Everyday gun violence in the United States. Are the American media to blame?


The tales of random and constant shootings in America don’t shock my veins as much as they did in my childhood when my introduction to gun violence was mostly through classic western movies. A few days earlier, I was leisurely browsing the internet as befits a Sunday evening stroll, when a Newsweek report caught my eye. It was more perspective than reality that stopped my online walk.

The headlines of the report read “Taco Bell employee shot dead by drive-thru customer after throwing counterfeit money: police.” If the title had the power to curb my wandering eyes, it was the nature of the content that stopped me dead in my tracks. With great precision, the report then highlighted, one by one, shooting incidents at drive-thru restaurants, filled with hyperlinks that guided me to the gory details. Names, ages, places, sequelae; the details would have delighted the private detective.

And I felt compelled to ask myself, does journalism in America study bad memory too often?

Before we rush to answer, let’s focus on Christchurch, New Zealand, almost three years ago when, on the ides of March, just as the call to prayer ended at the mosque Al Noor, a barrage of semi-automatic weapon ammunition and shotguns killed fifty-one people in a display of grotesque violence, all broadcast live on Facebook. I cite this as a historic incident, not by the macabre nature of the crime but by the aftermath that unfolded after the violence that led to decisions of immeasurable significance.

And those consequences came squarely from the media. Go further.

Published in Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law, and titled “The Christchurch Mosque Shooting, the Media, and Subsequent Gun Control Reform in New Zealand: A Descriptive Analysis,” the researchers dove deep into the psyche journalism after the bloodbath and how it reflected in the nation’s psyche. In a never-before-seen bugle call, New Zealand media summarily removed the shooter from the spotlight. Rather than feeding the company’s mind with intricate details about the shooter, who is part of the same company, all the attention has been on the grieving community.

Far from the usual vein of media reporting where the author is invariably sensationalist, this congruent and seminal journalistic enterprise effectively scuttled the source. And in turn, shifted the nation’s psyche to the victims, the sick, and the effective capabilities of the health system to treat survivors.

Increased focus on the legal origins of guns, fear of further violence, and the distracting influences of social media have invariably led to a strict national gun control mandate. A mandate that crosses all races, religions and, most importantly, political parties.

Sixty days after the mosque shooting, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden and French President Emmanuel Macron met and called on heads of state and government and tech leaders to advocate for what they called ‘Christchurch calling’. Eight major online media companies and fifty-three countries have come forward to offer unconditional support. It will not be out of place to mention that the United States was a notable non-signatory to this conglomerate.

All this, in a country where freedom is frequently confused with liberty, where pristine thoughts and distorted emotions receive equal attention. While philosophy calls freedom as free will, far from determinism which orders obedience to previously established causes, the word freedom falls and floats in the gray zone. As a marker of an unbridled ability to satisfy one’s desires, freedom has been that double-edged sword where triumph for one end of the river is torture for the other end.

In any case, on a primordial and psychic level, we humans have not done well with gadgets. Road rage, from car driving to throwing teacups during domestic violence, are prime examples of priceless gimmicks gone wrong. The same stones that produced fire were used to flay humans. Our history of humanity has always been one of pure awakenings and disorderly imaginations.

So we stand at an eternal crossroads, where a fatal habit born of misperceptions is now an inherent culture. A national trait that can only be shaken by strict laws. The jolt can only come from a collective consciousness, when the minds of a family, society and ultimately the masses will all respond to one great call to non-violence. And for these, the entry point must be the media.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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