Saturday, July 21, 2012

My thoughts on yesterday

It’s obviously impossible to write anything humorous today in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shootings yesterday. My heart goes out to all the friends and families of the victims. When I was in Denver earlier this year I met a young man who was a student of Columbine and there that fateful day. He recounted the whole ghastly tale. It’s one thing to watch the news coverage and its snippets of people who were on the scene, and it’s another to hear a first-person detailed account of just what it was like to actually be in that massacre.

We talked about the aftermath. He lost several close friends. It’s taken him years to move on. Not that he still isn't haunted by the tragedy, but he’s able to channel his energies and cope. Many of his friends were not so lucky. You just hear about the number of dead or wounded. But the collateral damage to those also present is enormous and permanent.

For the rest of us, now comes the period of grief and trying to make sense of it. The theories will be voiced. Violence of the movies will be blamed. The easy accessibility of firearms (a gun store is even one of the radio sponsors of the Colorado Rockies). Video games will be accused. I’m sure Rush Limbaugh will pin this on Obama. But the truth of course is that there is no way to make sense of it. There never is.

But then there’s this.

On Friday morning, even after the shooting, Warner Brothers was pairing THE DARK KNIGHT RISES with a trailer for a movie called GANGSTER SQUAD. In the trailer there’s a scene of someone in a movie theater shooting people with a machine gun. What the fuck? Why wasn’t that pulled IMMEDIATELY? Deadline Hollywood’s Nikki Finke called Warner Brothers to complain; was told “there would be a meeting about it”, and only then was it pulled. A meeting?  They needed a meeting?  They needed a consensus?   If Ms. Finke didn’t call would that trailer have been shown all day? Did Warner Brothers NEED to be called out before yanking this trailer? I’m just mystified.

Then you go to the CNN website and as part of their coverage they present a timeline for the worst U.S. mass shootings.   Are we comparing them now?   Meanwhile, on GOOD MORNING AMERICA yesterday the shooter was erroneously linked to the Tea Party.  Again, what the fuck?!

At a certain point I stopped watching the coverage.  There may be new details that I'm not aware of at this moment.  But I don't care.  Because it seems the more I learn the angrier I get.  So I'll just process it myself this weekend.  And send out prayers and my best wishes to all concerned... which means all of us.


The Milner Coupe said...

Well said Ken. I'm with you about the media coverage. Makes me sick. Unfortunately, things like this happen from time to time. We're a kazillion people on a small marble. Some people are just nuts and there's no really getting to the 'bottom' of it. With current technology, we don't miss a thing that happens anywhere and it hopefully is just a perception that society is going to shit.

I hope that we don't make a celebrity out of the coward shooter. That's probably too much to ask, but I hope the emphasis of our attention is on the poor souls who were lost and not the hundreds of talking head experts who will undoubtedly invade our screens in the days to come.

dgwphotography said...

"At a certain point I stopped watching the coverage. There may be new details that I'm not aware of at this moment. But I don't care. Because it seems the more I learn the angrier I get. So I'll just process it myself this weekend. And send out prayers and my best wishes to all concerned... which means all of us."

This sums up my feelings exactly.

Matt D said...

As a Briton, it is very difficult not to look at this tragedy and think "America. What the fuck is it about guns over there?" It's hard not to make it about gun control because the human reaction is to immediately think about how to stop it happening. Maybe that's meaningless.

By the way, Ken, I believe Fink had updated that story to say that decision HAD already been made to pull it. But Finke will have to do without my unique visitor hits for a while. She threw up a poll asking how readers thought The Dark Knight Rises would track following the tragedy, and her reporting on the whole affair has been very distasteful. Once again, we deserve a better media at large.

teedy said...

I respect Ken too much to accept that he just defended Nikki Finke.

Becca said...

The Onion posted a brilliant satirical article about this very phenomenon yesterday. They once again prove themselves the masters of satire by using an appropriately grim tone and satirizing reactions to the tragedy (which as Ken noted, are all too predictable) rather than the tragedy itself.,28857/

Unbelievably, one of the 12 people killed was a young woman who only a month ago barely escaped the food court massacre in a Toronto mall. She even blogged about it. It was her final entry.

Becca said...

Hmm. Didn't realize the links wouldn't work. I guess you'll have to copy and paste them into your browser if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Ken. I know you are not looking for compliments, but I wanted to let you know I think this is something that needed to be said and you said it well. Julie

Rick said...

