Most of it is boilerplate psychology 101, about low self-esteem and lacking control over one's own life (although how he knew that this applied to the gunman isn't clear - a remote-control psychic interview chaired by St Peter?), and there is little to disagree with as what he writes is banal and obvious. But there are a couple of bits towards the end - clearly, he was getting into his stride, and delighted to have been commissioned by a National Newspaper - which deserve some comment.
Many people have feelings of low self-esteem and may mistrust those around them or even suffer paranoia. But they don't go on a killing spree. What makes the few that do, flip? Access to firearms is one factor. Guns are, fortunately, not easy to get, but if people have lethal means of causing violence close at hand there will be more violence. How many people would be killed if every household had a gun? That, thank goodness, is not the case in this country.
A complete non-sequitur. 'If people have guns, there will be more violence.' Perhaps, but not necessarily. What about the counter-argument that if the people walking the streets of Whitehaven had all been armed, the incident might have ended after the first shot? Imagine opening up your rifle in a crowded street, only to find everyone turning towards you with pistols drawn. What about the inhibiting effect of knowing that some people might be armed, even if no weapons are visible? As they say, 'An armed society is a polite society'.
This argument that the availability of guns causes violence is hogwash. The Swiss are allowed to keep weapons, and you would struggle to find a more peaceful place to live.
An incident like this should make us question our values. We need to think about our exposure to videos and violence – does it make us immune to the effects? We see images of violence every day, and through repetition they lose their power to shock.
Again, this presupposes something which is far from obvious. Ashcroft assumes that our natural state is peaceful and violence-free, and that images of violence degrade our natural abhorrence of it to a point where we become immune. I would argue that the opposite is the case. We live in a lucky part of the world, and at a charmed period of history, where most people, for most of the time, do not encounter violence at all. Go back a hundred years, or go to any number of less fortunate nations today, and you see that violence is and was an all-too common part of everyday life. You could argue that we have become infantilised, where to most of us the intrusion of violence into our lives is a rarity, and something that we demand that Nurse remove as soon as possible. You could argue that images of violence are the only thing stopping us returning to the womb, sucking our thumbs and demanding some of that nice sweet milk and a comfort blanket to shield us from the world. I'm not saying this is necessarily so, just that to assume that the natural order of things is peaceful, and that violence is an unnatural intrusion, is a pretty naïve way of looking at the world.
It raises wider issues too. We define ourselves through jobs, power and money. People are so driven they have no other sense of who they are. They can't go to the doctor or the priest, so they take a gun and kill people. It really is shocking.For the first three of these sentences, I would agree. We live in a world where the trivial assumes huge importance for most people, and things that really matter are sidelined. And the doctor and the priest no longer have the authority and ability to absolve that they once did. Why this should lead people to kill other people is a mystery. I'm left wondering if a couple of crucial sentences haven't been edited out of this passage. It makes no sense.
The most rational comment I have read on this issue is by Charlotte Gore. Knee-jerk reactions not required. 'Something Must Be Done' not required. These things are very rare and often cannot be explained, but they happen, and we should learn to live with it.