ga('send', 'pageview');
John Passant

Site menu:

December 2012



RSS Oz House



Subscribe to us

Get new blog posts delivered to your inbox.


Site search


My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



How does this happen?

Nicole Colson in Socialist Worker US looks at the facts about the terrible mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School – and asks where the real causes of violence lie.

THE NEWS was heartbreaking: 20 children, all aged 6 and 7, shot and killed, along with four teachers, a principal and a school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed his mother earlier in the day, before later killing himself.

It’s gut-wrenching to learn about the victims and to consider the grief and horror of the families they left behind: 6-year-old Charlotte Bacon, who pleaded with her mom to wear her new pink dress and boots to school, even though it was supposed to be for the holidays. Or 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene, whose family moved to Connecticut two months ago from Canada because of the community’s reputation as a nice place.

Or teacher Lauren Rousseau, who, after years of substituting, finally got a full-time teaching job this fall. Or fellow teacher Victoria Soto, who saved the lives of the kids in her class by reportedly hiding them in a closet and telling Lanza they were in the gym before he shot and killed her.

School psychologist Mary Sherlach and principal Dawn Hochsprung were among the first to confront the gunman. They had run toward the sound of shooting in the hopes of saving lives.

Violent crimes take something out of every family and community they touch. That the majority of the victims in this case were small children compounds the horror. In the outpouring of grief in Connecticut–and across the country–millions of people are left to wonder: How could this happen? And why?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE SHOOTING brought out the best and the worst.

For many people, the instinctive response was one of solidarity and sympathy–of reaching out to those around them to offer help and comfort.

On the other side was the gross media sensationalism–scenes of reporters sticking microphones in the faces of frightened children for their “reactions,” not to mention the rampant and irresponsible speculation about Lanza’s mental health, his home life and his motives. Or there was the idiotic response from those looking to profit politically off a tragedy–like Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who declared, “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools.”

In the aftermath of such a horror, people naturally want to know: “Why?” It’s a question that should be asked. Unfortunately, many of the answers we’ll be hearing from political leaders and the media will fall woefully short of the answers we deserve to hear.

We’ll be told that Lanza was mentally ill – but we won’t be told that people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than to be perpetrators of it. We’ll hear how easy it was for Lanza to gain access to his mother’s substantial gun collection – but that doesn’t explain why he used them. Some reports will blame his mother – others will focus on the video games he reportedly liked to play.

As this story was being written, however, little was known about Lanza and nothing at all about his actual motivations in planning and carrying out the mass killings. In that regard, media speculation about Lanza’s reported autism and personality disorder are particularly irresponsible in a society that routinely treats those with mental illness and disabilities as “problems” to be contained, rather than full human beings–while providing next-to-no resources to support them or their families.

Whatever answers we eventually learn or don’t learn about this one individual, a broader discussion needs to take place about why such terrible acts take place–seemingly with more and more regularity–and the roots of the violence that is rampant in U.S. society.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

MASS SHOOTINGS are particularly shocking, but they aren’t that uncommon in the U.S..

Easy access to guns–one-third of Americans own a gun, and the U.S. as a whole has half the world’s guns in civilian hands–may provide the means for committing certain types of crimes, but the roots of Adam Lanza’s actions go deeper. They lie in a profoundly alienated society in which violence in general is sanctioned by the most exalted American institutions–as long as it is carried out for “legitimate” purposes, like U.S. wars abroad or police at home defending law and order.

So far this year, more than 90,000 Americans have been shot by guns–over the past three years, there have been 231 shootings in which four or more people have died.

So it’s entirely understandable that many people who ask what could have stopped the Newtown massacre would look to stricter gun control. Socialists believe guns are a symptom, rather than a cause of violence–but no one should ignore what this symptom tells us about a sick society where people can purchase thousands of rounds of ammunition off the Internet, including the kind of high-volume clips apparently used at Sandy Hook, whose only possible purpose is to “hunt” human beings.

Nevertheless, when someone like New York City’s Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumps to the front of the pack to demand tougher gun control laws, anyone who considers themselves on the left ought to be skeptical.

