America’s Actual Super Villians

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Nearly a year has passed since the shooting incident of Sandy Hook Elementary School and yet we find ourselves victim to another tragic event, in the case of Arapahoe High School.  18-year-old Karl Pierson purchased a shotgun legally at a nearby local store with the intent to harm multiple individuals. Although his main target was school librarian and debate coach Tracy Murphy at the time. Pierson did not hesitate to head to the school’s library where he then, fired several gun shots, one which critically injured high school senior Claire Davis. As soon as resource officers had begun to close in on Pierson, Pierson shot himself in the head taking his own life.  Much stories like Pierson seem all too familiar as schools are quickly becoming common places for violent acts. Such news of mass shootings often sparks numerous debates ranging from gun control, bad parenting, to bullying and etc. However, one of the most prominent issues concerning mass murders is the media’s glorification of the shooter. This sort of glorification allows other distraught young individuals to follow the footsteps of their notorious counterparts.

Brian Levin raises some legitimate concerns about the globalized scrutiny of mass shootings portrayed by news media outlets. He goes as far to argue that we may be further traumatizing some of these victims before they receive psychological counseling. However, according to Levin, the biggest culprit instills upon media magnifying the fears among the public. The frequencies of “brutal, but unusual events” are far less than we actually believe. Yet reporting propagandistic material of cruel events may increase the likelihood or inspire other violent individuals to commit similar acts.

I am not trying to detain from the fact that some exposure of the killer is helpful in some ways. Investigation stories focusing on the motive of the killers is a necessity. Most act on a combination of personal vendetta, personal failures, rejections and frustration, social and psychological isolation, and in minor cases insanity. Proper assessment of the individual allows for better prevention methods in hopes to reduce the number of tragedies occurring in the future. However, the media does quite the opposite and over celebritizes the killer as proposed by “Morgan Freeman.”

Now it was later discovered that it was not actually Morgan Freeman himself who released a quote regarding Sandy Hook Elementary School’s shooting that later went viral. However, that does not excuse the validity of the message proposed by its author. The quote touched on some very real issues pertaining the media, the quote in its entirety said:

“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.”

This may be especially true in the case of Paul Ciancia. A gunman who walked into Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on November 1st 2013 and began shooting Transport Security Administration officers. Police believed it to be a premeditated act of murder. What was so interesting about this case however, was the fact that he had a handwritten note strapped to him. The note stated that he had “made the conscious decision to try to kill” multiple TSA employees. The note mentioned “NWO, possible references to New World Order, which gave a theory that foresees a totalitarian one-world government.” The note also referred to how the gunman believed his constitutional rights were being violated by the TSA. I bring forth this case to shine light on how media is going beyond its spectrum of knowledge to report information that is no longer relevant. The media does assess on why the killer decided to kill that day, but then expands on discussing possible conspiracy theories which then itself publicizes the killer. Perhaps the Joker from Batman was right, “It’s not about the money. It’s about sending a message.” Well at least this may be true for the killer’s sake. Sensationalism and bias news segments have infested the norm for what accounts for “front-page news” for decades. But can we really blame them? I mean according to a psychological study done in 2003, it showed front page news stories dating from 1700s to 2001 had similar topics. Stories about death, injury, robberies, and murder dominated newspaper headlines. We can also date back to earlier January of this year, where stories of North Korea dominated headlines for about a month. So reverting back to the question of can we blame them? The answer is quite simply yes. Media expunges in profit revenue news stories rather than giving detailed analysis of a segment.

Perhaps a counter-argument suggested by a similar opinion piece would be that the media is not responsible for the interpretation of disclosed information provided by news casters. It is solely up to the individual to digest the material in a way he or she wants to. There is a thin thread that the media must tread across to provide accurate reports for the sake of reverence for the victims and for the sake of newsgathering.   However, I would have to argue that they are responsible for the interpretation of the material. It has long been known that media does in fact influence the way we think about certain events.

Which brings me back to my point made by Brian Levin; these shooting events do not occur all too often as in fact there are more deaths from allergic reactions to bee stings than mass shootings per year. However, constant news coverage of certain topics molds the public into believing that a certain event is happening more often than it really is. This is in fact where the problem really lies, as criminals are now using this type of global communication to enter into the ears of the masses. This goes hand in hand as to what constitutes as a “good news story.” The media often plays on people’s fear of dying as they become more alert and eager to read what’s going on. Thus, giving killers their undeserved months of fame.

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