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Filler: After shooting near Empire State Building, we are besieged by violence again
For New Yorkers, hearing that a shooting rampage has occurred at an iconic city spot like the Empire State Building can't help but tap into the emotions they still have about the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. To some extent, this is probably true of all Americans.
Two people were killed and nine others shot early Friday morning near that landmark on 33rd Street after a gunman opened fire, according to reports coming from a still chaotic crime scene. The shooter, identified by police as Jeff Johnson, 53, was a former designer of women’s accessories at Hazan Imports, where he had been laid off about a year ago. Johnson killed a former co-worker with a .45-caliber handgun, and then was himself killed by police officers.
Thursday, The Onion, probably the world’s foremost distributor of satirical, fake news, jumped the gun. The website, which parodies current events, politics and culture in a style so sharp it often feels more thought-provoking and apt than the real stories, ran a piece with the headline “Nation Celebrates Full Week Without Deadly Mass Shooting.” Friday morning, The Onion revised the story with a second headline: “UPDATE: Never Mind”
Over the coming days and weeks this shooting will be dissected in great detail. The point will be made that unlike the Aurora movie theater shooter, this was not a random killing. It appears to have been, instead, a revenge attack. The provenance of Johnson’s gun, and the legality of it (or lack thereof) will be cited. His state of mind will be probed, his recent past sifted for clues that, perhaps, someone should have picked up on.
It’s still a developing story. There’s a lot we don’t yet know. But we do know we have become a nation, even as the murder rate has declined, that is besieged by high-profile, seemingly maniacal gun attacks.
And we know it’s become so frequent and even commonplace, that even the most savage attempts to lampoon these outbursts of violence suffer from the sin of understatement in comparison to the savagery and frequency of the attacks.
What can be said when the violence in our society outstrips the ability of satirists to depict it?
Pictured above: Bystanders and a police officer stand on Fifth Avenue after a fatal shooting outside the Empire State Building. (Aug. 24, 2012)