Shut up and grieve

Posted: December 15, 2012 in Journalism, Media, Message, politics
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The news was mind-numbingly horrifying.

At least 27 dead at an elementary school. Or maybe it was 26. No, some networks were reporting 28.

At least 18 children dead. No, it’s 20. At least 20 children dead.

The shooter has been identified as –. No, the shooter has been incorrectly identified. It’s another guy, a guy who is defending himself on Facebook. (“IT WASN’T ME!”)
 

There’s been a lot of miscommunication on this and we need to correct that.

 

~ FBI source,
Los Angeles Times

 
Yeah, somebody needs to correct that. There were lots of corrections yesterday. Like the rest of the nation, I spent much of Dec. 14 trying — and failing — to make sense of the senseless slaughter in Newtown, Conn. The more I sought answers, the fewer I found. The mainstream media was of no help, but we were doing the best we could. I was off yesterday so I had the luxury of playing armchair media critic, tallying the hits and misses. One of the early — and few — hits came from my USA TODAY colleague Susan Page. Page was on MSNBC, I suppose to comment on something less horrifying, and when Andrea Mitchell tried to turn the conversation to gun control, Page rightfully responded with: “Today is not the day to talk about the politics.”
 

Today is not the day to talk about the politics.

 

~ Susan Page,
USA TODAY Washington bureau chief

 

Indeed, it wasn’t. It was a day to grieve. A goddamn awful day to mourn the loss of little children who still believed in Santa Claus; a heartbreaking day to pray for the mothers and fathers who will bury their babies.

There were scores of prayers on Twitter — and the rumblings of a brewing debate. It would be best to ignore Twitter this day, an exercise in futility for me. On Facebook, the social media network I love to hate, a handful of idiot friends started politicizing the murders before the bodies were cold. Less than two hours after the news broke, arguments for gun rights and gun control filled my newsfeed. Between the news reports attempting to detail the day’s horror and the rapid-fire copy-and-paste activism, I was grateful for a friend’s report from Disney World and another friend’s sighting of Dave Grohl. Tiny bright moments on a dim, dark, damnable day.

I needed to log off, but I was curious to read the official statements from the NRA and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. What were their messages? One of the idiot Facebook friends commented on my husband’s Wall that he had been forwarded an email from the NRA promoting gun rights as the tragedy unfolded. I smelled a lie. The NRA is a lot of things, but it’s not stupid. In fact, the pro-gun-rights organization was quiet yesterday, conspicuous in absence. Their Twitter feed fell silent; I could not find a news release about Newtown on the website. Keeping quiet is wise. Now is not the time to convince or persuade.

The Brady Campaign seemed to understand this, too — or at least their messenger did. The gun-control group was, not surprisingly, at the forefront of the commentary, with Virginia Tech survivor and gun-control advocate Colin Goddard appearing on MSNBC, visibly distressed and with a plea for compassion, not debate. It was a position not popular with the conflict-hungry media.
 

How do I feel?
I want to scream at the top of my lungs.
I want to cry.
How the hell do you think I feel? It’s horrible.

 

~ Colin Goddard,
Virginia Tech survivor to the New York Daily News

 

I’m a member of the media, and I understand why we jackals want the gun debate to rage: Conflict is interesting. In news or novels, conflict is the key to a great story. I also understand there are no easy answers in the debate over guns. There is only so much legislation can solve. And legislation will never eradicate pure evil and it can’t fix crazy. And arming every man, woman and child to the teeth won’t solve anything, either. These are all points that will be debated in the following months as the conversation turns to the nation’s laws, personal freedoms, the Constitution. But in this sorrowful here and now, in a holiday season that shines less bright, it’s time to mourn the loss of little children who still believed in Santa; time to pray for the mothers and fathers who will bury their babies.

It’s a time to shut up and grieve.
 
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: The views expressed here are mine and not my employer’s.

Comments
  1. A part of me agrees with you. The events are so horrible it’s hard to do anything but grieve, but another part wonders, given the amount of gun violence in this country, when do we demand actions on gun control? On a day when there are no shootings? No such day exists. The way things are going, it won’t be long before a mass murder shooting happens again, especially given the copy-cat phenomenon. Some deranged individual is probably already thinking about what he can do that is even worse. I believe in a balanced approach to almost everything – my blog focuses on balance – but after this latest incident, I’ve become a hard-liner. No more guns. It’s the only way. I know I’m dreaming, but I don’t care. Six year olds are being targeted, requiring a drastic, immediate response, that sadly will never come.

    • Hi, James! Thanks for commenting. Certainly Sandy Hook is a wake-up call, a horrific catalyst for action. However, given the partisan rancor that grips the nation now, I’m not sure when we’ll see any action at all. Our idiot lawmakers — and I write this with utter contempt for both parties — can’t settle budget disputes, let alone address more important life-and-death issues. Furthermore, I think the conversation must be expanded beyond just gun-control legislation, which will solve only so much of the problem. Even if handguns and assault rifles — or all guns — were banned, a mentally ill person with violent tendencies could still find means to harm others. There needs to be more discussion about the other contributing factors of this tragedy — not just the guns. Perhaps that conversation is taking place now. If so, good. But on Dec. 14, the discussion should have been about the victims and their grief-stricken families. My post was focused on the first day of events.

  2. Abby says:

    Amen.

    A) Gun violence is HORRIBLE, but statistically speaking? COME ON. If you ask me, anti-gun groups are taking advantage of this situation to press their agenda.
    B) Yep, bad people will always find the weapons.
    C) I hate TV news. Boil on the butt of journalism.
    D) I love Susan. I wish she would permanently take over the Diane Rehm show.

    • Whenever I start to resent the fact that I work nights, all I have to do is turn on televised news. That said, their bad habits of report-now-correct-later are rubbing off on the rest of media — as exhibited by the coverage of the Supreme Court ruling on the federal health care law (“The Supreme Court has overturned the Affordable Care Act! Oops! Wait, no, they have overturned part of it — wait, no, they are upholding it! Yes! They are — yes — they are upholding it!”) and more recently, the misidentification of the Sandy Hook shooter — which was appalling.

      I could also flip out about their (our – I am a member of the flawed media) irresponsibility of introducing myths about the autism spectrum into the Sandy Hook story but that would make for a full afternoon.

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