apart when pretty much anyone could have been that 33rd body on the VT campus if only things had been slightly different.

Jesus said*** that as we treat Cho, so do we treat Jesus himself, something a so called "christian nation" and those people who presume to act in His place seem to have forgotten.

Those of us with actual morals and who actually truly feel for the survivors, and weep for them and the dead equally, cannot, and are unable to forget that.

God is long dead to America, and has taken any Beauty this country might have with it, but these scum bags can't take the beauty from our hearts, not if we don't let them - Cho was Jesus, as indeed we all are, and while we still walk and refuse to falter or give up that sacred duty, God walks with us.

* Though of course, the way I'm reading his plays is with the violent swearing protagonists as the people around him who he bitches at in his suicide note, not as himself, and with the step dad from the mr McBeef play being a representation of himself - put upon, trapped and abused by those around him, which fits neatly with the usual Nice Guy messia complex, and even portrays a stereotypical undeserving "jerk" archetype as getting the affection of the single woman figure in that play, while the poor suffering guy is hated and killed by those stuck up assholes who seems so skilled at getting everyone to listen to them and not him.

But on the gripping hand, describing a guy who shot up a school as "a Nice Guy" probably breaks some sort of law about hyper-irony. Rain on your wedding day this is not, but still, a guy who goes around and acts put upon because the world isn't acknowledging his mediocre commitment to social norms of politeness and is basically fetishing how people around him break the alleged social standards of behavior that he holds himself to is far from the sane side of the crazy dichotomy.

** And while I've bitched at Chris Rock in the past for adding to the acceptability of that excuse because he misused the term "nigger" somewhat, it has to be remembered that it's not actually his fault white people are racist assholes who cling to that to justify their bigotry - no african american ever owned a white person, let alone was responsible for their actions and until I have reason to believe it's fair to think that's changed, anyone who tries to pretend that black people are responsible for white folks' actions is a really big fool. Really big.

*** I get really preachy here, don't worry, I've not gone christian again, but the language I'm using expresses what I feel as accurately as I can express otherwise - I think of jesus as a rather secular figure technically, and God as something a damn sight more complex and deep and spiritual than a mere guy with a beard who occasionally waffles about knitting sea monsters (or something) if you question him, so read this bit in that light or at face value if you are a christian.

3 comments:

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said...

i am Vtech. and Prince.

NIKKI!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ya know, if I have to hear one more over priveleged white brat whine about how they think VT did just great letting people know about the killer on campus because they want to be independent little would be Rambos and not babied, I'm gonna scream. Maybe if you checked your Blackberry on the way to class, Buffy and Biff, but people like me who clean up your mess and paint your rooms don't usually get issued blackberries as we unwittingly wander into crime scenes. And I'm not interested in what you learned in criminology class about the statistics of how unlikely a multiple murderer is to shoot someone who's weeding the school's flowerbed if she gets in his way, mmm kay? Let's have the campus police knock off videotaping campus marches long enough to help give everybody (yeah, everybody, not just you) a head's up.

Totally OT, of course.

Cassandra Says said...

Brilliant post. And yes, it is indeed far, far easier to just other the perpetrators of crimes like this rather than take a good hard look at the social dynamics that allow such things to happen so easily in the first place.