The Politics Of Tragedy, Ctd

Jul 23 2012 @ 11:38am

Jay Smooth contemplates the Colorado murders and the role of politics. Max Read claims that there "is no such thing as 'politicizing' tragedy":

James Holmes did not materialize in a movie theater in Aurora this morning, free of any relationship to law and authority and the structures of power in this country; nor did he exit those relationships and structures by murdering 12 people and injuring several dozen more. Before he entered the theater, he purchased guns, whether legally or illegally, under a framework of laws and regulations governed and negotiated by politics; in the parking lot outside, he was arrested by a police force whose salaries, equipment, tactics and rights were shaped and determined by politics. Holmes' ability to seek, or to not seek, mental health care; the government's ability, or inability, to lock up persons deemed unstable — these are things decided and directed by politics. You cannot "politicize" a tragedy because the tragedy is already political.

Austin Frakt differs:

I think when people say you’ve “politicized” something, they mean you’re being a jerk. And, in general, they’re right. I mean, how often do we associate “politicization” or “politics” with polite, compassionate, and kind discourse?

I've learned from brutal Internet experience that these breaking events take time to be understood and seen in full context. Of course, politics is salient, as Mr Smooth notes. But discussing that politics is always more fruitful outside the fraught emotionalism of the trauma itself.

As for obsessive media coverage of the events, we at the Dish decided to step back. For reasons perhaps best made by Charlie Brooker below:

JJ Gould proposes a new media code of ethics:

Another way, and one that may stand a greater chance of working in the near term, is that consumers with Internet access start using the social media that are now at their disposal — and that are growing like crazy, including among elite media organizations, who've increasingly turned to them to engage with and develop their audiences — to make the point themselves. Here, e.g., are Patton Oswalt and Peter Burns doing just that.

The problem with all this is that Americans only tend to change when the status quo is truly unacceptable (See Churchill). And deaths from assault, as Keiran Healey notes, have been fast declining from their peak in the 1970s, even as America remains easily the most violent developed country:

Assault-deaths-oecd-ts-all

When this is happening, the odds of any change being implemented are close to zero. So dream on. Earlier thoughts here.