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Language Log

Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2012 - 7:55 a.m.

My investigations into anthropology of violence have turned up little of interest. They can reframe things, but it isn't very useful in the end. Whether you shrug and say "uhdunno" or produce a well-articulated explanation revolving around cultural performance, "poetics of violence", and "discursive practices", in the end you still have the same insoluble problem. Sometimes clarity helps lead to solutions. I'm a big fan of clarity. But often, not so much.

In this case, I think the guy must have been very sad about his hair.

I shouldn't be flippant. But really. Given that there is no excuse for his crimes and that he is not offering any greater insights himself, the hair is as good an explanation as any.

Perhaps we as a society need to invent a ridiculous, totally unflattering hypothesis as to why some people do these things, (being called an evil, sociopathic loser is apparently not unflattering enough in itself to serve as a deterrant for that segment of the population who are in fact evil, sociopathic losers), and offer it as a diagnosis in these situations. Soon people would be a bit embarrassed at the prospect of having that explanation applied to them, and would come up with alternate plans of action to vent their personal frustrations. I dunno, like, hypothesizing a particularly unpleasant form of explosive, spiritual diarrhea. I'm sure someone else with the right sort of imagination ("Human Centipede" writers, I'm looking at you) could come up with something even better.

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