Media Coverage, Violence, and Our Response: Sandy Hook, Dec. 15

In the wake of reflecting  upon what happened only two weeks ago, the Sandy Hook tragedy, something has has really stood out to me: What should have been a day of national mourning seemed to turn into a media circus and yet another match in the firestorm of angry debate that is the the national conversation on gun control.  The Huffington Post should immediately feel immense amounts of shame for abandoning grief, support, and mourning in a convenient substitution for advancing its own ideology regarding gun control.  In fact, the most important words of wisdom on how to react to this shooting came from the President himself, so I must give credit to where credit is due.  Just perhaps, he isn’t the heinous villain that some people make him out to be.

Can you see it?

In just a few hours after the shooting occurred, reporters pounced and shoved mics and questions into the faces of young children anyone whose attention they could grab.  Apparently ratings have become much  more important than giving those who just went through what may be the most terrifying moment of their lives a chance to rest, recuperate, and mourn. Yes, the juicy tidbits that people say just after the moment of an event may not be as eye-catching as words said by them a week later, but respect should come first nevertheless. This isn’t the same as getting audio clips from players after a sports game and the coverage should have reflected that, but obviously it didn’t.     A keen photographer managed to snap what is probably the most emotionally invoking photograph of that day.  I suppose there is some truth in that old sang, “A picture says a thousand words.”

Not only was the media coverage appalling in the lack of respect and privacy it had for the victims of the families and children in the school, but there was an incredible amount of misinformed and flat out false information. Seriously, what has happened to journalism? Ratings yet again pre-determined that any information, no matter if it was verified or not, would be reported immediately. It didn’t take much time to mistakenly run with the story that Adam’s brother, Ryan, had been the shooter.  Hours later after Ryan posted on facebook that he wasn’t the shooter and had no involvement with it, the media finally connected the dots, as the shooter they knew was dead so it couldn’t have been Ryan. However, the damage had been done and his photo and facebook profile had already been tossed around all over the web. Another casualty of rash and mistaken journalism? I’d say yes.

While it is important for us to know about Sandy Hook, the incredible amount of media coverage and attention we see to acts of violence in the U.S.should tell us one thing; we have an obsession for violence. While the the harsh truth of violence needs to be broadcast for us to truly realize the condition our culture is in, it doesn’t need to be glorified and its perpetrators given a national platform to revel in their newly attained infamy. Yes, there is a distinct and stark difference.

Many of us are convinced that the world is somehow more violent than it was 25 years ago. Perhaps it is to some degree, but the nature of violence has never changed.  What has changed is that the digital media and advent of online coverage has however brought it that much closer, more immediate, and more vivid on our HD screens than ever before.  An obsession with ratings and money has made it standard that “Viewer Discretion Is Advised” is an immediate call to attention for every smart phone distracted viewer.  How have people reacted to this new and ever more realistic depiction of violence on their big screen and smartphones? That question has many possible answers.

In only a  few months or more from now, Sandy Hook will probably be largely forgotten by the media and by us. We will have yet again ignored the root of the problem that contributed toward this shooting: Our culture, our broken families and communities, our selfishness, and the fruition of our flawed worldviews. We can’t keep telling each other that right and wrong are merely each one’s version of right and wrong. Ideas have consequences  and in this case horrible consequences.  All these factors have not just produced boys like Adam Lanza, but have contributed toward what he became; an individual that would slaughter a child.  Unfortunately it will be his name that will be remembered in feigned infamy, not his 26 victims. Its only a matter of time before this shooting is reduced down to a Daniel Tosh  joke for us to enjoy.

I fear we may have all however missed the root of the problem when we see tragedies like this. Our culture isn’t just obsessed with guns, it’s obsessed with violence, gore, and everything under the sun that will make you cringe.  If we ever want to alter this endless waltz, we must address the root of the issue, not the weapon used to horrendous means. Someone with murder in their heart will use any method and means to commit murder. It is for this reason we must address their heart if we ever wish to curb these continued manifestations of violence that are becoming seemingly commonplace on the news and facebook feeds of our phones.  Instead of focusing so much attention on the acts themselves, we must focus our attention on communities and families that are not preventing these acts from ever even being considered. In fact, we must keep asking ourselves this question; “How could we have missed this?” How could we have not seen what was turning Lanza into someone would could even imagine doing something like this?

We need to start paying attention. The distraught single mother whose kids are out of control needs the help of community around her, and most specifically the church in her area, The homeless man desperate to eat needs the care of the community, lest he turn to other means to survive. The depressed teenager with no hope, a broken family, and no friends needs Christians to do what we have been commanded to do; show the love of Christ in not just words, but our actions.  We must always question our priorities and how we spend our time. Would Christ spend his time this way?

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