Notoriety as a Rationale for Demonization

This past week, Danny Ledonne’s documentary Playing Columbine was scheduled to be shown and discussed in a public forum at Adams State University, from which he has very publicly been banned under threat of arrest.

If you have been following the posts to this blog on the university’s efforts to characterize him as a dangerously disgruntled former employee, you may remember that he made a controversial video game about the Columbine massacre in order to provoke discussion about the linkages between playing violent video games and committing mass murder. Then, after the game provoked considerable controversy, he decided to make the documentary to explore the broad spectrum of very impassioned responses to the game. The documentary was so well received that, paradoxically but also predictably, it caused some to reappraise their responses to the video game.

Danny Ledonne completed both of these projects well before he returned to Colorado and began working at Adams State University, and, in fact, it is quite clear that the attention that the linked projects had received was a significant factor in why he was hired first as an adjunct faculty member and then as a full-time instructor at the university.

So, for the university now to make the case that his efforts to resolve issues related to a faculty search, through established due-process mechanisms, make him a threat to students, faculty, and staff on the campus—and for the university to cite the video game and the documentary as factors in their assessment of the threat he supposedly poses—seems very specious to say the least.

It is an infrequent but compelling trope in the mystery-detective or crime genre that a writer becomes so absorbed in a story or an actor so completely takes on a role that he loses distance and his identity begins to merge with that of a criminal about whom he is writing or whom he is portraying on the stage or screen. But, in real life, this sort of thing occurs so rarely that almost no one will be able to identify even a single instance in which it has occurred.

Moreover, one of the key details lost in this chain of events—as an escalating succession of public statements from the campus’s chief of police, board of trustees, and president have been very publicly disseminated—is that Danny Ledonne has not been on the Adams State University campus for weeks, largely because he has had no reason to be there.

In any case, as you can see from the poster advertising the showing of the documentary, those sponsoring the event have taken full advantage of the university’s effort to link the game and documentary to Danny Ledonne’s banishment from the campus.

Playing Columbine

There is, indeed, an ironic, figurative parallel between the initial responses to the video game and the overkill in the university’s response to the issues that Danny Ledonne has raised and that, to their discomfort, has continued to pursue to resolution.

It is my understanding that Danny Ledonne may have been invited to participate, via Skype, in the discussion that followed the showing of the documentary.



2 thoughts on “Notoriety as a Rationale for Demonization

  1. I realize my harping on these exclusionary devices has likely become old hat- but I will say again- universities appear to use these procedures to exclude anyone who appeals/ opposes an adverse administrative decision. Sadly, these exclusionary procedures do not appear to help when it comes to real and present threats of violence.

    Case in point: James Holmes (Colorado Theater Shooter). The University of Colorado (Denver Anschutz Campus)- had a stack of violent threats concerning this guy. The psychologist that evaluated and counseled him on their campus notified the university that he was a violent threat. The counselor sent Holmes’ emails wherein he issued violent threats to campus security.

    Reportedly, campus security excluded him from the buildings he frequented just days prior to the theater massacre. However, campus security did nothing else concerning his threats to kill other people. Had they taken appropriate action, the massacre never happens.

    This outcome in of itself ought to be cause for grave concern. We must, at bare minimum, require an external, impartial and just means to evaluate and adjudicate these exclusion orders. Without this process, we observe non-violent persons like Mr. Ledonne damaged by unfair exclusionary procedures. Meanwhile, monsters like James Holmes are allowed to go on down the road and commit murder.

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