Reality – We Lost It at the Movies

August 17, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston
If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts. Whether or not Einstein really said this or really meant it, it might well be the motto of the New York Post.

In New York, last week, four robbers entered a run-down looking restaurant supply store on 125th St. They started to struggle with one of the employees, hitting him with a pistol, paying no attention to the owner, 70-year Charles Augusto. Augusto pulled out a shotgun and fired three times, killing two of the robbers, wounding the other two.

The New York Post carried the headline “Make My Day.” But what happened on 125th was not Dirty Harry (see the relevant clip from “Sudden Impact” here ). Charles Augusto tried to persuade the robbers that there was nothing worth stealing. He tried to get them to leave. Confrontation was the last thing he wanted. Pulling the shotgun was impulsive, not thought out. The gun had been sitting, never fired, for twenty years, so Augusto could have no idea whether it would even work.

The Daily News headline got it right. Shooting the robbers was not something he wanted to do. It brought him no satisfaction, nor does he think it was at all heroic. He was not trying to rid the world of evildoers. He was trying to get some robbers to stop hitting his employee.

Unlike the Post and Dirty Harry, Charles Augusto understands that death – even the death of a violent criminal – is not an isolated fact. Other people are inevitably involved, as Augusto knew from experience. His own son had committed suicide twelve years earlier, and now he has nothing but sympathy for the families of the dead. “I know the pain these people must feel.”

The Post headline reeks of smug self-satisfaction, a reaction far different from Charles Augusto’s reality. “I don’t know what feels worse, now or when my only son died.”

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