Recently, we were rocked with the news of yet another violent event that occurred in the USA. There was a lot of shock, horror, and outrage, and amongst some people with extreme views, a number of extreme reactions. People gave theories for why the attack occurred, were quick to point a finger at international agencies, but I feel that the question that should be asked is; is it right to sensationalize such an event?
In the hours (and indeed minutes) after the attack, the news went crazy. Even in a relatively isolated place like Sewanee, we were not spared. Phones, laptops, and news feeds of popular social networking sites all blew up with alarming intensity. The news did not just update us on what was going on, and the responses, but showed us rather disturbing pictures of limbs, blood, and fear. Is it any wonder that with a news culture like this, violence is such a problem?
By constantly feeding us with images of violence and fear and insecurity, the media actually cultivates an atmosphere of fear. I feel that this could actually even increase the violence that happens; people are so scared that the slightest event may provoke even the mildest-mannered person to be violent.
The perpetrators of such violence are sensationalized and almost celebrated. Everyone knows the name of one such perpetrator, but would be hard pressed to name even one victim. For people who commit acts of violence in order to draw attention, knowing that acts such as these will get them widespread and even international attention could actually be an incentive. The Columbine school shooting of a couple of years ago was done by some youth who wanted to emulate another violent character, and become popular for this. Thanks to the news, this popularization, while definitely not in a positive sense, was achieved.
Victims are not given as much attention in the news; why focus on the wounded party, right? However, by doing so, are we victimizing the victims? Are we telling them that it is unacceptable to be a victim?
The day after the Boston Marathon incident, I was prowling the Internet as distracted college students are oft prone to do. I came across an interesting article that covered a side of the story that most news agencies did not. This article focused more on the positive events that happened after the bombing. It showed the people who selflessly helped victims, talked about those who freely opened their homes to those inconvenienced, and borrowing from a modern day cliché, was an article capable of ‘restoring our faith in humanity.’ I strongly believe that after a crisis, if news reporters and journalists focused more on these aspects, on the ways in which humanity bands together after a disaster, this would go a long way in helping dissipate the culture of fear we live in.
Should we completely move away from focusing on the sheer violence and the perpetrators of these acts? No, as I think to a certain degree this is necessary. However, I do feel that the degree to which we do this right now is extremely unhealthy.