Tim Blagg

Blagg: Following ‘The Plot’

Why are we surprised that incidents involving guns and violence seem to be on the rise all over the U.S.?

After all, we’ve been teaching our children that violence is the answer to almost any problem for decades.

And I’m not talking about the number of guns in circulation, although that’s certainly a factor as well.

I’m referring to, well, let’s call it “The Plot.”

The Plot runs something like this:

A Bad Guy, and his Minions, start doing terrible things. They kidnap people, or drive by and shoot them, or plot to take over the White House, or an airliner ... you know what I mean.

The Bad Guys are doing Bad Things.

So the Good Guys set out to stop them.

We know they’re the Good Guys because they display feelings — perhaps a loved one has been injured or killed by the Bad Guys, so the Good Guy is mad, really angry.

But we can’t tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys by their methods.

Both might drive madly through a city, or a shopping mall, scattering shoppers and other innocent bystanders with no regard for their safety.

Or they might fire their guns — usually automatic weapons — in all directions, spraying bullets with abandon and with no concern for the public.

In the end, of course, the Good Guys win — usually by killing large numbers of Bad Guys.

There was a time when such a story would end with the Bad Guy in handcuffs, being led away to trial. But that’s unusual today.

No, it’s the character that fires that last, well-aimed bullet that gets the kudos in today’s dramas.

We see it on TV, in the movies, in video games over and over.

The problem is solved by the death of your opponent.

Hesitate, and you lose.

And it’s so easy! You just line the sights up and pull the trigger — blam!

Naturally, since The Plot is so common, script writers have to get creative. Perhaps they make the Bad Guy more and more terrible, showing the depths of his Badness in loving detail. He murders, he tortures, sometimes he even eats his victims.

Or perhaps they get creative with the methods used by the Good Guy. Maybe he traps the Bad Guy in some situation that results in a slow, painful death.

Or perhaps The Plot is played out in a different milieu — in medieval times, or in the future, or in space. But the basic features are always there.

And we eat it up.

Thousands upon thousands of hours of popular culture are devoted to The Plot and its variations.

And our youth sit there in front of the screens — small or large — and soak it all in. In fact, in the games, they participate. They can be the Good Guy, and line up those sights, and pull the trigger.

In another setting, we’d call it programming, or brainwashing.

But in our times, we call it entertainment.

So why are we surprised when some young person takes a real gun and lines up its real sights, and pulls its real trigger?

After all, haven’t we carefully taught them that’s the way to react to a perceived wrong?

We are experiencing a wave of gun violence, and we have only ourselves to blame.

Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: tblagg@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.

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