Thursday, May 03, 2007

Banal talk of evil

I'm grateful to Gregg Easterbrook at The New Republic for articulating a misgiving that has been lurking at the back of my mind without me formulating it into a more coherent form ever since the murders at Virginia Tech. In this piece Easterbrook lays it on the line:

"The fact that murder had happened at Virginia Tech was clear within hours, if not minutes, of initial reports. Yet plenty of media figures could not bring themselves to say that the killer was a killer, that the murderer was a murderer. Instead they used 'shooter,' a weirdly neutral term that practically sounds like a skilled trade." Easterbrook's Nexis search turned up 2,516 stories that used "shooter" or "gunman," while only 746 used "murderer" or "killer." He also laments the common use of the term "shooting spree" rather than "rampage."

Easterbrook contends that "Evil exists [whether from psychosis, Satan or whatever] and must be spoken of as evil rather than in euphemism," otherwise we can't think about it clearly.

I suspect there's another reason besides leeriness about using the word "evil" for the commonplace use of the terms "shooter" and "gunman," perhaps even "shooting spree." Most "mainstream" journalists have an agenda of being for gun control, and using those terms subtly promote that agenda. If it was a "shooter" rather than an evil murderer, maybe taking the shooting implement out of his hands will solve the problem.

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