The Need for Order, or “Do Something” Syndrome

Share on facebook
Facebook 0
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn 0
Share on reddit
Reddit 0
Share on delicious
Share on digg
Share on stumbleupon
StumbleUpon 0
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on print

In light of the horrific massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, it is disappointing but not altogether surprising that the calls to just do something to stop the violence rang out before the middle of the day. I’ll address the disgusting behavior of the mass media in a later post, but wanted to focus this post on the reactions and what they might say about our overall attitudes about life and society.

Gun control activists, grieving with obvious sympathy and empathy for the victims, and of course concerned primarily about the human toil of this tragedy, took to twitter and other outlets to immediately call for stricter gun laws. Ignoring that Connecticut is hardly a modern incarnation of the wild west, they seemed to imply that if we only tightened regulations and banned guns with menacing-sounding names, then we could ensure that no more mass murders of this kind would ever occur again, so long as we all shall live.

There are many legal, constitutional, and logical arguments to be made against further restrictions on gun ownership, and Jeff Goldstein makes just about all of them here. To me the strongest arguments against the gun control crowd are the practical ones. An obviously troubled young man murders his mother, then walks to her school and guns down children  and the thing we’re discussing afterwards are guns? Aside from the fact that even worse crimes have been perpetrated without a single firearm being deployed, we’re missing the big picture when we’re debating the mechanism for carrying out a massacre and not the underlying cause or causes.

Another recurring theme is that this incident is further proof that there is no God. Deroy Murdock expressed this sentiment in the conservative on-line journal of opinion, National Review online.

 Just in time for Christmas, a reputedly almighty God must have been on break Friday morning when Adam Lanza massacred 20 Connecticut school kids. These six- and seven-year-olds were far too young to choose wrongly between good and evil — that choice being the way that believers typically explain how a supposedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnibeneficent God allows such atrocities. Atop the ongoing mayhem of Hurricane Sandy, the carnage in Syria, and the burgeoning power of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, it should be clearer than ever that no one up there watches over us Earthlings. We are on our own.

Of course we’ve all heard this before and have addressed this in myriad ways.

What hadn’t occurred to me is there is a certain commonality between those who use tragedies like this to further the fight for control and others who use it to push an atheistic agenda. Granted there is overlap between the categories, but for now we’ll treat these as separate attitudes.

Gun control advocates exemplify an affliction I will call “Do Something” Syndrome. This is the basic affliction at the heart of progressivism. In short, the premise underlying “Do Something” Syndrome is that if only we pass some kind of law, then whatever horrible thing that just happened won’t ever happen again. There’s no concern that the solution is far more dramatic than what precipitated the action. If something bad happened, then we have to do everything we can dream of to guarantee that it never happens again. Unfortunately “Do Something” Syndrome afflicts not just left-wingers. After all, the heart of George W. Bush’s “compassionate” conservatism was the idea that when someone’s hurt, it’s government’s job to move and do something.

What motivates this attitude is the need for control. Perhaps a more generous way to phrase it is that those suffering from “Do Something” Syndrome seek order. The disorder of a fallen world creates an unacceptable chaos that begs for a creative solution that will ameliorate all suffering.

I believe that those who question God’s existence in the light of tragedy also desperately crave order. It is unacceptable to them that a supposedly omnipotent Deity permits such disorder and misery. The lack of order in society prompts them to question the very nature of existence itself. And so they reject the notion that a beneficent Supreme Being could contemplate creating such a disorderly universe.

Lacking in these attitudes is both humility and perspective. We live in a fallen world. Utopian planners want to undo the creation and make this an unfallen world. Atheists do not appreciate that God’s gift of free will undermines the perfect order that they so crave. Both sides kick against the goads. Both sides will never be satisfied precisely because the sort of order they so desperately desire cannot be achieved in this vale of tears.

More to explorer

PopeWatch: Vigano

Archbishop Carlo Vigano has some questions about the Vatican Dog and Pony Sex Abuse Summit:   I am praying intensely for the


  1. This is the basic affliction at the heart of progressivism. In short, the premise underlying “Do Something” Syndrome is that if only we pass some kind of law, then whatever horrible thing that just happened won’t ever happen again.

