Scripts and Shootings

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

When I was in college I worked at a company that collected proxy votes for mutual funds, it was a mind numbing job at times where we had scripts and auto dialers. All the intelligence you had to apply was reading the right part of the script, the result didn’t matter, staying on script mattered a lot. Most of the time the funds were going to pass their motions without any of these votes, the big fish were handled by the fund managers and their teams. They wanted these people to vote just to reach quorum and discharge their SEC monitored responsibility of good practices to inform shareholders of voting issues. To achieve that the scripts were simple and directions on how to use them were simple. Still I adapted the script and did my own thing, because I have always been that type of person and I just can’t be happy being an autonotom. Now going off script did not always result in getting a bad review or terminated, but you could curse at a shareholder, say something factually incorrect that would be a violation of contract or regulatory standards, or just be rude to someone that would result in what we called a taboo. If you committed a taboo you were normally terminated as soon as it was caught. I became a lot more familiar with the whole process when I got bumped up to quality assurance. I felt bad scoring people on staying on script, or at least within the spirit of the script, but I listened to many calls and began to really understand why they would drill you on the scripts. People would say the most outrageous things to shareholders, unprofessional, profane and downright stupid things that demonstrated they didn’t understand the nature of the work at all. In QA we really despised when we got taped to review the New York call center’s calls. I never got through a week of pulling their calls where I did not listen to someone commit a terminable offense – I hated that they would be fired when I put in the review and flagged the manager, but I also couldn’t believe some of the stuff I heard. For the record there is no way to tell someone to (eff) themselves that’s going to go over well, even if it is creative and avantgarde humor. It was crystal clear after being in QA for a couple months that the scripts were standards more for the people who simply couldn’t be trusted to grasp the principles that enabled us to do our jobs well.

The scripts were a result of the company needing many warm bodies and voices for large campaigns. The people who didn’t get it were needed to meet contract obligations. Most of them would be let go anytime there wasn’t a major campaign ongoing. To be clear I did not think these people were idiots. They just didn’t care enough to learn, it was a $13-14 an hour job, for most a second job, and it wasn’t worth the effort or thought. A manager told me once the scripts were, “standards for the idiots” and that we shouldn’t judge competent people by perfect compliance to the script as long as they demonstrated some sort of similarity to it as appropriate (my paraphrase there). They had a job they needed done, and it just did not matter in most cases if the people doing the work understood it much at all.

That was two paragraphs just to introduce this subject, and I think they were needed because the concept is an awfully difficult thing to accept. I have spoken in the first several podcasts how powerful people and society at large tries to press us into cogs. We love cogs, replaceable piece to get work done. In most cases we just don’t care much about whether or not the people involved really get what’s happening, as long as the work we deem necessary gets done. I personally believe this sort of attitude is degrading, and beneath human dignity in many cases. Still we are fed narratives that are designed to tell us how to feel, how to respond, how to analyze things – they give you a role and a script. There is work to be done, and they’ll use you for that work.

The recent shootings in Georgia and Colorado are prime examples of exactly how people with clear agendas use the scripts. In Georgia the rhetoric was about racism and gun control, white supremacy and Asian hate for most. Some used rhetoric attacking Christian purity culture. I covered this in the podcast The Twisting of a Tragedy, it didn’t matter that the scripts didn’t make much sense and there were huge parts of the story and just the subjects generally that had to be completely ignored to make the fit, there was work to be done and the talking heads and political advocacy groups in the media were going to mobilize every person they could to advance their agendas. In the end the Georgia story had a person with a serious mental health issue, sex addiction is a real thing that not just Christians or “sexually repressed” people, and this guy was definitely in the grip of it and probably some other serious depression and mental health issues. Of course that’s not all there is to the story. I am not trying to shoehorn this into another narrative or give you a response script to their scripts. I am pointing out that there is a lot of complexity to this story, so often there is when we are talking about someone who commits such a heinous and nakedly evil act. Complex scripts get people too involved in trying to understand, and they might come up with their own course of action, and so complexities such as these are generally ignored.

In the Boulder, Colorado shooting at King Soopers the racial script was at first trotted out by all the usual people invested in racial tribalism. Another white guy does a mass shooting. If this guy was not white he would have been shot instead of marched out. I read at least a dozen blue checkmarks on Twitter make those comments and scores of other people on social media. I documented a few on the Facebook Excogitate page. The cries about white supremacy and gun control started at the earliest reports of the shooting.

