Challenging the double standard on violence

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Gun-nut Tim challenges the double standard on violence:

Americans voraciously consume media content that is absolutely loaded with violence, and openly discuss this content in polite society all the time. Not long ago I was involved in a conversation where a few of the people wandered into the topic of a TV show called “Game of Thrones”, a series I’ve never seen, and particularly one episode of the series colloquially referred to as “The Red Wedding”. These people described, in excruciating detail, a scene of blood-soaked murder and mayhem all the way down to the sounds made when one character had her throat cut.

These same people get visibly uncomfortable any time the words “self defense” even come up. When I briefly and very generally described an officer involved shooting that an aquaintence had been involved in some time ago, they spoke as if the acquaintance must be some sort of moral degenerate or psychopath for actually stating that he had no intention of dying alone the day he was assaulted by a man wanted for murder.

I don’t get it. They’ll watch portrayals of violence on screen with relish and glee, never missing an episode of a show that almost fetishizes real acts of violence against largely undeserving people that have made the headlines. Yet if somebody mentions actually putting a bullet in one of the monsters who is causing all sorts of mayhem for real in a legitimate act of self defense, suddenly there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth?

It reminds me of a time when I was at a function with a girlfriend and someone in the group of her friends mentioned that I was an occasional hunter with the same look on their face a baby gets the first time they taste a lemon. One particularly smarmy dude in the group whom I had pretty much despised from the getgo due to personality flaws so big they could probably be seen from space, decided to announce that anyone who took pleasure in the death of an animal was some sort of psychopath. I noticed he was attempting this passive-aggressive callout in between bites of a steak while wearing a leather belt, expensive leather shoes, and carrying an expensive leather man-purse he’d picked up on a European trip. I don’t really do passive aggressive. I’m more aggressive-aggressive, and when presented with this nonsense I decided to (figuratively) choke him on his A1 flavored hypocrisy. I pointed out that someone who was crowing about a mouth full of critter dead at someone else’s hand probably didn’t have any real cause to feel morally superior to the guy who actually kills the critter himself before eating it.

Our culture seems intent on denying some basic realities of the world. People who will watch hours of blood soaked mayhem on TV for entertainment will turn right around and allege that violence never solves anything when the subject of self defense comes up. They’ll follow the exploits of serial killers and madmen with fascination but if a police officer or ordinary citizen fires on such a person and doesn’t seem to be much bothered by having done so, somehow the good guy is the monster? Hundreds or thousands can be killed by lifestyle criminals with long records of unjustified violence and it draws no notice, but if somebody actually shoots one of those perpetrators mid-act a bunch of people want to wring their hands and fret over vigilantism.


  1. Faze says:

    Fans of Game of Thrones, Dexter, Breaking Bad and other TV serials affiliate in part through the experience of watching the portrayal of transgressive violence. Tolerating and tacitly approving the shared transgression makes them collectively “guilty” in the eyes of what they imagine to be their enemies: the blue-noses, the conservatives, the censorious. They imagine themselves as part of a vast “in crowd”. It is a status play.

    This same group would perceive a self-professed interest in hunting to be a major status gaffe, consigning one to what they would consider the lowest rung of humanity: rural working class white males, with potential Republican sympathies. Criticizing hunters and hunting is a crude but common affiliation tactic among this group. But doing it to the hunter’s face — even the people who agreed with the anti-hunting guy in the anecdote probably considered him an asshole.

  2. Marissa says:

    And yet, something tells me were it a present-day red-skinned native of the North American continent who had his hunting hobby (because they don’t need it to survive anymore) outed then the precious steak-eater wouldn’t have batted an eye. I can just see the ladies sidling up next to him too.

  3. David Foster says:

    I think an interesting and amusing story could be written about a modern-day blue-state type, probably a professor or a non-profit type, who talks about the superiority of tribal peoples to Western civilization, and, via some sort of time-travel phenomenon, finds himself transported to an American Indian tribe circa 1830. The story is told from the viewpoint of the tribe’s chief, who has to figure out what to do with this guy. He can’t hunt, can’t and won’t fight — maybe he could be a storyteller? But we already have one of those, and besides, his storytelling is so damn boring. What on earth is this man good for?

  4. Isegoria says:

    An even more ironic version of Poul Anderson’s “The Man Who Came Early“.

  5. Faze hits the nail on the head. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn this the hard way. Discussing military history or violent movie events (even ones that make me blanch) is okay, but as soon as I mentioned hunting or having had to personally put down a beloved pet, out came the funny looks and awkward silence.

  6. Isegoria says:

    I can imagine the funny looks and awkward silence coming out after you said you needed to put down a beloved pet — and there was no reason to let good meat go to waste.

  7. Hah. That one’s never come up, but I can’t imagine the reaction if it had and I mentioned it to someone…

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