Jonah Goldberg

Can we please stop holding the country hostage to crazy people?

Every year a tiny number of mentally ill people go on horrific killing sprees. It just happened in California. I won't name the person because I think the media attention lavished on these horror shows encourages some of these young men -- and they are almost all young men -- to seek fame or validation through bloodshed.

In an entirely human response, we get spun up into a frenzy of finger-pointing. In the aftermath of the Gabby Giffords shooting, many of the country's leading journalists and politicians suggested the former congresswoman was shot because of the "violent" political rhetoric of Sarah Palin, Rep. Michele Bachmann and other Tea Party-affiliated politicians. It was beyond stupid and slanderous. It was also utterly devoid of evidence. (The culprit was a severe paranoid schizophrenic who abused drugs.)

In 2012, at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, another mentally ill young man allegedly murdered 12 people. Because he died his hair orange and booby-trapped his home the way the comic book villain The Joker might have, many speculated that he was motivated by the Batman movies to kill.

After the particularly horrifying mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut, many speculated that the mentally ill killer was at least partially driven to kill by violent video games.

In the wake of the recent murder spree in California, Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday tried to lay some of the blame on romantic comedies.

"How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like "Neighbors" and feel, as [the suspected killer] did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of 'sex and fun and pleasure'? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, 'It's not fair'?"

Hornaday was vilified, drawing the ire of many of the same liberals who thought nothing of blaming the Giffords shooting on Tea Party rhetoric. The hypocrisy is annoying, but the more interesting issue is: What if Hornaday is right? What if everyone is right? What if Batman movies, militaristic metaphors in politics, Seth Rogen's romantic exploits, video games and -- for good measure -- violent movies, existentialist philosophy, "The Catcher in the Rye" and all of the other usual suspects are what set off these sick young men?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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