Problems, they happen to all of us. We may lose our keys. We may be late for work. These things happen; it’s a fact of life. When these problems occur, whether they are small or large, we look to figure out why they happened. We look for the thing that caused our pain or distress. It is animal instinct. Unfortunately, the problems we face, both as individuals and a society, are much greater than trying to recall where you placed your keys last night. Violence and corruption are just two of these innumerable problems that humanity faces on a daily basis. However, the common denominator among all people is that we look for why these actions and incidents occur. This is where the idea of blame is born.
After terrible events such as shootings, we as a people try to look at the shooter and see where he or she went wrong. Many people point to things like video games, mental health, popular culture, or the ready availability of guns. Initially, things like this make sense. Video games and popular culture warp one’s idea and perception of the world around the victim. Mental health problems can also completely distort an individual’s perception of the world around them. As for shootings, guns are the devices used to carry out the actions. Logically, it makes sense to find fault in these things.
If we did not have these factors, or they were dealt with properly, horrible things like shootings could be easily prevented. The role of blame is essential in moving forward. Looking at the activities, hobbies, and beliefs of those who do wrong and harm the society can be used to identify the problems, which can then be fixed.
From the first settlers to the latest Gulf war, there is no doubt that the America’s culture and mindset has been dominated and defined by violence, and yet, we are shocked whenever a violent incident occurs. In response, we search for anything that could be used a scapegoat for these horrific actions. However, the act of blaming only perpetuates the cycle of violence because it allows us to ignore the true catalysts for this violence: ourselves and the world we have created.
After a horrific event, the American people rush to find out why it happened so that they may assign blame where they believe it is due. And after the terrible events that took place at Columbine High School on April 20th, 1999, the American people put on their badge of moral judgment and looked for anyone and anything to blame. Certain people rushed to blame guns.
Tom Mauser, the father of victim Daniel Mauser, showed up to an anti-NRA protest and made his presence very known with a sign that infamously said, “My son Daniel died at Columbine, he’d expect me to be here today” (Cullen 211). Others went on to blame Satan. Misty Bernall, mother of victim Cassie Bernall, said a few days after the shooting, “This tragic incident has been thrown back into the face of Satan” (Cullen 180). Some people went and pointed fingers at the shooters’ mental conditions. The relationship between Eric and Dylan, the two teenage shooters, was described by some as “the psychopath [Eric] is in control, of course, but the hothead sidekick [Dylan] can sustain his excitement leading up to the big kill” (Cullen 244). Still others pointed the finger at gothic culture and Marilyn Manson.
The choice to place blame on Marilyn Manson for the shooting at the suburban high school was strange. But there is no doubt that the rush to yell and point fingers at him was definitely there. The conservative members of both Jefferson County (where the shooting took place) and the overall American population saw Manson as the cause of the shooting. Cullen notes that, “The killers were dead, so much of the anger was deflected: onto goths, Marilyn Manson, the TCM, or anyone who looked, dressed, or acted like the killers – or the media’s portrayal of them” (Cullen 155). America loved blaming Marilyn Manson.
He was different. He was weird. He represented goth culture. And most importantly, he was a tangible figure that could physically take the blame. They also claimed that his works promoted violence and acts similar to what Eric and Dylan did. A conservative speaker said, “Will people who listen to Manson go out and commit violent acts? No! But does everyone who watches a Lexus ad go out and buy a Lexus? No! But a few do” (Yahnke). This ridiculous line of reasoning was the guiding light for a faction of Americans. To others who took a step back from the drama and emotion, they saw the situation for how it really was.
The burden of blame that Marilyn Manson received is rather peculiar, considering that he was never a piece of the twisted game that Eric and Dylan played with themselves. For someone who was irrelevant, Manson took the accusation and hatred like an adult. He canceled his show at Red Rocks out of respect for the incident (Cullen 211). Overall, the entire connection that so many placed between Eric and Manson is actually laughable. In reality, Eric loathed Manson’s music, whereas the band he did venerate, KMFDM, was immune from any attacks. KMFDM also treated the situation like responsible adults by giving a press release saying they do not condone the actions done in Colorado and do not condone any Nazi beliefs (Cullen 317). Despite Manson taking the higher road in the initial aftermath, he did not sit idle while he was being attacked from all sides. In an article for The Rolling Stones, Manson goes on an all-out assault on those attempting to take the moral high ground. Manson initially points out a cold truth, saying, “It is sad to think that the first few people on earth needed no books, movies, games or music to inspire cold-blooded murder. The day that Cain bashed his brother Abel’s brains in, the only motivation he needed was his own human disposition to violence” (Manson). Manson is right. Violence and murder has been around since the dawn of humanity, when there was no gothic music to convince “innocent” people to murder. If anything, Christianity has been a much bigger motivator. While many claim that Christianity is a religion that solely promotes peace, “… Christianity has given us an image of death and sexuality that we have based our culture around” (Manson). Americans rushed in to blame Manson for telling Eric and Dylan to shoot up a school. But from an unbiased, logical standpoint, Christianity has done more to promote the idea of “righteous justice” that Eric and Dylan thought they were committing that day.
