The terrorist next door: James Holmes and the false media profile of mass murderers | theGrio

The terrorist next door: James Holmes and the false media profile of mass murderers

by David Leonard | July 24, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado.(Photo by RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)

Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado.(Photo by RJ Sangosti-Pool/Getty Images)

In less than 36 hours, we’ve learned a lot about James Holmes, the alleged shooter in Aurora, Colorado. The desire to learn about his background, to understand him, speaks to the destructive ways that we talk about violence within our culture. It speaks to our collective discomfort whenever we see, confront, and face violence that is “not supposed to happen.”

Described as “nice,” “easy-going,” “smart” and “quiet,” the media discourse has gone to great lengths to humanize Holmes, describing him in sympathetic terms. Whether identified as churchgoing, or as someone who worked with underprivileged kids, the media has gone to great lengths to depict him as a good person gone awry.

The Los Angeles Times, quoting Anthony Mai (a family friend), described Holmes in the following way: “I saw him as a normal guy, an everyday guy, doing everyday things.” He was a “very shy, well-mannered young man who was heavily involved in their local Presbyterian church.” Similarly, an AP Report included the assessment of Jackie Mitchell, who lived in the same neighborhood as Holmes and reportedly had a beer with him the week of the shootings. “We just talked about football. He had a backpack and geeky glasses and seemed like a real intelligent guy,” Mitchell said. “And I figured he was one of the college students.” Noting that he had “swagger,” Mitchell’s “insight,” albeit based on a single encounter, purportedly authenticates a narrative of Holmes as a “normal” All-American kid. He drinks beer and talks football like many other 24-year olds. Other reports depict Holmes as “reserved” and “respectful;” as a “loner” and as a “kid,” despite being 24-years old.

According to neighbors in San Diego, who shared apple cider with his family just last year, Holmes was not unlike many of his peers. While he rarely socialized with other kids and never had a girlfriend, he was a “nice guy.” Tom Mai agreed with his daughter, noting, “James was nice and quiet. He was studious, he cut the grass, and cleaned the car. He was very bright.” Likewise, in “From Quiet Kid to Accused Mass Killer,” Nick Martin illustrates the trajectory and scope of the emerging Holmes narrative:

Growing up in San Diego, James Eagan Holmes was seen by his neighbors as an “everyday guy,” a smart kid who was otherwise unremarkable. But by Friday, the young man was being described by Colorado’s governor as a “very deranged mind” and was the sole suspect in a horrific massacre that left 12 people dead and 59 wounded at a movie theater in the Denver suburbs.

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The Privilege to Murder?

 

 

The Privilege to Murder?
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan
During a discussion about James Holmes and the Aurora, Colorado shooting, Touré asked, “how can someone so young be so depraved?” Citing a “festering rage from that stems from feeling marginalized and powerless,” a feeling “that leads to them to try to get back at the world, ” Touré feeds the public’s insatiable desire to understand Holmes and his alleged crimes.   He goes to great lengths to explain why Holmes – a white male who grew up in San Diego, a white male who has been identified as “nice,” “easy-going,” “smart” and “quiet” within the media; a white male who we are now learning was nothing more than a very shy, well-mannered young man who was heavily involved in their local Presbyterian church” – allegedly committed this heinous crime.
The efforts to describe Holmes as “otherwise normal” who must have gone crazy, who must have lost it, who must have faced something to make him go into a movie theater and shoot 70 people, speaks to the ways that the (il)logics of race and gender operate in the context of America.
“The freedom to kill, maim, commit wanton acts of violence, and to be anti-social (as well as pathological) without having your actions reflect on your own racial group, is one of the ultimate, if not in fact most potent, examples of White Privilege in post civil rights era America,” writes Chauncey DeVega in “What James and the Colorado Movie Massacre Tell us about While (male) Privilege.” “Instead of a national conversation where we reflect on what has gone wrong with young white men in our society–a group which apparently possesses a high propensity for committing acts of mass violence – James  Holmes will be framed as an outlier.” In fact the media narrative has gone to great lengths to him as “mentally unstable and as a loner,” and as a “good kid who happened to shoot up a movie theater” all speaks to the efforts to define him through an outlier narrative.
In “White Privilege and Mass Murders in America,” the blogger Three Sonorans, highlights how race runs through the center of the media discourse here:
You already know that if it was a Muslim that did the crime, the news would be speaking right now about the threat of “Muslim” terrorism.
This Batman shooting will never be referred to as “White” terrorism or “American” terrorism. Everyone knows that American and terrorism are exact opposites! ….
What if the shooter was not white? The Virginia Tech shooter was not white, and we all know thanks to the news that he was an immigrant from South Korea. They chose only the best pictures with a smiling face to let Americans know what that killer looked like.
Now just imagine if the mass shooter was a former Mexican American Studies student! You know that news would be all over that!
Likewise, “The Dark Knight, Terrorism, Big Gulps and White Privilege” points to the double standards and the ways that race continues to define the media coverage:
Regardless, this is a significant story, and the media has responded accordingly.  Go ahead and do a Google news search.  Myriad articles will pop up, titles all containing such words as “shooter” and “gunman.”  Of course, if this guy was brown, I guaran-fucking-tee you he’d be a terrorist.  But don’t worry.  James Holmes is white, and it’s all good according to the Obama Administration, who “…do not believe at this point there was an apparent nexus to terrorism.”  Whew, thank goodness!  The last thing I need is to have to walk past more of these assholes:
In just a few short days, the media has gone to great lengths to explain what we are told over and over again is unexplainable (and impossible): a white criminal, a white murderer, a white “thug,” a white “pariah” and a “white terrorist.”  That is, in the dominant white imagination, a white terrorist, a white thug, and a savage white man are all contradictions in terms.  The national whisper is clear: “a dangerous middle-class suburban white criminal isn’t possible. How could this happen?”  Whiteness is innocence, goodness, and normalcy within the national imagination.