Here’s a e-mail I received in response to my “”Grindhouse” column a few weeks back. It comes from someone who has been following “”Excess Hollywood” for years, and I’ve changed his name for all the usual reasons. As a courtesy, I cleaned up his spelling, but left his insanity firmly in place.

Doug — You know I like your stuff. You always amuse me, but I think your blog on “”Grindhouse” went a little too far because it was published on the site during the Virginia Tech massacre news coverage. That’s upsetting because you picture the “”Jittery Guy” as a loner psychopath who stabs a pillow (which you use as a surrogate female ) while saying some horrific things. In light of all the other crimes that these people have committed, including the one that happened Tuesday [that would be the shootings at Virginia Tech — Doug], don’t you think it’s time to stop using psychopaths as something that is funny? It’s not. You help make it acceptable to do these things.

I hope you reconsider how you portray these obviously mentally ill people in your future blogs. They aren’t funny and entertaining. I think you used poor taste in posting what and when you did. -A.J.

A.J. is entirely off base. He is over reacting, just like most of America does with these incidents, and he is looking to place blame anywhere but on the killer’s shoulders (also like most of America). I did not create the environment that spawned the killer, and I did not cause him to go on a shooting rampage. I also don’t make killing acceptable. I won’t be blamed for that, and I don’t think it’s fair for people like A.J. to try, but I do understand the reasoning.

I stayed away from most of the coverage of Virginia Tech because I wasn’t surprised by it, and it didn’t shock me. From what I did see, the guy was a socially awkward man who couldn’t meet women and had a taste for bad writing and guns. He, like many other killers, placed blame on society for the way he turned out (rightly so or not), and he decided to confront it like a coward — even going so far as to take the coward’s way out. (Note to would-be homicidal maniacs: If you must engage in a mass killing, at least have the guts to face society afterward. If you don’t, you are no better than that which you hate. Read some f*****g Nietzsche.)

Most of the coverage I watched was on CNN and NBC, which was particularly ghoulish throughout the incident. When I flipped on the peacock network the day NBC first reported that it had received the “”manifesto” and footage, an “”expert” was talking about how the killer was “”terrorizing” everyone in America from “”beyond the grave.” That seemed a little sensationalistic. The killer wasn’t terrorizing anyone. He was explaining his actions (not a form of terrorism — not even in Bush’s Homeland), and he didn’t have supernatural powers that enabled him to do so from “”beyond the grave.” NBC was the one responsible for making the killer’s voice heard. If anyone should have been blamed for terrorizing America from “”beyond the grave” it was NBC.

CNN wasn’t much better. The news station kept running interviews with a gun store owner who sold the lunatic a gun. The interviews were slanted just enough to make the gun store owner, who was very well spoken despite what the reporters were hinting at, appear a tad bit guilty. Lovely. Glenn Beck, CNN’s star struck answer to Fox’s commentators, even brought up Quentin Tarantino’s name in association with the killings.

NBC and CNN were doing what the rest of America does best. It grants these nuts superhuman powers (the murderers spawn copycat killers, change the face of America forever, terrorize from beyond the grave, and so on), and they look to place blame on whomever is left standing (video games, German industrial music, gun store owners, Twinkies, etc.). But A.J. doesn’t blame these media outlets. No, sir. Somehow I’m guilty of keeping the twisted dream alive and making it acceptable to kill people because I utilized the imagery of a socially awkward person stabbing a pillow.

I’m a writer. I use words to give readers mental images. Writing is not a science. Sometimes my writing works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I choose the words I use to set the mood and conjure up certain emotions, pictures and ideas in a reader’s brain. I don’t write to inspire bad poets with gun obsessions. (It’s too small an audience, and most poets are afraid of firearms and are too weak to actually fire them.) I write to get a message across and (hopefully) entertain. I am not responsible for the state of the world, where violence seems to be a perfectly acceptable answer to almost any problem. (Don’t believe that? Look at our country and its policies toward war, capital punishment and torture.) I didn’t create that society, and I often speak out against it. I’d rather see people talk out their problems instead of making a fist, picking up a gun, or sending troops to some far corner of the world. To imply that I’m even the slightest bit responsible for something like that which happened at Virginia Tech is not only insane and incorrect, it’s also dangerous and irresponsible.

When people place blame so casually, they aren’t really looking at the bigger picture. They are, like most people, looking for easy solutions to difficult questions (and many not so difficult questions). They don’t want to examine their own roles in the problem, and they get a feeling of moral superiority by calling others on the carpet for perceived crimes against humanity. That’s a pretty careless way to live, or so I think. But what do I know? I create killers when I write about movies.

A.J., I’d prefer that you no longer read my blog if you can’t tell the difference between real responsibility and, well, no responsibility. I have none when it comes to Virginia Tech, Columbine, Baghdad, Nazi Germany, Rome, and so on. None. But I do think you actually have far more responsibility than you would ever dare to imagine. In fact, your letter proves it, and if you don’t understand that, you weren’t paying attention … just like most of America.

Enjoy the coverage of the next massacre, A.J., but don’t blame me.

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  1. Dave Lawler says:

    I think you and I differ (slightly) on this one.

    The Virginia Tech Dude (as he will always be known to me) was a frustrated entertainer who mailed his demo reel, resume, and a portfolio of impressive headshots to a major network. If not for the fact that he took the Joker’s creed to a whole new level of blood-chilling reality (“he made art until someone died”), NBC probably wouldn’t have opened the package and put it on the air. He is the ultimate celebrity.

  2. Doug,

    While I disagree with some of your politics, you are spot on with this response and it makes me happy to see someone have the balls to stand up and tell people to take responsibility for their own actions and to quit misplacing blame.

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