Just before this happened I was thinking that the reason Hollywood keeps pumping out these comic book movies with fantasy violence is because they are safe subject matter, as opposed to topical movies about people losing their jobs and homes and the destructively self-centered, short-sighted greed of some in Corporate America which were standard movie themes in the similar economic times of the'30s and '70s. Well, now that the violence of reality and the fantasy violence of present-day Hollywood have collided head-on, let's see how the studios deal with it.

404 said...

I got tired of watching really quick. I don't need to know every little detail. I don't need to see closeups of people in agony and heartbreak to know something horrible has occurred, and yet every news outlet scrambles for that one picture of someone crying, screaming, etc, while trying to come up with some "exclusive" scoop for their own ratings. They try to get the most heart-wrenching quote from a victim, not to tell us anything new, but to drive their own viewership up. It cheapens the tragedy to no end and turns it into a circus.

I like to be informed but I have a hard time watching the news these days, as giving us any actual information is way down on their list of priorities, it seems.

John Leader Alfenito said...

Ken - Elayne Boosler wrote a piece for the Huffington Post back in 2007 that is worth a look, again, today.

Mike Barer said...

I'll sum it up, today, we are all Coloradans!

Matt said...

I watched for two minutes yesterday.

The scene I saw was a man describing how his daughter was shot. The perky young news reporter than asks "Is she dead?" At which point the man said yes and totally lost it. It was a disgusting scene.

Mike Barer said...

I agree!

Anonymous said...

What's more unfathomable- a lib taking Nikki Finke's side, or her being on the right side of an issue (for once)?

willieb said...

The absolute worst was when Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert wondered why no one in the theater had a gun -- because after all, Colorado allows people to carry concealed weapons -- and why they didn't take the shooter out. I'll tell you why, Louie:
1) only nuts carry guns
2) this isn't a western or Clint Eastwood movie. This is real life.

404 said...

1) I have quite a few friends who carry. While I personally don't, never would, and think it's not a good idea at all, I wouldn't call them nuts. To do so inflames and polarizes, but adds nothing real to the discussion at all except bias and hyperbole.

2) You're spot on with that.

cadavra said...

I'd also point out that even a trained marksman can't aim accurately in a darkened room, much less one filled with tear gas and panicked people. More guns would have simply caused more deaths.

BTW, how come nobody's thought of arresting the dealers who sold him the guns as accessories before the fact? Tossing a few of their asses in jail might make the rest think twice about selling weapons to just anyone without a little due diligence first.

Richard Y said...

Very well said Ken.

GRayR said...

Thanks again Ken, you express what a lot of us are feeling.

For me, three things really stick out in this terrible mess:

Why on earth do we let people have ammo clips that hold so many rounds? From what I have learned he had a Glock with a 17 or 19 round clip(s). As well as a semi-automatic rifle that had a 100 round clip. I grew up with guns, and still have a couple locked in my gun safe. No hunter needs a pistol with 19 rounds (just pull the trigger 19 times), and a rifle with 100 rounds? These high capacity ammo clips need to be taken off the market. I would like to see a law that limits the number of bullets to 6.
Please, I do not want to start a flame war over gun rights.

The second thing is that this poor demented psychopath seems to have seen his own failings coming. I downloaded a class schedule from U of Colorado Med school that the killer had taken. He was a brilliant student studying the mind. His last class was "NRSC 7614, Biological Basis of Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders". It ended in May and he dropped out in June.

And lastly and it is gruesome, what made him stop? He still had many rounds of ammo, was protected head to foot in "tactical armor" and the police had not arrived yet. Yet he just stopped and calmly walked out and was arrested with no problem. And he alerted the police to the bombs in his house, why? He could have killed a hundred more, but he stopped.

I hope that they study his mind, and learn about what makes a person lose all empathy.

Lastly I ask all of us, why do we watch so much violence? Why is showing a nipple cause for NC-17, and showing 17 violent, bloody killings OK.

Sorry if this was too much, I needed to talk about this.

My heart goes out to all the people hurt by this.


RAE said...

I really appreciated your thoughts Ken - especially your last sentence. There really are not adequate words enough to express the heartache and mind-ache so many are going through trying to grasp how someone could DO such a thing! As we grapple with our thoughts and feelings I would offer this possibility - do something nice for someone you know or DON'T know today - we need to remind ourselves there IS still good out there!!! We just have experienced another act of random violence maybe today we can all share random acts of kindness.


Ane said...

