If YOU Do Something, Only YOU Are Responsible

Here are two totally opposing ways of life:

You had better choose which one you want to live under, because each one leads to different consequences for all of us.

This weekend my Twitterstream was filled with tweets from the self-righteous denouncing the “rhetoric” that they believe inspired the attempted assassination of a Congresswoman.

Rhetoric? That’s the only thing that can set off people? What about basic drama? You know, the stuff that’s all totally imaginary.

In 1966, TV aired a movie written by Rod Serling called The Doomsday Flight.

A bomb on board an airliner has an altitude-sensitive trigger. Unless a ransom is paid, it will explode when the plane descends to land.

I don’t have either of the two biographies of Serling handy, and Google Books is no help with even a matching snippet view from them, but I recall from those books that within minutes after that movie aired, airlines received phone calls they never had before: bomb threats.

This wasn’t limited to the United States, either, as this book points out:

Click = big

Originally, Serling was appalled that his script had been used to inspire nuts. He said:

I wish to Christ I had written a stagecoach drama starring John Wayne instead. I wish I’d never been born.

But then, wisely, he retracted that and said:

A writer can’t be responsible for the pathology of idiots.

In 1974, TV aired a movie called Born Innocent. It featured the main character being raped by a broom handle:

The scene drew much outcry on its first airing and was eventually pulled from the movie entirely when it was blamed for the rape of a nine-year-old girl, committed by some of her peers with a glass soda pop bottle. The California Supreme Court would declare the film was not obscene, and that the network which broadcast it was not liable for the actions of the persons who committed the crime. Olivia N. v. National Broadcasting Company, 126 Cal. App.3d 488 (1981).

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

The copycat rape incident was huge news back then.

What Wikipedia and its history-ignorant compilers are missing is that the incident and its news inspired writers Richard Levinson and William Link — famous for series such as Columbo, among others — to create a movie showing the writer’s point of view. It was called The Storyteller:

A television writer is troubled by accusations that a young boy’s death resulted from actions the boy copied from the writer’s teleplay.

Going back further in time, the 1947 movie Kiss of Death had this nasty bit in it:

Do you think the contemporaneous audience watching that movie blamed anyone other than the Richard Widmark character for what he did? Did they care about his upbringing, his associates, what he might have read, or ever thought the woman in the wheelchair provoked him?

When I was a kid, parents never took “He told me to do it!” as an excuse, not ever. They had a standard comeback: “If he told you to jump off a bridge, would you have done it?”

As for “rhetoric” — name-calling, in my day — parents had another standard comeback: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

And if the names do hurt you, grow the hell up! Would you rather have someone throw an insult at you or throw a punch?

Are we now going to descend into such madness that every damn word we utter has to be edited to be totally inconsequential?

Tell me, why do you burn books?

What? Well, it’s a job like any other. Good work with lots of variety. Monday, we burn Miller; Tuesday, Tolstoy; Wednesday, Walt Whitman; Friday, Faulkner; and Saturday and Sunday, Schopenhauer and Sartre. “We burn them to ashes and then burn the ashes.” That’s our official motto.

You don’t like books then?

Books are just so much… rubbish. They have no interest.

Then why do some people still read them although it’s so dangerous?

Precisely because it is forbidden.

Why is it forbidden?

Because it makes people unhappy.

Do you really believe that?

Oh, yes. Books disturb people. They make them antisocial.

From the movie version of Fahrenheit 451, boldfaced emphasis added by me.

I don’t care what you think might have “influenced” someone. The moment that person decides to do something, only that person is responsible for the doing, period.

The only person responsible for the actions of Loughner is Loughner himself. The moment he picked up that gun and walked to the Congresswoman’s meeting with the idea of using that gun on her and others, only he was responsible.

Sarah Palin can sleep with a clear conscience, should she have one.

Xeni Jardin? She should be ashamed of herself for her accusation.


In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric
Journalists urged caution after Ft. Hood, now race to blame Palin after Arizona shootings

Previously here:

We Can’t Report Potential Nuts
Indecency For Jesus
Decency Has No Nationality And No Color
Quote Of The Day: Nutjobs Edition
Welcome To The Whiplash Of 2011
Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death
Free Speech And Free Thought: All Or Nothing



Filed under Books: General, Video, Writers, Writing

3 responses to “If YOU Do Something, Only YOU Are Responsible

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention If YOU Do Something, Only YOU Are Responsible « Mike Cane's xBlog -- Topsy.com

  2. Joel M. Andre

    Excellent article!

  3. I actually agree with you that the artist or creator cannot be held responsible for the insanity of copycats. Ideas will come from anywhere and everywhere.

    The point I made is not that Loughner was not responsible. I never pointed the finger at any particular voice, but rather all the voices that shout out violent rhetoric and exhort people to violence and mayhem – because, they too, are responsible for their actions.

    Hence I started my article with the stated belief that the FBI, by arresting him for an assassination attempt, were taking Loughner seriously, whereas no one else seemed to be, just writing him off as nuts.

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