It started over the weekend, the deluge of various and sundry well-meaning, sweetly captioned photos and thoughtful public sentiments by a variety of sentimental public figures, including the usually eloquent Morgan Freeman, whose “brilliant take on what happened” in Connecticut flooded Facebook and in-boxes. What jumped out at me initially was the puzzling opening sentence fragment asking a question but lacking a question mark: “You want to know why.”
Why what? I wondered, but read on…
“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. You can help by turning off the news.“”
On Facebook, several supportive “likers” also added “RIP Morgan Freeman,” adding another puzzling element to the whole thing because 1) Morgan Freeman isn’t dead and 2) if it was believed that he was, in fact,dead, why would he be commenting on the Connecticut shooting?
It was, of course, no surprise that this was yet something else that a famous person didn’t actually say. These are the sentiments of a Vancouver fellow named Mark Price, a script writer by trade, whose comments were pranked by Reddit user Quintilian751, who said, ” Couple of us thought it’d be funny, since it was a well written article, to attribute it to Morgan Freeman.”
The rest is the stuff of Internet virality.
“I honestly wish my brush with Internet fame wasn’t associated with murdered children,” the Vancouver Sun report Price wrote. ” If what I said resonated with thousands of people, despite who they believe said it, GOOD. I stand by what I said about why it happened, and how it was reported!
“...If it weren’t given to a celebrity, nobody would be talking about it. What got people to spread my words: The content of the message, or who supposedly said it?””
Price has got a powerful point here, and I’m perfectly happy to give him full credit for it because it really was the content of the message that caught my eye, and not who supposedly said it. And I truly believe, when you get right down to it, “turning off the news” might be the best thing we can do to regain our humanity and stop the madness.
Joel Gascoigne , founder of social media sharing app, Buffer, made a conscious decision two years ago to stop reading and watching mainstream media.
“And it just so happens, ” he observes in his blog post, “The Power of Ignoring Mainstream Media, ” that the last 2 years have also been the most enjoyable and productive of my entire life, and have contained some of my greatest achievements.”
Gascoigne notes that about 95% of mainstream news is negative, even though in reality, 95% of life is not.
“Mainstream news report about wars, natural disasters, murders and other kinds of suffering. It seems the only natural conclusion of watching or reading mainstream news is that the world is a terrible place, and that it is getting worse every day. However, the reality of course is the complete opposite: we live in an amazing time and the human race is improving at a faster pace than ever before.”
Sandy Hook Elementary will always stand out as one of the saddest periods in American history, and nothing should diminish the sorrow and loss and the commensurate necessary social dialog that is taking place.
But it is not the only period in American history, and if it’s a hallmark of anything, perhaps it is that it’s time to turn off the TV, especially mainstream news, and tune into one another and the bigger picture of the world in which we really live, a world in which we ARE better than this.