Murderous Madmen and Their Victim Groups

Posted in a shorter form on May 27, 2014

A bunch of girls didn’t do what he wanted, so he set out to hurt a bunch of girls and teach them all a lesson. Folks, yes that is misogyny, yes it is gun violence, but mainly

IT IS PUNISHMENT.

The reason all these killers find it reasonable and rational to hurt the people who don’t do what they want, is because EVERYONE finds it reasonable and rational to hurt people when they don’t do what they want. That’s the concept of punishment. And we all know where he learned it, where they all learn it, where WE all learned it. Right?

Now how is it that what these crazies are trying to do and why is somehow not front and center of the conversation? Why are we talking about sex rather than the roots of violence, why are we talking about who the victims are instead of what these killers are doing and why?

The way we and our media focus on the victim group is making me uncomfortable, there is something very wrong with it. Everything I’m going to list may be hyperbolic, but hyperbole would not be possible if it didn’t contain a substantial kernel of truth. Plus, taken together, the power and possible truth of the situation may be unavoidable. So these are the ideas that make me uneasy about it:

  1. The focus on the victim group (women, LGB&T people, racial or religious minorities) seems to call into question issues of the groups’ human rights status; the status of the group is reviewed in media coverage in terms of public opinion and public policy. This seems to put such crimes into a category of ideology where they do not belong. In our society, everyone has a right not to be victimized, and especially not to be murdered. Are we pandering to those who may support these crimes?
  2. Focusing on the victim group contains the implicit idea that there is, at least theoretically, the possibility that some groups can properly be targeted for victimization and murder, otherwise, why would the particular group identity of the victim be an issue? For proof of this, of course there are groups that many of us are OK with killing, people outside of our society, such as enemy combatants, and some within our society, perpetrators of heinous crimes, etc. I don’t intend to debate capital punishment here, but it shows precedent, and our sometime willingness to victimize and kill. The message is also inherent that there is a certain amount of flexibility in the list of who can and who cannot be justifiably harmed.
  3. By at least appearing in our media and private discussions to ignore the common factor –  the criminals and their apparent feeling that it’s justifiable to harm or kill those of whom they disapprove – we are subjecting the victim groups to a kind of ‘divide and conquer’ situation. Are we not condemning the use of force to change people’s behaviour generally, in favour of having each marginalized group address it’s particular abusers, and on their own? Must every identifiable group fight their attackers by themselves, when all various groups’ enemies are of one kind, and all doing the same thing?
  4. By directing attention to the victim group, we are detracting attention away from the psychological and social ground that produces the bad fruit of these criminal victimizers. I see it as analogous to the one of the points batted about in the gun control discussions: just as gun are inanimate and not to be “blamed” for what people do with them, so too is the practice of punishment, of hurting people to change their behaviour, not to be “blamed” or called into question. The difference is that punishing is even more sacred, and more so in more places than the freedom to own guns.

So, as I said, hyperbolic perhaps, but with a core of truth. Perhaps it is a matter that the victim groups simply make sexy headlines, and media discussions are so often sensationalist – but reasons why a thing is are a proof that the thing really does exist.

Please, let’s try to learn to talk about the bad guys and why they do what they do, and if it is a fractal of our culture of punishment, let’s go there too. Let’s not blame the victims, let’s not always be dropping the hint that if they don’t want to be victimized, they should just shut up and conform. OK?

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