Saturday 15 December 2012

Trolling the Connecticut Shootings

Tragic events like yesterday's school shooting bring out the best in people. Teachers and pupils have been praised for timely actions that saved many dozens of lives from Adam Lanza's rampage. But, unfortunately, tragedy can also bring out a sense of brazen self-righteousness by those who believe they have a stake in the fall out. I wrote yesterday how the smoke that normally clouds America's gun control debates gets thicker in the immediate aftermath of yet another entirely preventable mass shooting. And sadly, so it has proven.

Scant hours after news of the shooting broke, Bryan Fischer, a talk radio host on the Christian American Family Association was quick to score some theology points with his bible-thumping listeners. He suggested secularism was to blame. You see, if there were classroom prayers God would have intervened to prevent the shootings. Apparently, there were no school shootings when Fischer was a boy because they honoured God with their daily prayer. Okay then. Absolutely nothing to do with the seismic shift toward a more individuated, atomised and violent culture at all.

Of course, with heavenly protection on your side Fischer concludes nothing has to be done about weapon proliferation, and so the Second Amendment should remain. Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, Republican presidential hopeful and Fox News contributor (a political health warning label if there ever was one - pictured) argued exactly the same point. He said "We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?" (source) I think the ready availability of guns has more to do with it, Mike.

You've got to appreciate the Christian right's famous compassionate conservatism.

But in the conservative arms race to offer the most inhumane and counter-intuitive responses, Ann Coulter has taken an early lead. Her "solution" isn't intensive sermonising or gun control. No, what America's schools need is a proliferation of guns. Coulter argues that if more people were allowed to carry concealed weaponry, and if guns could be carried on to school premises, mass shootings would cease. Apparently, it's the defencelessness of schools that make them such inviting targets for killers like Adam Lanza. Nothing to do with the social-psychological complexes of real and imagined grievances such men have, nor the ease with which the unstable and the dangerous can lay hold of automatic weaponry. So, in all seriousness, Coulter is saying she is happier to see American classrooms witness shootouts between teachers and gunmen than have the inalienable right to own assault rifles challenged.

So much for the misanthropic extremism that passes for mainstream conservatism in the United States. Over here the usual idiots have so far kept quiet. Nazi Nick Griffin is away addressing fascists in Catalonia, apparently. There has been some back and forth on Twitter over whether the EDL did or didn't tweet this, and it will be Thursday before the Weekly Worker publishes the inevitable riposte against gun control on the grounds of its workers' militia shibboleth. It's just as well precious few people take the extremes of the right and the left seriously.

None of these are what any reasonable person could count as serious contributions to the gun control debate. It's trolling for the sole purpose of preventing such a frank and evidence-based argument from taking place.

But of course, it falls to the Daily Mail to shame us with its appalling journalistic practices. From their coverage of the shootings this morning, they wrote:

The Mail doorstepped the grieving parents of one of yesterday's victims. Where would we be without our free press?

(H/Ts to @EDLNewsXtra, @johnthelutheran)


Anonymous said...

But you are guilty of what you condemn in others. Your remarks about atomisation betray your own instinct to troll this terrible event by imposing your own ideological interpretation on it.

Phil said...

Um, no. You need to a) understand what the definition of trolling is and, b) not confuse it with commentary.

Jim Jepps said...

Doorstepping bereaved relatives before the body is cold? Words cannot express how I feel about this.

Phil said...

It's apparently called 'death knocking' in America. You've got to assume the order to doorstep victims' families came from on high.

Anonymous said...

Re trolling: I simply used the term which you headlined. It's pobably true you misused it. It's clear from your post that you are doing what you condemn in others. You are now claiming it as 'commentary'. As I said before this doesn't strike me as convincing. But there you go.

Phil said...

I don't particularly care what someone who hides behind anonymity thinks. But just so you know for future reference, trolling is about taking an issue or debate and trying to derail it through the use of specious argument, whataboutery and plain old insults for whatever reason. In fact, a pristine example has been your two contributions to this comment box.

Anon said...

Why isn't secularism to blame, did not secularism bring about atomisation, individualism etc?

In cases like these it is usually found that the killer was a victim of ridicule, was made to feel worthless etc. This comes from a culture where peole are consumer junkies, have no concern for others, do not stop to think about their actions etc. Crime on a grand scale that goes unpunished.

These killers are the creation of the society they live in, everyone pulled the trigger.

I have no sympathy for the humans.

Phil said...

No, secularism did not. The subjection of more and more areas of social life to the dictates of the market on the other hand ...

You should come off your lofty perch. You're as much part of society as everyone else and if you think your wise because you can diagnose problems others apparently cannot see, it's beholden on you to address them instead of doom-mongering about the internet.

Anonymous said...

You seem extremely defensive when someone calls you out for doing what you condemn in others. And as its you who allows anonymous comments, its a bit rich to blame people for using that option. Your last comment about "The subjection of more and more areas of social life to the dictates of the market on the other hand..." is another example of you imposing your own political interpretation onto a tragedy, just as those who you condemn have done. The only difference is that you are doing it from the left, whilst those you dislike are on the right.

Ps my name is Ralph, by the way, and I can't get the name/URL option to wrk on this tablet.

Phil said...

Pleased to meet you, Ralph. But my point still stands. While all trolling is commentary, not all commentary is trolling.

The contributions discussed in this post, plus the reported actions of the Westboro Baptist bams are designed to stir up a reaction by generating smoke screens that will make a frank discussion of the real issues more difficult. This difference between this and my post is that I want to aid clarity by heading this nonsense off at the pass, as it were.

Unknown said...

What's your problem with "whataboutery". An important part of demystifying right-wing ideas is to show that there are things they don't discuss. For example, "whatabout" corporations not being charged with offences which should lead to jail when discussing the CJS? Money laundering - pick up a fine and don't go to jail. Yes, you HSBC. Blair stepping in to stop BAE being charged with bribery in Saudi Arabia. "Whatabout" tax evasion when benefit "fraud" is attacked. "Whatabout" that Phil?

Anon (not to be confused with Ralph) said...

I am not on a lofty perch, just pointing things out that totally get left out of the 'popular' analysis, until some psychologist writes a paper on it (i.e. is for academic eyes only).

I think people understand these social factors but everyone is afraid to say it out loud, as it infers condoning the action.

I think this fear plays into right wing hands and gutter press sensibilities.

Lose the fear!

Phil said...

Bloggers would be lost without whataboutery. But here I'm interested in the practice of trolling, and it is a favourite device of those who, for whatever reason, seek to derail a discussion.

Phil said...

You're right, Anon. I remember around the time of 2011's summer riots how anyone who dared venture an *explanation* of them beyond the dominant mindless thugs/crime frame were roundly attacked and written off as apologists.