DON'T BLAME THE DEVIL THIS HALLOWEEN
by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor.
[October 11, 2005]
On December 7, 1982, Richard Delmer Boyer of El Monte murdered an elderly
Fullerton couple, stabbing Francis Harbitz 24 times, his wife Aileen 19
times. During trial Boyer blamed his actions on drugs and horror
films. Apart from consuming whiskey, speed, marijuana, and cocaine
on the day of the murders, he said that while visiting the Harbitzes (his
employers), he'd experienced an LSD flashback of Halloween
2, rendering him unable to distinguish between reality and the slasher
film. Boyer was convicted in 1984 and again in 1992 (the first conviction
having been overturned on appeal).
excuse follows a long tradition of blaming the media in court. In
1928, Robert Williams killed his maid, saying he'd been possessed by a
vision of horror actor Lon Chaney from London
After Midnight. More recently, after the 1999 Columbine massacre,
victims' families sued Time Warner, Palm Pictures, and 11 videogame makers,
Diaries and the videogames Doom, Duke
Nukem, and Redneck
Rampage of contributing to Harris and Klebold's school shootings. The
Basketball Diaries, the videogames Quake, Doom,
Wolfenstein, and porn websites were also blamed for a less famous 1997
school shooting by gunman Michael Carneal.
the media rarely works in court, largely due to our First Amendment.
Yet blaming Hollywood is no less rational than other "devil made me do
it" defenses, whether the devil takes the form of drugs, guns, or psychological
"syndromes." It's not that the devil in question hasn't influenced
or facilitated the violent crime. It's that...so what?!
drugs and guns and cars and much else--can kill. Advertisers spend
tens of billions yearly thinking that their 30 second ads will influence
our behavior. Activists present media awards for positive plugs.
Minority groups monitor the media to discourage negative portrayals of
their constituents. Clearly, everyone believes that media influences
behavior, so it's disingenuous whenever some media executive or star
whines, "Hey, if you don't like it, just change the channel!" They
believe that until it's their pet group that's being gored.
is not whether media affects behavior (of course if does), the issue is
liberty. And that includes the freedom to consume whatever media--and
ingest whatever drugs, and possess whatever firearms--one wishes.
The flip side is responsibly. Rapists and murderers shall not be
permitted to blame porn sites or slasher films or guns or psychological
"syndromes" for their violent crimes. Even if drugs were involved.
You don't ban horror films just because Boyer thought he was reenacting Halloween
2. Nor do you ban cars just because Texas housewife Clara
Harris intentionally ran down and killed her husband. Nor do
you ban drugs or guns just because some individuals misuse them.
O'Donnell may disagree. She's said that if banning guns "saves
one life" it'd be worth it. Yet banning all cars (emergency vehicles
excepted) would result in vastly more lives saved--but at what
Americans increasingly shun responsibility. They demand freedom,
but when they misuse their freedoms they're quick to blame drugs (legal
and illegal), guns, postpartum depression (Andrea
Yates's excuse for murdering her children), videogames, porn sites,
slasher films, Adopted Child Syndrome, Chronic Lateness Syndrome, UFO Survivor
Syndrome (I'm not making those up; visit http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/405/405lect02.htm
for dozens of "syndromes" used in American courtrooms so far), anything
to evade blame.
and their families often oblige criminals' ridiculous excuses, seeking
the deeper pockets in the ensuing lawsuits. Lawyers and therapists
likewise support this nonsense, the latter earning money as "expert witnesses"
and scribblers of the next trend in psychobabble
books. Worst of all, government is quick to intervene, eroding
our freedoms in order to ban or regulate something else for the "safety
of the children."
wish to be free? Or do you just like the way it sounds when politicians
say "freedom"? Because if we are to preserve our liberty, if
we are to prevent government from transforming our society into a
padded playpen for adults, where bad things are confiscated by the teacher
but no child is punished for being bad, then we must demand that everyone
take responsibility for their actions.
devil is omnipresent, if people are weak and prone to syndromes and easily
forced by Satan to do bad things, then it follows that the state must be
likewise omnipresent to protect us weak mortals. Conversely, free
people can be trusted with grown-up things, like drugs and guns and explicit
lyrics, because they control their own demons.
Copyright © 2005 by Thomas M.
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