Virginia Tech: Here We Go Again

The news about the biggest mass shooting in American history is pouring across the Internet and cable news shows, and the facts are being assembled as I write. I don't know who the killer was or even how many people will be counted as dead by the end of the day, but of one thing I am certain: the vapid and predictable "debate" that will dominate the next five or six news cycles.

Like the Columbine shootings ten years ago this month, or the Oklahoma City bombing two years earlier, or the Waco stand-off two years before that, the corporate media will immediately label it a "tragedy," like a force of nature, and then commence with the usual punditry about the causes of violence in American society.

We will hear right-wingers, like David "Bobo in Paradise" Brooks, blame the shootings at Virginia Tech on Quentin Tarrantino movies and violent video games. They will single out the "culture" as the problem, thereby exonerating their friends at the National Rifle Association (NRA). Then they will lecture us on being responsible for our actions and bash "liberal" Hollywood.

The liberals, like Hillary Clinton and Nicholas Kristof, will launch into hand-wringing "analyzes" about the availability of guns in our society, and then make half-hearted calls for tighter background checks and other restrictions on gun ownership. (They know this will never happen.)

The 24-hour news cycle will shove Virginia Tech down our throats for at least a week now because it guarantees high ratings as the corporate media exploit the raw emotions of the event, and allow voyeuristic viewers to experience vicariously the seven stages of grief along with the victims. (Nancy Grace and Bill O'Reilly are sure to milk this one for all its worth. Don Imus would have been bumped out of the news and would still have his job if the killer had struck a week ago.)

President George W. Bush, who as Texas governor opposed any attempts at gun control and is the closest president we've ever had to the NRA, will emote about the "tragedy" while trying to head off politicians who think it might be a good idea to pass stricter federal gun laws.

It doesn't matter what "motivated" the person who attacked the idyllic college campus in Virginia this morning. I don't know the identity or the hang-ups of the killer, nor am I particularly interested. It also doesn't matter what the politicians and pundits say about the killings. We've seen this before, nothing will change, the NRA has too much campaign cash and lobbyists on the payroll to allow for any change in the nation's gun laws.

Therefore, the true "debate" must center on publicly financing campaigns because until and unless we break the stranglehold of the NRA on our politicians from both political parties, there will never be any progress in addressing the underlying causes of these predictable and horrific spasms of suicidal gun violence. Whoever the killer is, if he didn't have access to a gun those 31 people would be studying for their midterms right now.

Also, if David Brooks and the Rightwing can blame video games and the violent movies coming out of Hollywood for the school shootings, then I think it is also fair to place some of the blame on our political leaders who called for us to invade and occupy Iraq. The bloodbath and carnage daily reported out of Iraq, as well as our young people going in and out of that death trap, provide the background noise for the violence that pervades our society.

Let's break the NRA's grip on our politics by publicly financing just one election cycle -- how about 2012? There will be no money from the NRA dictating our gun policies; no money from AIPAC dictating our Middle East policy; no money from the Pharmaceutical and HMO industries dictating our health care policy; no money from the ExxonMobiles of the world dictating our energy policies; no money from the financial services industry dictating our trade and pension policies; etc. Let's just try it once in 2012 and see what happens. We can always go back to the obscene spending levels our current politics vacuums up.