re: Virginia Tech: what DIDN’T you post this week?

Over at Mostly Harmless, the Mostly Thought-Provoking Constructivist has asked an interesting question:

What better way to acknowledge how truly awful a week this has been than to try to start a meme asking people to describe the posts they chose not to write out of respect for the recent dead?

As longtime raincoaster fans know, we’re so not about the memes here, but this one has jolted me out of my minimeme-izing mood and I’ve gone ahead and submitted it to Digg and Reddit, and you may second that if you so desire by clicking on those links.

Virginia TechI see eteraz has observed a moment of blog silence; I respect that and thought about doing that, but it did not seem authentic to me. A blog is silent until you post; for me, the best tribute I could give was not silence but meaningful speech. I did resolve not to speak on the issue unless I could usefully contribute; bandwagon-jumping is particularly abhorrent on a hearse.

As for me, well this isn’t going to cover me in glory but the fact is that I believe the first thing I posted after I learned about the shooting was an amusing and utterly flip quiz, At What Price Would You Sell Out? I generally resort to quizzes when I have nothing to say but want to feed the blog anyway, and so it seemed; as I posted it I thought, “well that’s bought me a few hours at least.”

The shootings sat in my brain for the next several hours, as I resisted the urge to learn more about them. That sounds strange, but after the ordeal I went through with the Kimveer Gill posts, I was not in a hurry to jump back into that trauma soup. In fact, I first learned about the Virginia Tech shootings when I was checking stats and saw that suddenly my Gill posts were doing very well.

Finally, I decided to give in to my impulses and find out what actually happened. It was clear the blogosphere was going nuts trying to find out information, and the police weren’t giving it out, so it became something more creative, more positive, than just sniffing at corpses; it became possible to, by finding and disseminating the truth, to help in some way. I spent some hours researching and saw that, one by one the mysteries were getting cleared up faster than I could possibly do a roundup. Any efforts on my part would only be duplications, so I didn’t make any roundups.

I only posted the cellcam video from Jamal Albarghouti, because watching it raised a lot of questions. Not questions of fact; questions about what it was like to be living through something like that.

I’ve always preferred questions to answers, but maybe that’s a character flaw.

Then I went right back to posting flippant things: a Will Ferrell video and an admittedly valuable but incongruously satirical political post about duelling manifestos from the amazingly irrelevant Michelle Malkin and an imaginary lizard from Buckaroo Banzai. I had promised Robert Chaplin to post about Teeny Ted from Turnip Town and his 10 Counting Cat video, which are both marvelous on any other day but Teeny Ted, the smallest book in the world and normally very newsworthy as well as amusing, was completely overshadowed by my subsequent post on the Bath Disaster, in the wake of the Virginia Tech debate.

It’s like I was eating doughnuts when what I really wanted was beef. Having finally posted on the Bath Disaster, I felt that I could relax. Three posts is a low amount for me in one day; I’ve done as many as 12. In this case, though, it felt as if the quest was complete; I’d done an original and meaningful contribution to the discussion around the meaning of death and what actions the world could take going forward, both on an organizational level and on an individual level. I felt proud.

And, I’m ashamed to say, I saw almost instantly that it was doing well in hits, and I said to myself, “It’s okay, I don’t need to do any more posts tonight. That will keep the blog going for hours.”

I really did.

The next day, I didn’t post because I wanted to leave that post at the top of my blog, and because I felt sure it wouldn’t hurt my standing to do so. I had promised Robert I’d post 10 Counting Cat, but the thing is: it’s about a cat that kills a lot of birds. It’s not really about anything else. It was certainly a bizarre choice to put up in that context, but I did it anyway; if there’d been no promise, there’d have been no post today. I did register that it was tasteless both absolutely (which we’d have no issue with, ever) and in context; it’s not as if I didn’t know. And then I topped that off with a post about Zeta Males and whether a robust virtual life would divert them from a fatal spree.

And so, the tale of what I didn’t post is really not the story at the raincoaster blog. Taste and context have never really been my forte, to say the least. This blog is like a sack of amazing things: dip your hand into it and you could come up with anything from an Archduchess to a dingleberry.

Overall, things balance out, but in the short term, with a fine lens, it can look pretty ugly.

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22 thoughts on “re: Virginia Tech: what DIDN’T you post this week?