So why is this guy’s race all of the sudden of little interest now? Well the script got exploded by reality. The shooter was a Muslim man, a Syrian immigrant. See a link from Daily Beast to confirm some of the details here: Boulder, Colorado Cops Identify King Soopers Supermarket Massacre Suspect as Ahmad Alissa (thedailybeast.com). So the white supremacy angle needed to be dropped swiftly and calls to not put this guy’s name out were suddenly trumpeted by people who had no issue disclosing previous shooters’ names. To be clear I am not using the shooters’ names, but I did link an article that does for backup corroboration of key details. I am actually against making these guys too famous, or making them into heroes for other mentally unwell or otherwise evil people who may seek to imitate or compete. These men are not superhuman monsters, they are unwell and or evil people. Still it seems the key interest in withholding the Colorado murder’s name for many of these people would appear to be more of an effort to cover up his racial identity than out of concern that we do not want to give these people fame. I honestly advocate for scrubbing their actual names but keeping all the key details learned about them from as much as media as possible.

He was known to be paranoid and antisocial, depressed and volatile. The thing is that he passed a background check, Colorado’s background check is essentially the same as what Joe Biden was pushing for on a Federal level in his response to this shooting. It did not work because his mental health issues were not part of anything the government could track, fact is it remains unclear how the government could track such a thing without completely decimating every American’s hope of medical privacy, and his offense as a minor would also not be in any system (something that is probably fixable if we should want to pursue it). Having punched a classmate and had some concerns raised about him as a high schooler might have prevented his firearm purchase if his issues as a minor had shown up in the background check. He was known to be paranoid and antisocial again you can reference the article by the Daily Beast above. And maybe, just maybe we should have a good conversation about how to deal with minors who commit violent acts or show serious mental health issues in relation to firearm background checks. And maybe, just maybe we should have a good conversation about how to deal with minors who commit violent acts or show serious mental health issues in relation to firearm background checks. The store’s open carry ban did not seem to do anything to deter the murderer either. Colorado passed a law last decade limiting ammunition capacity to 15 rounds, it just didn’t stop this guy from committing this crime. The script on gun control is weak. It does not mean that it has been completely dropped. The stubbornness of some to shoehorn this into a narrative that does not address mental health or look at the issue in balance of broader human history is not going to be so easily discarded. To those that would advance an anti-second amendment policy it is critically important people are told that some law could have prevented this shooting, because they need people to push for those law in order to continue their efforts successfully.

So what to do?

First I think we need to become entirely discontent with the oversimplified stories we are being offered and refuse to read off the scripts. These stories are complicated and tragic. No single anchoring point is going to bring us to a place of knowing exactly what the best path forward is as a society. The revelation of the shooter's race or religious beliefs are not some of grand epiphany that will move us forward together. We should outright reject that notion. We simply do not know if the shooter would have found other means to commit mass murder, I won't list any other means just in case any potential killer lacks imagination. We simply cannot pretend to know every relevant fact in an hour of such a tragedy. In being discontent we should grow inquisitive and patient.

Second we need to have a real conversation about gun control and the second amendment. Scripts given to us from current events are simply not enough. We need to look at history, our world today and decide what is sound and right. The second amendment to the Constitution of the United States is not designed to keep people safe from other citizens. There is just too much historical evidence that the Bill of Rights was really drafted to make sure some limitations on government were extremely difficult to remove. No, it is clear the concern here is that the populace of the people could be governed against their will without firearms at their disposal. It is completely true that the military could theoretically wipe out all opposition, but it does not mean that a well armed nation would be easily governed against its will. Anyone who wants to argue this can try, but we have the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are truly still ongoing as evidence that an armed populace without the will to comply can mount quite a ferocious resistance, and generally prevent a government from exercising its authority in a town, city or region. We also need to look back at the last century, when totalitarian governments disarmed the people and then went on to murder tens of millions of their own citizens while governing against their will in several instances. This simply cannot be overlooked, it is impossible to imagine Stalin starving well armed Ukrainians to death like he did in the Holodomor. Yes he could have sent in tanks and made a real massacre of it, but he couldn’t have hoped to enforce his order on them if they were all armed. Instead he starved millions of helpless people to death with virtually no fear of retaliation or preventative violence. To draw this thought to a close you might trust the people in charge now, but know many of these people at our helm of government will not be there when we reach old age, and the next person might not be so trustworthy. Fact is I don’t generally regard politicians as trustworthy and I am loathe to see their ability to exercise more power over the population grow. The risks to disarming a population cannot be ignored because we are busy slapping our knees.

It seems to me if we throw out the scripts, and we take a look at these incidents more fully and honestly we may find some measures to improve safety workable. At current the gun vs the anti-gun scripts are wholly insufficient to get us moving in any positive direction. In this circumstance we the people are the bosses, we need to dump the script and start the talking. Maybe we decide this is one of the horrific costs paid to maintain the widest possible freedom to all of us, or maybe we see some mental health treatment ideas, some change in how a minor’s issues might link them to adult counseling or restrict their ownership of firearms. I don’t know what path society would choose – but I am certain that we decide what needs to get done, and we cannot be content with what is put out by those who tell us what to think, what to do.

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