News as Gossip: A diatribe
When I woke up this morning, most of this wasn't true.
What happened? The news reports didn't rely on police reports (which, as of the time I write, again has not issued any definitive statements about the shooter beyond his name and a request to leave the families of the dead alone). The news reports relied on gossip; on hearsay; on reports 'corroborated" by other people who had heard the same thing. At least, that's the only conclusion we can draw right now.
CNN and FoxNews gained year end fame again for mis-reporting the ruling by the Supreme Court regarding "Obamacare." FoxNews famously misled its entire audience about how the Presidential election would turn out. And now this, with MSNBC and AP and every other news outlet covering itself in ignominy. It pales in comparison to the tragedy, of course; but it also makes the tragedy that much worse. There will be people who go to their graves convinced that Adam "Ryan" Lanza's mother was a teacher at the school, that he was allowed into the building, guns and all, and that this killing had something to do with a family dispute. Now we're being told Mrs. Lanza was a gun collector, and that the guns used were expensive handguns owned only by collectors and/or the wealthy. Is this true? Have the police released this information? The last press conference I saw, the CT State Police insisted they were tracing down the registered owners of the guns used in the crime. Barely an hour later, MSNBC reported the guns were registered to Adam Lanza's mother, the 'gun collector.'
But is this true, or false? And by the time we find out, how many versions of the truth will be circulating about this story?
It is bad enough such crimes happen and that they inspire others to commit such crimes. Is there a link between this shooting and the mall shooting a few days earlier? If there is, it can only be in the news coverage, in the massive attention paid to senseless violence when it occurs to white Americans on such a public scale. As Melissa Harris-Perry pointed out this morning, over 400 Americans have died in Chicago in gun violence as of September; statistics say 32 Americans die of gun violence every day. But they aren't mass shootings and they don't predominantly involve white people, so....
Maybe this isn't the time to say this. Maybe this isn't the time to point out the egregious failings of the media. Surely Mayor Michael Bloomberg is right, and this is a time for action, not words. It is certainly not a time for still more abstract discussions about causes and effects and "violence" as if it were a force all its own, and the "desire to know" as if that,too, were are force of history or something "larger than us" to which we must all bend and sway. I'm as disgusted by the media frenzy for any scrap of noise they can justify publicizing as I am by the thought of one human being slaughtering so many other human beings, especially children, before apparently realizing what he had done and killing himself. I am as dismayed by our society's acceptance and glorification and employment of violence as the root and basis of entertainment as I am by our acceptance of violence in everyday life, so long as it isn't OUR everyday life. I am wearied by the discussions of abstractions about "mental illness" and talk (on NPR yesterday) about how violence just seems bad but in the grand scheme of things isn't because statistically schools are safer now than they were in the '90's. Tell that to the grieving parents of Newtown.
Or the talk of what really causes such violence. It's caused by poverty, or local gun laws, or political preference. If the latest stories about Adam Lanza are true, if his house was large and the guns he used expensive, then we are down to considering not his mental health, but only who he voted for in November.
The problem with gun violence is guns. Period. Guns do not protect you from guns. That stupid response should die now, and the morons who promote it should be shamed out of human society. And the ammunition of guns should be taxed. Now.
It should cost more to fire a gun than to purchase one. Period. Drive the price up on the open market, it won't go down on the black market. Perhaps sell it tax free at licensed shooting ranges with strict access to bullets sold and fired, so none can leave the range. Or just let shooting ranges fall silent; that wouldn't bother me, either. Just tax the stuff. You may have a right to keep and bear arms; no one can seriously argue you have a Constitutional right to fire one.
Do not speak to me of hunters and "responsible gun owners" and the like. I know such people, too. But these are the people we are responding to, or not responding to:
The “tactical” turn is what I want to flag here. It has what I take to be a very specific use-case, but it’s used - liberally - by gun owners outside of the military, outside of law enforcement, outside (if you’ll indulge me) of any conceivable reality-based community: these folks talk in terms of “tactical” weapons, “tactical” scenarios, “tactical applications,” and so on. It’s the lingua franca of gun shops, gun ranges, gun forums, and gun-oriented Youtube videos. (My god, you should see what’s out there on You Tube!) Which begs my question: in precisely which “tactical” scenarios do all of these lunatics imagine that they’re going to use their matte-black, suppressor-fitted, flashlight-ready tactical weapons? They tend to speak of the “tactical” as if it were a fait accompli; as a kind of apodeictic fact: as something that everyone - their customers, interlocutors, fellow forum members, or YouTube viewers - experiences on a regular basis, in everyday life. They tend to speak of the tactical as reality.I am tired of living in their world. I am tired of what they are doing to the real world. And I think the "Error of the Year" was pronounced prematurely, and given to too few news outlets.
And I think there’s a sense in which they’ve constructured their own (batshit insane) reality.
One in which we have to live.
And I think we should all shut up, and think of the dead, and spare a thought for the living, and whatever comfort we can give or offer them. May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep the hearts and minds of all who lost friends, family, loved ones, or who had persons they love who were wounded, in the knowledge and love of God and the comfort of Christ be with them. Or at least this.
Even Mike Huckabee deserves the peace of God; although he is still an ass.
Update: this morning on NPR they reported the speculation that the shooter perhaps suffered from Asperger's Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. There is no evidence whatsoever for this, but it didn't stop the reporter from talking about the speculation for the next five minutes, and wrapping it into a discussion of "mental illness."
I don't think this is ever going to stop.