    In fairness to advocates of gun control, I think the less emotive of them would merely contend that enhanced controls would lessen the likelihood of these sorts of things. What regulations we have now, what the enhancements might be, a reasonable hypothesis about the effect of those enhancements, and the costs as well as the benefits of those enhancements are things to which they devote no thought (and when gun aficionados get talking about their hobby, you realize you know diddly/squat about guns). The whole point seems to strike attitudes.

    And what attitudes. Look at the remarks of Prof. Erik Loomis and then recall the remarks of Prof. Krugman about Gabrielle Giffords, et al. People who own guns are class enemies to these types. The rest does not matter.

  2. the less emotive of them

    Unfortunately not a majority of the total class of anti-gun zealots, or at least not a vocal majority.

    FYI, you are no longer on moderation, Art.

  3. “Just in time for Christmas, a reputedly almighty God must have been on break Friday morning when Adam Lanza massacred 20 Connecticut school kids. ”

    Atheists so often have a theological sophistication that would shame a snake handler in the Ozarks. My guess is that concepts like free will, original sin, divine foreknowledge as opposed to predestination, etc, are as foreign to Mr. Murdock as intelligent commentary. How National Review has fallen over the past few decades.

  4. Some of them acknowledge those concepts, Don, but simply reject them as our way of rationalizing evil. I think there are some that can be engaged and perhaps brought to the light. Mr. Murdock does not strike me as the type. This is not the first time he’s engaged in simple hysteria.

  5. I apologize n advance.

    I’ve been around a long time. I remember when you could buy a revolver in Sears and walk out with it in a holster – you couldn’t conceal it, though. We must have had thousands of mass killings a year in those days.

    It’s not about public safety or “What about the children?”

    It’s about control over you and me.

    The zombies don’t know how to think. They are told what to think.

  6. “It’s about control over you and me.

    The zombies don’t know how to think. They are told what to think.”

    They are good Fascists in the making.


  7. How National Review has fallen over the past few decades.

    Richard Lowry allows his stable a great deal of rope (while they are producing real time commentary of a type unknown in American political journalism prior to about 1998). The lapse of time between when he had ample justification to hand a pink slip to John Derbyshire and the time when Mr. Derbyshire was actually shown the door was just shy of six years. Richard Lowry ihas now where near the sophistication of Buckley, but then again, Mr. Buckley was a fairly singular figure who had no true peers among magazine editors of his era. National Review does not look bad compared to peer publications.

  8. The modern world needs a better class of atheist:

    “Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. “Rum thing,” he went on. “All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.” To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not-as I would still have put it — “safe,” where could I turn? Was there then no escape?”
    CS Lewis, Surpised by Joy

    One of the depressing aspects of the current era is how few people are concerned about whether something is true or false, probably because fewer people than in previous generations, at least on a proportional basis, have the intellectual heft and depth of knowledge to make that determination. Also our society has been so penetrated by subjectivism that the very concept of truth is viewed as unimportant.

  9. I think you find proportionately fewer people who have been liberally educated in a certain way – studying philosophy and theology and the classics. The thing is, I doubt this needs to be imposed on everyone’s tertiary education. It should, however, be much more available to those who are receptive to it.

    You see this at National Review. Richard Lowry has his stable of academics (Stanley Kurtz, Victor Davis Hanson, Mackubin Thomas Owens). None of these men, however, have the sort of learning that Erik v. Kuenhelt Leddhin had.

  10. Sometimes I think Vox Nova exists to confirm our theories.

    “But how can you blame me for this horrible crime? I didn’t do anything,” you and I might object.

    That is precisely the problem. You and I didn’t do anything.

  11. Mr. Zummo,

    I congratulate you for your stern fortitude as evidenced by your going to that site and not barfing all over your keyboard.

    Whenever an evil (likely Obama voter) man (woemn don’t do it) massacres debilitated, disarmed victims other evil, Obama voters scream about disarming the te innocent and virtuous.

    When an evil Obama voter kills people that evil, Obama voter is guilty not me. Maybe it’s what psychologists call “projection.” Evil Obama people are evil through-and-through and cannot see that everyone is not evil.

