I wish the media would stop mentioning the Newtown shooter’s name. I wish they would stop showing his face. And telling his story. I wish they would stop showing photos of grieving families and horrified children. I wish they would have more respect, more integrity and more awareness about what this is doing. Because, in many ways, the media is responsible for the horrific acts that continue to happen in our country.
While many people are hotly debating gun control and mental health treatment (things that admittedly deserve much more of our nation’s attention), it seems to me that there is a lack of focus on the media’s reaction to the Connecticut shooting and every other tragedy. How many times have you heard the shooter’s name mentioned or seen it in print this weekend? How many times have you seen a photo of his face? How many times have you heard speculation on his life and his motive?
Now, how many times have you heard the victim’s names?
At this point, we can probably all rattle off the basic info of the shooter–including his name, his age, where he was from and where he went to school, but how about the names of the innocent lives that were lost on Friday? Can we just as easily list their names? Do we know what their faces look like?
As a writer and a journalist, I’m probably supposed to “cover” this story in detail. But here’s the thing: I refuse. I refuse to write his name. I refuse to talk about him. I refuse to give him any sort of attention, whatsoever. In addition, I refuse to show photos of scared children who lost their sense of security and innocence that day. And I refuse to show images of sobbing, heartbroken families.
It’s just not right that the media exploits this senseless day in any way, shape or form. And yet they will, because it all boils down to money. Virtually every media outlet knows they will get more clicks, more likes, more readers and more viewers if they promote “shocking” events. In fact, just Googling the Newtown shooter’s name already pulls up hundreds of stories. On CBS’s Sunday Morning yesterday (typically my favorite news show of the week), his name was mentioned 10 times during the first 55 minutes. Ten times. Know how many times a victim’s name was mentioned? Once.
On top of a corrupt mental health system and lack of proper gun control in this country, there is a bigger problem: tolerance. The way that we, as a society, tolerate acts of violence has spiraled out of control. And the media and the way they sensationalize stories like this is largely to blame.
Think about it. Violence is everywhere. Movies have become increasingly violent over the years. It’s like, let’s see who can shock people more. Just how gruesome can we make this scene? How far can we go with the anger, the hatred and the acts of atrocity? And yet, we keep paying money to go see those movies, and we happily munch on our popcorn, perhaps covering our eyes a time or two, but we tolerate it.
Guns, shootings, stabbings, murders…they’re all over TV too. It used to be that prime-time television was considered “family time” and networks had more restraint and more morals as to what was aired. Now, turn on any channel after dinner, and there are bound to be scenes of violence at some point. And we tolerate it.
The games we play on our iPods, iPads or game consoles are full of violence. Let’s show hordes of “bad guys” dressed in all black with automatic rifles, and see who can shoot who the most. Our kids play these games. Sometimes we play along with them. And we tolerate it.
The Internet is chock-full of disturbing, horrifying and disgusting videos, images and even how-to’s on creating weapons, destruction and atrocious acts against others. We claim it’s the First Amendment. So we tolerate it.
As a whole, our society needs to take a good hard look at violence and how we have allowed it into our culture, into our lives and into our hearts. Because, the truth is, by not doing anything, by tuning into news broadcasts that treat massacres as entertainment, by reading accounts that forfeit factual accuracy and in-depth analysis for sensational headlines, and by buying into movies, TV, and video games that glorify violence in our culture, we only perpetuate the cycle of violence. And dare I say, that all of these images are only putting ideas into the heads of other mentally unstable people who want to top the last act of horror and gain attention–even if it means his life will be lost in the process. People do not come out of the womb with the idea to walk into a school and shoot classes full of children. They get those ideas from–you guessed it–the media. The Internet. The news. And then they figure out that they, too, can get attention and notoriety in this world by doing the same or worse.
Everyone wants to know what they can do to help the victims and families of Newtown, Connecticut. Prayers, messages of strength and unity, flowers, gifts, cards, donations–they are all good and thoughtful sentiments. It’s important that we focus on the 26 innocent lives that were lost that day at the school–not the 27th life.
But if we really want to do something, we need to take action. And it starts with what we are willing to tolerate.
Here’s my suggestion: Stop tuning in to news stations that show “shocking” coverage of that event and even so much as mention the shooter’s name. Just stop watching it. Stop reading online sites and newspapers that talk about him and show his photo. Stop forwarding anything that contains his name. Stop watching coverage of the children from that school or the grieving families. Give them some space and some privacy. Stop going to movies that contain violence. Stop watching TV shows that feature guns, weapons, shooting, fighting and murders. Stop watching YouTube or music videos that contain violence.
Let’s take a stand and reclaim our right to a non-violent society. Let’s focus more on our impact. Let’s be kind. Let’s be thoughtful about what we do and what we allow.
This is a free county, and we’re grateful for freedom of speech, but we can all make better choices for ourselves and our families about what we allow into our homes, our hearts and our minds. And that starts with refusing to tolerate the depiction of violence as entertainment. Maybe then the media will get the message and begin to do the right thing.