Sunday, April 22, 2007

If only a conservative pundit had been at Virginia Tech

Last time, I mentioned how Sean Hannity had been complaining in his radio show about how "liberals" were politicizing the Virgina Tech shooting. His sole example was something Rosie O'Donnell said on The View. Since then, conservative pundits have blamed the shooting on gun control, atheism, secularism, "Paki" Muslims, gays, universities "coddling" students, video games, and even vaccines. Yet, somehow, this is all the liberals fault. I've been wanting to write about what one conservative said about the massacre for a while, but every time I think about it, it just makes me so damn mad, so I've put it off.

The fact is, I haven't really heard much from liberals about the causes of this shooting. A discussion of gun control vs. concealed-carry-type laws might even be reasonable at this point. (Frankly, I think both arguments are flawed, but that's neither here nor there.) The outcry about the underlying causes, usually having to do with some value or another not being sufficiently important in modern America, seems to be coming mainly from the Right.

The worse of these was John Derbyshire, writing this in National Review Online:

Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him. Handguns aren't very accurate, even at close range. I shoot mine all the time at the range, and I still can't hit squat. I doubt this guy was any better than I am. And even if hit, a .22 needs to find something important to do real damage—your chances aren't bad.

The level of insensitivity in this is just stunning. Derbyshire wrote this on April 17th, the very day after the shooting. He wrote it with perfect hindsight, complete knowledge of what had happened that day at the school, and probably a nice hot cup of coffee next to his laptop.

I've been in a lot of university engineering classes. How to disarm an gunman with hand-to-hand combat was not something we covered. Nor did we ever discuss how to tell a Walther P22 from a Glock 19. We didn't even discuss how to tell if the Glock was using the standard 15-round magazine, or if it was using one of the optional 15-, 17-, or 33- round magazines, all while a crazed gunman was shooting at you through a crowd of people. Maybe this explains why I'm not an employee of National Review Online. Hell I'm probably one of those wimps that would actually be upset by the fact that I'd just been shot with one of those lousy .22 caliber bullets.

Oh, but it gets worse. The next day, Mark Steyn blogged in National Review Online, saying this about the victims:

They’re not "children." The students at Virginia Tech were grown women and — if you’ll forgive the expression — men.

You see, the reason these college students were killed was the fact that they just weren't masculine enough. Had this happened in the 1950s, I suppose, the gunman would have quickly been tackled by muscled, football-playing, corn-fed, Midwestern men. But these students? Pussies, every one of them.

He also makes a cheap shot referencing Monica Lewinsky. For conservatives, everything is about the Clenis.

This Republican fixation on masculinity isn't anything new. It's the standard fare of those that tell us we live in a society with crumbling morals, depraved values, and the wrong kinds of religion. If we just buy their current book, it will tell us all about what's wrong with the country.

Just a few weeks ago, Glenn Greenwald wrote about something very similar in "The right-wing cult of contrived masculinity":

[The conservative movement] is a cult of contrived masculinity whereby people dress up as male archtypes like cowboys, ranchers, and tough guys even though they are nothing of the kind -- or prance around as Churchillian warriors because they write from a safe and protected distance about how great war is -- and in the process become triumphant heroes and masculine powerful icons and strong leaders. They and their followers triumph over the weak, effete, humiliated Enemy, and thereby become powerful and exceptional and safe.

This really is no different from how Derbyshire wrote about how much more of a hero he would have been in the Virginia Tech situation, had he been there.


Anonymous said...

It may be insensitive now, but after the Virgina Tech memorials are done, we do need to think about training civilians how to react when a gunman walks into a room and starts shooting. The proper reaction, when there is no exit and people are dying,is not to meekly await your turn to be shot; the group, armed or unarmed, has to attack the gunman. This takes courage, but anyone who has ever been in the military knows courage is a matter of training.

The training might take the form of simple classroom discussions, a public awareness campaign, or visits to local schools by public safety officials. The important thing is to get people to start thinking about how they would react. This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue; it's merely common sense.

David said...

"Common sense" is running toward a guy who is pointing at gun at you?

