Fannie Lou Hamer, Civil Rights activist, famously said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” (about the lack of progress on racial equity in this country). Well, I’m fed up with being fed up about our passivity in the face of endless mass shootings in this country.
And I’m more than fed up with the way the media covers every massacre. In the interests of “objectivity,” they never venture any further out on the branch than re-enacting the same ritual of grief porn following each mass killing, encouraging survivors and relatives of survivors to wallow in how they “feel,” repeating the same questions over and over and getting the same answers: “We never thought it could happen here.”
Just once I’d like to hear one of the interviewees say, “When will these god-damned politicians change the gun laws to protect us?! When will these cowards do something?!”
Why aren’t reporters interviewing those cowards, cornering them and broadcasting their “No comment” and “We shouldn’t politicize this issue at such a sensitive time”? Why don’t they ask, “When are you going to vote for laws that protect your constituents from gun violence?” and “Why do you continue to support the sale of military-style assault rifles in the wake of so many horrific shootings?” We would also like to hear how much these elected representatives receive in donations from the gun lobby.
When will the media start showing graphic images of the murdered, with full permission from the many parents who have since become avid gun violence prevention activists?
Here’s what one of them, Nicole Hockley, said in an email from the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, P.O. Box 3489, Newtown, CT 06470, after the latest mass murder in Lewiston, Maine:
“Eleven years ago, I wasn’t thinking about gun violence. I was worrying about whether my boys, Jake and Dylan, had their bookbags packed and got to school on time each morning. I imagine this is much like the family members who lost a loved one in the recent shootings in Maine. They weren’t worrying about mass shootings as their family left home to bowl or catch up with friends.
“But on Dec. 14, 2012, I sent both my sons to Sandy Hook Elementary, and only one came home. That was the day I truly woke up, the day my beautiful 6-year-old boy would never wake up again. Now I spend every minute worrying about how to prevent more shootings and working as hard as I can to expand our gun violence prevention efforts to make sure no other families have to go through this unbearable pain. I’ll never see Dylan again. I know that. But I refuse to accept that gun violence is just the price of living in America.”
Why isn’t the media interviewing Nicole Hockley and others, so viewers are reminded how many lives have been wrecked by AR-15 mayhem?
Here’s what bestselling author Stephen King, a longtime resident of Maine, wrote in the N.Y. Times after the Lewiston shootings:
“There is no solution to the gun problem, and little more to write, because Americans are addicted to firearms. Every mass shooting is a gut-punch; with every one, unimaginative people say, ‘I never thought it could happen here,’ but such things can and will happen anywhere and everywhere in this locked-and-loaded country. The guns are available and the targets are soft. When rapid-fire guns are difficult to get, things improve, but I see no such improvement in the future. Americans love guns, and appear willing to pay the price in blood.”
The media is as responsible for this ongoing blood sport as the bought-off blowhards in Congress. They are passive spectators to our national agony instead of acting in their truest capacity: as investigative journalists. They dismiss their responsibility with a perfunctory reference to the fact that “Congress is unlikely to pass gun legislation” as if this relieves them of any responsibility.
At what point does journalistic “neutrality” become immorality?
And when an indifferent reporter sticks a microphone in your face and asks how you “feel” after one of your loved ones has been obliterated by semi-automatic gunfire, say to them, “When are we going to change the gun laws to protect people instead of making us sitting ducks?! And what are you doing to make that happen?”
If people say that, over and over and over, something might finally change.
Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg took a novel approach following Lewiston. He claimed to have written a post-massacre commentary in advance (on April 21, 2021) because it’s always the same commentary anyway.
“Journalism,” he wrote, “is a kabuki, a stylized form, the telling of the same story again and again. So please forgive me for trying to experiment within the confines of a long-established tradition, the ritual post-slaughter hand-wringing. … After 35 years of doing this, I think I’m entitled to play with the conventions. Surely you can’t demand that I respect the not-yet-dead. Congress sure doesn’t.”
Heartless? he concludes. Sure.
“But nothing compared to having the power to do something to curb gun violence and instead doing nothing. That takes a level of callousness I just can’t imagine. And I have a pretty good imagination.”
And the media is complicit by giving these heartless ineffectuals a pass after every mass shooting.
Stop being so lazy, get off the fence, and start asking tough questions!