something stirred in UD’s headlet, and she searched the name Junod on University Diaries.

Sure enough, back in 2010, she cited Junod’s smart remarks about her beloved Don DeLillo; and one of those remarks has now helped her think about the Black Rifle Coffee/Dallas Cowboys controversy – a controversy that doesn’t seem to be dying down.

No, [DeLillo] has never written about Top Kills and Junk Shots and the odd flutter of hope elicited by the words “Containment Dome.” But in their suggestion of corporatized violence and above all in the violence they do to the language, they are DeLilloesque…

What DeLillo understood, long ago, is the end of the world would be experienced not as the end of the world but rather as a way of thinking and talking about the end of the world. What he understood is that the toxic cloud that has our name on it would be defined by its lack of definition; that we would never have as much information about it as we need to have or that someone else has; that it would turn into a free-floating void, exactly as withholding as it is encompassing; that it would become part of the landscape and that the landscape would become part of it; and that, of course, there would be footage, endlessly recycled but ultimately inconclusive.

Black Rifle, with its bloody brews (Murdered Out; AK-47), is corporatized violence becoming – via the Dallas Cowboys – a way of thinking and talking; a part of the landscape. What Brooks misses in his analysis of the origins and motivations of our teen massacrists is this normalization, this banality if you will, of apocalyptic weaponry and what it is doing to us. Coffee – that most banal of drinks – is now visually (via advertising footage, endlessly recycled) wedded to mass slaughter, to weapons that can literally murder us out.

An AK-47, first encountered by kids on a Jumbotron at a cool, fun, wholesome Dallas Cowboys game, is something that gives you the same vague chemical kick as a cup of Joe or a sports event. Everybody’s doin’ it.

Our violent psychotics do not necessarily, as Brooks argues, regard their AK-47s (often bought for them by daddy — Brooks has far too little to say about the depraved parents/suppliers of our killers) as charismatic icons of power and vengeance. They more probably seem to them utililtarian, normalized (how outlaw can AK-47s be when you get them from daddy, and when everyone’s drinking AK-47 coffee?), parts of the landscape.

Thus when Brooks gets melodramatically Biblical about guns (“The guns are like serpents in the trees, whispering to them.”), I wonder if he’s headed in the wrong direction. How can guns have this effect when dad’s chipped coffee cup has images of AK-47s all over it? When American parents routinely receive marketing pressing them to buy baby versions of AK-47s for their eight year old? When the raffle prize at the county fair is an AK-47?

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Our country’s most outspoken, violent teenager, after all, is famous for having boasted that he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody” and it would only intensify his supporters’ enthusiasm for him. He didn’t know how right he was. Even his reported excitement about the impending death of his vice-president did nothing to dislodge him from his position of undisputed king of the nation’s Republican Party. His sons are even more violent – in word and deed – than he; and his congressional spawn … How surprised are you going to be when Jim Jordan can’t take it anymore and blasts into the January 6 committee room with a – you know – in his grip?

Go ahead. Laugh at this scenario. Go ahead.

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Just as the handgun has become the home appliance of choice when you want to grab something to kill yourself with in this, our massively suicide-ridden land, so the AK-47 is simply there, part of the landscape, the thing you grab (dad’s far too ruggedly independent to lock it up) when your loathing of humanity reaches – let’s go with coffee – the boiling point. “Every country contains mentally ill and potentially violent people. Only America arms them,” and only America goes a step further than flooding the country with guns for absolutely everyone and electing a pathologically violent president: America makes guns cute and sassy and savory, an unremarkable part of our shared corporate advertising world.

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2 Responses to “When she encountered the name of the writer Tom Junod in David Brooks’s thoughtful opinion piece about very young American mass shooters…”

  1. Rita Says:

    Doesn’t it seem that children’s gun play was more ubiquitous in the past than now? For most of the postwar period, bebe guns and pellet guns were staple toys, not to speak of all the nonfunctional replica guns boys were showered with as gifts. The entire plot of A Christmas Story is about the kid longing for an air rifle, which is advertised everywhere all the time. Little boys’ games frequently involved pretending to shoot people up – cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, etc. It’s actually now that, at least among educated families, no one ever plays with any kind of functional or replica gun, except the occasional water shooter (and even these are no longer mainly shaped like guns!).

    So I’m not sure it’s right that guns, or images of guns, are only now being advertised to kids or have suddenly become pervasive cultural images for them. On the contrary, I think gun play was more common and widespread in the past. I guess you could say, those were rifles and pistols, not automatic weapons. Maybe that made the difference, I don’t know, but it seems like a stretch to conclude that seeing automatic weapons advertised at a football game will motivate boys to become mass shooters, while pretending to shoot each other all day with toy pistols had no effect at all on future murdering of any kind.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Rita: I can’t find it now, but your comment reminds me of an opinion piece written a few years ago by a GW law prof (I think that’s what he was) describing the way people in a public park near his house responded to his boys playing with toy guns. People were openly scandalized, and shunned him and his kids. He goes on to argue that this is ridiculous, etc., and assuming his kids weren’t being obnoxious/threatening I agree.

    Yet the people in that park were responding viscerally to a completely new situation in this country, in which virtually every week there’s a mass killing, often carried out by a kid – someone 18, 19, 20. Not to mention the daily urban carnage, which amazingly may be carried out by thirteen year olds. Boys playing with toy guns in earlier times were not living in the commercial world of massively popular, apocalyptically bloody computer games featuring automatic weapons in the hands of kids. There were not 120.5 firearms per 100 residents in America’s recent past; nor were military grade guns for adults, not pretend guns for children, promoted and normalized. In many states, open carry of massive guns is normalized. This is all new, and our insane levels of carnage were a perfectly predictable outcome of the new aggressive presence of many very dangerous guns everywhere. I think there’s simply no connection between childish gunplay in the context of a culture unobsessed with AK 47s and what now seems to represent an initiation into that culture.

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