Mar 292015

Yesterday on the road I caught a tune on the radio with lyrics something along the lines of “you’ll remember me for centuries.” It got me thinking of similar expressions I’ve heard of late regarding the Germanwings crash… a lot of people, lacking any better explanation, think that the co-pilot was suffering from depression and decided that rather than just shooting himself in the privacy of his own home decided to take out a plane full of people so that he would be “remembered forever.” Maybe that was his thinking. But… he won’t be.

People committing horrific acts are a distressingly common occurrence. But how often does society *really* remember them? Sure, *some* remain household names generations later… John  Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin. But others fade *fast.*If I asked you to name the “Aurora theater shooter,” how long would you have to think about it? The Newtown shooter?  Colombine massacrers? There were nineteen hijackers on 9/11. Quick: name five of them.

Then there were the guys who dressed up in body armor and robbed a bank in Los Angeles a few years ago. The guy in the McDonalds with the AK-47. The Achille Lauro hijackers. The cult leader in Japan who had his followers set off nerve gas. Any of the “we’re taking this plane to Cuba!” hijackers. The DC snipers. BTK. The Egypt Air copilot who crashed *his* plane. Sure, we all remember the name of Mao… but how about his Generals, or the myriad of functionaries who carried out the acts of democide that characterized Chinese Communism?

If you’ve got a *good* memory… sure, you can probably recall them. Or if you have access to Google or Wikipedia. But for the most part, these people make a dent in the news cycle, and then fade. Once the legal wranglings are over and out of the news… they get shoved out of the public consciousness. Hell, who remembers any of the mass murderers from the 1870’s?

So if you are a nutjob who wants to be remembered forever… killing a bunch of folks ain’t gonna do it. Even if you pull it off, your chances of being remember more than a decade down the line by more than a few family members and historians is lower than the chances of some random high school jock actually Making it In The Big Leagues.

 Posted by at 12:47 pm
  • Adam

    I wonder how many people remember John Wayne Gacy, the killer clown of Illinois?

    • Scottlowther

      Probably a fair number. He had the benefit of both an easily remembered name and a sideshow of a story. Serial killers seem to be somewhat more memorable than mass murderers. For example:

      Look at the list of American mass murderers. While I remember hearing about many of the *incidents,* the great majority of the *names* of the perpetrators had completely slipped off my List Of Things To Remember. Were you to ask me who most of those people were, I’d just shrug. The only thing I’d pick up on is a detail. Ask me who “George Hennard” or “James Huberty” were, I’d’ve had no idea… but ask me who “George Pierre Hennard” or “James Oliver Huberty” were, my first thought would be… “Hmmm. Known by three names? Must be a murderer.”

      • se jones

        Thoughtful post.

        Some of the pilots who *will* be remembered…for their skill, courage, innovation and love of flying.

        • Scottlowther

          Hopefully. But even so, ask a random schmoe to name astronauts. “Neil Armstrong! Buzz Aldrin! Uhmmm. Glenn… Campbell? That Russian guy?”

          For those who care about being remembered, there are several levels in the heirarchy of remembrance. There are a small number who will be remembered forever by a large fraction of everybody… Julius Caesar, Napoleon, George Washington, Plato. And then there are the people who will be remembered by a sizable subset of the populace… Generals astronauts, scientists and the like. And then there are those who will be remembered by a *small* subset of the populace… one-hit wonders, secondary sports stars, minor war heros. And then there are those who will be remembered by a *tiny* fraction… a local eccentric or outlaw who used to own the tavern on the corner that’s on the historic registry. And then there’s the other 99% of everybody who will be remembered solely as a name on a census form… if that.

          • se jones

            Oh sure.
            I suppose the average “Jay Walker” idiot down on Venice Blvd. would have flicker of recognition of these names, except Sullenberger.
            There would be a flicker of recognition followed by “Charles Lindbergh…oh yeah isn’t he that guy who invented cheese or something?

            Sigh, prototypical Democrat voter demographic.

          • Herp McDerp

            … Julius Caesar, Napoleon, George Washington, Plato. …

            Answers from the low-info demographic:
            Julius Caesar — Um, he was some Roman guy or somethin’ …
            Napoleon — He was that French guy who killed a bunch of Jews, right?

            George Washington — I know this one! He was that lousy white slaveholder!

            Plato — I think they shoulda kept it a planet!

          • Brianna

            Actually, Napoleon was overall pretty decent to the Jews.


        • Paul451

          Mitch Mcconnell. Hilary Swank. Jimmy Stewart. Destin Sandlin. Howard Stark. And a young George W Bush.

          What do I win?

          • se jones

            Not a GD thing.
            You missed John Travolta and Harrison Ford, so not only do you not win anything, you have to buy *me* a shot.

  • Midgetman

    Why have I not seen a post on the Russian-US agreement to build another space station after the ISS?

    • Midgetman

      Forget it, the story was linked an Russia Today article.

      I will wait for a better source.

    • se jones

      ‘Cause there are other, specialty, industry, program and government focused web sites for that kind of news. Oh…and *what* post ISS agreement?

      >>With Russia facing a severe economic downturn, Roscosmos’ 10-year spending plan for 2016-2025 will be cut by 10 percent to 3.4 trillion rubles ($58.6 billion). A major casualty is a $12 billion plan to develop a super-heavy booster capable of lifting 70 metric tons into low Earth orbit (LEO).

  • Donut Argh

    Why in the world are you listening to a radio station that would play that kind of song? By coincidence I was in the car yesterday with my kid at the wheel (and thereby in control of the radio) and that song came on. I said nothing to avoid unpleasantness on the drive, but afterwards I complained about how it sounded like stupid children playing at being rock stars.

    • James

      Hate to say this but most “rock stars” are and have been stupid children

  • se jones

    Not a good month for A320s.

    >>The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has released a series of photographs showing substantial damage to an Air Canada Airbus A320 involved in an accident at Halifax Stanfield International airport early on 29 March.
    The agency calls the event a “runway excursion” in an initial statement, and an early Air Canada statement describes it as an “incident upon landing”.

    Photographs of the aircraft, however, as well as statements from passengers and airport personnel, suggest the accident may have been more serious than a hard landing.