Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On the certainty of blame

Right Wing Nuthouse makes a good, though slightly vitriolic, point about the allegations that are being thrown around regarding the Oakland, PA shooter’s motivations.

But beyond Willis’ usual hysteria and laughable hyperbole, there is this fantastical notion shared by many on the left that they have insight into people’s souls not granted to us mere mortals. Willis can make an extraordinarily bald faced statement that the reason the Pittsburgh killer acted was because he was influenced by right wing blather – without so much as “we think” this is so or “many believe” this is what he thought – because many liberals think themselves qualified psychiatrists or better yet, “diviners of their neighbor’s intent.” It is a heavy burden Oliver and other liberals carry, this almost psychic ability to peer into other men’s souls and glean motivations that we ordinary folk are not vouchsafed the ability to use.

Now, while I disagree with the broad brush being used here and the portrayal of liberals as a homogeneous group (even though I believe that it is being used for rhetorical purposes and not literal ones, I still dislike it), I wholeheartedly agree that there are at least a subset of people (on either side of the political continuum) who firmly believe in their ability to divine other people’s motivations.  Such beliefs are untenable.  Most of us barely understand our own motivations, much less the motivations of others, no matter how much we wish it were otherwise.

At most, we can say that Poplawski’s actions appear to have been partially influenced by a misunderstanding of the prevailing conservative view that greater restrictions on firearms are possible given the current administration.  Similarly, Charles Manson’s actions appear to have been partially influenced by a misunderstanding of the Beatles’ song “Helter Skelter”.  We don’t blame the Beatles for Manson’s actions because Manson was quite insane.  Likewise, Poplawski is clearly insane and it seems irrational to blame the actions of a lunatic on the empty rhetoric of a conservative fringe.

Of course, wherever there is an opportunity for political gain we can always be sure that someone will step in and attempt to exploit it, regardless of party affiliation.

posted by Zenmervolt at 07:12  

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