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These are dark times...

I'm sure you've all read or heard about the Virginia Tech shootings. First and foremost, if any of you lost a friend, or is missing a loved one, my sincerest sympathies go out to you and yours, and I will keep you in my prayers.

Journalistically, I shouldn't say such things. But for the moment, this is my damn blog and I refuse to separate my humanity from my media.

For the record, I think the print media did a stunning job in handling this tragedy, but I hope they are being sensitive to the victims in the local area. As far as broadcast is concerned, I am extremely discontented with the number of "advisors" hastily condemning the University and police responses (See: CNN, MSNBC, and FOX). I am disturbed that the shooter's "possible" race was disclosed before it was confirmed, and before any other identifying information was made available. I am also concerned about the amount of video of the event being pumped onto the internet for the morbidly curious consumer. I worry that such a thing is even desired by the public.

Yesterday we didn't have many answers. We knew the gunman is dead, but we did not know his name nor do we know his motives. We have seen pictures of a cuffed student being detained, but we do not know if there is/was an accomplice. We know 32 people were killed, we know that this is the largest school killing yet. We know that parents and students are discontent with the University's response time and system of notification. Yesterday, that was the nut of what we concretely knew.

But what are we doing with it? If the AOL message boards are any indicator, members of the American population are - by and large - taking pot-shots guessing the race of the killer. This is both absurd and highly disturbing. Not only does this kind of reaction illustrate that care for our fellow man so diluted within this culture, but it also is indicative of the pervasive racism that still lurks within our melting-pot culture. As if determining the race of the killer would be an indicator of anything at all.

There is also a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment floating around that is very disturbing. Several people have asked if the killer was a Muslim, which shows that America's growing ignorance and bigotry towards Muslims as a result of the terrorist actions of few. Most Muslims, and I know a great many, are pacifists who will readily tell you that Islam - contrary to sensational belief - does not support acts of violence. It's all blown out of proportion.

Others are pointing fingers at Bush, claiming the incident was a terrorist act he should have stopped. While yes, the act itself was terrifying and committed with the intent to terrorize, by no means do we have any evidence to support that it was sponsored by a terrorist organization, or that this was planned by a network of evil-doers. The word terrorism has become so skewed in our vernacular. Furthermore, Bush is only one person. He is not wired to a cross-continental supercomputer that can shut down any facility at a moment's notice. If this tragedy is linked to terrorism, and was planned by an organization, perhaps it could have been noticed. But if it is simply the act of one individual like the Oklahoma City Bombing, or even two - as in the case of Columbine, or any other massacre committed by an individual entity, it is ludicrous to expect anyone, let alone the President of the United States of America, to have known beforehand.

Others still are blaming the police for inadequate response to the situation. Perhaps this is spawned out of both the incompletion of the initial reports and the lack of public knowledge about the workings of the police force, but again - blame-game tactics are not helping the situation. Security was not the problem, and increasing the security available will not concretely prevent rampages such as these. There is no quick fix of adding extra officers because the tax-payers may not be able to support it. The police responded to the initial shooting and handled it as a domestic dispute and began planning to search for the killer. Neither they nor the University had no reason to assume he would travel 2,600 acres to kill an extra 31 people. Could things have been handled differently? Yes, and perhaps it would have saved lives, but shouldn't we try to eliminate the problem instead of bickering and then scrambling to learn how to be really good at responding to these catastrophes? Should we lock-down entire communities every time someone is murdered? It simply isn't feasible. How do you communicate with 24,000 people instantaneously, especially when 11,000 or more may be in transit?

America, I am disgusted. I seldom report or write on politics or violent happenings, but that does not mean I don't keep up. Have we really become this reactionary? When did logic and reason die? What has become of proportion and context?

I realize that AOL Message boards may not be an entirely credible source for adequate representation of the population, but the fact of the matter remains that the forum is updated with several new threads each second. An impressive number of people are there and they are communicating over this amazing medium called the Internet... and this is what the public is saying.

