Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gunman schmunman

I see that, yet again, some faux-macho psycho who has been spraying bullets around is being referred to exclusively in the news as 'the gunman'.

What's this about? What makes a man a gunman? Carrying a gun? Firing one? Killing someone with one? In the case of yesterday's tragic events in Melbourne, what's wrong with the good old-fashioned word "murderer"?

I'm not sure quite what my objections are to the word 'gunman', but I do know that they are visceral. Perhaps I despise the undertones of admiration, the 'lone and misunderstood hero' connotations of a word like 'gunman'. Remember Chuck Norris in Rifleman on the teeve, the lone hero striding the lawless landscape like some colossal law unto himself? (No, most of you probably don't, you're too young. Never mind.)*

You never see the word 'gunwoman', though, do you.

And there's a reason for that.

*UPDATE: Connors. Chuck Connors.

Obviously I don't remember him either.


Black Knight said...

I thought it was just me.

And no, I can't articulate it, either. "Gunned down". What's wrong with "shot"?

Anonymous said...

Er, that was Chuck Connors in "Rifleman"

Pavlov's Cat said...

So it was. My bad. Guess I'm too young to remember as well.

Chuck Norris was a Texas Ranger or something. Them good ole macho boys all look the same to me.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh and BK -- with you on 'gunned down'. I wonder what 'gunned up' would be.

No I don't.

Bwca said...

Agree with you absolutely.
I also loathe 'gangland' and 'druglord' - WTF ?
why can't these newswriters stop 'sexing-up' (to use their own term)references to psychopaths, morons criminals and sociopaths.

The emphasis in this news story should be the terrible consequence of that nice man helping a woman in distress ( and I say 'woman' when I really mean 'stupid slag who hangs out with moron criminal men in clubs at dawn' She should beg the widow's forgiveness, on her knees).

Anthony said...

"What makes a man a gunman? Carrying a gun? Firing one? Killing someone with one?"

You're right that "gunman" is a media cliche, in that people who stab people to death are rarely referred to as "the stabber". But then there's aways the "axe-weilding maniac" etc.

But anyone who's lived in Melbourne over the past twenty years - or, more particularly, like me, who lived just off Hoddle Street in 1987 - would not think the term "gunman" signifies Hollywood romance. In fact, just the opposite. It is now a term to strike terror into our hearts.

Guns, and especially semi-automatic weapons, are a terribly efficient killing machine. So perhaps those who weild them, both here and overseas, do deserve to be singled out as particularly lethal murderers aka "gunmen". And then we might get some government action on banning the weapons.

Anonymous said...

Gunman is more descriptive. Not sure why find the word a problem.

Sounds like you have some demons to wrestle with, Pavlov.

Pavlov's Cat said...

'Not sure why find [sic] the word a problem.'

Well, if you still don't understand even after Black Knight, bwca, Anthony and I have all enlarged on it, then understanding it is probably beyond you.

'Sounds like you have some demons to wrestle with, Pavlov.'

Let me get this straight. You have a problem with understanding, and therefore there must be something wrong with me?

I wonder why these kinds of comments are always anonymous. (Although the combination of the 'I can't see what the problem is' approach with the insinuation that the poster has Issues is so familiar to me from certain discussions at LP that I think I could probably put a name to you.)

Bernice said...

In the States, they're called 'shooters'. Puts a whole other spin on the Shooters Party...
Call 'em what they are - murderers - or do our newsroom scripts come via CSI or The Sopranos?

lucy tartan said...

An ABC radio newsreader yesterday afternoon said he was "the shooter", but I thought she felt ashamed as she read it out.

Mummy/Crit said...

Interestingly, the beloved (an american) was in Melbourne on Monday, about 500m from 'the gunning'(? to noun a verb) and said it reminded him of home (in a bad way). The media reports reminded me of his home too.

estranjero said...

The use of 'gunman' and its prominence has a lot to do with to do with the larrikinization of journalism in general and the Fairfax press in particular (news as the doings of government giving way, by nd large, to the police blotter + trash-talk). David Milch has a lot to say about violence in language vis a vis class in the bonus materials in the DVD edition of the first season of Deadwood.

That being said, I have no problem with 'gunman'. The word suggests to me a civilian with a gun who has used it to attack (hit, miss, wound or kill) another civilian. I don't see, hear, feel or have conveyed to me the connotations you mention.

I also have no problem with The Rifleman: the Chuck Connors character was a small farmsteader who used his rifle only to defend himself and his son against those who really did walk about as though they owned the landscape - the large neighbouring landholders who did not draw guns themselves, but had people to do it for them. (Usually called 'boys' or 'hands' - another interesting bit of class semiotics.)

Sidenote: I recently saw an episode of The Rifleman where a turning-point of the plot was a sevral-minute long retelling of the story of Job. The writer: Sam Peckinpah.

Back to the topic: None of the iconic 'gunmen' I've recently seen (played by James Cagney, Chuck Connors, and Chow Yun Fat) was quite the magnetic madman or glorified sociopath you seem to feel is being conjured by the word.

The fons et origo of the glorification of sociopathology lies a lot higher than the daily rag or the nighly news. It's a trickle-down phenom.

On the other hand, I don't currently live in Oz, so I have no idea how the word is being pronounced there.

Anonymous said...
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Kate said...

'Gunman' gives the whole incident an unjustifiable air of professionalism.

Black Knight said...

If I go pig-hunting in the hills of Marlborough with my father-in-law's .303, am I a 'gunman'?

And if not, why not? After all, if we were shooting ducks we'd take along a few gundogs.

Pavlov's Cat said...

And would the victims be gunducks?

Bwca said...

... Gunducks .... oh I love laughing, thank you.