Thursday, September 14, 2006

And then comes the finger-pointing...

And so violence has once again erupted in a school, this time in a Montreal college, and already, just a day after the fact, fingers are already pointing. Blame is being placed. Goates are being scaped.

The media is, of course, all over it, quoting postings that the shooter -- now identified as Kimveer Gill -- made to a blog located at Of course, the blog is apparently no longer available at the site, and what information we're getting is, of course, filtered. Filtered by a media eager to point fingers, lay blame, scape goats.

I understand why these web pages disappear so quickly after an incident like this. It's like an albatross around the neck of a web site. It's publicity of the worst kind. Who wants their web site to be associated with a violent shooting spree? That can't be good for business.

But at the same time, there's important historic documentation to be gleaned from these sites, documentation beyond what the police require in their investigations, beyond what the media requires to tell their skewed, tabloidized version of events. It's the communication of a real person, who felt something, and communicated those feelings, whether those feelings were pain or rage or sadness or emptiness. And while we've seen, and some of us have suffered, as a result of what those feelings were, now very few of us will ever have the chance to actually see them, because Kimveer Gill is dead now, denying us the chance to ever ask, "Why?"

I'd probably let this event slide except for one thing: School violence is very much at the front of my mind right now, because it plays a relatively important part of the new book I'm working on. It's something I've had complicated feelings about ever since what happened at Columbine in 1999. And, while I certainly don't think I'll be able to get every single thought or feeling I have on the topic out onto paper in the writing of this novel, I'll certainlly be hitting a lot of it.

So it's in my head.

And then this happens.

So it's in my head some more.

And it's driving me nuts, because we've been missing the point for years. Every time this happens, we sit on the brink of something revalatory, we're on the edge of understanding something that's broken in our culture, but we throw it away. Because, while we're asking the right question -- which is "Why?" -- we don't really care about the answer.

We don't really want to know the truth.

We don't really want to know about what's broken in us.

Not just in people like Kimveer Gill or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold -- because, of course, there is something undeniably broken in people like that -- but also in the rest of us, those of us who helped shape those people, who helped break those people.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, all we want is to sleep better.

We want simple answers to complicated questions.

When we ask, "Why?" we want someone to tell us:

It was because of violent video games; or

It was because of industrial music; or

It was because of violent images on film.

Already the media -- the last place we should be turning for answers, the last place we should be turning for truth -- is handing us the easy answers on a silver platter.

Gill enjoyed playing the video game "Postal." He enjoyed playing the video game "Super Columbine Massacre." His favourite movie was "Natural Born Killers."

These are easy answers, that bring us no closer to the truth, because no one really gives a damn about it. The media wants nothing more than a soundbite, because the truth will likely take awhile to get to, and they know this story will be old news within a week. As for the rest of us, we just want to be comforted. We just want to be told there's nothing to worry. We just want something simple we can point our finger at so we can sleep better at night, knowing that we did our jobs. Knowing that we've made the world a better place by laying blame on something, anything.

Whatever was convenient.

Whatever was available.

- - -

On this topic, and something I stumbled upon while doing a quick batch of research, Slate has a really fantastic look at Columbine, five years after the fact. Much of the stuff they cover was news to me, and shows that, at least in some circles, the media actually gives a damn about trying to get to the facts, and not just the soundbites that'll get the ratings. Check it out.

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