There’s something particularly gruesome about Bloomberg talking about gun control at the same time that he presides over historic cutbacks in government services, including mental health, for New York City, though he could cover the shortfall himself out of his personal fortune of $25 billion.

Likewise, Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator from California, announced that she would push for a renewed ban on assault weapons on the first day of the next session of Congress. “[W}eapons of war don’t belong on our streets or in our theaters, shopping malls and, most of all, our schools,” Feinstein said in a statement.

But so long as “weapons of war” are used in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or so many other countries around the world, Feinstein has no problems. In fact, this allegedly progressive Democrat has been a major part of the ideological edifice that justified the worst abuses of the U.S. “war on terror”–including physical torture that has led to the deaths of detainees.

The central elements of the “war on terror”–including racist scapegoating of Muslims and Arabs and the use of drones and torture by the military–are not only embraced by both mainstream parties in Washington, but far beyond. Witness the near-universal rave reviews for director Katherine Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, a movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden that firmly asserts that the ends justifies the means when it comes to fighting “terrorism.”

How could the enthusiasm for such violence by those at the top of society have no effect on those at the bottom?

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

POLITICAL LEADERS AND the media portray spasms of violence like the killings in Newtown as isolated occurrences–the fault of single individuals who “snapped.”

But this ignores how U.S. society is steeped in anger and alienation. This doesn’t originate with the poor and powerless–it originates with a world in which, for many, daily existence is a struggle filled with constant reminders of their helplessness and meaninglessness to society as a whole.

On the day of the shooting at Sandy Hook, Barack Obama told reporters at a press conference, “”There’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.”

Obama’s words no doubt moved millions of people. But the disconnect that they represent is profound. How can the head of the most powerful government in the world–a government that tortures, that justifies bombing innocents, that sanctions the assassination of its own citizens–make a serious plea to end violence?

It’s the same disconnect that Martin Luther King was talking about in his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam,” when he challenged the hypocrisy of a nation engaged in a barbaric imperialist war halfway around the globe, while condemning individuals driven to violence in their own lives:

I have tried to offer…my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted.

Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.

It is the same disconnect that Vonda and Michael Shoels talked about in 1999, after their son Isaiah was murdered in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, in which two students, armed with an array of assault weapons, killed 12 fellow classmates.

Then, as now, the U.S. president expressed deeply felt words of sympathy. Then, it was Bill Clinton, who called for “a culture of values instead of a culture of violence”–as he was inflicting devastating violence from the air in a war on Serbia. In a letter to Clinton, the Shoels wrote: “Those who made pipe bombs may well have cheered your bombs dropping over Kosovo and Yugoslavia. There is a connection.”

As Paul D’Amato wrote in the International Socialist Review

The Shoels hit upon a central hypocrisy of capitalist politicians. They make a lot of noise about the impermissibility of violence–except when it is the violence they employ in pursuit of their own interests. Then, everything from blockades that murder hundreds of thousands of children to the use of tactical nuclear weapons is permissible. “The most ‘humane’ governments, which in peaceful times ‘detest’ war,” wrote the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, “proclaim during war that the highest duty of their armies is the extermination of the greatest possible number of people.”
At a vigil for the Sandy Hook victims on Sunday, Barack Obama told the crowd, “Surely we can do better than this.”

Surely we can. But not unless the real causes of violence are addressed.

Amid the tributes and vigils across the country and beyond was one in Karachi, Pakistan. One picture shows a group of Pakistani children lighting candles to pay tribute to the Sandy Hook victims, with a sign reading, “Connecticut school killing–[We] feel [your] pain as [you] would feel our pain.”

Last year, (the last 7 years – JP) according to a report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, some 168 children in Pakistan were killed by U.S. drone strikes.

That basic sense of humanity and solidarity–the compassion for fellow human beings who are suffering–shows the real way forward.



Comment from Ross
Time December 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Our Govts have always been the greatest mass murderers.Starlin 20 million,Mao 60 million,Hitler 6 million Jews + millions of others, USA one million Iraqis + one million in Vietnam not to mention those in Afghanistan, Libya , Somalia etc.

With the destruction of our constitutions eg Patriot Act ,Preventative Dentention,legalised assassination of suspected terrorists,National Defence Authorisation Act, the people may well need their weapons to protect themselves from their oppressive Govts.

