Just another post about a tragedy

[Don’t waste your time reading my hasty post before you read Ethan Zuckerman’s take: “Mourn, and take action on guns.”]

Another senseless American tragedy with much chaotic wailing in social media, including my own. More traditional media, as ever, is ready and willing to tell us what we are thinking, if not what we should be thinking. The Onion manages to be more real than “real” news in this:

Americans reported feelings of overwhelming disgust with whatever abhorrent bastard did this and with the world at large for ever allowing it to happen, as well as with politicians, with the NRA, and above all with their own pathetic goddamn selves, sitting in front of a fucking computer instead of doing fucking anything to help anyone—Christ, as if that were even fucking possible, as if anyone could change what happened, as if the same fucking bullshit isn’t going to keep happening again and again and fucking again before people finally decide it’s time to change the way we live, so what’s the point? What the hell is the goddamned point?

Roger Ebert had an interesting take on the media’s role in his review of Gus Van Sant’s film “Elephant,” inspired by the Columbine shootings. I’ve seen this quote 2-3 times on the interwebs over the last 24 hrs:

… I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

12/12/20115 Austin American-Statesman
Austin American-Statesman front page, 12/12/2015

This news is everywhere. It filled the front page of Austin American-Statesman today, with a max point size headline saying “Our Hearts Are Broken Today.” The New York Times says “Nation Reels as Shooting Details Emerge.” I don’t question the sincerity of most responses, though there were also outrageous viral hoaxes like this one, posted on Twitter (I fell for it):