The significance of Aurora shootings? Maybe not much.

Another non-Muslim demonstrates how easy it is to inflict mayhem on American civilians.  If we were teeming with home-grown (or immigrant) radicalised Islamists, as U.S. Representative Peter King and his orbiting neocon activists maintain, we should be seeing such attacks on a regular basis.   Yet we’ve been saddled with an entire federal agency dedicated to protecting us against a threat that is even rarer than these occasional outbreaks of purely domestic insanity.  Of course, the punditry class is going to go into overdrive interpreting the Aurora shootings as a symptom of their favorite cause.  Until we see more of a trend in such sporadic shootings, however, I would chaulk the tragic loss of life up to random and meaningless awfulness that is very difficult to prevent.    

I also don’t quite understand why we consider colocated deaths  more noteworthy than serial deaths.  About 80 people a day died in traffic collisions in 2010, yet no one bothers much about such predicatable loss of life.  Do people assume a homicide risk more when they get on the road than when they go to a movie theater?  Perhaps.  But the death is the same.   There were 13,636 homicide victims in 2009, or nearly 40 a day, half of them black, half white or Hispanic.  Many of those victims were as guilty as their killers, but by no means all.  Admittedly, the Aurora shootings comprise a large fraction of that daily average, but again, most of those background killings will go unattended to by the media. 


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3 Responses to The significance of Aurora shootings? Maybe not much.

  1. Kainin says:

    I also don’t quite understand why we consider colocated deaths more noteworthy than serial deaths.
    I’d speculate that it has to do with two factors: 1) Such deaths are, in general, relatively unexpected and avoidable. No one exclaims, “Joe died in a car accident? How is that possible?! Its unimaginable!” But replace ‘in a car accident’ with ‘by a crazed shooter’ or ‘within the space needle collapse’ and its not an outlandish expectation of what people would say. Also, in these kinds of particular situations, there is a sense that it didn’t need to happen. Car accidents are accepted as involving danger and possible loss of life (of course, everyone thinks it won’t happen to them). But going to a movie or working in the World Trade Towers is not seen as being a risky thing to do. Thus when 10+ people die involved in such an activity, it comes a shock. Our moral intuitions are triggered that this was someone’s fault and thus the response of anger.
    2)I think there is also a sense of fear in that colocated deaths tend to involved innocent people, which is easily identified with. If it had been an underground convention of pedophiles, the flag would not have been at half mast at the White House. But since it involved a 6-year old girl, for example, we can easily provide the victims with the stamp of ‘just like me,’i.e. an innocent bystander just wanting to take in a movie. Thus a fear that one of those victims could have been me! The more general the backgrounds of the victims, the more we can see ourselves as those vicitims meaning we find such deaths far more noteworthy than the many murdered everyday because we assume they ‘had it coming’.
    So I’m inclined to think your question is best answered by an appeal to the context of the incident, self-preservation and select psychological baises.

  2. When Americans drive their cars or go to the movie theatre, they do not expect to have their lives taken by violence. When surprise and violent attacks happen, they cause traumatic responses. It removes the feeling of safety.
    In fact, it is more traumatizing to experience such violence in a movie theatre than in a car, as it is likely that Americans might give a thought to the dangers of driving, but do not at all expect loosing life in a movie theatre. A civilized society does not act or expect such things to happen in day to day situations.

  3. RandyB says:

    Doing some back-of-the-envelope math: Report this morning is that Dark Knight grossed $160 over the weekend, so figure 16 million people saw it and one in 1.33 million was killed.

    In Chicago the first six months of the year, there were 250 homicides, which works out to one per 0.67 million people every three days. So Chicago this year has been twice as dangerous as Dark Knight screenings this weekend.

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