I heard a story on NPR Morning Edition that got my attention. Being young and stupid has often proved fatal - but in this case I'm wondering what else is going on.
Carter has been in jail since his arrest in February. After he finished playing the online game League of Legends, where the community trash-talking can get quite toxic, court documents show he posted the following messages on a Facebook page:More below the Orange Omnilepticon
"I think Ima shoot up a kindergarten / And watch the blood of the innocent rain down/ And eat the beating heart of one of them."
Carter's father says his son was responding to an insult by being sarcastic and followed the message with "JK" for just kidding, but that's disputed by police.
In April, a grand jury in Comal County, Texas, indicted Carter on a charge of making a terroristic threat, and a judge set bail at $500,000. The high bail has kept Carter imprisoned while his case moves through the court process.
"I have been practicing law for 10 years, I've represented murderers, terrorists, rapists. Anything you can think of. I have never seen a bond at $500,000," says Carter's attorney, Don Flanary.
The kid was 18 years old when he made the comment on Facebook that landed him in jail on charges of terrorism. And make no mistake, what he said WAS really stupid and offensive. But by that standard, there are a LOT of people who should be sitting behind bars.
But this kid who never - so far as the reports go - had any intention of acting on what was a really stupid remark tossed off as a joke is now being held in solitary on watch because he's extremely depressed, and has also been repeatedly beaten up in jail. I find myself wondering if this is maybe just a little bit of an extreme response? Yes, there are sick people out there and it seems prudent to maybe take a hard look at remarks like this given recent events, but is turning this kid's life into a horror story really going to be that much of a deterrent?
I can't help but think of an entire generation of sociopathic Wall Street types who wrecked the economy and are still ripping off people every where they can. How many lives have they ruined with a few memos, trading decisions, and general grift? And how many of them have seen the inside of a jail cell for even one day?
You can talk about how violent games can be, how disconnected they are from reality. How people can engage in behavior that would have serious consequences in the 'real' world. So tell me, is it just me or does it seem like the people who use computers all day to move money around - aren't they doing something that looks and feels a lot like the rush hard-core gamers get? Except that it DOES have real world consequences?
Or take this case of an 8 year old kid being a kid. Punished on one hand, made a hero on the other, for chewing a pop tart into the shape of what some perceived as a gun, what he says was like a picture he'd drawn of a mountain.
Make a joke about using guns to commit mass murder, play with your food in the wrong way, and the hammer comes down hard. Make statements about regulating gun use, try to pass laws to address gun safety, and watch the push-back come from far and wide.
Charles P. Pierce has an observation of his own on the balance between seeming concern for life coupled with behavior that seems more than a little discordant - and the people who seem oblivious to it. Here's Pierce:
Why, yes, it can. Because that's been the consistent theme for almost 50 years now. Why do you ask? You have to be an awfully big bag of hammers to think Rick Fking Perry, who's also busy denying thousands of poor Texans basic medical care through the Affordable Care Act, is pushing this through because of his deep concern for women's health.Or take another recent event, the terrible wildfire that took the lives of one of the crews who were fighting it. There's been plenty of coverage of the heroism of the crew, the people they left behind, and the fires still raging. What is getting a lot less attention is the factors behind the fire of some relevance; the way the sequester has cut the resources available for fighting fires in the first place; the changing climate making things worse. Pierce again.
I stubbornly persist in believing that those who disagree with me on abortion also care deeply about women, though those of us who see risks to both women and their unborn children are all but never accorded that same presumption.
And aren't you special? Still, I have to stand with the people who don't murder doctors.
The firefighters who died in Arizona were the elite of their trade, the de facto special forces of the people who fight wildfires and forest fires in this country. And the fire simply rolled them up. Of course, it would be a terrible thing to "politicize" this tragedy, but we feel constrained to point out that, because of the genius strategy of "sequestration" -- wherein Republican vandalism and the president's gift for eleventy-dimensional chess have combined to give us a New Normal of austerity while the rest of the world is abandoning the concept -- our capacity to fight fires like the one in Arizona has been hampered.I'm reminded of a science fiction tale from long ago, where aliens who despaired of humans and their seeming inability to manage their own affairs, were considering emergency action. To wit: they were thinking of applying a planet-wide IQ suppressor to Earth. The effect would only last for a few generations, but it would have the effect of knocking human civilization back to the stone age. Granted, there would be a humongous death toll, but less than the one humans seemed to be headed for left to their own devices. The hope was that eventually a somewhat saner civilization would arise...
I'm not so sure we have to postulate an alien race at this point - we seem capable of generating plenty of stupid all by ourselves. Trouble is, I'm a little less sanguine that it would ultimately be to good effect. We seem as a society to be developing a tolerance for cognitive dissonance much in the same way that an alcoholic or a drug addict can take in their poison of choice in amounts that would put a normal person on the floor - or in the morgue. But that doesn't mean their health is particularly robust or even good...
Am I crazy? Am I crazy? Am I crazy?