Tomorrow is the one year anniversairy for the Utøyamassacre near Oslo here in Norway. That guy got hold of all the weapons he needed to singlehandledy murder more than 70 people. And our weapon laws are a lot stricter than in the States. If a bastard wants to do a crazy thing like that, he'll find a way. Not saying something doesn't have to be done, it has to, definitely , but laws won't solve everything.

gottacook said...

"Lastly I ask all of us, why do we watch so much violence?" wrote a commenter above. Well, I don't - The only movie with violence I watched in the last year was RED with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman et al., and it was fine in context, rather cartoonish and over-the-top. I also can enjoy movies such as The Terminator when it's a robot doing the killing, or Total Recall in which the entire movie after the protagonist visits Rekal Inc. could be the memories implanted in his head by their technicians.

I agree with the idea of controlling ammunition. If one had to prepare gunpowder and a musket ball each time a gun was fired, as was true when the 2nd Amendment was written and passed, the American tradition wouldn't be so at odds with the rest of the world.

As for the 24-hour cable channels and what they've produced concerning this event: I saw some coverage yesterday morning in a hotel breakfast room. We don't have cable at home, and perhaps if other people decide similarly, the grotesquerie of this sort of TV will gradually disappear.

Phillip B said...

Insistence that all political thought is clearly divided into two camps has us paralyzed. We can now respond only in tired slogans and the thoughts and prayers of leaders thousands of miles away.

Accepting that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” brings the obligation to do something about those people --- long before they arrive at the theater, armed with thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Our mental health system has been effectively dismantled, pushing people out into the streets and into emergency rooms, limiting the abilities of those dealing with these troubled people. Schools, the military, employers and even parents now find it difficult to act on behalf of those who cannot help themselves.

And then we make guns plentiful and available.So we are certain to be “shocked and saddened” again.

(And thanks to Ken and the commenters for keeping the name of this tiny monster off this page. Suspect there will be a rock band using it in the next few days...)

Liggie said...

This can happen anywhere. (Albeit more likely where guns are easier to get.) that's all.

YEKIMI said...

I bet you somewhere right now in Hollywood, a studio is quietly optioning rights to this "story" and is lining up writers to tell the tale and looking for ways to sign survivors to an exclusive contract.

Sue said...

Thank you Ken. Well said however I do think that this should bring up the discussion of gun control. As a commenter and gun owner said elsewhere "you do not hunt Bambi or Thumper with an assault weapon or glock, you hunt people". Maybe growing up in the time of Martin Luther King and John and Robert Kennedy, and being pretty young at the time makes it harder to fathom the need for guns. I understand that it is people who shoot people and not guns that shoot people but come on why does any normal citizen need the kind of weapons the shooter could readily buy?

Mike said...

I like the take the panel cartoon TOM THE DANCING BUG had on this tragedy:

Beth Ciotta said...

Well said, Ken. Heartbroken for the victims and their families and friends. Disgusted by the majority of media coverage. I've only read. Refuse to watch the videos.

Michael Hagerty said...

For the first time in 41 years, I'm working in a field other than broadcasting and don't have to immerse myself in the coverage (I was actually on the scene as a reporter for the Stockton schoolyard shooting in 1989 and the Killeen, Texas Luby's massacre in 1991).

This time, I'm following the Associated Press on Twitter. Period. No TV coverage, no radio apart from the headlines on NPR. I know the facts and don't have to filter the BS.

Rob in Toronto said...

Ken, in all fairness you need to acknowledge that Nikki Finke has since recanted her claim that Warner Brothers was only made aware of the trailer issue when she called them. Usually when Ms Finke finds out she has published incorrect information she goes back and deletes the evidence, but in this case she has taken the high road.

Anonymous said...

I turned off the coverage around the time CNN trotted out its CGI recreation. Apalling.

dizzheart said...

As I was out running errands in the Marina area yesterday, I saw electronic billboards for Dark Knight Rises. There was no acknowledgement of the shooting tragedy. What would it have taken for somebody to tell the billboard company to put up some sort of condolence note? I suspect a word from Warner Bros would have done it. But it wasn't done. Appalling lack of compassion on their parts. Never mind hearts, are there no brains over there at all?

Mike Schryver said...

I long ago stopped watching TV coverage of these sorts of things, but... a CGI recreation?!?!?!?

I suppose the video game version will be next.

