Night Thoughts About Aurora

Goya: “The Sleep of Reason Breeds Monsters.”

Grim news from Colorado today: a dozen people killed and dozens more wounded by the proverbial lone gunman at a premiere of The Dark Knight Rises

David Sirota suggests that the crime be declared as “terrorism”. His point is that right-wing bozos who shoot people are classified as loonies, whereas others (especially if they’re non-white or Muslim) are terrorists.

Maybe so, but it seems premature to claim that’s what was going on in Aurora.

The alleged gunman was “in the process of withdrawing from the [University of Colorado]’s graduate program in neurosciences”. I wonder (with no more information than that) if he had been studying neuroscience to better understand himself, and withdrew from the program because he had given up on that. Unprovoked and brutal acts of violence like these seem like prima facie evidence of mental illness.

I almost called them a “random acts of violence” but decided against that for two reasons. The first is merely stylistic: avoid clich├ęs, right?

But the second is that it wouldn’t be true.

These acts were not random. This was a carefully planned, well armed, capably conducted attack.

And the occasion probably wasn’t random, either. The suspect was dressed in black when he was caught, and he committed his murders at the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. Doesn’t it seem likely that the occasion itself attracted him? That he saw himself as a kind of dark knight, or at least as a super-villain?

Who knows? Maybe his Plan A was to attack a big-screen viewing of My Little Pony, but he settled for Batman instead.

Still: I’m haunted by the thought that his dark violent actions were attracted and focused by the dark violent fantasy of the film.

Remember last week, when reviewers were getting death threats simply for not giving the movie a glowing review?

I’m not blaming the movie (which I haven’t seen, and which I intend to see). And I’m not advocating censorship. In a much smaller way, I’m in the business of creating dark and violent fantasies.

But I’m troubled at the monsters we may be breeding as our reason sleeps.

We’ve seen the darkness at Aurora. Maybe it’s time to turn on some light.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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