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Rats on a Hot Plate Looking For a Scapegoat, Unable to Accept the Evil That REALLY Causes Tragedies like the Arizona Shooting

Posted on January 12 2011 10:00 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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I went on my first real date in seventh grade in 1997. She was a friend from school named Holly and we went to see the R-rated, slasher movie “Scream 2.” We were both 13 or 14 or so but there was no controversy in two junior high kids going and seeing a bloody horror movie about a masked killer. We bought our tickets without incident and enjoyed the picture.

Three years later the movie theatre experience at Regal Cinemas was very different. My best friend Jon McDermid and I went to see “Scary Movie,” the goofy R-rated parody of the late ’90s new wave of knife-wielding maniac movies. Now we needed a parent to sign our ticket in order for us to be admitted and the theatre had assigned ushers to make sure that no one under 17 got into an R-rated movie.

What happened in those three years between “Scream 2” and “Scary Movie”? One of the defining cultural experiences of Generation Y: the Columbine Shooting.

That was the constant cultural concern during my high school years: what could inspire teenagers to kill?

Joseph Lieberman pointed the finger at this man:

Yes, intentionally chose the androgynous version of Manson.

But when the smoke cleared it turned out that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold actually weren’t Marilyn Manson fans. Oops. I wonder if Lieberman ever apologized to Manson for his error. Gee, I wonder if Markos “American Taliban” Zuniga will ever apologize to Sarah Palin. These are rhetorical questions, of course…

My friend Howard Bloom has a phrase for this: “rats on a hot plate looking for a scapegoat.”

At the beginning of the above video Howard explains a laboratory experiment in which the scientist puts a group of rats on a hot plate and then turns the heat on, sizzling the rodents’ little paws. How do the rats respond? By finding the lowest rat on the totem poll and taking their aggression out on him. When the world gets too chaotic for the rats to handle they have to regain order somehow. And they do it by beating the crap out of whoever they don’t like.

We’re the same way. We don’t want to accept that evil exists, bad things happen for no good reason, and when it comes down to it we really don’t have complete control over our lives. “There is very little justice in this world,” David Horowitz once intoned to me. Evil is a component of human nature, a simple fact of life as normal as rain falling from the sky and the sun rising in the East. These evil quirks of nature have been with us throughout history and aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon. They existed long before guns, violent entertainments, and Alaskan governors.

On Saturday RedState Editor Erick Erickson provided the moral clarity I’ve come to expect from him:

The truth is there is evil in this world. Evil exists where God does not and as we drive God further and further away, evil creeps in more and more. Today was not a random act of violence. It was a profound evil.

Let’s not pretend it wasn’t. Let’s not pretend evil does not exist.

But that’s exactly what the culture at large — as well as most of the political culture — will continue to do.

Let’s talk frankly about this for a moment: for most people it requires a direct confrontation with evil before they can wake up to it. That’s why 9/11 was such a potent force in shifting many so-called liberals onto the Right. That’s why something like the Black Panthers murdering a friend can be a catalyst for a dramatic transformation. That’s why people tend to shift to the Right after getting out into “the real world” — they experience more evil people firsthand.

We can — and should — present all the facts and arguments availble to try and wake people up to the sinister forces that threaten us. Because we will snap some people our of their slumber — though certainly not as many as we’d like or need. But let’s be sure our expectations are reasonably set and we’re prepared to play the role of Cassandra as things get much worse before they get better. As our debts rise and Islam’s Long March continues the days when we worried about preventing teenagers from seeing slasher movies will seem quaint.

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