The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings are inexplicable, tragic, and horrific. As such, naturally, people search for a culprit. The media, camped out in trucks all around Newtown, Connecticut, working in 24-hour cycles to bring us every detail, is an easy target.
A quote attributed to actor Morgan Freeman has gone viral on Facebook. Essentially, someone claiming to be Freeman blames the media for Sandy Hook, claiming the media's coverage makes the shooter famous and makes more people want to do things like this.
It would be a vile and inappropriate claim even in a lesser tragedy. But to blame anyone or anything but Adam Lanza (and his access to guns and his mental state) is truly the height of poor taste. Oh, and also? It's a hoax. Freeman denies making the statement. In case you are wondering, here is the quote in its entirety:
You want to know why. 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 Batmantheater 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.
Look, I get it. We are all broken hearted and grappling to make sense of it all and struggling to find someone to blame. We are all having nightmares and crying ourselves to sleep and burning the images of those poor, beautiful babies and their heroic caregivers into our brains. But blaming the media? Come on.
If the biggest issue right now is honestly how the media is covering the story, then we have some giant problems. Adam Lanza is the shooter and we need to know every detail about him and how he got into the school and what led to this rampage so that we can focus on the REAL issues here, issues like violence, school safety, mental illness, gun control, and more.
It's way too easy to "blame the media", pull together a shallow, not well-thought out quote, wrongly attribute it to someone famous, and get gullible Facebook users to share it. It's another to actually grieve together, be sad, and look at the real, possibly scary, reasons this happened in our culture.
Look, as a member of the "media," I don't want to be blogging on this story any more than you want to be reading it. I want to curl up in my bed, hold my kids tightly, and pretend things like this don't happen to beautiful, innocent school children.
But if we are going to prevent things like this from happening again, we are going to have to take a long, hard look at our society. We are going to have to be brave, and yes, we are going to have to look at Adam Lanza and all the factors that made him want to kill.
It isn't that the media is without any blame. Obviously, interviewing children is horrible and wrong and in poor taste. But that's not the reason Lanza went on a killing spree. The 26 victims of this horrific tragedy wouldn't be alive if the media ceased to interview all children.
Obviously, I get wanting someone to blame, but it's not the media who is at fault for this. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders and of one individual, and learning more about him -- his mental health, his access to guns, his motive -- is the key to preventing anything like this from happening again.
Did you see or share that "Freeman" quote?
Image via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr