“It’s because of the way the media reports it.”

If you read the blogosphere (besides this blog, which you obviously do read…and I appreciate that you do!), have a Facebook account, or read news items that you see on your browser home page when you come online then you have probably seen or at least heard of the statement that was allegedly made by acting legend Morgan Freeman. I say “allegedly” because I have seen a variety of accounts online, some confirming that he did make the statement, others saying he did not, that someone else did and attributed them to him. I have not been able to find anything definitive either way. Many people consider Snopes.com to be the expert on such questions, and that site says that the statement did not come from Freeman. But, regardless of who made the statement, I think it has plenty of truth in it and it is worthy of consideration and discussion… Here is the statement, in response to why the Connecticut school shooting and other similar tragedies happen:

You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why. It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine?

Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem.

Now as I said, I don’t know who actually made this statement, but it does contain a lot of truth, I think. The media absolutely does sensationalize these events. I have seen some articles now that have focused on some of the victims, but that certainly is not the focus of most of the coverage. And I understand that the media has a responsibility to report the news. But there are many different ways one can report the news. Yes, the media needs to let us know that the tragedy occurred, and yes there are insights that can be gained from some investigative reporting. But the statement above accurately points out that the media pays far too much attention to the perpetrators of such incidents, and the amount of coverage that they receive absolutely could play into the motivation of someone to commit such acts of violence. If they do end up killing themselves or getting killed, they go out “famous.” If they live through it, the media will pay attention to them that much longer. (Think about it…not too much time goes by without the perpetrator of the Fort Hood shooting making the news). It cannot be coincidental that there have been more of these kinds of tragedies in the thirteen years since Columbine than there were in decades before Columbine. I do not have any scientific data on how many tragedies like that there were before Columbine, but there were few if any, I am confident of that. And as I discussed in yesterday’s post, the problem cannot be attributed to guns; after all, guns have been around for centuries.

I am not going to say that the media is responsible solely. Neither are the increasingly realistic and increasingly violent video games that are so popular, nor the movies that glorify violence. But all of these things are contributing factors, and the power of their contribution is strengthened by the decline of the marriage-based two- parent family, the denial of absolute truth, and the ever-increasing attempt to keep morality out of the public sphere. See the comments made by Mike Huckabee that I quoted in yesterday’s post on that note. As I’ve said before…it comes back to the law of the harvest, and we will continue to reap what we sow.