Heroes in Aurora

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Three episodes from recent European history:

  • In 2007, the nationally known Swedish politician Anna Lindh was gunned down in a Stockholm shopping mall by a gunman who then fled the scene.  The place was busy.  Several people observed the crime.  But it didn’t occur to anybody to tackle the killer, and nobody rushed to stop him.
  • The next year, on Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, a male model taking part in an outdoor fashion show just off of Rembrandt Square was pulled down from the catwalk and beaten severely by ten Muslim “youths.”  Only one person – a friend of the model – tried to help him.  The show’s organizer told me later that there had been a lot of people present – “and I mean a lot!”  But none of them did anything.
  • Some time after the slaughter last July of dozens of campers on an island near Oslo, accusations began to fly.  The head of the youth group camping on the island, it emerged, had been the first to find a boat and make it to shore – leaving behind the kids in his charge, many of them much younger than himself.  One witness noted that only a few campers had made an active effort to help others – and they were all foreigners.

Several years ago I wrote this about the Lindh killing: “People just stood there, waiting for somebody else to do something. Somebody whose job it was.  Hayek was right: the capacity for resistance – the capacity of even conceiving of resistance – is bred out of people in social democracies.” Of course, that’s a generalization.  Not everybody in Western Europe is a coward.  Besides, who can say how any of us would act in such situations, when everything is happening fast and when it may seem unclear exactly what is the best thing to do?

Still, I couldn’t help thinking of those, and other, historic instances of human passivity when the details of the movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, began to come out.  I am referring to the remarkable fact that not one, not two, but three of the people who died from gunfire that night were young men who lost their lives protecting their girlfriends from the spray of bullets.

Think of it.  In one part of the theater, Jon Blunk, 25, a security guard who’d served on the U.S.S. Nimitz and wanted to become a Navy SEAL, pushed his girlfriend, Jansen Young, to the floor and under her seat, then covered her with his own body and held her tight.   Elsewhere in the same theater, during the same terrifying moments, Alex Teves, 24, who’d just finished earning a master’s degree in clinical psychology, was pushing his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren, to the floor and shielding her with his body.  Still elsewhere in the theater Matt McQuinn, 27, a clerk at Target, was doing the same thing for his girlfriend Samantha Yowler.

All three of these young men died; all three of these young women lived.

Of all the aspects of the horror at Aurora, this is the one I keep coming back to.  Not only was I deeply moved by the fact of these three amazing acts of self-sacrifice; they raised a host of questions that are probably impossible to answer definitively but that I can’t stop asking.

Let’s begin with this one: what is the statistical probability that, in a sold-out movie theater faced with such a crisis, three such instances of apparently reflexive heroism would occur?  To put it a bit differently: was this a fluke?  Or not?  How about this question: is such a thing more likely to happen in the U.S. than elsewhere in the developed world?  Is it more likely to happen in a mountain state than in certain other regions of the country?

Further questions came to mind.  Some of them clearly arose because I’ve spent much of the last couple of years working on a book about the role of ideology – including radical feminism – in the American academy and its effect on the broader culture.  In the course of my research I’ve read books and attended lectures that were simply drenched in man-hatred.  I’ve been exposed repeatedly to the mantra that every male is a potential rapist and every woman a potential victim – the argument that without men there would be no aggression, no murder, and no war (to say nothing of those ubiquitous evils, competition and capitalism).  And in the last few days, as a result, I’ve wondered: since the horror at Aurora, how many professors of Women’s Studies and other such disciplines (not to mention high-school social-studies teachers and the like) have devoted classroom time to discussions of the “lesson” or “lessons” of Aurora?

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  • Chezwick

    We all have our bigotries I suppose. My contempt for the so-called BGLT community is mostly due to their far-Left political inclinations, but try as I may to be open minded, I acknowledge that it might not end there. Nonetheless, I swear that Bruce Bawer shatters preconceptions and stereotypes about what a gay man is every time he publishes an article….just by virtue of his thought processes. He is the quintessential straight-shooter, sensibilities be damned; someone who attacks the issues with unapologetic clarity and verve. He's one gay man that I truly admire….and I'm sure as hell glad he's on our side.

