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We are indeed living in perilous times.
It seems like each week, we read of some new report of a crazy person who entered a largely populated area and began systematically killing random people for no reason whatsoever – no reason that makes sense, at least.
After each of these horrific tragedies, society, like clockwork, goes into the same predictable behavior: The NRA public-relations team goes on the offensive, citing statistics which prove guns are good and actually save lives; Democratic politicians begin rallying their base, while their Republican counterparts do the same – each side accusing the other of politicizing a national tragedy… truth be told, both sides are guilty.
During this time, the real crazies also come out of the woodwork, sharing Facebook posts and YouTube videos alleging the victims weren’t actually victims at all, but rather conspirators in some wild CIA plot aimed at tricking the world into believing such evil exists… These I have zero tolerance for.
Meanwhile, those in my industry, the media, descend like vultures upon the shaken all-American communities, whether it’s Blacksburg, Virginia, Paducah, Kentucky, Roseburg, Oregon, or whatever random town lost the game of straws that week.
Showing up with their satellite trucks and flashy reporters, the entire planet is fed a 24-7 livestream about the town, victims and life’s story of the killer. By the end of it, we know more about the deranged gunman than we do about our own relatives – we learn of his plight, insecurities and detractors – by the time the media trucks leave town en route to the next victimized community, the perpetrator is known throughout the entire world.
Though the mass killers are generally always males and have typically lived lives that most would consider bizarre, from there, the similarities among these shooters begin to vary wildly. They range from angry white punks intent upon ushering in a race war (Charleston church shooter) to homosexual black men upset that a reporter said she would be working “in the field” (WDBJ-7 shooter), and virtually all points in between. There is no rhyme or reason to these people… or is there?
Yes. There is a rhyme and a reason they do what they do.
Though their politics, ideologies, religions and demographics varied greatly, far more often than not, they were all after the same thing: fame. Whether they were posting photos onto Facebook of them in front of the Confederate Battle Flag prior to the mass killing or whether they were wearing a GoPro during the actual murder, these individuals were obsessed with being recognized.
Like it or not, we are living in a culture that is more narcissistic than ever before. Sadly, this isn’t just an American problem, the entire modern world is coping with this same issue – things have gotten so bad in Russia that the nation’s interior minister has actually launched a public campaign aimed at discouraging young citizens from taking selfies… for the sake of general public’s health!
Thanks to a combination of factors that I simply do not have the time to delve into, planet earth in 2015 is a world where nearly everyone feels special, feels entitled and feels deserving of recognition and made to feel like a celebrity. Thanks to Facebook and other forms of social media, many are able to get this attention they long for.
Due to this craving for recognition, our newsfeeds have become inundated with young teenage girls making duck faces, muscle-bound dudes in the gym posing in front of a mirror while holding an iPhone and even grandmas sharing daily snapshots of what their grandchildren are eating for lunch each day – generally it’s macaroni and chicken nuggets!
But what about the ugly kids? What about the socially awkward among us? What about those who don’t look good in front of the mirror? They need a source for narcissistic fuel as well and if they can’t get them from the selfie-stick, they are forced to go searching elsewhere.
Allow me to transport you back in time a little ways, to the early-1970s.
Here, we find a society battling another problem: public streaking. Though documentation of this curious activity can be traced back to at least 1799, the problem reached what the press referred to as a “streaking epidemic” in 1973.
In the years ahead, naked college students, unemployed middle-aged guys and hundreds of other individuals who seemed to have nothing in common with each other, other than their quest for infamy interrupted a countless number sporting events on an almost daily occurence.
Initially, broadcast crews participated in the antics of the perpetrator’s reindeer games, talking about it on the air, making a spectacle of the behavior.
Wannabe celebrities quickly realized the greatest way to achieve “immortality” would be to drop the clothes and take off through a ballfield on live television.
The media rewarding such unseemly behavior eventually led to a nut stealing a pace car in 1986 at a NASCAR race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Eventually, some brilliant Ivy League graduate finally came to the same conclusion the common person had reached a long time previously, “Hey, if we keep airing this stuff, we’re only going to continue this type of behavior,” and the media made the conscientious decision not to make a spectacle over some moron running butt-naked through a soccer field.
What were the results of this decision?
Well, public streaking hasn’t ended altogether, and probably never will, but it certainly has gone from being an expected weekly occurrence to something that is unexpected and never mentioned.
When it happens, the authorities deal with it appropriately and life continues.
Pivoting back to mass shootings, now.
We must recognize that mass shootings and even school shootings are nothing new or unique to our generation – in 1874 a Los Angeles Herald article decried school shootings as being an all “too common habit.”
On January 12, 1910, a man in New York City drew an automatic pistol and fired five shots into a crowd of boys at the Harlem School. A six-year-old died instantly and another was critically wounded.
We make this point to say this: crazy people have and always will be walking among us, ready to snap at any given moment and sadly, their victim of choice is often the young and defenseless. We must recognize this reality.
With this said, we must also examine ourselves and recognize that more than desiring justice for perceived slights or being led by some ideology, the common mass killer we find in today’s society is often nothing more than a frail, insecure, egomaniac who has exhausted his narcissistic fuel and has come to grips with the reality that he will never be great… all the while as he watches those around him living the life he desires.
Upon coming to this disturbing reality, the unhinged maniac makes the fateful decision that if he will never be famous, then he will settle for being infamous… and thanks to the work of the modern-day media, he gets his demonic wish.
Forget gun control and video games and all other rallying cries that follow these mass shootings… Save those for another day.
As society continues to debate gun control, video games and mental health, one actionable item the media can do is simply shut up. Quit posting the coward’s photo onto our screens, quit reading his point of view and quit encouraging copy cats… which always follow.
Unfortunately, this call will undoubtedly go unheeded, as the major media has come to recognize the wealth of blood money that exists following these events. And we as citizens seem to have a gross appetite for carnage. But only if we would determine to end this media spectacle.
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