April 22, 2007

The Arrogance Of Silence

This week, I wrote that our national character these days seems to demand that everyone assume that all tragedies belong to the entire country, and that we all have to participate in a mourning/healing cycle that imposes itself of the real victims of the tragedies. We saw this yet again with the Virginia Tech shootings, where the media invaded the campus for much longer than factual reporting required, to intrude on the community there and give a voyeuristic and vicarious account of the ral grief of the friends and family of the dead and wounded.

Now we have a suggestion that we extend this arrogance to the entire blogosphere by a group called One Day Blog Silence. They propose that all bloggers take Monday, April 30th off in honor of the victims at Virginia Tech:

Silence can say more than a thousand words. This day shall unite us all about this unbelievable painful & shocking event and show some respect and love to those who lost their loved ones. On April 30th 2007, the Blogosphere will hold a One-Day Blog Silence in honor of the victims at Virginia Tech. More then 30 died at the US college massacre. But it´s not only about them. Many bloggers have responded and asked about all the other victims of our world. All the people who die every day. What about them? This day can be a symbol of support to all the victims of our world!

I don't want to get too strident in my criticism, because I'm sure the organizers are well-meaning people who have gotten caught up in this sensationalized American mourning process, but silence makes no sense at all for either the V-Tech dead or "all the other victims of our world". This assumes that "victims" will get more support by taking a day off from the computer to do ... whatever anyone does when they're not blogging. Going to the park, taking in a movie, getting together with friends -- all of these are good for the blogger, but say nothing for "all the victims in our world".

How did the blogosphere get selected for silence, anyway? Why not the mainstream media? Why not universities, which would have been more appropriate, if still a poor idea? How about engineering web sites, or something that had any connection to the shootings -- instead of the rather arrogant connection to grief that some in the blogosphere and the media have claimed for the past week?

Want to make a difference? Speak out! Discuss the issues of the day, propose solutions, and work to get those solutions implemented. Don't offer empty, meaningless gestures like a day of keeping your mouth and your laptop shut. (via Michael van der Galien at TMV and Outside the Beltway)


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Thanks to The Captain (of Captain's Quarters), I've read about one of the silliest ideas I've heard about since campaigning for the 2008 election in March 2007: One Day of Blog Silence. We bloggers are supposed to be quiet tomorrow as a show of solidar... [Read More]

Comments (28)

Posted by Jim [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 7:59 AM

Wow, unbelievable... Some of us have no connection to the VT massacre and recognise that. Why these people would trivialize the grief of those that do have a very real connection to the murders by requesting... demanding something so silly is beyond me.

Jim C

Posted by CroolWurld [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:02 AM

Should it be a sullen silence? Shall I speak in monosyllables?

Posted by Right2thePoint [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:07 AM

Just another suggestion that shows there is rarely a shortage of unbridled stupidity.

Posted by Fausta [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:21 AM

Yet more another call for yet one more another symbollic act that acomplishes nothing.

Posted by SoldiersMom [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:24 AM

Sounds like PC blackmail to me? It will be interesting to see who goes black on the 30th. Glad that CE won't be one of them.

Reminds me of those religious emails I get with the message, if I love God, I'll pass this on. I love God but don't feel the need to forward an email to prove it.

Posted by IAmFree [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:34 AM

The enemies of life and freedom will not be silent, neither shall its champions. Many blogs are relating in their own ways and that is better.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:42 AM

I suppose that a social psychologist or social historian would find this sort of thing of considerable interest as it demonstrates the changes in how our society (or, at least, part of it) chooses to view death and express collective grief. Contrast the noisy "Irish wake" with the Jewish ceremonial ripping of clothes with the "stiff upper lip" tradition of English funerals.

At risk of demeaning what is undoubtedly a well-intentioned effort, I think that this "day of blogger silence" is indicative of a society that (1) has way too much time on its hands and (2) is losing what might be called its awe of death. With families so scattered and most Americans living through years of old age with all its attendent medical (and, often, mental) problems, I suggest that most Americans don't experience death in the way that our ancestors did. We move around so much that close connections with all but a very small number of family and friends becomes difficult; while we feel regret when somebody we know dies, it isn't quite such a shock or a blow because we may not have seen them more than a handful of times in years. While death certainly can come quickly and unexpectedly, I think that it is more common for Americans to die after a lengthy illness and / or in old age. Therefore, death seems more a relief than a shock. However, people "know" that they are supposed to grieve. Having little cause for genuine grief in their individual lives, they look for it elsewhere.