    • Stephen_Brady

      Well thanks, Chez, for telling me something I didn't know and didn't even want to know about Mr. Bawer. However, your assessment of him is spot on.

      Says something for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", doesn't it?

    • Chiggles

      Chez, you may like this blog of a self-described "gay male gun nut in Vermont". http://alphecca.com/

    • http://www.resonoelusono.com/NaturalBornCitizen.htm Alexander Gofen

      No thanks Mr. Chezwick for telling me something I didn't know and didn't even want to know about Mr. Bawer!

      And no thanks for promoting homosexualism, for using their euphemism and crippling the language. The word "gay" does have already its original meaning "joyous".

      And no thanks for referring to "bigotry" in the sense as though rejection of en entire class or party of people based on their agenda and behavior were a sin.

      • Ray Olson

        Unfortunately, Mr. Gofen, rejecting en entire class or party of people is a sin if it leads one to dismiss each individual person in the class or party because he identifies with that class or party. We are supposed to judge each person's worth discretely, considering each person completely. It just won't do to blackball a person because he is a communist, a libertarian, a Muslim, or homosexual.

        • http://www.resonoelusono.com/NaturalBornCitizen.htm Alexander Gofen

          There do exist entirely bad parties: bad in their very platform or tenets. The contemporary loose usage of the tag "bigotry" aims to shut up any criticism against such parties, to shield each and every its member from being criticized, and even to "celebrate" them all.

          Yes, it can happen that a good person formally belongs to a bad party, like Oscar Schindler – formally a Nazi. (People ought to "belong" for the reasons of survival, mimicry, and similar). However we appreciate such people not for "to whom they happened to belong", but rather for what they actually do despite where they belong.

          • Ray Olson

            I stand by my words. We may not regard any person as morally worthless because he or she belongs to a class or party. To do so is a sin, for to do so is to condemn the sinner with the sin.

  • Billy Corr

    Marc Steyn tells a similar tale set in Canada some years ago.

    The narrative was different in that the males left the university auditorium in a calm and orderly manner, aware that a single gunman was about to murder as many women as he could.

    Another reader, more memorious than am I, can probably find a link.

  • Billy Corr

    A little thought and it was found:


    However, the Steyn commentary is the useful one.

  • Billy Corr

    Here is a part of it, with otherr comments:

    Enough from me!

  • Rivkah F.

    That was the first thing that I thought of too. In the old days, they would have been called "gentlemen" but they are heroes. I am sure there are many more like them, not only in the U.S. Certainly, in Israel, where I live, there have been all too many heroic moments when people have sacrificed their own lives in terror
    attacks in order to save others. And in Virginia Tech, there was Prof. Librescu who acted
    quickly to save his students from the mass murderer and was shot. But Bawer is right. These examples should be discussed and praised. May they rest in peace.

  • oldtimer

    God bless them, may the rest in peace, keep all of those who were there, and their families, in your prayers.

  • PhillipGaley

    Not every male body in Western Europe is the body of a coward?

    Nice score, . . . left their guns, their G0D, and their women, . . . Australians, too.

  • R. M. Tamarind

    Is there such a thing as a posthumous Medal of Freedom that could/should be awarded to these men?

  • Surly Curmudgen

    There where several other heroic acts in the theatre that night. I counted at least eight. The most heroic in my opinion was a thirteen year old who stayed, when she could have run, with bullets flying and the confusion and tried to get an adult body of the six year old girl to try to save her life. The three men prominent in this article and adults gave their lives protecting their girl friends, someone they knew. This girl thirteen years old stayed to help a stranger risking her life in doing so.

    While trying to count the acts of heroism I was wondering if this is a part of what we as Americans are and if that degree of heroism is found in other nations. That question was answered by this article. There was a disquieting thought with this. Twenty, thirty even fifty years ago there would have been an active offence not just passive defence. A half dozen or more men in a full out charge at the shooter would have taken him out with fewer deaths. What has changed from fifty years ago?

