Monday, July 25, 2011

Children on Their Summer Vacations

In Norway, a blond young man who might have stepped out of a Calvin Klein ad kills 93 people with dum-dum bullets, most of them kids at a lakeside camp, to call attention to his 1500-page online rant, some of it plagiarized from the Unabomber.

His politics are beside the point, as were those of the lunatic who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head last January, killing six in Tuscon, including a nine-year-old girl.

For such random slaughtering of innocents, the medium is the message: In the era of the Internet, 24/7 cable TV and semi-automatic guns for everyone, mass murder is a form of expression available to the kind of people who, less than a century ago, might have been handing out pamphlets or just muttering in the streets.

As we celebrate freedom of expression, people like Anders Behring Breivik remind us of the price we pay for having the power to turns words into lethal body rhetoric and, in sane societies, might shock us into tempering our use of language.

In coming days, we will have to endure days of watching him parade his madness for the TV cameras but by then, our own politicians may have stopped exhibiting theirs in Washington, and our children and grandchildren may be safely back in schools like Columbine.

Update: As police lower the death toll to 76, over 100,000 gather in Oslo to mourn the victims and repudiate the killer’s hatred of immigrants. “The streets are filled with love,” Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon tells the crowd.

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