Thursday, January 13, 2011


Reuters, April 20, 2007, four days after the Virginia Tech massacre:

The campus bookstore was a rare spot of activity on campus, as visiting parents, families and journalists lined up to buy Virginia Tech T-shirts and sweaters to honor an alumni request that people nationwide wear the school's orange and maroon.

"The last few days have been crazy," said bookstore clerk Pierson Booher, an architecture student. "We got 1,600 mail orders yesterday morning alone."

Booher, 23, said other universities had called to request Virginia Tech flags to replace their own on campus flagpoles, while a funeral home hosting one of the student funerals called to order as many university pins the store could provide.

Magazine publishers routinely publish special "commemorative issues" when tragedy strikes. Booksellers know that people want books about well-known victims of tragedies. Disasters often inspire musicians to make charity recordings, which are eagerly acquired.

When we unite in mourning, we often like to collect stuff.

For last night's memorial service, the University of Arizona decided to drape a T-shirt on every chair that had this logo:

In response, Michelle Malkin pitched a fit:

Will there be giant foam fingers and blue cotton candy, too?

Isn't the churning of the instant messaging machine a bit, well, unseemly?

Can’t the Democrat political stage managers give it a break just once?

In her usual fashion, Malkin jumped to the conclusion that the White House was responsible for this. Informed that this was not the case, she made a tiny retreat:

...a few readers write in to say that the campus initiated the logo/campaign. Given U of A president Robert Shelton's embarrassing, thinly-veiled partisan cheerleading for Obama tonight, it may indeed be a 100 percent-campus-initiated campaign. Given the Obama White House's meticulous attention to stage prop details, however, I would say the odds of involvement by Axelrod/Plouffe & Co. are high.

Yeah, right -- the White House has done such a great job of message management in the last two years -- why, everyone in America, except a few wingnut malcontents, just loves this logo for the stimulus plan, right? All the kewl kidz are wearing it, aren't they?

No, Team Obama hasn't done very well on that score while in office. Still, Michelle is shocked, shocked -- messaging is going on here! And really, that's her problem: not that (in her opinion) this tragedy is being cynically exploited, but that (in her opinion) it's being cynically exploited by people who aren't Republicans! Cynical exploitation is their specialty! Messaging is what they do! In fact, it's all they know how to do. They can't legislate, they can't govern -- but they sure as hell can craft a meme and frame a debate. They do it every day! They have a near-monopoly in this country on effective memes and expertly deployed symbols and debate-framing. How dare anyone else muscle in on their territory!

And the odd thing is, President Obama's speech last night actually jibed more with some of their messaging than with that of many liberals. In fact, these damn T-shirts jibe more with the right's messages than with the left's.

I'm not a big fan of the Sarah-made-Jared-kill theory myself, despite my loathing of the right's angry talk, so my feelings about the speech were mostly positive. I told my wife as the president spoke that the right-wing headlines would be "Obama Rebukes the Left," and well, there it is, almost word for word -- but only at a blog published by the U.K.'s Telegraph. Instead, the right is ginning up a new partisan spat, and thus embodying what Obama was denouncing. And so nothing changes.


And no, I don't know if the recent increase in sales of Glocks and high-capacity magazines is an example of responding to an incident like this by acquiring souvenirs.

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