December 17th, 2012


really having trouble understanding the public reactions

I've been struggling a lot over the past weekend with reactions to the latest school shooting, media coverage of it, and how we think about life and death in general.

First let me say I'm not a terribly sensitive person, and have trouble understanding a lot of things about people, so it's not a huge surprise that I don't relate well to folks when these things happen.

My issue is that I do not understand why there's a huge media circus and days and days of lofty thoughts and remembrance posts whenever a crazy killing spree goes on. First, I think the media's "drop everything and fixate on your TV" proceedings are downright BAD for three main reasons:

1) It makes a murderer into a celebrity, which is often just what he wants, to REALLY shock a lot of people.
2) It leads journalists to pull shady crap like interviewing traumatized little kids. all for the ratings.
3) It isolates us, makes us hunker down in front of our TVs and computers, when experts say that one of the best things we could do to prevent spree killers is just to create communities where everyone knows each other and therefore sees warning signs in their friends and family before they snap.

Anyway the press follows their "live coverage" formula because we watch it, stare at it, drop everything and must know more. We say we watch the TV because we're so sad for the victims, it's so awful to think of 30 people dying... but that's where I can't relate. I do not understand why 20 kids being murdered in one school is any worse than the 20 kids who are murdered across the nation every week in child abuse case. Or, if you'd say it's the "random and sudden" element that strikes us, why is this story worse than the 20 kids who are killed every 4-5 hours in car accidents?

I read all these facebook statuses about things like "tragedies like this just make us feel out of control, we can't protect our kids from this sort of stuff!" and I lean my head to one side and think, "You felt like you were in control? Like we're ever in control? You think, without gun violence, you can protect your kids? THIS is what makes you feel out of control, not... life? Are you in a cave?"

So in the end I have my three very big reasons why we SHOULDN'T spend days talking about these stories, and absolutely zero reasons why we should. We could say we're remembering the victims, yes that would be noble, but as I wrote last time we're pretty bad about forgetting them. We could say we mourn the loss of life, but again what makes one life worth mourning while we live in a world of so much uncertainty anyway?

I was very sad when the space shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003, wrote two livejournal entries about it... one where I was sad, and one a day later when I examined why I was sad, which I see very few people doing. But in the case of the explosion, it was part about mourning the lives lost but also about the loss to science, and really about the letdown of trying to do something great and paying a horrible, tragic cost.

People tell me not to react to the public or media, everyone has a right to their own feelings and has to mourn in their own way. But as I pointed out, there's a huge cost to our obsession. We are basically setting ourselves up for the next crazy murder spree by doing what we're doing. And I'm not even sure we are fixated for the right reasons, put aside the questionable arguments about caring for kids and I have a suspicion that we just live in a violence-obsessed, serial killer/horror movie-obsessed culture that celebrates this stuff, that's why we want to know more about the guy who did the shootings.

So help me understand why people need to be so interested when these murder sprees happen, because I seem to reflect on this every six months or so now, and am not coming up with any answers.