And everything to do with hysteria. Truth be told. There are enough smart people with education and opinions to go around that have turned to social media to express their frustration with what is pretty much the uncomfortably consistent “tradition” of mass shootings in the United States of America. From gun control legislation to mental health funding the main poles of discord are guiding the conversation on this matter and it is sure to give us the usual result. NOTHING.
Bleak, one might say. However, at what point do we adjust our framing or shall we just keep beating a dead horse? President Joe Biden, stood from the side of his car as he waved to the people of Uvalde, Texas as he left the memorial site of the children who were slaughtered last Tuesday by another lone gunman. At what point to do we say “Enough is Enough!”? We have said that. At what point do we turn to our legislators and bombard them with accusations equivalent of the searing words of a catholic school cleric? We have done that. Ted Cruz, senator from Texas can attest to digesting guilt along with dinner at his recent outing. Before that, Governor Abbott (R-TX) got a tongue lashing at a recent press conference by his constituent and Texas celebrity politician, Beto O’Rourke. These scenes are not unusual after shootings. A few weeks ago, Buffalo NY, and its representatives caught the same scolding as well as Nancy Pelosi of California after the shooting at a Taiwanese church. We had a shooting at an elementary school killing mostly Latino children. A shooting at a supermarket killing black retirees and a shooting at a church killing Taiwanese christians. An obvious commonality is the vulnerability of the victims. So what is new here? What is the point of reading this article beyond this point?
Stick with me. What if I told you these mass shootings have more to do with hysterical reporting than social decay? The notion that news is rendered more relevant by its potential to cause hysteria than its potential to make political change. Let’s take a look at the shootings since Columbine. How much gun legislation has been enacted to decrease, on a national level, the ability for eighteen year old (boys) to purchase weapons. Anything short of banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons from citizens who are not part of trained regiments such as a the police force or military does not count. How effective have the news reports on the grief of the victims families been to the political expedience? Pretty much zero. So why do we still get hysteria-spinning reports of mass shootings. Mass shootings successfully serve one purpose only. RATINGS. The only phenomenon I have seen in recent years close to eclipsing the ratings of mass shooting reports are Donald Trump tweets and reports of white police officers killing black people. Thus, mass shootings in effect end up having nothing to do with us in terms of the state of our collective morality and everything to do with profiting from our hysteria.
Unfortunate I know but at this point, courage requires an ability to taste the bitter truth and keep moving. This means as long as we live in this great nation, our security is not guaranteed by our authorities. Our morality (or lack thereof) is more a less a quotient of our tolerance for hysteria. If you do good, it does not count unless it is transformative. If you do evil it is not publicized unless it costs life. Something tells me such a scale has nothing to do with us as individuals and everything to do with existence rooted in loss. You are only as useful as you willing to lose or make someone else lose and life and attention seem to be worth equal weight in media gold.
Thus my question is; shall news media remain a tool for collective hysteria or a virtual campfire that unites us around America’s exceptional unpredictability? This is not my choice to make and I am afraid to say, neither is it yours.