My Thoughts on the Recent Tragedy part 1: The Media

I want to say something about this plague of violence we have in our nation. I’m not going to preach, I hope; and though I may be climbing up on the soapbox here, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I simply know how I feel, and what I think, and I want to get it down in a semi-organized fashion. I want to start, much like the politicians and pundits, by expressing my condolences to the families who lost loved ones during this tragic event.

I followed this story at first through Twitter, then CNN, MSNBC, etc. I found the quality of reporting to be fairly equal across all formats, shame on you news networks. I rode a roller-coaster of emotions as the story changed from being 1 teacher injured by an angry parent to a few teachers killed and one injured by a crazed parent til I eventually heard the truth, the horrible, unthinkable truth. A madman, still a child himself at 20, walked into a school where his mother was a teacher and shot her in front of her class, then executed the children. It was  terrible, but even then it wasn’t the truth; and that’s the first thing I want to address.

The 24 hour news networks were there for me on 9/11; I woke up that Tuesday morning in time to sit down with my bowl of Cheerios in front of the television and turn on the morning news (CBS to be exact), and saw that one of the twin towers was on fire. The sound wasn’t turned up enough, and as I turned it up I watched as the second plane struck the World Trade Center. I screamed, it was shocking and it frightened me, so I don’t mind telling you I screamed in fear. I spent the rest of the day flipping back and forth between the various 24 hour news networks and I still feel that they did a great job of keeping America informed, without stooping to sensationalism (that started the next morning, and it feels like it never stopped). But that simply wasn’t the case this time around.

I feel like each network was so worried about not being the first to break the next horrific part of the story that they rushed to report every piece of information that passed their ear pieces. The number of victims was constantly misreported. The very nature of the victims was misreported a number of times as well. At one point it was reported that the shooter’s (he doesn’t deserve to be referred to as the “alleged” shooter, he did it) father was dead at home and his mother was shot at school. They eventually got it right, by the end of the day. His mother didn’t even work at the school, except as the occasional substitute teacher. So the question is, can we even trust the news networks anymore? Are they interested in anything other than entertainment and sensationalism?

I don’t know the answer to the first question. That’s something that every individual person has to answer for himself. I can take a whack at the second question; no, they only care about being the most sensational news network. I wish this was new, but as the 1976 Sidney Lumet film Network showed me, it’s a very old phenomenon. This weekend brought it into sharp contrast for me, however, when I saw the faces of children, their faces contorted by shock and fear, paraded endlessly across my television screen as they fled the school. There was no sense of privacy for their suffering, nor of decorum or even decency. Then this morning I find that they are broadcasting the names of the victims. I haven’t bothered to watch, I don’t need to or want to know any of the victims’ names. I just…I feel that should be a decision of the parents. The press always uses the argument (at least in movies and television) that the people of America “have a right to know.” I think that’s true, to a point. As with anything, there has to be a line; not allowing these families to mourn in private crosses that line.

Make no mistake, their fresh wounds have been opened now to the whole nation. The NRA, 2nd Amendment nuts, right-to-lifers, gun control activists, and even those well-meaning souls who want to offer their condolences are all about to invade what should be a private and solemn moment in time for these families. You can think me paranoid, but I know how the world works, these big organizations are going to besiege these poor families. I know these organizations would have found the families with or without the networks broadcasting their names across the globe, but that doesn’t mean they had to make it so easy for them, either. The network news is supposed to be better than the social networks.

I was appalled by the reaction of some on Facebook and Twitter this weekend. I’ve unfriended/unfollowed quite a few people based on the things they’ve said about this tragedy.

One unnamed fool actually called those who want stricter gun laws idiots because, they said, it would mean disarming the police. I simply shook my head and unfriended the poor simpleton.

Another, a member of my family, posted a rant saying that gun ownership is what keeps us from being invaded. I was awestruck that such ignorant sentiments could come from someone other than C. Thomas Howell (Wolverines!!). It was as if they didn’t realize we have a military in America.

The topper to me, though, was a young father, a friend of a friend, a devout Christian. He began by saying his thoughts were with the families, but that he couldn’t really mourn these children. He followed this up in a comment by posting a blog post from a friend. It was entitled “Only 20?” I won’t include a link, because I don’t want to contribute to their site’s hits. I will however give you the gist: 20 children dead is nothing, compared to the 3500 murdered every day by their mothers and doctors. That’s correct folks, these folks hold the belief that this tragedy should mean nothing to anyone until we first stop all abortions. It’s people like these that helped break Christianity’s hold on me, and allowed me to become an atheist.

I will say this though, to leave you on a slightly less negative note, I did see many Christians displaying the behavior their faith actually demands of them. They offered their prayers and wished the families peace, and the victims safe passage into the next world. To those Christians I say: I may not agree with your beliefs, but I thank you for being a great example of the good that can come from faith.

I hope that the networks will take a step back and look at their blood thirsty coverage and realize it’s time for a change. Unfortunately, I am a pragmatist, I know that instead they’ll look at their ratings (which I contributed to) and decide they did things the right way. It’s all downhill from here folks, and we’re all to blame.

Next, hopefully tomorrow morning, I’ll continue by ranting about our nation’s attitudes toward mental health.

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