Match Frame

Thoughts from an American editor and filmmaker in New Zealand about film and video production and post-production. Plus whatever else I feel like talking about.

Location: Balmoral, Auckland, New Zealand

A work in progress.

Monday, January 10, 2011

some quick notes on a culture of violence

In the face of the horrific shooting in Tucson, a consensus seems to quickly emerge that the violent rhetoric of the right-wing should be blamed, excoriated, and eliminated. Keith Olbermann's impassioned monologue is as good of an exemplar as anything.

Before I go any farther, some things I should make clear:

- what happened was, as I stated, horrific, and my heart goes out to everybody involved.
- in general, I think the Tea Party are to be abhorred and shunned, and have thought that well before this shooting.
- violent rhetoric has no place in politics.

What is gradually becoming obvious, however, are the parallels to other shootings. I'm not talking about political assassinations here, but rather, school shootings. Such as the Virginia Tech massacre, where the film OLDBOY was linked to the killer. Or Columbine, where the killer's interests in music and video games were chronicled at great length in the days after, as were the spurious parallels to THE BASKETBALL DIARIES. Or the myriad cases connected to NATURAL BORN KILLERS.

Here's the thing. If you think violent imagery in one part of popular culture can cause violence, you have to think that elsewhere as well. And this is what I'm struggling with - how can I freely consume violent media on the one hand and fight strenuously for my belief that such work is important and can and should be freely available to consenting adults, while using this event to condemn the violent rhetoric of the Tea Party?

Maybe there's a way, but I can't do it. Putting crosshairs on a map was wrong when they did it, it's wrong now, but any causal relationship is as much of a stretch as blaming OLDBOY for the dead at Virgina Tech. From early reports, the Giffords shooting was not the act of an organized right-wing militia, but the act of someone who was seriously mentally disturbed, to the point where he wasn't allowed to return to his college because of mental health concerns.

And if there's a massive outcry that goes on now, it should be over this:
a. how is it so easy for people who are mentally ill to get firearms?
b. how can we reach out to the mentally ill to prevent these types of tragedies before it's too late?

Because, regardless of whether or not the extreme right-wing turns down their rhetoric -

- and I believe that as responsible human beings, they should, and should have well before this, because the difference between politics and creative works is that, by and large, politics involves real-life human beings and creative works do not -

but regardless, there will be another shooting. And maybe next time, the person who does it is inspired by, say, KICK-ASS, or I SAW THE DEVIL. Or the music of Grinderman. Or The Communist Manifesto (which some commenters have claimed is an influence on the Giffords shooter). Or whatever else. And make no doubt about it - the Tea Party will seize upon this with all the righteous fury their rhetoric is notorious for, and amplify it into a noisy inferno of a witch-hunt. An inferno to which all those who are using this assassination attempt as a kudgel against the Tea Party are currently supplying the kindling for.

And meanwhile, the next shooter is out there, and the one after that, and mental illness goes ignored as a topic of serious discussion. And until we make the discussion about that, instead of our favorite cultural punching bag, we are complicit, ever so slightly, but still.


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