Don’t Blame Batman

During a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, twenty-four year-old James Holmes, dressed in tactical gear (including a bulletproof vest and a gas mask), entered a theater through an emergency exit, set off gas canisters, and opened fire on the crowd. He was armed with, among other weapons, an AR-15 assault rifle.

Since then, I’ve seen a number of comments. I’ve seen a reporter on ABC claim that Holmes may have been affiliated with the Tea Party and I’ve seen Breitbart.com claim Holmes is a registered Democrat. I’ve seen other people saying that if people had been armed in the theater, this wouldn’t have happened and more than a few have sworn that if they were in the theater with their gun, they would have stopped it.

These kinds of statements are nonsensical and serve no purpose. As of now, there is no evidence whatsoever that this was politically motivated, so let’s drop the politics. And the idea that a guy with a concealed handgun would stand up to someone in tactical gear and armed with assault weapons, in the middle of a crowded and dark movie theater with gas all over the place, and not only be successful but also manage to avoid hitting any innocent bystanders, is just beyond the pale. So spare us your Clint Eastwood hero fantasies, because they aren’t helping.

And, just like in the wakes of the Columbine and Virginia Tech tragedies, there’s another debate starting to bubble to the surface — is the media responsible? Specifically, is Batman responsible? Sean Higgins at The Washington Examiner cited the 1986 masterpiece The Dark Knight Returns as possible motivation. And then Ty Burr at The Boston Globe suggested it’s the “violent power fantasy” sold by Batman.

Higgins obviously didn’t pay too much attention to The Dark Knight Returns, specifically this part:

Despite using a gun in his early appearances, Batman has eschewed the use of firearms for decades. Of all the characters in fiction, I’m hard-pressed to think of one who is more anti-gun than Batman.

And Burr obviously didn’t pay much attention to this scene from Batman Begins:

Batman’s compassion

In Christopher Nolan’s series of films, Batman relies on non-lethal methods. He says he won’t be an executioner. So the idea that Batman influenced Holmes to commit this senseless act of terrorism is absolutely ridiculous.

And why would it be Batman? If this theory of causation is to be believed, wouldn’t the Rambo movies (especially following First Blood) have caused shootings? What about James Bond, who isn’t shy about using guns? What about Die Hard? Or The Punisher? If Holmes dressed up in a cape and swung from the ceiling, then we could make an argument about how he was influenced by Batman.

So either a psychopath modeled his terrorist behavior after a masked vigilante who despises guns and refuses to use lethal methods, or he chose to use the premiere of one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year for his violent debut because the crowds and the attention would be much larger. Which one seems more likely?

Higgins, Burr, and others like them are nothing more than opportunistic vultures. They should not be listened to.

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