Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"Channeling Your Energy"

A terrible tragedy like the mass murdering in Orlando feels like a monumental punch in the stomach. 

I take this act of savagery personally.

Somebody from my species fucked up.

LION:  “We kill, but only for food.   You guys are animals!

We cry for the senselessness of lives cut tragically short and the agony of the grieving loved ones left behind.  And then, of course we do nothing because with issues of massive gun violence, that is inevitably what we do.

Count on excited chatter from both sides of the political spectrum:

Talk of limiting access of guns to the mentally impaired.

Talk of the inviolable protection of gun owner’s rights.

Talk of how the lack of background checks allows terrorists access to dangerous weapons.

Talk of keeping foreigners out of the country because they want to destroy our
Way of Life.

Everyone weighs in.  And cable news gets a bump in their ratings.

I am saddened and fatigued by these regular tragedies, my energy enough for only one point, perhaps not the most important point, but one jumping sharply to my attention.

An expert came on CNN after the tragedy – I do not remember who he was; I had no plans to write this, making me less attentive than capable journalism requires.  The expert was there because when bad things happen experts are always invited on television to tell us how to think about them because they are experts and they know.

Except that this guy, to me, said something highly – and dangerously – inaccurate. 

At the end of his “expert segment”, he asserted that the shooter was unequivocally not mentally ill because no mentally ill person would be able to plan such and atrocity.

That pronouncement felt instinctively questionable to me.  I seem to remember mentally ill people planning entire wars.  But what the heck do I know? 

I immediately consult Dr. M, an experienced psychologist, who immediately supports my response to the expert’s unequivocal assertion.  (And believe me, she would definitely tell me if I was wrong.)

Dr. M explained that there are mentally impaired people who, due to the nature of their impairment, can’t plan, and there are mentally impaired people, due to the different nature of their impairment, who can.  Personal history also plays a role in their capabilities and behavior.

Since at that early stage of the investigation, that expert knew nothing of the personal history of the mass murderer, to assert that he was certainly not mentally ill, was, to me again, startlingly irresponsible.  (As was his alternative implication: that Orlando was a premeditated terrorist attack.)

All right.  So an expert engages in overstatement.  It happens.  Experts can be tunnel-visionedly arrogant.  And maybe CNN doesn’t invite them on if they are deliberative and nuanced, and their kids miss seeing their Daddy on television.

Far worse, to me, however, than reckless generalization, was that the cable news interviewer, apparently bowing to the man’s expertise, or maybe needing desperately to go to commercial, did not say,

“You can’t know anything about this man because nobody does yet.  Are you sure that your assertion that he was not mentally impaired is correct?”

Or – in one word –


Viewers across the country listened to that expert on television, and they believed him, his opinions simultaneously validated on two levels – he was an expert and he was on television.  You cannot get more validated than that.

I wish the interviewer had questioned his assertion.  But they didn’t.  So that is all we had to that point on the record.

An unchallenged inaccuracy.

This, of course, speaks not at all to the “Big Question”:

What kind of man shoots a hundred-and-three innocent people?  Imagine if, instead of spending his whole time concocting a massacre…

He practiced juggling instead.  (Please excuse the abrupt change of direction.  There is only so much horribleness I can handle.)

Watch this.

It will not change what happened, or solve the problems of the world.

It just shows how another member of my species decided to occupy his time.



Lord Lillis said...

Ah, you’ve made an honest mistake common to people of your generation: that “news channels” are interested in news. There was a time when “the news” was actually about news. Paley and Sarnow were as ruthless businessmen as they come but they considered, mostly, that the news departments demonstrated the quality and seriousness of the network to potential views and advertisers so, within reason, their job was to focus on news. That time is gone. Ironically, all those channels with “news” in the title aren’t at all interested in news – they are interested in selling Cialis and luxury compact cars. These aren’t the successors of Murrow or Cronkite – more like Billy Mays and Vince Offer (they don’t have the integrity of a Barnum).

I wish I could tell you where to find “news” news. If you figure it out would put it in your blog? Then I could say “I get all my news through Earl Pomerantz”.

Josiah said...

That's a some yuggler, boss! Entertaining.

Tho I cut the cable many years ago, I'd be willing to bet I saw the same schlock on an internet rant, denying that the event was a tragedy because we knew such a thing would happen, just as we know now that it will happen again, therefore, it can't be a tragedy. I immediately concluded he was a moron who probably should've double checked his lunacy by at least checking the definition of the word. I turned it off so I don't know if he got around to a statement about the mentally ill.