    They exhibit a stark deficit of self-awareness.

  12. Glenn Reynolds at “Instapundit” posts that gun control is about “a statement of naked power by one American culture over another.”

    As the higher education bubble bursts VN geniuses won’t get work in academia. Still, they can have stellar careers running concentration camps.

  13. ^can we leave the weird Obama-focused comments and Nazi allusions out of this

    and while i share the skepticism of the gun-control advocates but i’m not much a fan of Instapundit’s libertarian reductionism either.

  14. Agreed, Art. But it is worth noting that (i) who does? and (ii) those of us of a certain age encountered EvKL only in the pages of the National Review. If you did not read NR, you were pretty much guaranteed to have never heard of him.

  15. to put in a word for “compassionate conservatism,” i think it was (and still can be, in a different form) a good rhetorical move to combat media stereotypes/public perceptions. as someone who’s more interested in the cultural side of conservatism than the Glenn Beckian “Woodrow Wilson was a Nazi progressive/big government=fascism” side (caricature but you get my point — maybe i’m reading too much into other blogs’ comment sections,) i think in the coming years conservative politicians should identify what exactly they think a lean, efficient government should do, as opposed to generic references to the leviathan state. to me it’s not so much whether government is big or small, as opposed to if it’s helping/harming in select areas. a good past example of this would be the welfare issue.

    i’m hair-splitting some, but there definitely needs to be a broader GOP economic message than the current tax/regulation-focused one.

  16. and apologies if the “whether government works” seems too similar to Obama’s comment in his first inaugural. i think it’s one of his better pieces of rhetoric though, even if it doesn’t much match up with his actual policies.

  17. I thought Megan McArdle summed up the “do something” mindset pretty concisely in her long but very good response to the current gun hysteria:

    There’s a terrible syllogism that tends to follow on tragedies like this:

    1. Something must be done

    2. This is something

    3. Therefore this must be done.

    It would certainly be more comfortable for me to endorse doing something symbolic–bring back the “assault weapons ban”–in order to signal that I care. But I would rather do nothing than do something stupid because it makes us feel better. We shouldn’t have laws on the books unless we think there’s a good chance they’ll work: they add regulatory complexity and sap law-enforcement resources from more needed tasks. This is not because I don’t care about dead children; my heart, like yours, broke about a thousand times this weekend. But they will not breathe again because we pass a law. A law would make us feel better, because it would make us feel as if we’d “done something”, as if we’d made it less likely that more children would die. But I think that would be false security. And false security is more dangerous than none.

  18. i agree with the above but i don’t like saying “there’s little to be done.” of course i can’t think of a great solution myself without lazily saying “it’s complex” but clearly something has changed for these types of things to be more common (maybe it just seems like that? i’m younger so i dunno what things were like the ’50s or other eras.) i’m interested in some of the broader factors (violent entertainment, videogames, isolation combined with these things) though i don’t know how much of a role they played in this particular case.

  19. Opportunistically politicizing the grief and horror to the point of being on scene was a chilling imposition adding to the horror. The silence of dealing with overwrought insane behavior of few is deafening. There must be some gov. dept. in HHS that could point out that a gun control plan won’t stop deviants and miscreants etc. – or not. Mental health is the issue. But …
    Distraction of the many from the doings of gov. missions won the day.
    So, it’s all good ’til next time.

  20. “This is not the first time he’s engaged in simple hysteria.”

    I guess Deroy Murdock still seriously needs some Xanax — his fears did, after all, come to pass with regard to the GOP and the Senate. But who doesn’t need some anti-anxiety measures when they contemplate the far worse horror of little children gunned down in their classroom at Christmastime? Still, I am put in mind of yet another remark by C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape, who tells Wormwood at one point that since the “Enemy” (God) has clearly told His followers that suffering is to be expected and is essential to redemption, a faith that is destroyed by war, pestilence, or other catastrophes was probably not all that strong to begin with.

  21. i’d be OK with someone like Murdock at NRO (although i think there’s a debate to be have on how meaningful a conservatism can exist apart from Christian influence) if they didn’t frame their atheism in the ways i might’ve when i was 15.