This is not the media. This is what America is doing with the media it receives. Fact-based reporting is dissolved into bigotry, ignorance, blame-games based on poorly-informed political rants, and hate.

Occasionally you will find a person or two on the boards, typically Christians, saying that we should all be deeply saddened by this tragedy and keep the families and friends of the victims in our prayers. This gives me hope, at least a shred. But it is not enough.

If this becomes a digestible media event, where reporters swarm and produce an account of a tragedy which the public consumes and then spews back a garbled message like the ones seen on the boards, we are lost. What use are documentaries like Bowling for Columbine or films like Elephant and Bang Bang, You're Dead that seek to explain or at least investigate this horrible phenomenon when Americans are so unwilling to understand the situation intelligently? If we hastily point fingers, ignore contrasting ideas, reaffirm old prejudices, and then move on to the forum about Britney Spears's fashion choices nothing will ever change. We live in a world of distractions, but at some point we need to stop and actually look at ourselves if we ever want to understand what about our particular culture spawns these violent catastrophes.

Stories like these bring me down. I do not enjoy them. I do not want to read them, and I do not want to think about them, but I do. If I haven't lost you yet in this vichyssoise of verbiage, then as one concerned citizen talking to another, I urge you to do the same. Do not flip over to American Idol. Read these stories, think on them in silence for at least 15 minutes, and talk to people about it.

I believe truth and goodness can prevail. I believe people can be taught, opinions can be changed, and problems can be solved but understanding is crucial. In this case, understanding our society and its responses, it needs to begin at the base with the individual.

This particular individual happens to be a journalist, and she is worried. But she is heading back to the boards nonetheless.

ETA: FOXNews.com went ahead and wrote "what one person described as an Asian male in a vest." Way to go, FOX. Talk about being completely unecessary and tactless. It's amazing. They win that award every time.
ETA2: The "Asian" quote has been added to the AP copy. This is distressing.
ETA3: Edited tenses.

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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2007 06:54 am (UTC)
I really needed to read this. You give journalists a good name. It's been such a fucking long day at work and I've approached this tragedy from every possible angle except for the one I should've taken initially: a respectful one for the dead.
Apr. 17th, 2007 06:59 am (UTC)
I wouldn't be to hard on yourself, lass. You're a fine journalist yourself. Let's stick together though, hey? <3

It's just so alarming to read what objective reporting (at least in regards to print media) turns into. I can't believe I'm reading people who are seriously disappointed that the "score" was killer: 33, cops: 0... as though it's a game. The amount of hate I read makes my soul bleed.

Apr. 17th, 2007 07:10 am (UTC)
Wow. Some people are ridiculous. Blaming the president? whaaa?
Apr. 17th, 2007 11:13 am (UTC)
I've not seen anybody say anything about muslims yet, which is surprising.

I've actually seen numerous news stations say that about the description of the gunman. Plus, many witnesses claim it was an asian kid. Like that isn't just some throwaway random rumor that fox news decided to talk about. It was on CNN and MSN. It was even mentioned on CNN the channel. It was everywhere. Fox news is a bit biased, though, or so I've heard. IDK, I didn't really think anything of it, as in I didn't know people were getting mad that they were mentioning the race. IDK. They always do that on the news station here, so idk maybe I just don't notice anymore.

AOL is a stupid company. I haven't used AOL in almost 5 years, and I remember how stupid half of the people on there were. A lot of them were like religiously following the American government to the grave.

The thing is, they should have locked down that campus. If somebody came to your school with a gun, shot and killed two people, your school should at least be put on alert, if anything. They didn't even send an email out until 2 hours later. My cousin even told me that, he goes to VTech. That's what everybody was so angry about.

