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DARK KNIGHT RISES Shooting Massacre Imitates Columbine
I can’t imagine you haven’t heard of the events at last night’s Dark Knight Rises premiere in Aurora, Colorado. I was awake all of five minutes before it hit me. The reaction to 12 dead, 38 to 50 wounded, has brought out the best and worst.
Among the worst would be the attempts made to link the shooter’s activities to the film. This isn’t a case of life imitating art.
This is life imitating the horrors of life. The only common thread of the Dark Knight Rises shooter, James Holmes, is with the killers of Columbine, 1999.
It’s not just that the Dark Knight Rises massacre took place around 20 miles from Columbine High. James Holmes‘ fundamental sickness is the same as Eric Harris, chief of the high school killing. We’ve yet to hear reasons from the perp himself – resentment toward the system, undying infamy, senseless rage – but they’re just symptoms.
The Dark Knight Rises shooter’s disease is that he’s a psychopath. His core motive was gaining power from inflicting pain.
It’s his methodical approach that’s the key indicator. This kind of attack isn’t some random spasm, dreamed up over a week. Acquiring the arsenal, planning how to smuggle it in, working out the attack and exit plan – they all take a lot of thought.
During all that thought, never did this guy think to himself, “No, I shouldn’t, for the sake of the victims.”
It takes either a psychopath or someone undergoing a psychotic break to fail to see those victims as victims at all. But a psychotic is too disorganized to plan out an assault this intricate. The Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, was a rambling schizo, and his technique shows as much – grabbing guns already on hand, then blasting his way from a dorm room and down a classroom building.
The Dark Knight Rises killer had to be far more organized than that. He built his own Bane costume, up-armored and outfitted with two long guns and two side arms. He picked up – or even manufactured – tear gas bombs. He booby-trapped his apartment. He knew what he was doing, every step of the way, and it took a lot of steps to get to that barbarity in the Aurora Century 16.
We make a mistake by blaming any other than this simple truth: There are those among us who only feel real, feel powerful, when they’re destroying someone else. Sometimes it’s a massive destruction, like with the Aurora Massacre. Sometimes it’s harassment, domestic abuse, petty terrors. And sometimes these people are made, yes. The shooter’s deployment in a combat zone might have something to do with this. But sometimes these people are just made.
Blame is our attempt to escape this truth. People are pointing fingers at the violence of the film, citing a 2008 Telegraph article that bemoaned the gruesome parts of The Dark Knight. People are pointing fingers at the war. People are even pointing fingers at the victims, with Tennessee talk radio callers and office chatter enraged at the parents of a 3-month-old baby who was injured, faulting them for bringing their child to a midnight showing.
People can be bad. Some worse than others. It’s not the fault of the movies. It won’t go away when the war does. No explanations will cure this. There’s no escaping it.
As long as we create more people, we’ll be creating more killers.
The thing that makes it all right isn’t blame. It’s being kind.