    • Deerknocker

      Surly, I'm not sure a half dozen men could have made it through to a shooter armed with an AR-15 with a 100 round clip, but I'm pretty sure a few men or women armed with concealed carry weapons could have kept the shooter ducking more than shooting. Those three dead young men might have had a chance to save themselves as well as their girlfriends if they had a weapon. Time for us to insist that we have the right to self defense and concealed carry is one of the best ways to be prepared to exercise self defense.

      By the way, I too was humbled by the actions of the 13 year old. Would that I would be so brave in such circumstances.

      • dmw

        In one of the interviews of survivors that I saw, the survivor testified that she was overcome with with the effects of gas (could not see) and smoke and it was very dark as well. So in my mind the ability of most (or all?) of any potential defenders or perp attackers was severely degraded in order to adequately observe and develop an orientation and then a decision of multiple people as to where and who to attack.

        Remember Flight 93!

    • Jim_C

      How many private citizens 50 years ago could come to a movie theater armed with tear gas and automatic weapons? And how many private citizens, now, have the training and presence of mind to negotiate tear gas, locate and neutralize a target in a panicking room? We currently have thousands of brave men and women putting their lives on the line overseas–voluntarily. So why do "curmudgeons" insist life was somehow "manlier" in the old days?

  • Tanstaafl jw

    This is our sacred duty. To protect those we love.

  • Amused

    Congrats Bower , you even manage to inserta typical denigration , in the face of such a trgedy and acts of heroism . Strip away all the blather in your article and what's left is a denigration of women . You insult the intelligence of anyone reading your article . You obviously know your main audience , since few posters as of yet have detected your transparency and numerous references to woman's studies . . in the vain that you used them .

    • intrcptr2

      So, what, are you saying that "women's studies" and women are pretty much the same thing, and that anyone who denigrates the former is clearly aiming at the latter?

      I wish I had your word processor, putting my own sentences together is a real drag.

    • Stephen_Brady

      I'm certain than Mr. Bawer had the "denigration of women" in mind, as he wrote his article. Anyone with half a mind can tell that.

      • Amused

        LOL….didn't I say Bawer "knows his main audience " ? Question for the hopelessly ignorant – "Did bawer mention the heroism of that 13 yr old " ? Hows about Ft .Hood ? The female cop who returned fire even after being shot herself ?
        Man you guys are as dumb as dirt , don't even know when you're being baited and on the hook . The construct here rather obvious , womans right /studies = liberal = left . So it all boils down to just another political exploitation of a tragic incident .
        There is no limit to the depths some of FPM writers will plumb in order to make their partisan political point.
        But you guys are truly the perfect audience for this kind of bullsheeet.
        Look if you guys are too intellectually challenged to parse the writers agenda ….that ain't my fault .
        I do however give Bawer an A for subtlety and "round-about -ness " , the makings of a great propagandist . LOL….and these threads the perfect place to unleash it .

        • mah29001


  • Ghostwriter

    I think the point is that there were both heroes and heroines involved in this sad tragedy. Sadly,those like Amused wants to denigrate the male side when it's clear that there were heroes among both sexes.

  • BLJ

    These three young men paid the ultimate price to protect the women that they loved. I hope they are never forgotten (as the rest of those who died at the hands of that loser).

    • BS77

      Yes, these were very brave and caring guys.

  • ras

    Yes, Bruce, living in Malmö Sweden, where women are victimized like never before I have come to think less than admiringly off these feeble males, so busy styling themselves as multiculti etc etc. The best anyone can do is anonymously pass out a few fliers in the dead of night.

    • BS77

      HG WELLS, genius at work, described this behavior so well in The Time Machine. Just read the descriptions of the Eloi…..passive, weak and unable to even consider self defense.