This desire for anonymous corporate grief may also be an indicator of how isolated many Americans feel. Cut off from the close, comfortable support system of the extended family and the hometown / neighborhood, Americans feel adrift in the world, little nameless, faceless motes in a sea of nameless, faceless motes that have no connection to each other. So, when a chance to make a connection, no matter how tenuous, comes along, they leap at it. "Let's all grieve together... and then go back to not even knowing each others' names, even if we work in the same building."

I don't know. Psychobabble, I suppose...

Posted by jimboster [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:46 AM

This reminds of all those roadside shrines you see after someone is killed in a traffic accident. It's nice to show you care, but it doesn't really accomplish anything. If you really want to honor the memory of someone, why not dedicate a good deed in that person's name- volunteer to tutor a kid, or help an illiterate adult, serve food at a soup kitchen,
deliver meals to the elderly. Do something that actually means something.

Posted by RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:48 AM

A better tribute would be to use that day to write only about the good things, and the good people, that you're grateful for.

Posted by eforhan [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 8:57 AM

Believing that a "One Day Blog Silence" will allay future mass murders is akin to thinking a "Gun Free Zone" will make evildoers not bring guns on campus.

It's all magical thinking (ejectejecteject.com).

Posted by Marc [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 9:14 AM

What makes this effort even stranger is a DNS lookup of the URL shows it may have been registered in Germany.

Posted by TC@LeatherPenguin [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 9:29 AM

"On April 30th 2007, the Blogosphere will hold a One-Day Blog Silence in honor of the victims at Virginia Tech."

If not for that "will" I may have given them a thought....
You deem to instruct me? I "will" follow your edict?

Screw you!

Posted by Cindy [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 9:50 AM

I imposed my own"silence" on the subject this week. I already have stopped writing on the subject. And I had family there!

Everyone needs to quit talking about the killer to be certain. However, the underlying isses should still be discussed. How a person with the mental problems he had got a gun is a major reason for concern.


Posted by braindead [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:11 AM

How about everyone honk their horns continuously all day long?

Posted by DaveR [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:14 AM

Slightly OT, but somewhat related...

This morning on NPR, Daniel Schorr gave his "analysis" of NBC's decision to air the videos sent to them by the Virginia Tech murderer. Dan talked at length about how tough a decision it was, and compared it to how the NYT and the WAPO agonized over publishing the Unabomber manifesto, but finally felt that it was their civic duty since he had promised to stop killing if they did. They felt they were part of the community, you see. By implication of course, so did NBC.

Yes, Dan went on and on about the agonizing decision that it was, and how the media must strive to balance its sacred principles against its duties to society. He almost wept.

The burden the media carries in these situations is no doubt immense, but Dan helped lighten it a bit by speaking at length on this controversial subject, but never once mentioning the word, or even alluding to the concept of, "ratings".

What a pal, to grant the media the benefit of the doubt that he would never give the President, or the troops. I mean, could he once mention Iraq without working in Abu Graib?

And to think that, until today, I thought that a "media whore" was someone who fawns over the media from OUTSIDE of it!

Posted by Insufficiently Sensitive [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:25 AM

The "One Day Blog Silence" gang must be a coterie of MSM bulgebottoms, hoping to get a day to relax and pretend they're back in the Pleistocene.

Or a gang of "intellectuals" conditioning the masses to accept nonsensical orders from above.

At any rate, the cure for the deafening hysterical coverage of the VT shootings should not be to shut up and listen to the echoes of that coverage. Contrary to the Economist, which scolds America from coast to coast for not stampeding into gun control legislation, the cure for such 'lookit me!' shootings is not humble resignation to the next such event. Unsurprisingly, the Economist did not balance that screech with a penetrating look at the rise of violent crimes in England since citizens were forced to turn in their firearms.

There's very little to improve on from "Let's Roll", and the concept of honorable self-defense had better be revived briskly in civil society, like it or not.

Posted by PersonFromPorlock [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:28 AM

Carol would explode! Heck, I'd swell up pretty good.

Posted by DaveR [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:28 AM

Oh, and by the way...

Any blog that shows that "day of silence" logo will get permenantly removed from my favorites list! Too bad the guy that thought this up didn't observe a personal month or so of silence, retroactive to before he published this tripe!

The only thing worse than stupid meaningless gestures are stupid meaningless gestures that amount to emotional blackmail.

Posted by DaveR [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:40 AM

"... the URL ...may have been registered in Germany."