While I agree that discussion and perhaps some practical advice in survival techniques would be appropriate, I have a problem with:

The proper reaction, when there is no exit and people are dying,is not to meekly await your turn to be shot

Given the choice between "meekly" waiting and maybe getting shot (some students did survive by playing possum, you know) and running to position myself right in front of the gunman to guarantee I'll get shot...

I think common sense is trying to avoid the bullet. It might be courageous to try to tackle a crazy guy with two guns (or it might just be very stupid), but courage doesn't do you much good if you're dead.

Also, Anonymous, I think it's insulting to imply that true bravery and courage is something that can be taught and "trained" into someone. Look around and you'll see brave acts all the time from perfectly ordinary people who have never attended boot camp or worn a uniform in their lives.

Narc said...

I'd also like to point out that these people were not "meekly waiting to get shot," thought that's how many conservatives are spinning it, to imply that university culture as emasculated the students.

Many of them did fight back. The Holocaust survivor held the door closed and ordered his students to flee. Other students held their doors closed even after they had been shot. One student dove on top of another, dying to save his friend.

There's also the question of relative risk. Even if there were a Virginia Tech shooting each year in this country, your have a two times higher chance of dying by lightning strike that that shooting. Your chances of dying by bee sting are three times greater. These things are (fortunately) so rare, it may be worth considering if it's worth training for them.

Ryan said...

A fascinating post as usual, Narc. It is always interesting that those most worried about masculinity (i.e. conservative Republicans) are those most insecure about their own masculinity and who have the most to fear it seems from alternative formulations of it. Some how, real men wouldn't let this happen, but thinking men (and homosexuals) would.

Yet of course, the house of cards that is this cult of fake masculinity in the conservative camp continues to collapse with the scandals of various 'masculine' men--Haggard, anyone? In the end, it's a matter of people being so insecure about themselves (or maybe their sexuality and junk? just a thought) that they have to try and come up with ways of having the illusion of control. Give a house wife a gun. Raffle a pistol for the handbag carrying gays. Arm the students to stop the crazy gunmen. Now we have control, right? Maybe these people should watch Jurassic Park and understand that they never did have control.

Narc said...

Thanks Ryan. The observation didn't entirely originate with me. Glenn Greenwald has another good post up on the topic at Our right-wing arbiters of masculinity, where he shows with photos how these right wing pundits aren't exactly the (ahem) butchest marines in the platoon.

Ryan said...

haha...that's a great site.

Anonymous said...

I don't own a gun, don't plan to buy one, and I am not a conservative. Still, a gun man should not be able to walk into a crowded room and kill dozens of people simply because they are unarmed. The group has to attack the gun man.

Incidents in which groups of people have disarmed a gun man before are after he started shooting are not rare. A few days after the Virginia Tech shooting, unarmed Southern Cal students overwelmed a gun man who walked into a campus party by attacking him the moment he drew his pistol. These stories don't make the type of headlines the Virginia Tech shooting made because the death toll is much lower or nonexistence.

You can train people to react. It's not a liberal vs. conservative issue, masculine vs. feminine, or a gay vs. hetrosexual issue. Some people do react courageously in crisis situations but training helps. I'm not suggesting martial arts or military style training but just classroom discussion.

architect said...

I was thinking about this whole conversation and it dawned upon me that so many ebelive that values are just arbitrary. A new book that serves as a rebuttal to Richard Dawkin’s, The God Delusion, and other books against religion is Adults Only (Bernard Hanan and Co. Publishers). This book offers scientific proof to the fact that the human being has a distinct soul and thus has a special moral imperative and questions whether morality is possible without religion. It also proves that there is an absolute ethical standard. You can't make up your own values. I found the title to be provocative and realize that the point is to reinstate adulthood as a concept of morality. This book is very comprehensive and is exceedingly logical. It covers everything from scientifically disproving atheism to delving into themes of human sexuality. The author, IC Fingerer, is a rabbi and bioethicist. It can be ordered from Barnes and Noble or from

Narc said...

Oh great. Godspam. Even though you're likely a spambot, a "scientific proof of the soul"? Bullshit. At best this book will have some sort of philosophical argument. A "scientific proof" requires evidence.