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Condemn Scapegoating in Aftermath of Atrocities

Colorado, my home, has suffered two horrific, internationally publicized mass murders in recent years, at Columbine High School in 1999 and at an Aurora movie theater just days ago. Despicably, some public commentators quickly sought to scapegoat the innocent rather than blame the guilty for these crimes.

After Columbine, for instance, various pundits tried to blame the then-recent Matrix film because it portrays violence, the defense industry because it allegedly promotes indiscriminate violence, secularists because they oppose religious teaching in tax-funded schools, and the National Rifle Association because it defends the right of gun ownership.

Now, some people are seeking scapegoats for the Aurora murders. Here are but three examples:

  • In a podcast, Christian evangelist Kevin Swanson blamed the murders on the fact that Colorado “was the first state to legalize abortion in 1967,” saying, “all of God’s works are judgement”—as if a woman choosing to terminate a fetus growing inside her body somehow equates to a killer choosing to murder individuals in a theater.
  • Charles Hurt, a writer for the Washington Times, blamed the murders on the Batman movies—as if a movie showing the triumph of good over evil somehow glorifies or promotes evil. (Philosopher Amy Peikoff responded, “Without great art like The Dark Knight Rises, to depict the triumph of good over . . . evil, we can never hope to reach the day when our culture is the best that it can be.”)
  • Alan Berlow, a writer for Salon, blamed the murders on the National Rifle Association, calling it a “lobby for criminals” and “a twisted, paranoid organization”—as if an organization that simply defends the rights of law-abiding Americans to own guns for self-defense could thereby cause a deranged individual to murder innocent moviegoers.

Whatever his emotional problems, the Aurora murderer chose for many months to plan a horrific crime and then to carry it out. He is guilty, and he should receive the blame.

Those who scapegoat commit a double injustice: They accuse the innocent, and they excuse the guilty. Don’t let them get away with it.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons


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