Say, if all German blogs go silent for one day for every 32 people massacred in Germany, we'd never hear from them until the year 2218 or so, would we?

Posted by David2 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:40 AM

Okay, here's my proposal regarding school shootings. And I am not going to be quiet about it on Monday or any other day. Why waste a day when it puts us one day closer to the next school shooting? As a Virginia resident who has a son at VCU my major concern today is to do something about this problem. Very difficult problems are solved all the time and this one can be as well. I am not talking about an immediate political solution because politics is one of the things that prevents almost anything from being done without much deliberation. What can we agree on at this moment? If a gun could magically appear in the hands of every scholar and student who was killed or wounded last Monday would anyone object? I don't think anyone would except the mass murderer. Afterwards, there would be discussion about what to do with all these weapons. Some would say take them away before someone was accidentally shot. Others would declare they had demonstrated their value and should stay. But for a few brief moments there would be general agreement. Guns are good. These students and teachers should have had an option for defending themselves beyond putting up a hand as one woman did and trying to fend off a hollow bullet. But guns are not coming to our schools anytime soon unless they magically appear or the gun debate is miraculously resolved.

What would be helpful in a realistic way that could engender agreement and a possible solution? A stun gun looks too much like a gun. If my son started carrying one on campus he could have a real problem. Besides, it says in an article I read today that the police find pepper spray to be more effective. It can travel 18 feet at 95 mph and instantly immobilize a killer. His eyes will shut and other unpleasant things will happen to him. In some states, however, he would not be allowed to have this protection on his campus. That needs to change. I think we have subscribed to the idea that confronting a crazed assailant is an all or nothing proposition. He must be shot or he will not be stopped. But that is not true. My son is a huge football player and he recently ran to the scene of a terrible auto accident only to be briefly blinded by the particles of an exploded air bag. Give him something to work with and he will fight back. Plan ahead of time and you will find students who will fight back in an organized way, distracting a shooter and disabling him from several directions. No one wants to put their child at risk. But we all want to give them a chance to survive and help others to survive in a horrible situation. There is only a very small chance that they will ever have to confront a school shooter. But it is unlikely the school will have a fire and they are still all required to do drills and have firefighting equipment. Unless there are mandated activities people simply forget what they are supposed to do. And the terrible truth is that this confrontation will happen again somewhere in this country. Another concern with these ideas is that the potential shooter will likely be right in the middle of the group who is planning to stop him. He will understand how to evade these measures. But, in fact, he will be realizing that it is no longer quite as easy to kill your classmates and escape through death's door. He may be discouraged from attempting to bring violence to the school. Brave individuals do not do these things. Murdering defenseless individuals and committing suicide are cowardly acts. We must confront this person even though we do not yet know who is and make him understand the world is going to come down on his head if he acts out on his vengeful fantasies.

I have noticed that in every public school building there are fire extinguishers in small spaces behind protective glass. My own suggestion is that a metal box containing pepper spray, mace or some other item be somehow integrated into this space in a way that makes them accessible while discouraging easy access. A locked drawer in a teacher's or administrator's desk would also be a good location for some of these items. Also, allow responsible students to carry some of these items in the school. But mandate locations for these things so they will be there just like the fire extinguisher will be there after most have forgotten about all of this and gone on with their lives.

We have accepted the idea that if there is a fire it may be necessary to do something before the firemen arrive. A shooter requires no less attention than a blazing inferno. And it should be possible to have a shooter drill along with a fire drill at every school in this nation. It should also be possible to have deadbolts (with keys) on every classroom door just as we have fire alarms on the walls. These are my humble suggestions in this matter. I am sure there are better answers to this difficult problem out there. But after so many of these terrible events I am still waiting to hear them. It is time to discourage the next madman who is out there now feeding on the images broadcast in the last few days. Let's send a message to him. Broadcast something about the pain caused by pepper spray with pictures demonstrating what they do to the skin. Also it could be noted that once you are "shot" with pepper spray you may not be able to shoot yourself, you will not be shot and you will be spending the rest of your life in a cell without access to a computer! Not a glorious ending. As I said before, he must understand that the world is going to come crashing down on him and he may not be able to run away in a cowardly fashion by shooting himself. We are going to capture him and put him in a cage.
Eventually there may be an intellectual and political solution to this problem. But practical measures are needed now. The family and friends of the victims, the Virginia Tech community and the country in general need to know that this tragic event caused a turning point to be reached in the effort to stop school shootings. If others do not die because of their loss perhaps the families will be comforted to some degree.

