Shootings, imitation, and media responsibility

Editor’s note: It is with great sadness I address, in today’s blog, the recent mass shootings in the United States. I think most of us are speechless and unable to really come up with words to describe how we feel about these events. I know I find myself at a complete loss for words. Eventually, I’ll write something on why a lot of these horrible events happen in the first place, but for now, here’s something relatively small and I think achievable, that we can do abut it.

The most shocking thing to me, regarding the news of two mass shootings out of the United States, is how little it seemed to affect me. Dozens. Dozens of corpses, strewn across a parking lot, live on CNN.

I finished  my coffee and sneaked an extra piece of bacon.

This would be the story of the day. Live! Delivered straight to my door. The regular C-list Sunday content was quickly scrapped out of the way, and before you knew it, faces more typically seen on a Tuesday night at prime time were popping up on my screen.

Man, the bacon was good today.

Before lunch, I knew everything about Texas. The weapon, the number of casualties, the broken social policies responsible for the slaughter before my eyes, how much Trump was responsible. I was eating it up, my brain piecing it together, piece by piece.

I wonder if the orange juice has pulp?

By dinner, it was slowing down. Every detail that could seemingly be milked from the day was in the public arena, for Republican and Democrat to fight over like two wild dogs. And then it happened. The second shooting. This time, I did have some shock. This was, even to me, the most faithful detached news-connoisseur.

I found myself wondering, was this a coincidence? And of course I already knew the answer. Of course this was no coincidence. Coincidences don’t exist in this universe of mind and want and lust and need.

What I was seeing, in collective horror with much of the continent I am sure, was unquestionably in part a result of imitation. We see it all the time. Terrorist attacks in clusters, mass shootings in clusters, suicides in clusters. We know this phenomenon exists yet we do nothing to stop it.

Columbine is where this began – the reasons on why these young men have turned so violent aside, had you ever heard of a school shooting in such detail before that tragedy? Every excruciating detail, parading word for word out of the mouth of children for our viewing pleasure, on live television. It was simultaneously awful, incomprehensible, and world-changing. For Columbine would usher in the age of school shootings, each one more gruesome than the next, and each time we would ask why, while the news coverage has only grown greater.

The pictures from the Ohio shooting were scrolling before me. The body count continued to climb. I found myself wondering if this day would finally move the powers-that-be in the United States Congress to do something material on gun control. I was also dreaming of living in isolation in the pacific on my imaginary private yacht.

There was pulp. Love it.

The news media were on their feet today, and presumably using the vigour gained through covering the Texas massacre, the details on the Ohio case were public before everyone knew it. They began spitting demographic details out about him, though I did notice one thing missing.

His name.

I took some solace in this. Maybe they’re finally beginning to get it. Maybe they realize that prime time production level, all-day coverage of terrorism and mass murder, inspires some other troubled young men that this is their chance. Maybe there was some appreciation that these young, troubled men need a voice, and that the media has given  them one?

There are blueberry muffins in the freezer, I remember.

I will not give CNN too much credit. It was Prime Minsiter Jacinda Ardern who stood in front of the world and announced she would not utter the name of the person responsible from her own mass tragedy in New Zealand.

Though we have come a long way. I you ever want to be disturbed, Google “CNN Iraq war coverage,” and try not to throw up. No, you’re not watching a sequel to “Top Gun.”

lighted candle
Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

Dr. Travis Barron is a resident physician in Toronto, Canada.

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