  1. What really got to me was how some people were using technology and tragedy to make money.

    I applaud technology being able to give people a voice to share their grief and worries where otherwise they might be left alone. Having a mrs that is a psychologist I hear too many anecdotal stories of people losing the plot because they do not have an easy forum to talk. If the flip side of this is macabre capitalism then so be it – personally I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off.

    My post backs this up

  2. Brilliant.
    Both the meme you introduce and this piece.
    I’m going to have to put this on my hugely expanding to do list.

    What we say speaks volumes, what we don’t could probably fill libraries on top of libraries. This will definately be an interesting exercise. I’ve got to go, read up on other contributions.

    I hope you have a brighter day today.

  3. I’ve always loved what you have written and have respected your insight and honesty. You are an odd individual but that’s what I like about you.

    BTW, congrats on being number two on WordPress blogs.

    PS I ate beef but am now craving doughnuts. Thanks to you I’m going to have some junk food. See how you inspire?

  4. Wow. Thanks for the insight into your thought process. All I was hoping for were short lists, even just titles of lost posts, from people. Hope others will be as honest and creative as you!

  5. Well, I like your not-answer. I’m hoping the question gets people thinking about where they draw the line on tastelessness, especially on blogs like ours that are “for fun.”

    If you check out my response to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum over at WAAGNFNP and especially my contributions to the comments thread, you’ll see I usually take prizes for insensitivity. But I think being in Japan and hence not saturated with U.S. media exploitation of the catastrophe made me more emotional and less cynical than I usually am. Plus being an English professor, it all kind of hits close to home, both from my days as a grad student (when I recall being furious enough the day I found out all my untenured dissertation advisors had been denied tenure to have come close to flipping out) and here in Fukuoka for this year (where I’m always conscious that I don’t know enough about the politics here to tell when I’m seriously offending my students)…. And being associate chair of my home department before I left, I dealt with parents and trouble(d) students far more often than I expected to. For whatever reasons, I just couldn’t bring myself to write those posts. And I still don’t know if/what I’ll post today…. Any ideas?

  6. You could post a blog moment of silence, or you could post a simple graphic with “nothing else to say”. I think people understand. I’m about posted out, myself. If you need inspiration, check out Disembedded’s blog; he’s got the best images and music about the tragedy. It’s http://disembedded.wordpress.com/

  7. I posted a small comment and it has erupted into a row between friends. Not my intention at all. I feel for the parents and friends of all those involved but am concerned that this was just one event when two or three events of this magnitude occur in Iraq EVERY DAY!

    Now I am concerned about the parents of the killer. How will they cope and who will be there to help them through their period of shock and grieving?

  8. Interesting question. I posted a cartoon on the topic… not a funny cartoon, mind you, but one that basically summed the way I saw the bigger picture surrounding the V-Tech tragedy.

    It’s at
    http://bigeyedeer.wordpress.com/2007/04/19/this-cartoon-thinks-its-too-easy-to-buy-a-gun/

    I had some last-minute nerves about putting it up, as I wondered whether this could, in any way, offend anyone. I decided in the end that the only people I could possibly offend would be gun shop owners, so that was ok. (Hmmm. Doesn’t sound so smart now when I read that last sentence back to myself. Gulp)

  9. There you go; you got your second wind!

    Awesome comic, Phil. Did you know that after the Dawson College shooting, sales of the Beretta that Kimveer Gill used increased by over 300%? Swell.

  10. This blog certainly is like a sack of amazing thing, but I’ve always considered its primary value as a sanctuary for the much-beleaguered tree octopus.

  11. Cheers mate,

    Yeah, a guy called FearTheSeeds left a comment on my blog about that same incident… he said basically the same as yourself: “The crazy person used a ‘Beretta CX4 Storm’, a sci-fi looking 9mm semi-auto carbine. A year before the shooting there were only nine of them registered in Canada. A month after the shooting there were 46 new registrations. The shooting actually served as a commercial for the CX4.” Man that’s SCARY. It would be interesting to see the Glock sales figures since Virginia Tech, eh?

    Maybe they should make it illegal to mention – and thereby promote – gun brands on air in the context of a shooting like this.

  12. Glock already sells like cheap gas. I don’t know how to circumvent evil fads, but this is certainly going to be one. Expect to see a million “Homage to Cho” self-portraits on MySpace, guys in vests, fingerless gloves, ballcaps and pistols. Swell.

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