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« It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a business / person ... | Main | "Tasher Desh" (The Land of Cards) »

August 10, 2012


True, the Aurora story had legs in the beginning because as you point out, an inscrutable young killer with dyed orange hair and sleepy bugged out eyes causing mayhem at a midnight movie show is more fascinating than a garden variety racist. But the media outlets in print and on the tubes are staying with the less intriguing Sikh Temple killings story quite steadfastly. Perhaps they see it as a civil rights (and public service on their part) issue in an election year where the race of one of the presidential candidates is a crucial factor in deciding how some people will vote.

Att. General Eric Holder attended a condolence meeting in Wisconsin today and besides calling the act hate crime, he did not flinch from using the "t" word.

On reflection, 'sikh' is an absolutely horrible query for India. I don't think anyone in India would look for info on this using that keyword. As it happens, 'gurudwara' gives the same result, without the high base sikh has.,gurudwara&ctab=0&geo=in&geor=all&date=mtd&sort=0

@ prasad,

Thanks. I've never seen these Google graphs before. Very interesting.

My sense is that the murders of the Sikhs does not portend a danger for the rest of us, while the Aurora murders show that no one is safe. Also, we want to hear from, and about, the shooter. Is the Aurora shooter's story a complicated one, or bizarre, or maybe even interesting? So far, it's going to be complex and way interesting. The shooter of the Sikhs can't tell us anything. He was a White supremacist who hates. Nothing is less complicated or less interesting.

Ex-Sepia Mutiny blogger and professor of political science at Notre Dame, Naunihal Singh has this piece in the New Yorker.


That's a nice article (there's a but coming!). It's the post I started out wanting to write, if you remember from my email a week (?) back. Though I do say Naunihal Singh writes it really well, rather more eloquently and incisively than I would have at any rate. There's clearly a sense in which an American (un-subscripted, un-hypenated) is presumptively white, Christian, rural/suburban and so on. The stereotypical American is way more Republican than the average American is, so to speak. Even more so, there's clearly a global news-sense that a human being is white and western by default. Aurora-scale stories are global news iff they happen in the west. For every other category of person they matter to the directly affected group, but attenuate rather more quickly with geographic or cultural distance.

I decided not to write that post (well, besides the fact that it'd have taken time, and isn't the kind of writing I do decently :) ) because in a sense that post itself has a liberal (post)Christian, highly educated, largely white target. It's something that should be part of the conversation, and which frankly a New Yorker reader quite wants to be reading about, but it's rather pro forma in terms of content. I've seen and heard that many times before, and while it impinges upon me, I couldn't really make myself do that whine. Which again isn't to say it's inaccurate, since I'd probably agree with every fact in the New Yorker article, and certainly share its ideals. But (in terms of familial, cultural, educational or economic resources) I'd have to be in the global top few percent, and comfortably above even the American mean, at least in terms of expected life outcomes. It's not a whine -I- can produce with high fidelity.

So. Clearly Americans as a whole cared more about Aurora than Oak Creek. But I saw search volumes showed clearly that there's at least modest interest in the latter among English speakers. Spanish language searchers didn't care much at all. Naunihal Singh can't do a Kanye West on the New Yorker, telling them that Hispanics don't care for Sikh people (which wouldn't be a sensible assessment anyway). But it sure seems like an important tidbit to have in mind, especially if you have a fuzzy rainbow coalition in mind - the sensitivity-trained audience of that article is the one that needed it least. You might almost say, Latinos have actual problems to worry about, going beyond self-esteem and consciousness-raising.

And I'm sure factors like the 'defaultness' of certain people help explain why South Indians in India cared more about Aurora than about Indian or PIO Sikhs , but given especially the white supremacist angle, I rather suspect the bigger part of the story is simply that Aurora had greater masala content by far. Plus who're we kidding anyway - of course that brave sixty year old granthi had more in common with Indian Sikhs and Punjabis than he did with his corn-fed neighbors. His kids and especially grandkids won't, and will probably be brown-white like East Asians (whether that's good or bad) but it takes time. In most non-anglo countries it wouldn't be possible at all.

fwiw, but going in a different direction, I'll also recommend the Robert Wright blog post ( linked to from the New Yorker article. The "actual" (as opposed to popcorn) significance of an Aurora type crazy-guy shooting, seems rather more limited than that of this type of racially or religiously motivated terrorism. [Well, mental health is a huge issue, but should be seen as such regardless of low probability events like a shooting somewhere]

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