Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Seeking infamy

The motive behind the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado, last week may never truly be known. Who can truly plumb the black void of a soul capable of such slaughter of innocents?

Yet, if past events are any guide, it is likely that one component of the motive of the killer was a desire for infamy — the desperate need to make a mark, to be seen, heard and remembered.

It’s tempting to think if such twisted narcissism as a modern disease. Certainly the culture of celebrity encourages fame for its own sake, regardless of worthiness of character or deed.

But such behavior is present across history. 

Bob Ford, the killer of Jesse James, wanted to be a famous bandit. Failing at that, as in all else, he settled for shooting a famous bandit in the back of the head. He later toured a stage performance based on his exploit. Jesse James himself was a preening megalomaniac, who cast his own a sordid career in a heroic light.

Would denying the infamy make a difference? Perhaps. But it will never happen. Such events exert a perverse fascination on the public and every aspect of the case will continue to be dissected until exhaustion sets in or a fresher horror rises to take over the public consciousness.

Such it has ever been and always will be as long as one will seek to affirm his existence by extinguishing that of another.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

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