Anonymous said...

dizzheart said...
"As I was out running errands in the Marina area yesterday, I saw electronic billboards for Dark Knight Rises. There was no acknowledgement of the shooting tragedy. What would it have taken for somebody to tell the billboard company to put up some sort of condolence note? I suspect a word from Warner Bros would have done it. But it wasn't done. Appalling lack of compassion on their parts. Never mind hearts, are there no brains over there at all?"

I know, right? They should have put pictures of the victims on all their billboards, with Batman behind them, looking down on them, shedding a bat tear.

But no. And why? Because Warner Bros doesn't have the class.

Jeffrey Mark said...

I ask the same socially relevant question as Gary..."Why do we continue to watch SO MUCH VIOLENCE?" What is it, what is it - why, why? By now, in 2012, haven't we seen as much heavy violence shoot ups, crash-ups, people and towns and worlds BLOWN-UP ALREADY? It's been going on KNUCKLE-DRAGGING, HEAVY-HANDED since, what? The late 1970s...early '80s, all this overblown and incessant "REALISM" violence in movies, non-stop year in, year out. WHY? By now, as I just said, we've seen it all...God, haven't we BY NOW? But just keeps coming out, month after bloody month, year after year. Is it any wonder we're all in the violence shit house now?

What is it in the human condition - the human psyche that keeps drawing people into this kind of mindless - yes, of course, mindless, useless entertainment? And it's not just in movies or television...I just cringe seeing all of the maddening violence in stupid computer/video games. God, it's all just useless nonsense...a way for people to ZONE OUT. But, why? Why do we need to keep ZONING OUT on all this FANTASY VIOLENCE? Why do boys still need to feel like BIG BAD MEN this way? Why do men still need to feel like BIG BAD MEN this way?'s just plain nuts, man! We don't speak intelligently with one another anymore...God forbid we watch any kind of intelligent dialogue in a movie or TV show, or just watch people relating to one another...stories about people trying to overcome big obstacles in life. What the fuck have we become? As Howard Beale proclaimed in the beyond brilliant 1976 film NETWORK - "This is MADNESS...MASS MADNESS, YOU MANIACS!" He was spot- on CORRECT. He was merely telling the truth...then (1976) and certainly now (2012). He wasn't just kidding. Lot of truth in that. Lotta.

Paul Weller of the brilliant UK group The Jam wrote a song back in 1980 called "Going Underground," with the line: "The public gets what the public WANTS."
Why does the US PUBLIC (and, I think, obviously more boys and men than girls and women) WANT continued, non-stop violence in their entertainment? 'Cause they HATE their boring jobs day in, day out...hate their boring wives? Hate going to boring weekly meetings and monthly business conferences - hate eating "conference chicken" for dinner all of the time," 'Cause all of their work colleagues watch violent movies, or their next door neighbor does?

Many will simply say: "Because it's fun."'s fun...violence is fun. Some fun. Ok...The public gets what the public wants. And as my mate, Paul Weller once wrote..."That's Entertainment."

John Pearley Huffman said...

The entire media needs to learn from Vin Scully: Sometimes the best commentary is to shut up and listen.

Powerhouse Salter said...

I can't help imagining it will turn out that his plan at some point had been to attend the recent San Diego Comic-Con in his full body armor so he could slaughter scores of the costumed fans (and Hollywood figures) packed together for the annual preview of franchise action movies and video games.

Anonymous said...

What's your opinion on the reason you were watching the coverage in the first place? Voyeurism? Something else? You criticize the very news coverage you were lapping up?

It's too easy to be sanctimonious at times like this.

Not sure why you feel the need to be the voice of reason or taste.

Lenny Kevin

Johnny Walker said...

Here in the UK we obviously have much stricter gun control laws, but we're still not immune to these types of attacks. Just two years ago a man, with a legally owned weapon, randomly killed 12 people in a small country village.

I know it's a very British attitude to have, and I know there are more guns per capita in Canada, but if you're going to let your citizens have access to lethal weaponry, you're going to have them fall into the hands of the mentally unwell. It's completely inevitable that this kind of thing will keep happening.

From the BBC news, regarding the Denver shootings:
"In the 60 days leading up to the cinema attack, [gunman] Mr Holmes legally bought four weapons at local gun shops - an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, two .40-calibre Glock handguns, and a 12-gauge Remington shotgun."

"Chief Dan Oates of Aurora police said he also purchased more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the internet, including 3,000 rounds for the assault rifle, 3,000 for the Glocks and 300 for the shotgun."

