Thoughts, Prayers, Firepower and an Hour of Reckoning - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Thoughts, Prayers, Firepower and an Hour of Reckoning

Thoughts, Prayers, Firepower and an Hour of Reckoning

By Eugene S. Robinson

Acting Chief William Krampf speaks at a press conference about the Capital Gazette shooting on June 28, 2018, in Annapolis, Maryland. At least five people were killed when a gunman opened fire inside the offices of the newspaper.
SourceAlex Wroblewski/Getty


Because we can’t become desensitized to this.

By Eugene S. Robinson

Five people in a newsroom in Maryland are dead. Shotgunned to death at work by a lone gunman who walked through the long-running Capital Gazette daily newspaper in Annapolis, looking for victims and finding them. He, himself, was eventually found hiding under a desk, his discarded gun across the room. No known motive, no ID, no warning.

Echoes of Parkland, Las Vegas, a church in South Carolina and a Florida nightclub are now conflated with mental imagery of a similar massacre 3,000 miles and three years away in France, at the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. The massacres are all different, but the similarities are stultifyingly similar: dead people and men whose understanding of their relationship to the world was trespassed on so significantly that the only response that made sense was the one that, minutes after it happened, we, collectively, greeted with thoughts and prayers.

What are we thinking and praying about?

Maybe most seriously that there was, as of yet, no logic to this crime, not even twisted logic, since that would leave a paper trail, and at the end of that paper trail would be a prime mover. A prime mover like anger at the press expressed as discontent over the recent Maryland primary election and maybe the Capital Gazette’s failure to endorse a favored candidate? Incitement from a president who has pegged the press as the enemy? An angry ex? A disgruntled employee?

Which is where we find ourselves on Friday. Short on answers, as usual, long on hope and not laughing at all.

These might provide reasons, but they only hint at rationales, since one thing should be aggressively clear by now: These killings are not solving anyone’s, including the killers’, problems. High school kids are still going to high school, and folks are still going to outdoor concerts, churches and discos and, in this instance, reading the news. 

It’s not even making them infamous anymore à la the coruscatingly brilliant Eddie Murphy–created assassin John David Stutts, whose murder of Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live whiplashed a fictional news cycle into a fresh, new media creation. No, they start sad, they get angry, then they get back at “us.” Wash, rinse, repeat, mix in thoughts and prayers. 

“He looked for his victims as he walked through the lower level,” Bill Krampf, Anne Arundel County acting police chief, said at a news conference Thursday evening. If all you have is a hammer, the whole world might look like nails. And if you have a headful of bad ideas, the whole world might look like victims, including yourself, first and foremost.

Now it’s Friday. Often early deadlines day in newsrooms. We’re short on answers, as usual, and long on hope. There’s a question to be answered: Who will write the first draft of history in this latest massacre? The gunman or the journalists? And what will that first draft say?

“I remember once at the Metreon theater in San Francisco, a guy just stood up and started shooting,” says Eddie Williams, a former undercover cop in San Francisco. “I asked him later why he had done it and he said, ‘People fucking with me.’ That was it.”

Really? “Really,” Williams says.

So there’ll be reasons, explanations, excuses and dead people. Again. Welcome to the new normal. Again. 

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