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Witnesses were being interviewed by authorities on July 20, 2012, after a mass shooting in a Colorado movie theatre. Today’s topics: violence on and off the screen; nightmares in Syria; science and the oil sands; the IOC’s moral compass ... and more (Craig F. Walker/AP)
Witnesses were being interviewed by authorities on July 20, 2012, after a mass shooting in a Colorado movie theatre. Today’s topics: violence on and off the screen; nightmares in Syria; science and the oil sands; the IOC’s moral compass ... and more (Craig F. Walker/AP)


July 21: Violence on and off the screen, and other letters to the editor Add to ...

On and off screen

How’s this for a script? A bad guy, armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and two pistols, waits for a hyped-up superhero flick to open. He fits right in with the crowd, which has its scattered share of caped and face-painted wanna-be crusaders lining up for the big opening (71 People Shot, 12 Fatally At Colorado Theatre’s Batman Premiere – July 20).

Inside the theatre, the audience, which loved the earlier movies in the franchise with their shooting and bombing scenes, is more than ready for the next special-effects extravaganza.

Cue the villain, who releases a gas cloud and opens fire inside the theatre. Camera closes in on the mayhem.

Camera pulls back on real life.

What happened on the screen used to be separate from what happened in real life, but we’ve become so inured to violence as entertainment, reality can’t compete. By the time the average child finishes Grade 8, they’ve seen at least 8,000 murders on TV; by age 18, they’ve seen 200,000 violent acts. And that’s just TV, never mind music, videos, games, etc.

So is it any wonder when the nightmares in front screens are indistinguishable from those on them? We used to live the ordinary and imagine the horrible. Now we live the horrible – and imagine the ordinary.

Michelle Nguyen, Vancouver


Toronto’s violence

There is a call for academic research for evidence-based policy on gun crime (Speculative Truths About Gun Crime – July 20). It isn’t clear, however, what this research would consist of.

We already know that gun crime is related to criminalized youth, gangs, drugs, lack of job skills and opportunity, dysfunctional families, etc. These are confirmed truths, not speculative truths. Academics want more research but what is needed urgently is more action.

Reiner Jaakson, Oakville, Ont.


Whenever I read the word “pistolization,” I want to reach for my Browning – Robert that is – and agree “how sad and bad and mad it was.”

Libby Stephens, Toronto


Moral compass, M.I.A.

What an inspiration the Olympics can be – and how shamefully the IOC can debase it all by its hypocrisy.

Consider the generosity of spirit with which Clara Hughes (The Greatest Female Olympian Ever – July 20) talks about her splendid athletic accomplishments. Then, contrast that with the mean-spirited treatment by the IOC of Jim Thorpe, “the greatest athlete in the world as declared by King Gustav V of Sweden 100 years ago this week” (Memo To IOC: Just Do The Right Thing And Give Jim Thorpe His Due – Sports, July 20). Jeff Blair couldn’t have said it better: “The International Olympic Committee has never had much of a moral compass.”

It’s ironic that above part of Mr. Blair’s article detailing the IOC’s refusal to reinstate Thorpe’s medals and standing as an Olympic champion because he had been paid to play sports, we are shown “a sample of Olympic cash rewards” to be given athletes who win medals at the London games. These “rewards” range from the $10,000 to $20,000 to be given by the Canadian Olympic Committee to athletes who win gold, silver or bronze medals, to the $600,000 gift to any Malaysian athlete who wins gold.

Ray Hazzan, Toronto


Nightmare in Syria

Last year, Western members of the UN Security Council persuaded China and Russia to abstain on a motion authorizing the use of as much force as necessary to protect civilians in Libya (Regime Strikes Back In Damascus As Thousands Seek Refuge In Lebanon – July 20). The West then used that motion as justification to attack the Gadhafi regime and achieve regime change in Libya.

Such deceitful manipulation was bound to have negative long-term consequences. China and Russia are determined not to be tricked again, with the result that any resolution of any consequence respecting Syria will be vetoed by both of them. I am tired of hearing Western diplomats heap shame on Russia and China when they have only their own past dishonest conduct to blame for the current impasse. All the while, the situation in Syria gets worse and the Syrian people continue to suffer.

Garth M. Evans, Vancouver


Face it: The situation in Syria is sad but impossible. With the growing recognition that jihadists and Islamic groups are participating in the uprising, there is real fear among the ethnic minorities (Christians, Alawites, Druze and Kurds) for their security in a post-Assad Syria led by Sunni extremists, of being caught up in the violence as a crumbling brutal regime faces cruel revenge.

There is nothing the West can do in this conflict to stop the downward spiral of hate and vengeance.

Martin Gladstone, Toronto


No trust to be had

Re Oil Sands Monitoring Must Be Credible (editorial, July 20): The government’s relationship with the scientific and research community is so toxic, results that are not validated through rigorous scientific method will be dismissed out of hand. Without independent oversight, this will be nothing but a waste of time and money.

I don’t trust the environmentalists on this and I don’t trust the government. I would like to be able to trust the results.

Richard Saunders, Saint John


The Death of Evidence rally on Parliament Hill was attended by more than 2,000 scientists to protest against funding cuts. Scientists protested, for the first time ever, because the unbiased collection of evidence and free flow of scientific information to the Canadian public is under attack. This is obvious by the targets of the cuts (overwhelmingly to those who collect environmental data), and by the stifling of scientists’ access to the media, including having minders follow scientists at scientific meetings.

To make it more obvious, Environment Minister Peter Kent already knows the outcome of the new monitoring of the oil sands – it will “provide to the industry the social licence in a world that is sometimes unrealistically and unreasonably hostile to our resources.”

Carol Kelly, Ganges, B.C.


Bethune politics

Last week’s outburst of opposition to the new visitor centre at the Bethune Memorial House in Gravenhurst is a case of déjà vu (Red All Over – letters, July 14). A similar chorus of denunciation followed the official opening of the historic site in 1976.

In our biography Phoenix: The Life of Norman Bethune, Sharon Stewart and I point out that the Bethune legend has been used for political purposes on more than one occasion. Pierre Trudeau did so 40 years ago when his ministry purchased the former Presbyterian manse in which Bethune was born, and now Stephen Harper has made an addition to the historic site. Both men were motivated by a similar pragmatic aim: to maintain sound relations with China in order to increase trade with the world’s most populous nation. To regard their actions as endorsements of communism is ludicrous.

Attitudes toward Bethune in China may already be undergoing a subtle shift. While Bethune remains a hero to many Chinese, Zhang Yesheng, the foremost Chinese expert on the Canadian doctor, was quoted in 2009 as saying that he is no longer referred to as a proletarian revolutionary but rather as a reformist, and above all, as a humanitarian.

Roderick Stewart, Richmond Hill, Ont.

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