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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.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 17th, 2012 12:24 pm (UTC)
I agree completely. Drives me nuts. :/
Dec. 17th, 2012 12:26 pm (UTC)
I'm very sensitive to these kinds of stories about children. Last night, I was really tearing up over what happened, and my husband was saying all the things you just said, and I 100% agree, but it's very hard not to have that kind of knee-jerk reaction to what happened.

For the record, if I read a news story about a 6 year old child being killed in a car accident, I would also feel really sad. But I wouldn't have to hear about it every time I turned on the TV or opened up my web browser.

I really wish they'd stop publicizing it so much, especially stuff about the killer, as you said. Stuff like this really makes me hate the media. The only good that could come out of it is stricter gun control laws to prevent people from owning what are basically machineguns.... although I recognize that the chances of being killed in a mass shooting are worse than my chances of winning a big lotto jackpot.
Dec. 17th, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
I agree with all of this, which is why I've stopped reading article about the events, and have yet to watch any TV reports on it. I have already examined why this event makes me hurt more than the others...it's because *I* am an elementary school teacher. I think about this kind of violence every day. I know that if a "madman" busted on to my school campus with a gun I'd do the exact same thing those teachers did. It is something I think about frequently, that even a locked gate is not really protection against something like this.

I caved and made a journal entry for myself about this particular tragedy, but have resisted (for the most part) politicizing about it on Facebook.
Dec. 18th, 2012 02:26 am (UTC)
oh, I totally admitted that when the columbia exploded, one reason I was so upset was because I work in aviation and, well, it just felt close to home. and I really wanted to analyze what went wrong. so I can understand that teachers would see this event much differently.
Dec. 17th, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with all of the irritation about the media.

But, at the same time, I do think it's important to not be dismissive about people's emotions. People react differently to different things for a huge variety of reasons. I just cannot read the stories about kids dying in any way, or being hurt by people who are supposed to be the ones loving them, etc. Before I had a kid, it wouldn't bug me, but now it just hurts too much.

it's because *I* am an elementary school teacher.
and for this specific one, that part weighs on my mind too. I know so many teachers, so many wonderful people. And a lot of shootings happen on college campuses too, which is where I am. I know I'm giving one F this semester... and it kind of worries me frankly [it's just a weird situation with this kid, most of the ones who outright fail aren't showing up to class...]

Someone needs to tell me when the news is stopping playing this crap because it's hard to see what's going on in the rest of the world.
Dec. 17th, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
I think the coverage is sorta akin to people rubbernecking at a really bad car accident. It's horrible, but people want to LOOK.

I caught part of a TV interview with one of the surviving children's pastors, and he was relaying what she had told her mother and her mother had told him (probably to keep the vultures at bay), and the reporter was really excited when he mentioned that the girl was covered in blood and told her mom that she was ok but all her friends were dead. (!) News reporting has become sensationalist crap. I'm glad journalists in other countries are calling out the US "journalists" for their gross behavior - not that it will stop them.
Dec. 18th, 2012 01:34 am (UTC)
The news
I think you're on the right track with your thoughts on the media. But, like our elected representatives, we can decry the downward spiral all we want. In the end, the media is us. As from drugs, sugary food, and all manner of other pleasures, our brains thrive on the chemicals released when we experience these types of news stories, especially from a distance.

Further, we thrive on habit. Once we discover that something is pleasurable (even if it's the morbid curiosity that comes from these sensational stories) it's hard to resist revisiting it in the future. It can indeed become an addiction.

Before I say my next piece, believe me when I say that I'm not a fanatic or a homeschooler (not that there's anything wrong with that). But since we just moved from overseas back to our house in the U.S., we have not yet bought a TV, and we're really not missing it. We all go online, and the kids have Skype access to their friends here as well as in Australia.

That said, our kids, who are 10, 12, and 15, do not know about this event. My wife and I have simply not brought it up, and neither have they. You'll have to take my word that if they had heard about it, they would be asking about it. Too sheltered? I don't know.

Think of all the things we (all of us) don't know about until much later. They will surely hear about it, but I expect that after the holidays when all the hype has died down, it will become just another old news story. If that happens, I think it's safe to say we didn't need to get all worked up about it at the time. If, on the other hand, it leads to important legislation (whether about weapons, mental health, or whatever) we would be happy to discuss the reasons for it. We should know where our laws come from and why we need them.

Anything else is just being afraid because we have nothing better to do.
Dec. 18th, 2012 02:03 am (UTC)
I feel much the same. The outpouring of sympathy is heartwarming, and the pictures of people all over the world saying that they mourn for the victims and the like really stabs me in the heart. But then again, any instance where people stand together gives me the damp eyes, so I think for me it's kind of depressing that people have to die before we all remember we're the same species and we can feel empathy for one another.

I never understand why children's lives are mourned so more intensely than the lives of adults. Dying young as a kid doesn't seem like such a bad deal, really. It's kind of like stopping the movie at the best possible part. I see a lot of things that say they'll never drive, never date, never go to a bar with their friends. But in the same vein, they'll never die in a car crash because they were texting, never drive drunk, never get their hearts broken, that sort of thing. There are a lot of great experiences in the world and there are a lot of shitty ones. Who are we to say it's "worse" to die really young?

I too, am tired of the media, tired of the story being EVERYWHERE. I don't watch the news or even look it up online, but it's still all over the place.

Dec. 18th, 2012 02:20 am (UTC)
eh, speaking as a parent, I think it's pretty awful when young kids die.

it's like stopping the movie at the best part but without knowing that the rest of it even gets to exist, you spend all these years wondering what cool person a kid will grow up to be and then something tragic happens and you never know. lost potential, that's the issue... a person who's spent his whole life imagining what he'll be when he grows up, then not getting to grow up at all.
Dec. 18th, 2012 06:34 am (UTC)
the difference is that when kids die everyday in car crashes or whatever, it isn't EVIL. the thing that's scary is who could do that? who could kill a little kid? kabillions of them?

the other thing is that on the close to home issue, you said that the shuttle explosion was hard because its your line of work, well almost every adult in this nation has been to school in the past, so that's one close to home point, and then add to that HAVING children, which i know you do, but then there's having school-aged children and having to drop them off everyday away from where you have "control" over their surroundings.

a few weeks ago, my son came home and told me there had been a fire at school, not a drill. i couldn't believe how much my heart went into my throat, even though i could clearly see he was fine, due to him sitting in the car being the one to tell me about it.

its just so vulnerable feeling. that's the best i can do.

and i'm going out on a limb here and guessing that whoever said that dying as a kid sounded ok, best part of life, blah blah blah, doesn't actually have any kids. because ohmygod. no. no. no.

i would throw myself in front of a bullet for my kids in a heartbeat, every single time, i would save them overmyself or my husband and i know he would do the same, i would want him to. to have a child is to go around for the rest of your life with your heart walking outside of your body. its cheesy, but its 100 percent true. the reason its sad when a child dies is on behalf of the family. you know why no one goes in and shoots up a nursing home? because the older a person is when they die, the less horrific it is. they had a life, they lived it. less was stolen.

oh and yes, the media circus is frustrating.
Dec. 19th, 2012 09:45 pm (UTC)
Another reason the media's response is bad is that it incites other social outcasts to do the same thing. http://www.ibtimes.com/media-critics-say-sensational-news-coverage-encourages-future-school-shootings-941464
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