While the finger pointing and mass hysteria after an event such as school shooting is somewhat understandable, daily events and occurrences are not viable excuses for such reckless behavior. Unfortunately, this happens every day. Police interrogations have been somewhat romanticized in our culture. Most people imagine a police interrogation through the eyes of a popular novel or book, but the reality of an interrogation is much more grim. The overwhelming majority of “police forces, private security companies, the military, the F.B.I, the C.I.A., and the secret service use the Reid Technique” (Starr 42). The Reid Technique is a several step process. It “begins with the Behavior Analysis Interview, in which you [the interrogator] determine whether the suspect is lying” (Starr 43). The entire premise of the Reid Technique is based on the idea that whoever is guilty will show signs of anxiety in an interrogation (Starr 43). The idea of this technique sounds great. Just learn the signs of nonverbal communication to see if the suspect is guilty or not. Just get the confession quick, and maybe we can still make our dinner reservations before the movie starts.
Whoa there cowboy, not so fast. Unfortunately, it is never this simple. Now, scientists are finding more evidence to prove that the Reid Technique is deeply flawed (Starr 42). The entire goal of the Reid Technique is to see if the suspect is lying or not and then to produce a confession. Because – of course- a confession means he or she is guilty. However, this is not always true. The ways that a confession is obtained is very important as well. If the suspect gives a confession straight up, it can be considered valid. But if the confession was obtained through indirect methods, as in the case of Juan Rivera, who was an individual with a low I.Q., a history of mental illness, and had the pleasure of being interrogated on and off for four days straight with fewer than 4 hours of sleep, then the technique and overall methods must be looked at critically (Starr 46). The lesson here is that oftentimes, police are also looking for someone to blame. They don’t care who it is, as long as someone is willing to confess. Some people may bring race, creed, or socioeconomic status into the debate, however, I believe it is irrelevant. The problem is this: the police will do anything to place blame on someone. For them, the goal is the confession. A confession is nothing more than the willingness for the suspect to accept blame for the crime. The police, like the American population after Columbine, are just looking for someone to point their fingers at.
Another great example of misdirected blame is found in the meat industry.It’s a carcass of what it used to be; it has gone from one of the best occupations in America to being one of the most horrific.
It seems as if every few months, we get a peek into the mystery of the slaughter house and see the disgusting conditions and abuse that the animals -our food- are exposed to. These terrible videos show the true horror that our meat industry has become.
After such exposure, many people go and blame the workers for their actions. And these people, such as members of my English class, believe that the workers are problem, but it isn’t their fault. It’s the stress or the peer pressure that’s doing it. No matter what specifically it is, we are still point the finger at them for one of the most horrific things that goes on every day.
However, it is not that simple. It never is. I honestly think that blaming the worker for their experience of being covered in shit (literally) is total crap. Pointing the finger at the worker is basically the same as blaming soldiers for war. They don’t like or choose the situations they are put in, they just manage. The workers are poor, union-less, illegal immigrants who just end up getting replaced every few months (Kenner). The workers are irrelevant to the conversation though. If we really want to address the problem of the food industry, then we need to look at those who are willing to put them in these situations. The companies that not only create these terrible situations, but also shut them off from scrutiny from others are much more worthy of blame than the lowly workers.
These three seeming unrelated things all a common illness of blame. For all of these, people rush in and shoot their fingers everywhere. You get blamed. And you get blamed. You over there get blamed too. You’re all getting blamed! It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. The reality is we don’t care who we blame, as long as someone we don’t like or care about gets receives the blunt end of it. For the conservative faction after Columbine, Marilyn Manson was the man. For the police, it is any civilian that they can break and get a confession out of. For the semi concerned consumers of America, it’s the undocumented illegals who work in the slaughterhouses. The funny -and sad- thing is all of these are completely irrelevant to the actual problem. But what these all have in common, is that they are easy. It is easy to blame a goth artist who doesn’t fit in. It is easy to blame a retarded man who you essentially tortured.
It is easy to blame undocumented workers who have no voice. What isn’t easy, is looking at what really caused the problem. Was it the presence of Lockheed Martin, one of the biggest defense contractors in the United States, which subliminally painted the ideas of violence in Eric and Dylan’s head? Was is the lack of proper medical care and support that let Juan Rivera be tortured? Was it the companies who own the slaughterhouses that foster the conditions of animal cruelty, instead of trying to make things better for the worker and the animal? I don’t know. It isn’t an easy answer. If it was, it would have been properly solved by now. But what we need to do not be like the police investigator and just try to get a confession and go. We need to really look into both the subject and ourselves to find the answer for our problems.
Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.
Manson, Marilyn. “Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 24 June 1999. Web. 28 May 2015.
Yahnke, Robert E. “Bowling for Columbine: Film Summary.” Bowling for Columbine: Film Summary. University of Minnesota, 2009. Web. 29 May 2015.
Starr, Douglas. “The Interview: Do Police Interrogation Techniques Produce False Confessions?” New Yorker 9 Dec. 2013: 42-49. Web.
Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Movie One, 2008. DVD.