Anyway though, LMAO. Sorry my comment was so long!!!
Apr. 17th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
Don't worry about length... 'cause I'll probably double it.
In watching the news unfold, initially there was no mention of race. Ethically and morally, I believe there never should have been. The first mention of race came in via FOX as the story progressed. Unless I missed something else, the print media left it out of their report until after FOX and the other broadcast media folk went around discussing the shooter's race.

I think it's dangerous to be dismissive of AOL. They aren't responsible for the conduct of people on their boards. They may have something to do with the sort of people attracted to their boards, but I don't think that matters in this particular instance. I also think, while it is fair to say that there is a large amount of ignorance and hate on the boards around there, with several people being plainly antagonistic, dismissing them as stupid and turning away doesn't necessarily help. Granted, there is only so much one person can do, but part of the ignorance thrives is because the informed public lets it.

Furthermore, I don't think patriotism is a problem. I would die for this country, and I am very dissatisfied with our current government. Blind, fanatic patriotism based on talking-points is dangerous, and I think the Internet makes hyperbole all to easy... but I would go so far as to say being willing to die for your country, for the greater good, is noble.

About the campus lockdown, I really don't think it's being treated fairly. With all the advisors condemning them, it's been sensationalized already. I go to a campus of 40,000. We've had incidents (no homicides) and they don't close down the school. They send out an e-mail warning students to be cautious because there is no reason to assume it's going to happen immediately again or escalate. The facts remain that most suspects flee the scene of the crime.

If we dissect it from the numbers, the response does make sense. This began as a domestic homicide issue. Two people were killed in a dorm room and the shooter fled. Police had absolutely no reason to assume he or anyone else was going to be hurt, let alone assume the shooter would travel to a building on the opposite end of campus to kill dozens more. It is completely illogical, no one could have anticipated that move.

While I agree that e-mail may not have been the best route (some students just don't check it), it does make sense. Whenever someone is mugged or raped at my campus we don't shut down the whole campus because there is a person with a weapon. We are alerted by e-mail and by our RA's if we live in the dorms. Shutting down campus with all the commuters is just not feasible. If we shut down entire communities every time a person was murdered, a quarter of Americans would be inside their homes every day.
Apr. 17th, 2007 11:45 am (UTC)
So so terrible, it's a tragedy. Not that it means anything but everyone even down here in lil australia is deeply concerned and upset about the whole thing.

It's probably .... not the time etc but do you have any thoughts about the right to bear arms?

I ask coz you know I respect your intelligence and opinion and given that the only other people I've spoken to this are australians (aside from my boss' boss who is .... well.... very arrogant and opinionated on the matter but we won't go into that here) I'd like to see your view.

thanks Muffins :) Hope you're doing well, all tragedy aside
Apr. 17th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
My bestie Carmen is in Australia right now, and a lot of people have been asking her why America is so violent. She doesn't have an answer.

I do have thoughts on the right to bear arms. Firstly, I grew up in a house that had over a dozen guns. My father is a hunter, and he believes ardently in the 2nd Amendment. He has a couple of pistols, one that he keeps in his room in case someone ever breaks into our house. He believes that if we all carried weapons, there would be less crime. He also believes that if the government ever turned tyrannical (*cough cough*), the people would be able to fight back.

I do not believe that guns are dangerous. I believe that people with guns can be dangerous. It's always the individual choice. I grew up with guns easily accessible. My father recently purchased a gun-safe. I think the key to safe gun possession is education. People need to be educated about firearms and firearm safety. Lots of people in this country have never seen a gun, let alone shot one. I, myself, was once a champion trap-shooter in the 20 gauge shotgun range.

As far as increasing security on guns, it would depend greatly on the proposed plan. Licensing firearms is responsible, and it should be done. Criminals should not be able to purchase weapons, but the fact remains that even IF they are disallowed to buy a weapon - anyone who is determined enough will get what they want. Even if hand-guns are limited to cops only... other weapons will be made or guns will be distributed in other ways.