  • Amused

    To Brody and Ghostewriter , I possess just average intelligence , but that's all it takes to see through Bawer's clever but transparent construct .For those of you who ASSume what I'm saying , I would simply say , take my words at face value , that is what I say is what I mean , not what you think I mean , a bad habit that many of you here seem to embrace .Bawer praises these acts of bravery and supreme sacrifice as DO I , however I take exception to his INJECTION of the woman's studies , radical feminism and the rest of the bullsheet , which are totally exterraneous to the subject , but Bawer cleverly weaves them in to make a political point . And that's only part of it , but if you missed that , then you are sure to have missed the 80% or so of the article which has nothing to do with praising these young men , but rather the rest of the picture he's painting for you to see . Oh brother are you guys blind or what ?? From the type of audiences compared to a type of movie to geographical location , al; suggestions for the gullible mind . What about the 13 yr old girl ?

    • Stephen_Brady

      A conserative columnist is clever? Doesn't that go against the narrative?

      I possess just average intelligence …

      Ah, but I beg to differ with you, sir. The very username you employ … "Amused" … implies a self-image of superior intellectual ability and intelligence. That is why you are so "amused". You see yourself, in the mirror, laughing at all of the rubes, rednecks, and hicks that, in your estimation, make up the conservative movement. Are you indeed of superior intelligence, or are you simply "average"? Logic dictates that you can't be both. Consistency, sir, is called for …

      I'm sure that the 13-year old girl was both terrified and courageous. But the article was not about girls, or feminism, or women's studies, except in the sense of how feminism and women's studies affects American manhood. His conclusion, based upon his thesis statement, is that American manhood is alive and well, thank you.

      • Amused

        Terrorists are clever . " Rubes ,rednecks and hicks " is that YOUR self descriptor ? Again , all it takes is AVERAGR intelligence , or better put for your understanding , a high school level of reading comprehension . It is the GULLIBILTY of the Conservative movement that " amuses me " .Seemingly intelligent people who engage in cognizant dissonance for the sake of political partisanship . Indeed no event , can be seperated from the conservative narrative , no matter how serious or insignifigant , or no matter how irrelevant ….THAT "amuses me " . How your ideologues are worshipped and their words defended no matter how ignorant or obtuse they may be …THAT "amuses me " . How the assumptions ,accusations , innuendo and aspersions cast are so easily digested , how slurrs and slanders are pronounced , back-peddled , excuses made and then said remarks eventually defended then justified …THAT "amuses me " . I have been nothing but consistent . For both the left AND the right have been CONSISTENTLY caught in outright lies and purposed half-truths. Would you deny that ? Sorry Bawer duped you …that's not my fault .

        • Stephen_Brady

          I was duped by Mr. Bawyer? It seems to me that … of the two of us … I was the one who caught his thesis statement, which you obviousy overlooked. Since you didn't take notice of it, I can only assume that you never made it to a "high school level of reading comprehension".

          The only person I've ever worshipped is Jesus Christ. Even Ronald Wilson Reagan was only admired by me … never worshipped. I'm sorry that your "christ" is about to be evicted from the White House.

          One last point for you … if you are going to accuse other people of being stupid, or ignorant, edit, edit, and then edit some more. You end up looking like the "rube, redneck, and hick" when you talk of people of average intelligence, and then spell the word, in caps: "AVERAGR".

          • Amused

            Uh …look at the R and the E on the keyboard genius , it's a typo . The point remains , you got duped …lol….and like it . Good luck chump .

  • kong.ming

    If they ever ban pistols I'm carrying around a super soaker full of hydrochloric acid.

    And forget the police who say the way this creep was armored you couldn't take him down. A shot to the body armor will break ribs, at the least knock them down. You have the face mask which is a difficult, but not impossible shot. Pistol owners today are awesome shots and responsible. James Butler Hickok or Annie Oakley would do it and not spill their popcorn. You can always shot them in the feet, or shoot the gun, by the way. That's how the police took out the bank robbers in California.

    • Stephen_Brady

      A Remington Model 870 would do quite well, in a pinch!

  • Jim

    Perhaps they are relying on the authorities to do some thing………..