Sunday, August 05, 2012

Want to stop mass shootings? Press control, not gun control

While we're limiting Constitutional amendments, I call for press control. Experts have told the media time after time to tone down their coverage of these shooters because they are sensationalizing their actions for other would-be shooters. They refuse to follow that course.

I know, I know if it bleeds it leads. That’s for a reason. That is news.

There's a way to make it the lead story without sensationalizing the shooter or their actions. Simple coverage at the top, what is the NEWS concerning this story. Then move to the next story. Honestly, all the coverage of these guys just leads to bad journalism, ie. Holmes was a member of the Tea Party, which turned out to be false. But in the rush to make the story more interesting they got it wrong.

How about better press control? Such as preventing press/journalist/media from knowing a shooter's name or allowing them access to a photo. How about a fine for any new organization that uses the news of a shooting in any sensational manner? A penalty for using the shooter's name more than a certain number of times in a 24 hour period. It has been shown empirically that the amount of attention given to the shooter gives rise to more shooters. The media's culture of sensationalism is just as culpable as the gun in creating more shooters like this guy.

The only thing that gives the press the "right" to do their job is that same pesky document that gives people the right to own weapons. So, if we're going to amend the document in the name of keeping people safe we should also amend or limit the rights of the press. They are just as culpable for mass shootings as guns, gun manufacturers and gun owners with their sensationalism, propagation of mass paranoia and playing fast and loose with information and facts.

Chip Berlet, an expert on right wing fanaticism and militarism, wrote an excellent article where he sort of dips into media culpability in mass shootings.

“According to Dr. Marvin Swartz, while “we don’t know whether there was a specific relationship between the political climate that [Loughner] was exposed to and his thinking, it’s a reasonable line of inquiry to explore.” Swartz explains that “One’s cultural context does [have an effect on] people’s thinking and particularly their delusions. It gives some content and shape to their delusions.” Swartz, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University, says it is legitimate to study “the cultural influences on people’s delusions or persecutory thinking,” and consider “different aspects of culture” and the how they affect people’s behavior—even the actions of terrorists.”
“The link between mass media vilification of a scapegoated group and incidents of aggression and violence against that group is well-established. Not everyone gripped by the media massage reacts by assaulting or killing the scapegoat, however, and a few people actively resist the campaign. Some terrorists write a script in which they see themselves as a Superhero out to avenge a wrong—real or illusory. Men in the United States seem oddly attracted to this role which intersects with guns and violence.”

Limiting the press, not being facetious now, would be a horrible idea. Although, given the state of today’s media, obsessed with sensationalism, obsessed with being first not right, obsessed with ratings not facts, I don’t know what harm it would do since they aren’t fulfilling their obligation as the fourth estate. Anyways, let’s operate off the premise that we don’t want to limit their rights (much like they’re cheering to limit the 2nd Amendment which is right after theirs). What do we do? Well, journalistic and news institutions have propriety policies. They are allowed, legally, to show you the most horrific terrifying shit, dead bodies, naked people, sex acts, so long as it falls in the guise of news. The reason they don’t show you this stuff is because they have a propriety policy, where they have come together as a board in their organization and said that it doesn’t add any good information to show a dead body so we’re not going to show that at 10 p.m. As a matter of fact they don’t do it because it could turn people off from their station. So, they have their own limiting laws and practices already. Another limitation they put on themselves, they usually won’t put out information unless they have a certain number of identifiable, independent sources confirming that information. They already limit themselves, why not with coverage of mass shooters in the name of public safety.

Then why not ask these institutions to limit themselves when it comes to coverage of a mass shooting? Give the news and the facts then move along. Why should they do this? Because as you can read in the Chip Berlet article they are adding to the “superhero complex” that these mass shooters need in order to commit their crime. So, if we’re going to make all this limitations of freedom, especially concerning gun rights which are just as protected in the Constitution as speech, in the name of safety, should we start front the top and work our way down. If there’s nobody rooting these people on in the national media that just might stop some of these guys from acting out their macabre fantasy.


Fowl Ideas said...

James Holmes is not a mystery. He's an embarrassment.

Enjoy the Soup.

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