I think there is good reason to support the 2nd Amendment, and for the most part I do. I don't ever want to own a gun, that is a choice I make, but I am not hasty to blame the situation or this type of tragedy on an inanimate object.

So there's that. :) What are your thoughts, my dear?
Apr. 18th, 2007 10:32 am (UTC)
Well it's certainly nice to see that particular viewpopint argued intelligently and reasonably for a change.

Ohhhh my thoughts are very aussie, I'm honestly not sure if it's the time/place for a debate on this (I'm all the way over here and incapable of judging how sensitive you poor souls over there are about it at the moment. I'm not being sarcastic either, I just really don't want to offend because I am actually really upset about the whole thing)

I just bnasically don't think that the pros of owning a gun outweight the cons. Easy access to a weapon that fires projectiles easily capable of ending life in a point and click manner makes it a great deal easier for hot blooded murder, mass murder and accidental murder than say massively restricted access, where the would-be attacker would probably have to physically bludgeon or stab to death every single person who's life they happened to want to end at that point in time.

The pros for owning a gun include things like self defense and protection..... in which case (ie a burglar came into your house) you would really need to kill the burglar and hide the body well, or else you would be sued massively for excessive use of force and he would wind up with a great deal more than just your vcr/dvd playa.
And even if you did kill the burglar.... then you have blood on your hands. I don't know how strong the average person is in that situation, but sure as hell would not exactly enjoy the feeling of knowing that I was solely responsible for the end of someone's life.
Not to mention that, just like they say about knives, if you pull a gun on someone you really have to use it. Shaky hands invite people to nab the weapon rigth off you.

Not to mention also that I'm fairly sure that the number of accidental shootings involving kids playing with the parents guns (or god forbid taking them to primary school and killing their classmates like a videogame which I believed has happened a number of times) is a few more than several.

Also just going back to the self defense tip, I live in a very laid back and fairly placid, docile city (though it's getting much worse by the day, sadly), thus obviuosly things would be much different for say new york, but exactly how many people find themselves needing to defend their lives against break and entererererers? Sure it may happen to a few people, but I asked the guy at work who was rigorously defending home ownership of guns to think of all the people he knew and then think of all the people he knew who had had their lives threatened in such a manner and managed to solve it adequately byy use of a gun and divide one by the other and come up with a percentage and he opted out.

THOUGH having said all this I know it's all very well and good to sit back and criticise from the back bench and that I may not have all the information. I'm open minded and I know I could be wrong.

If I'm gonna listen to anyone on this, it's you.

Much love, I hope we're not harassing Carmen too much, as much as I hate to admit it, australians can be a bit of a racist, aggressive bunch. If they bug her too much, tell her to tell them to go fuck a dingo haha

(Deleted comment)
Apr. 17th, 2007 11:36 pm (UTC)
I don't think it'll fade away super quickly, but I don't think it'll be around for more than a month. Maybe two weeks at most.

I have read the updated stories, and I might write something else soon on media ethics and the ridiculous dismissive quality to the reports of him being a "loner" as if that is the great key to understanding how this happened. "Oh, he was a "loner," like those Columbine kids. The world makes sense again. I wonder if Sanjaya will get kicked off this week."

It's disgusting that Anna Nicole Smith will get more collective coverate than this. Welcome to America.
Apr. 17th, 2007 11:36 pm (UTC)
I agree with this pretty much completely.
Apr. 18th, 2007 04:08 am (UTC)
I agree whole-heartedly with everything you've said. You never cease to amaze me with your insight and knowledge. I'm so glad you've said this so eloquently, because it says everything that I've been thinking much better than I ever could have. You seriously need to be commended for this post. ♥

Another thing that sickens me about the way some people are handling this is the fact that a lot of people on internet forums and such are making jokes about it. I mean, I know humour is a defense mechanism, but this is hardly an issue to poke fun at. There are so many people, particularly families and friends of the victims, who have been devestated by these events, and ridiculing what's happened and acting like it's nothing serious is completely horrible.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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