That’s Why They Call It Senseless Violence

As you’ve heard, a killer wearing a bullet proof vest and wielding four guns shot up an Aurora, CO midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises last night. 12 have died, 50 are wounded. It is an utterly senseless tragedy.

The news has been filled, primarily, with two things: horrible narratives from the survivors, and an almost systematic checking off of explanations that we tend to use to explain such violence. Not Islamic terrorism, the FBI said. Not a veteran, DOD has already said. Maybe a crazed video gamer trying to live out the games he plays? As if every act of violence must be easily classifiable–to serve the news cycle, perhaps, or reassure people about the certainty of life.

The suspect–a white, 24-year old Aurora resident named James Holmes–defies the easiest explanations, though his mother’s response suggests this senseless violence is not surprising from him.

A San Diego woman who identified herself as James Holmes’ mother told ABC News she had awoken unaware of the shooting and had not yet been contacted by authorities. She immediately expressed concern that her son may have been involved.

“You have the right person,” she said, apparently speaking on gut instinct. “I need to call the police… I need to fly out to Colorado.”

Perhaps to make the whole thing even more senseless is the setting: an auditorium full of people just settling in to watch a narrative that attempts to make sense of violence and good and evil.

No doubt in days to come we’ll find something–the killer’s psyche, easy gun laws, some perceived slight–to make more sense of this act. Probably, our society will do nothing to address underlying causes. Possibly, this will serve as one more reason to ratchet up security theater.

At this point, it’s worth asking whether it serves anyone to rush for the easy narrative–the Hollywood movie explanation–when ultimately this is senseless violence.

18 replies
  1. DWBartoo says:

    Thank you, EW.

    A reasonable, rational, and sensible response.

    This shooting “spree” is an example of senseless violence.


  2. zot23 says:

    All I can say is my thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the family of the shooter. No one is going to have an easy time of piecing this together, no one.

  3. bmaz says:

    FWIW it appears the 12 deaths are properly subtracted from the 50 total victims. Current count 12 dead 38 injured.

    Here is what I would like to know – how did Holmes get into the theater with all the body armor and weaponry? You don’t just walk in the front door like that. Did he come in a back door? did an accomplice let him in? There is no indicia of more than the lone gunman as of yet, and may well never be. But am interested in how he got in.

  4. ondelette says:

    But that treaty on debate at the UN is gonna take away our guns like Hitler and Mussolini. Zeesh.

  5. Garrett says:

    I’ve got more of an againster take on movie violence.

    People have always done this. But movies invent the most outlandish stuff to justify (and require) the mayhem. Men who are bats. Cyborgs from the future. Space aliens.

    I read them by casting the author as villain. That’s who is really hatching the devious schemes.

  6. rosalind says:

    @bmaz: unconfirmed report from someone in theater: audience member in front’s phone rang, he answered, then got up and propped open the emergency exit. witness was wondering wtf? when a figure came in and started shooting.

  7. bmaz says:

    @rosalind: That would be fascinating, but kind of flies in the face of the lone gunman claim. Unless Holmes was the guy who’s phone rang.

  8. edge says:

    I’m guessing from the Mother’s comments that she was aware of some mental instability in her son. My heart goes out to her. I speak from experience when I say that it’s practically impossible to get someone mental health care against their will until AFTER they’ve hurt themselves or others. Even if someone is clearly experiencing psychosis, you can’t force them to go to an inadequately short stay in a hospital, unless you can prove that they are an imminent physical threat to themselves or others. And in most cases, you can’t prove that until after damage is done.
    While I respect the comments from others regarding guns, but what I’m more concerned about is what could have been done to help the sick man behind the gun.

  9. Bill Michtom says:

    I’m happy to blame the NRA and the political structure that refuses to stand up to it. Criminal thugs & enablers, as far as I can see.

  10. bell says:

    islamphobia could eventually be replaced with violencephobia.. usa and to a large extent western culture seem to love consuming violence in movie form or at a safe distance..maybe that needs to change.

  11. SanJoseDad says:

    “At this point, it’s worth asking whether it serves anyone to rush for the easy narrative–the Hollywood movie explanation–when ultimately this is senseless violence.”

    Hear, hear!

    While there may be some “sense” by the crazy person involved, this is just old-fashioned crazy violence.

  12. P J Evans says:

    He knew what he was doing – he booby-trapped his apartment. The police were smart enough to look through the window with a camera on a pole before they tried going in. Explosives and chemicals of some kind, they thought.

  13. orionATL says:

    in september 2001 three airplanes were used to bomb the world trade center and the pentagon.

    the total dead were slightly less than 3000.

    in response, the united states launched invasions of two countries and spent over $3 trillion killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and “rebel” soldiers while prosecuting those wars in iraq and afghanistan for over 12 years.

    in contrast to americans who died in sept, 2001, +30,000 americans died from shootings in 2010, most from the use of handguns.

    extraordinarily few of those deaths were from hunting. that’s important because, for decades, the national rifle association has used traditional hunter/”gun rights” supporters as a deep well of political support to be manipulated for money and votes with which to intimidate congressmen.

    the fact is, however, that the nra is essentially a foreign lobbying organization protecting the ability and “rights” of foreign handgun manufacturers to sell handguns in the u.s.

    in contrast to the 3000 deaths in 2001, consider the 30,000 u.s. deaths by guns in the u.s. in 2010:

  14. Jose Rios says:

    I like how the media automatically starts off with “nope not a Muslim, or terrorist plot”, as though white,black,Latino,Christian,atheist American don’t kill each other Everyday (watch your local news) I’m just glad Laura ingraham wasn’t guest hosting a fox show like she did when breivik shot up the kids in Norway & she automatically went to “Muslim terrorism” without facts of course. Then abc said “he might be a tea partier, the shot back with registered democrat” . Such a sad state when ppl are killed & the question is “what religion or party affiliation is he?”

  15. dustbunny44 says:

    I’d like to see some sources for gun violence in the USA as some very different numbers are getting batted around right now. It’s at least > 5,000 per year, enough to consider, with this momentum, putting sane gun laws in place. You know, laws that let people keep and use guns for hunting, target, and self-defence yet make it a little more difficult for them to get in the hands of the mentally ill or to be used for killing sprees.

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