In Virginia and in the nation parents will be watching and waiting for leaders who can go beyond tired debates and protect the children. The clock is ticking. And the next time bomb is out there waiting for our response. Let's give him something to think about besides his selfish grievances and sick glory.

Richmond, Virginia

Posted by William Teach [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 10:59 AM

I always thought that the best way to deal with a situation was to talk about it. Silly conservative me.

Posted by richard mcenroe [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 2:27 PM

I refuse to give the Pusan Pissant that kind of power over my life.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 2:54 PM

OKAY: The test site should be the KOS-KIDS, though.

And, throw in the Huffo, too.

Not that I care.

I don't think there's anyone out there with an idea good enough, that it reaches in and sucks the brains out of most Internet users.

The Internet is not a religion.

And, for the idiots that cooked up this scheme? You think they'll go on-line on April 30th, just to see how poorly their idea fares in the market place?

Posted by YouGottaBeKidding [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 3:13 PM

LSU sent out a "group grope" e-mail concerning a minute of silence at 11 a.m. Monday. Fortunately, I am not in class at that time so I don't have to make a decision about partipcipating.



I have begun thinking about what I would do in the classrooms I use. Most, if not all, of the classrooms on campus are used by many classes and many teachers. Many don't have desks with locking drawers.

Cho shot the teacher first. Anything defensive that's accessible only by the teacher would be useless under those circumstances. If the teacher had some warning (like hearing shots elsewhere), maybe...

I agree with you about the shooter drill, like a fire drill. We used to have fire drills on campus but it's been years since I've experienced one. I don't know if we don't have them or if I've just not been around.

I'm seriously thinking about carrying some short lengths of nylon rope (for tying the doors shut in one of my classrooms) and duct tape (for taping the light switches in the OFF position so the occupants would be hard to see through the windows in the doors in an otherwise windowless classroom) and telling the students that the stuff is there and how to get to it. It's not that I expect anything to happen, because I don't, but it's like thinking through what you'd do if you were in a hijacked airplane. Our reaction now would be very different than it was before 9/11.

I don't know what the answer is because the situation is very complex. There is probably no way to prevent this sort of thing but there have to be some strategies that could help. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that the powers that be at my university (who sent out the obligatory reminder that our campus is a firearm-free zone) will do anything useful.

BTW, most of the "children" at college, while they ARE someone's children, are not really children. Most are at least 18 and many are over 21. They are young adults, even though some of them don't act very mature.

Posted by patrick neid [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 5:23 PM

instead of silence we should all read

thornton wilder's pulitzer prize winning "the bridge of san luis rey".

Posted by Tom Shipley [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 6:58 PM

I don't know, I think this day of silence isn't a bad idea.

One thing that the blogosphere lacks much of the time is contemplation. Something happens, you read about it and instantly you have something to say about it.

When this happens, you're not really obsorbing the new develoment and adjusting your opinion to it. You're putting a previously held opinion forth, framing the new development to fit that opinion.

Contemplation is a lost art, it seems. With the ability to write and post something in minutes (or even seconds) on the Web, much of what you see is reactionary.

A day of silence is respectful toward the victims. We're going to take a day off and stop babbling about how why and whose fault this tragedy is. A day of silence in their name is honoring those people lives instead of debating the ramifications of their deaths.

Posted by richard mcenroe [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 22, 2007 9:22 PM

Show of hands: who'll mind if Tom doesn't post that day?


Posted by David2 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 23, 2007 11:09 AM

Thanks for the feedback from LSU. We have a university right next door and I sent my letter to them. And got some feedback from them also. Their admin staff is going to read it. That's a start. Systemic changes need to be made. Individual stances can be taken but no one knows where it will happen next. So change has to come from the top. It doesn't have to be intrusive or super expensive. But there seems to be this unspoken resignation that nothing can be done or it's too complex a subject to address in simple ways. High schools sometimes still have fire drills. I know the students still jump out the back of the school buses every year. They are our children or somebodies children. Someone, for the most part, is out there and was/is/will grieve terribly when their child is killed while trying to get an education.
I am not sure certain segments of our population are capable of thinking in terms of the enemy, evil and self defense anymore. How much time is going to be spent trying to understand the mass murderer? And how much time is going to be spent taking steps to prevent the next one from murdering students? And no, the former does not lead to the latter. That's a sad and futile endeavor. Slow him down when he's in the building. If he thinks there may be a couple of students with pepper spray or mace around every corner he will slow down or be slowed down. He will do less damage before the police arrive. It's not too complex.