  22. The administration needs to do something alright…like get the hell out of the way. But I have a bad feeling that isn’t about to happen.

  23. Politicians have to tread warily. I remember the shock to public confidence when, in a moment of irritation, then French prime minister Lionel Jospin told a reporter, “The government can’t do everything.” It is generally believed that that piece of ill-judged candour cost him the election.

    In the UK, in the wake of the Hungerford and Dunblane massacres, the reasoning among politicians and permanent officials was that a government that issues licences for hand guns will be blamed for their misuse, whereas a government that bans them can blame the illicit arms trade. No one was naif enough to believe a ban would prevent future outrages.

  24. The inconsistency of liberal imbeciles (redundent) is . . . consistent.

    Inconsistency #!: All gunowners are responsible for any and all deranged, mass murders. No Moslem is responsible for 10,000 world-wide jihad attacks since 2001.

    Inconsistency #2: All gun owners are responsible for all gun deaths: including “Fast and Furious.” No gay (except Sandusky) is guilty scores of child molestations.

    I am victim of an FBI check and open a record if I buy a gun. That’s why we have gun shows.

    There are no background checks on gays and moslems.

    I will not be lectured on human rights, “What about the children!”, or violence by people that Idolize Che, Mao, Lenin, Pol Pot, Stalin, . . . they killed 100,000,000 people in the last century. Nor, who are using the coercive force of the state to take away our human rights.

  25. Mike Petrik,

    It is not likely you would have heard of Erik v Kuenheldt Leddhin. Acadmic literature has small audiences composed of scholars, teachers, and students. A modest number of academics reach a general audience through publications like the New York Review of Books and the Wilson Quarterly, and, nowadays, blogging.

    I doubt the intellectual quality of NR has suffered a whole lot in the last 30 years, but the sort of intellect cultivated is certainly different. Stanley Kurtz is a social anthropologist. You did not see much of that among the starboard intelligentsia ca. 1960, which consisted of intellectual historians, literary scholars, and theoretical economists, as well as generic men-of-letters like Whittaker Chambers.

  26. There was a YouTube the other day about an golden eagle attempting to carry off a toddler. It seems it was photoshopped.

    My wife notes that online at MSNBC, a number of comments about this were about banning photoshopping.

    So comes the end of Virtue.

  27. If the state makes gun-control the law and self-defense illegal, and innocent people are murdered, because, without gun protection, and because of the law, the state then becomes liable and maybe and ought to be sued for being an accomplice before the fact of the murder of innocents. A “citizens’ arrest”, the ability of citizens to arrest and hold a criminal until police arrive has been discounted, actually making “citizens’ arrest” into assault and battery of the individual who has not been tried and found guilty by a court of law. Based on the sovereign personhood of the citizen endowed by our Creator who constitutes the state and government, the sovereign person, chooses and decides if and when to carry armed protection. The failure of the state to protect the innocent person, (as in Sandy Hook, Conn.,) who is a citizen, is a cause for a negligence lawsuit against the state and taxation without representation. The innocent were not protected by those sworn to protect them. Gun control as “Do Something” is double jeopardy for all citizens, as all living people have suffered jeopardy of life when a murderer is at large.

  28. Phillip: The Eagle, as in St. John, the Evangelist, is the symbol of the swiftness of God’s Justice and the symbol of America’s Freedom. All virtue will be besmirched. and where was the mother of the toddler? Somehow, I cannot imagine the eagle carrying off the stroller.

  29. Mary,

    Obama is not only denying Americans civil protection, he is tearing away the bonds that once united us in peace and prosperity.

    “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama June 14, 2008.

    On the Friday before election 2012, Obama told his supporters at a campaign rally – inside a public high school – to vote for revenge!

    “Eat the Rich!”

    Is it any wonder we seem to be devolving to a state wherein it will be a common occurrence to need to fight for one’s life?

  30. Deroy Murdock is a fool.

    Notice that the media does not extol the success of gun control in the City of Chicago, where owning a gun is virtually illegal – and how many murders occur there each year?

Comments are closed.