March 11, 2014 in City

Doug Clark: Bad stuff’s going to happen – but it didn’t here Feb. 12

By The Spokesman-Review
 

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February 12 in a still-snow-buried Spokane passed quieter than the Denver Broncos locker room after Super Bowl XLVIII.

Did you notice? Did you care?

I did. I’ll admit I even held my breath a time or two as the Big Day approached because, well …

You never know. Which is the point, naturally.

Nobody can know – especially the boobs who put out that titillating and trashy online tale last fall that began like this:

“The next mass shooting will take place on February 12, 2014, in Spokane, Washington.”

Remember?

I forgive you if you don’t. Memory loss, I’m convinced, is an unavoidable side effect of our so-called Information Age.

Day-by-day. Hour-by-hour. Minute-by-minute.

We’re perpetually bombarded by an overwhelming overload of stuff.

Some of it’s important; most of it’s not.

But just about all of it is fleeting and immediately replaced by the next nugget of news or gossip or outright baloney.

Speaking of which, the story about Spokane being the next massacre site flickered for a couple of days last September.

It was an online piece by the Atlantic that supposedly used statistics and data to bolster a prediction that was about as ludicrous as having your aura read at a psychic fair.

The shooting, bylined author Philip Bump reported, “will be committed by an emotionally disturbed, 38-year-old white man who will kill seven people and wound six more at a place he used to work using a semi-automatic handgun he purchased legally in the state.”

With such amazing specificity, it was damned inconsiderate that Bump didn’t deliver a time and a place so the National Guard could get the sharpshooters into position.

It was pure speculative nonsense, of course.

Even the story, no doubt in an attempt to have an escape clause, had to acknowledge that “the next mass shooting – which will happen somewhere, sometime – will almost certainly not be in that place at that time.”

Nice try.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich rightly branded it as “junk science.” The FBI likewise found it ridiculous.

We here in Ground Zero were understandably offended.

The emotional blowback prompted a lengthy ass-covering apology and explanation from Atlantic, which was about as effective as trying to push the ketchup back into the squeeze bottle after the fries have been coated.

Spokane has its share of troubles, sure. Any city this size will.

Most of the time our crimes are routine, committed by the usual meth heads and gang punks who have the good sense of peat moss.

We’re also no stranger to aggravated acts like sexual assaults and child abuse, and worse.

On Feb. 11, for example, sheriff’s deputies shot and killed an armed and troubled combat vet after a chase that ended not far from the Spokane Valley Mall.

Bad things happen.

And once in a great rare while the real evil shows up a la Kevin Coe or Robert Yates or Kevin Harpham, the racist who tried to bomb one of our Martin Luther King Jr. Day marches.

It would be such a help to be able to run a load of statistics and actuarial tables and get a fine bead on exactly when the monsters are due.

And it would be great to be able to go time traveling on the WABAC Machine with Sherman and Mr. Peabody, too.

Sadly, no mishmash of theories and data will ever give us an advance notice on a psycho who one day decides to gun down school kids or his co-workers.

Same goes for suicidal zealots who’ll gladly give up their lives to make jetliners fall out of the sky.

Nobody knows.

I wish every day around here could pass as peacefully as last Feb. 12 did.

I made my own prediction last fall when I first visited this topic.

“Anyone who would commit such irresponsible journalism,” I wrote, “will develop a disgusting oozing pox from professional embarrassment on Feb. 13, 2014.”

I’m betting that one didn’t come to pass, either.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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