In the wake of Friday morning’s bloodbath at a Colorado movie theater, America struggles to figure out who or what to blame.
They’ve obviously ruled out the shooter.
James Holmes, 24, will be arraigned in a Colorado courtroom this morning and charged with a spree killing at a midnight debut screening of the new Batman film The Dark Knight Rises that at last count left 12 dead and 58 wounded. Based on the total number of victims, the event would constitute the largest lone-wolf mass shooting in American history. Although he reportedly surrendered to police outside the theater clad from head to toe in riot gear and told them he was the “Joker,” he has apparently not formally confessed and has yet to be convicted, so journalistic etiquette dictates that Holmes be called the alleged gunman.
But even if he hurled the tear-gas canisters and fired the rounds, no man is an island, correct? At best, we’re all tiny non-autonomous fiefdoms in a sprawling continent. We are mere cells in a giant organism, little pieces in a huge puzzle, and when one of the pieces doesn’t quite fit anymore, the rest of the puzzle must be blamed.
So obviously “society” is to blame. But not all of society, because that would include the countless members of society who are blaming society for this. So what part of society is to blame?
On ABC’s Good Morning America, Brian Ross was quicker than a premature ejaculator in suggesting the Tea Party was culpable, saying he’d found a “Jim Holmes” in Aurora, CO, on a Tea Party website. It was quickly revealed to be a different Jim Holmes.
Shooting from the other direction, private investigator Bill Warner suggested that James Holmes was a member of the “Black Bloc“ anarchists associated with Occupy Wall Street. Warner’s hunch was based on little more than the stealthy black clothing Holmes was wearing when arrested, which could have just as easily made him a ninja.
Predictably, those who are foolish or sheltered enough to trust the government to monopolize violence decried America’s gun laws. Roger Ebert pecked out some flatulent verbiage regarding “paranoid fantasies about a federal takeover of personal liberties,” and he’s partially correct, because it appears that the United Nations is trumping US efforts to erase personal gun liberties with a bill that Obama is scheduled to sign on Friday. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also blamed American gun laws but did not say whether he plans to get rid of his personal retinue of armed bodyguards.
Look away from the fact that Mexico has stricter gun laws than the US and a higher gun-homicide rate. Ignore the fact that Switzerland has some of the world’s highest gun-ownership rates and a negligible gun-homicide rate. And don’t even try to compare gun-related murder rates in urban areas that have restrictive gun laws alongside low gun-homicide rates in rural areas where firearms ownership tends to be highest. And blot from your memory banks the fact that there are likely millions of privately owned AR-15 “assault weapons” in America that have never been used to commit mass murder.
“But he couldn’t have done this without guns,” the gunophobes insist. Wrong. He could have blasted the entire theater with a fertilizer bomb. Timothy McVeigh snuffed out 168 lives without firing a bullet.
Slipping further from reality into fantasy—or, if you prefer, into hyperreality—others have shifted the blame onto an ultraviolent pop-culture climate where movies, video games, and comic books have desensitized people to murder. This theory is given a bit of credence via a disturbing string of coincidences: the fact that James Holmes reportedly dyed his hair flaming red and told police he was the Joker; the fact that Warner Brothers had been packaging The Dark Knight Rises alongside a trailer for another film that depicts a mass murder at a movie theater; panels from a 1986 Batman comic featuring a shooting at a porn theater; and, perhaps worst of all, the fact that The Dark Knight Rises features a scene where villains shoot up and bomb a crowded football stadium.
But none of this accounts for the fact that there are millions of comic-book and gamer geeks who constantly expose themselves to such imagery and still wouldn’t hurt a flea.
When people do something “crazy” such as shoot up a theater full of people they’ve likely never met, there is no shortage of pop psychologists eager to blame it on an elusive “disease” called “mental illness.” Without ever having met James Holmes, pundits suggested he was “depressed,” had been “bullied,” was “bipolar,” a “paranoid schizophrenic,” and had possibly even been unwittingly subjected to government drugs or mind-control experiments during his stint as a neuroscience student.
Personal information about James Holmes is scant, and from what’s available, he appears to be a giant blank white movie screen upon which people project their confirmation biases. He left almost no trace of himself online except for an alleged recent Adult Friend Finder profile that shows him with the flaming-red dyed hair and describing his “Male Endowment” as “Short/Average” (translation: Very Short).
His few acquaintances described him as a “shy guy” who hailed from a “very, very nice family,” a “super-nice kid” who was “kinda quiet,” someone who “didn’t seem like a troublemaker at all,” and a “generally pleasant guy” whom “You wouldn’t even look twice at him if you passed him on the street.”
He reportedly had trouble finding employment after receiving an undergrad degree in neuroscience in 2010 and was said to have worked briefly at McDonald’s. Then after being accepted for the doctoral program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado, he reportedly withdrew from the program last month. During his time at UC, he was said to have expressed a specific interest in “the genetic basis for mental illness.”
Sometime in May, he allegedly began stockpiling weapons and ammo. He purchased two handguns, a shotgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, 6,000 or so rounds of ammo, a gas mask, and body armor. When apprehended after the shooting, he told police he’d elaborately booby-trapped his apartment with explosives, which took experts more than a day to safely dismantle.
Clearly this was not a crime of passion.
In a world where the idea of personal responsibility has been consigned to history’s dustbin, they’ve probed every possible reason for why he allegedly did it except the idea that he consciously chose to do it.
Simple question: What drove James Holmes to commit mass murder?
Simpler answer: James Holmes, in a white Hyundai.
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