No. make that five minutes. And two drinks.
The whole thing makes me realize once again that the more we lose our capability of speaking in moral terms the more we cut ourselves off from understanding why people do what they do. That and the sillier we sound when talking about evil.
The Santa Barbara killings were particularly interesting to me because I went to UCSB and lived for two years on the corner of the road (Embarcadero del Norte) on which the chase took place that ended in the death of the shooter (and knifer, and dangerous car driver). That was the location of my college fraternity house. From the reports, it sounds like Elliot Roger passed by my old frat house several times on his grisly spree.
Now every time something like this happens, we are subjected to cable news anchors who look at us solemnly and ask, "What went wrong?" and "How we can prevent these things from happening again?" Then, about six months later, something else goes wrong (as evidenced by another, similar crime) and the thing happens again. World without end, Amen.
Of course there is the obvious nonsense that gets trotted out every time a gun crime is committed. If you thought the Stupid Gun Arguments went away when Piers Morgan left, ... well, now you know what a silly thought that was.
Three people were shot with guns. Therefore, ban guns. But three people were killed with (what I last heard were) "sharp objects." Can we use the same argument? Three people were killed with sharp objects. Therefore, ban sharp objects?
In fact, he tried to kill people with his black BMW. Do we ban beamers now too? Or maybe just black ones?
This is the state of our moral discourse; we seriously entertain the idea that objects make us perform bad actions. Get rid of the objects, and we prevent the bad actions. Of course, people were killing each other at equivalent rates and with equal regularity 1,000 years ago when there were no guns.
And it only gets worse from there.
The first assumption behind these discussions seems to be that such events are extraordinary. That's why we cancel all the other programming and are treated to several days of discussion and analysis. It's big news precisely because it is not common. This is sometimes stated outright.
The second assumption is precisely the opposite: that such events are increasingly common. In fact, we are given to understand, the killing is extraordinary precisely because it isn't. So on Saturday night the host (I don't watch CNN enough to know her name) gave several mini-lectures about how these kind of killings are so common now.
Actually the only extraordinary thing about the whole thing is how badly CNN can confuse its audience and the only common thing is CNN's increasingly common practice of obsessing over it.
Many of these assumptions are surely the result (at least in part) of the needs of a news organization to attract viewers. But the third assumption goes beyond that. The third assumption is that we are modern people now and that we should be past all this. These kinds of things are something that barbarians of other times do. But not us.
That's why killings like this are supposed to surprise and shock us. That's why news network anchors get panels of experts on to to explain it all.
This is related to the idea of people like Stephen Pinker who recently wrote a book about how much more moral we all are now that we are not moral anymore. I've addressed that nonsense elsewhere.
In the CNN discussion, the psychologist in the group complained that there weren't enough psychologists involved with the killer. In fact, psychology plays a heavy role in any such discussion. Everything is now explainable by science and psychology at least looks like science (it is a lean and hungry look, for sure, since its practitioners, who are not really scientists, really want to be).
Never mind that there were plenty of psychologists who had had contact with him. In fact, as the discussion went on (and on, and on) you could have kept yourself pretty busy just keeping a tally of all the psychological professionals who had contact with him.
But the real problem here is that there are people (psychologists among them, but news anchors too) who think that if psychology had been practiced well enough and in the proper volume, this would never have happened.
And the underlying, universal assumption is that these killings were preventable--and preventable through science. Somehow (we're never told precisely how) if we just took everyone's guns away and and had enough psychologists these things wouldn't happen anymore.
It sounds fine as an assumption tucked away in the dark recesses of the questions we ask panels of experts, but it sounds pretty stupid when you state it in plain words, doesn't it?
Here is the solution to the problem of violence. Here is the answer to the question "How can we prevent this problem in the future?". Form a police state. Give up all of our privacy rights and let the government monitor us 24/7. Then we will know about these things before they happen and we can prevent them.
Or can we?
In Elliot Roger we have a test case: He saw multiple psychologists; he had multiple contacts with police; HE POSTED A VIDEO ON YOU TUBE WHICH STRONGLY HINTED AT WHAT HE WAS GOING TO DO.
He did everything but issue a press release that he was going to stab three people in his apartment, shoot multiple other people, killing four, and run down a few people with his black BMW on Embarcadero del Norte in Isla Vista, California on the evening of May 23 spectators are welcome and for further information please contact Elliot Roger.
The real questions concern CNN's coverage of the killings in Santa Barbara: What went wrong and how can we prevent it from happening again?