Connecticut Shooting: How We Can All Stop The Violence

shutterstock_106205363I 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.



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    • Try again.

      Blah, blah, blah.
      Kits not going to happen because of one thing…..MONEY.

    • Boomer

      This is probably the BEST artical on the subject I have read. This is what we need in America, brutal honesty of our own faults. Violent media, Violent video games, Violent web content, and tolerance of violence. As for gun control, you are incorrect. We have many laws for gun control, but frankly the laws are not enforced properly unless you are a law abiding citizen. Unfortunately in this case, as in many others, gun control would not have worked. But frankly the root cause that we MUST look at is our own failure to stop the violence. Back to the media issues, they need to do the right thing and stop sensationalizing violence.
      In the end what I see is a complete disrespect for life staring at a young age for many youth of America and the world.

    • HFD

      nice job, deb…well said…and right on point

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    • Felecia Darnell Almy

      There needs to media coverage of current events. Don’t shoot the messenger. The coverage is as much about who did this horrible thing as it is about the victims that are harmed. The unfortunate fact is that the perpetrator often gets a vast amount of the media focus. I find it interesting the mother in this case is left out as a victim of the senseless crime. The coverage brought to mind how desensitized to violence we really are, by the very television programs, movies, videos, music, books, people and whatever other ways we as a society try to entertain ourselves with violence. We should make choices that say I will not participate in promoting violence. Perhaps not enough of us care; that is this until something like this tragedy happens to us. I am saddened by the events and I don’t think I will ever understand how this could happen. This story sheds light on many changes that need to be made from mental health issues to the types of weapons people buy in the name of recreation, to the attitude we takes on both issues. It should make a difference to us all whether its one victim or twenty-one victims. If we don’t talk about it, there isn’t an incentive or consciousness to make a change. The last thing we need to do is just talk about it and just move on with our lives as if nothing ever happened.

    • Chris Call

      I really liked one of your other articles, so I came here. I totally concur that this douche should get no press, and that breathless coverage of them (terrorist gunmen) gives them another incentive to outdo the last in barbarity.

      But…other people have the same violent media and not the same rates of gun violence, so your kind of reaching. What these terrorists have in common with way too many Americans is an inflated sense of their own importance or of the unparalleled forces that are arrayed against them and how they should be able to lash out at them. Not to diminish either group but the Tea party and Occupy express a similar pathos, though aimed at different groups. As I said on your other post, it is dissemblance and that is something that any nation or group will do to combat cognitive dissonance and ignore facts and to distance themselves from comparisons that paint them and their tribe (whatever faction they represent, it’s all tribalism) in an unflattering light.

      Seems like a reaction against community and the idea that we might have responsibilities outside of our own narrow self-interest.

      Additionally, the Old West mentality is still so seductive that everyone imagines themselves a lone crusader for all that’s good and sacred (see Zimmerman, George) against the “takers!”

    • Anonymous

      What we need are implementation of legal studies, anger managment skills, and self defense classes in every school. Educating people fo all ages on these things are the only ways to prevent violence, however too many people are poor and stupid to do this.
      You cannot depend on all parents to teach these skills to children and you cannot depend on children to learn these skills on their own..They need to be taught in a classroom environment. The schools are so dumbed down that kids are not egtting taught what they need to be taught.
      I suspect that greed could also be a factor into why there is gun violence in schools. Many companies and the legal systems make money off of gun-related media and violence and not enough is being done about it. For example, too many poorly educated parents are stupid enough to buy themselves and their children violent first person shooter games and are allowing their children to play them and real guns too.
      The legal system is pocketing money from the legal cases related to the violence. Why not vote in honest good people instead of just voting for any your party members? Thats the only way to kick corruption that may be the root of the gun violence. Also, something has to be done about the big pharma’s medication withdrawl/sideeffects that is contributing to medication-caused violence.
      Until people do something about all this, there will always be shootings! Blame the Govt and the poorly educated parents! Stop blaming innocent disabled people and take responsibility for your own actions!