Did the unarmed Jews in Germany ever think that they would be exterminated?

Comment from Dave
Time December 18, 2012 at 8:14 am

Hi John, thanks for re-posting that excellent article. I have a question though. It was my understanding that the IST opposed gun control. I am wondering if you could please confirm that or not?

Comment from John
Time December 18, 2012 at 10:54 am

I think Ross you miss the point. The rise of Nazism was the way for the ruling class to drive down workers’ wages and other conditions to restore profit rates. The failure of the left to respond to the rise of Nazism from 1930 on, and the historically criminal approach of the German Communist Party calling the SDP social fascists were the real reason for the rise of the Nazis essentially unchallenged by the left and hence by the working class. The nazis begin their attacks on the working class by setting up concentration camps to jail and kill the left, the KPD first, then the SPD and unionists. A small armed section of the population, isolated from the rest of society, and with a frightened and cowered working class, would have been slaughtered by Te Nazis. By comparison the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, led by Jewish socialists, did fight back. But that was after the event. The point is to organise now and for workers to use their real power – strikes and other industrial action – to stop the attacks on civil liberties.

Comment from John
Time December 18, 2012 at 10:57 am

Dave, I think as a generalisation that is correct although there have been voices of dissent. Richard Seymour from memory, at Lenin’s Tomb, wrote an interesting analysis of the issue. Also the article doesn’t endorse gun control but argues the real issue is the wider question of US capitalism.

Comment from Mary
Time December 18, 2012 at 11:10 am

Those who believe that something can’t be done should not interrupt those who doing it.
Guns have no purpose in homes. Bullets have to be loaded . Who is reponsible for the loading? The gun lobby had far too much power in the US. They tried to gain support in Australiua but failed.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time December 21, 2012 at 10:40 am

We were told that Lanza had to be home schooled because of personality difficulties.

I have a son who was mercilessly picked on and shunned by other kids because he was 5 years older than the age peers intellectually.

As a former member of the Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children etc, I can vouch for the fact that very clever children still do not have their needs met in our schools and that some of them become disruptive.

Getting back to Lanza, perhaps if he had Asperger’s Syndrome and had to stay home because the other children didn’t understand him, resentment may have been building for almost 20 years.

Did he have siblings who went to school while he had to stay at home?

Was he an only child who desperately needed company?

Did he blame his mother for home schooling him instead of doing battle with the school principal on his behalf where meeting his educational needs was concerned?

According to television reports, there are 36 gun stores within easy access of Newtown residents. I don’t believe high powered weapons should be available to the general public, and that limits should be placed on the number of stores selling guns.

I wouldn’t support the complete disarmament of the general populace, because criminals would still get guns on the black market and feel free to blow others away.

The government could consider doing something about the extreme violence shown at the movies, often involving machine guns and other high powered weapons.

“If you model it … others will follow it.”

Comment from Lorikeet
Time December 21, 2012 at 10:43 am

Whoops …. forgot this bit.

Did Lanza resent the other kids who picked on him and decide to exact revenge?

I remember my own son having the most problems with other kids in Years 1 and 2, although he was never involved in violence of any kind.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time December 24, 2012 at 10:32 am

I think all schools should have an armed security guard on the premises at all times, living in a cottage or unit on the premises. This would also limit the number and severity of arson attempts.

Larger high schools should have at least 2, say 1 guard per 500 students, with 1 guard living in.

Part of their role could be to break up schoolyard brawls, and back up teachers being abused by students or their parents.

They could also stop students from ordering pizzas over the front gate, and encourage them to patronise the school tuckshop.

They could break up the love-in at lunch time, and also conduct daily searches for illicit drugs and weapons.

They could also coach a sporting team to encourage co-operation among students.

I am beginning to think it might also be appropriate for the school principal to have a gun at his/her disposal. Schools could also upgrade their emergency procedures and practise them often.

I would also like to see stricter controls on violent computer and arcade games.

Comment from Kay
Time December 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm


Sounds like you’d be right at home in the USA – and be a member of the NRA!

Or are you joking in your third posting? Surely you are?

Write a comment