If someone told me they'd bought all of the above, I'd be seriously concerned for their mental well-being. Why would a member of the public need so much weaponry?

I just wish we could put an end to these types of events :(

Johnny Walker said...

Reading the many angry comments regarding the news coverage, may I recommend the BBC news?

They're about as impartial and responsible news source as I've been able to find:

(Note: I've heard people mistakenly claim that the BBC is run by the UK government. Not sure how this misunderstanding arose, but it's completely untrue. They're as independent as any company.)

Matt said...


May I recommend that all media watch this from a few years ago.

It's by Charlie Brooker who wrote the zombie show Dead Set but is a serious look at what the media should and shouldn't do in regards to incidents like this.

And yet, even though the points are well made you know that news outlets will not stop the coverage.

Roger Owen Green said...

Becca - just FYI. In order to get a link to work in a Blogger comment, you have to use
< and a and [a space] and href and =" and the URL and " and > and the text, and finally < and /a and >

So your link: Jessica Redfield

Johnny Walker said...

That's a great link, Matt. Here it is so that everyone can click on it:

Fair warning: It's a short look at how the news glorifies these sorts of events for its own ends, often leading to copycat repeats.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, that's why I won't attend a Comic Con. Too large a conglomeration of nerds concentrated in the same place.

When the character profile of this latest freak comes out, you'll find an introverted, toe-cheese-eating nerd who played too many video games, watched too much porn, posted too much on reedit, until his private, fragile little creep world simply... imploded.

Just watch. When he finally gets interviewed, he'll have that sing-song kind of nerd affectation in his speech pattern that turns every other sentence into a question, and that eyes-too-wide-open stare that makes you feel like he's not really listening to you, because you don't matter that much.

Think Mark Zuckerberg. He has all the classic ubernerd traits. All the hard-core nerds have the same weird social affectations, and they all act like him. It's like a nerd hive mind. When a nerd breaks from the hive, and tries to think for himself, it's often not pretty, and dark perverse behavior is to be expected.

I've never seen a world where the nerds have so much of a collective sense of power as they do now, and I don't like what's happening in our culture as a consequence.

Separated or as a collective, it's a big mistake to take these nerds for granted as "normal," or expect "normal" behavior. They don't think of themselves that way, and can easily hide their feeling of entitlement behind their typical nerdshow of social retardation.

Remember the first big nerd get-together was over half a century ago, at Los Alamos.

How'd you like them apples?

JT Anthony said...

Awful and beyond reprehensible what happened in CO.

It seems these events will happen regardless of gun laws, though, when these sickos find weaponry by whatever means possible. This is their warped expression of revenge; acting out inner demons in an attempt to be acknowledged or heard in the world. Makes no difference to them that it's cowardly bloodshed on innocent people.

I understand the argument is not to make guns so readily available, but these people will find a way to kill and maim regardless of gun restrictions.

One lesson for all of us is to be aware of and look out for each other. Less vitriol, ortricization or bullying allowed--especially early in one's life--and being more tolerant of personality and cultural differences may help diffuse the next disenfranchised loner wanting to exact malice upon the world.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think you'll find there's a lot less incidents like this in countries with strong gun control policies.

Lou H. said...

One would think that news outlets would quit with the puns, just this once, but everywhere I see "Dark Night in Aurora" and similar headlines.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Mark - some of us may have outgrown violence as entertainment, while others may always enjoy it. Not to mention all the young people for whom it is new and exciting. That's whom movies are made for these days -- teens and young adults, not us old farts.

As to why the media use violence so much, it's brain chemistry. Both sex and violence cause our brains to react strongly. It's the media's way of shouting HEY YOU! at us, and our lizard brains pay attention. It's quite a cheap trick, actually, that anyone can use. Though some do use it in a much more sophisticated way (like Dark Night).

Johnny Walker said...

Jesus Christ: Colorado gun sales up after cinema killings

Some fun stats: In the majority of cases guns used by the public for "protection" end up being used on a family member (presumably by accident) or taken by criminals and used against the owner.

Also, you're 12 times more likely to commit suicide if you're raised in a household with a gun in it.

(These are stats released by the Bush administration -- and they weren't exactly pro gun control.)

Simply put: According to the statistics, owning a gun is far more likely to put your own life, and the life of your family in danger.

Marv G said...

"I’m sure Rush Limbaugh will pin this on Obama."

Actually, (and as more likely will happen), Sorkin will pin this one on Rush in season two, episode three of The Newsroom.