Oh, how I would love if I never again had to write about yet another school shooting. But just like the idea of an elected leader carefully considering the impact of his words, the day has passed when we could say, “Hey, no kids died today.”
Even worse, we can’t get away from actual fake news being concocted about school shootings. The victims, survivors and their families apparently haven’t suffered enough—the families of the Sandy Hook victims are still being harassed, five and a half years later, by those who believe that shooting was a hoax. The story is the same for other mass shootings, whether at schools, concerts, churches or elsewhere.
Within hours of the shooting at Santa Fe High School Friday in Texas, hoax trolls and bots were hard at work trying to reshape the narrative. David Z. Morris of Fortune wrote: “Many of those disinformation campaigns seemed focused primarily on politicizing the event, though what little is reliably known of the shooter presents an unclear picture of his political sentiments.”
Because that, not supporting the victims and survivors, was what was important.
Fake Facebook accounts and doctored photos were quickly concocted, and even as the first fakes were taken down by the service, new fakes were being created, all to push the idea that the gunman was a Hillary Clinton supporter, and/or tied to Antifa, or whatever else fit the agenda. Chris Sampson, a disinformation analyst (who thought this job would ever need to come into being?), told the Washington Post that the first fake Facebook account appeared less than 20 minutes after the suspect was first named. “It seemed this time like they were more ready for this,” he told the newspaper. “Like someone just couldn’t wait to do it.”
He added: “For some people, they have no stake in the game, and life is just a big joke.”
Add that to the usual “false flag,” “crisis actor” and other conspiracy theories, as well as the cries of “fake news” whenever people are confronted with something they don’t like, and you can see why so many of us feel as if we’re just beating our heads against the wall.
Sure, some of us have rather hard heads, but it really hurts after a while.
As much as we humans like to create a narrative to help make sense of things, when we do that to escape reality rather than get to the bottom of the situation, it is a danger to all of us. Not every bad thing that happens has a clear-cut cause, and most are the result of a combination of factors.
I’m fairly sure abortion and doors are probably not among those factors, though.
It’s not all about the guns, but more the seemingly uninhibited access to them (and the Santa Fe gunman proved a shotgun loaded with buckshot can be just as deadly as an AR-15-type rifle), a culture that glorifies guns and killing, and the lack of responsibility shown by various entities.
It’s not all about mental illness. Every mass gunman doesn’t have huge red flags like Virginia Tech’s Seung-Hui Cho did, having fallen through the cracks in the mental health system despite numerous psychiatric assessments and at least one judge’s order for treatment. Much of the time, studied have found, violence by the mentally ill is directed toward themselves rather than others. Nor are psychiatric drugs like Ritalin or Prozac necessarily to blame. Researchers including Peter Langman, author of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters, and Katherine S. Newman, who wrote Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings, have found no evidence to support that. Newman found, in fact, “The vast majority of shooters were, sadly, not under any kind of medical supervision.” I think I would trust scientists who actually study school shootings over someone like Oliver North, who has no such background.
(Full disclosure: I take the generic form of Prozac, as well as the generic version of Wellbutrin XL. After a couple of decades of being a functional depressive, I became a lot less functional. Medication helps me function again, but it doesn’t help everybody. Still, becoming more violent on medications such as these or anti-psychotics is rare.)
And please spare me the diatribes about violent video games, television and movies, as those exist elsewhere, just like mental illness, but no other nation seems to have the same problems we do. No less than conservative icon Antonin Scalia (who also made clear that the Second Amendment is not unlimited) has pooh-poohed this notion, writing for the majority in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2011): “Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media.”
Hey, I grew up watching the unexpurgated Bugs Bunny cartoons, and I have yet to engage in any of the “violence” depicted. Of course, that may be because there’s no ACME here …
There is no one answer to all of this, easy or not, but clearly there are things we can do to try to better address the problem, starting with actually admitting there’s a problem only made deadlier by the addition of weapons that allow someone to kill greater numbers of people in less time (nope, a machete or Katana won’t have the same body count that quickly). Most gun owners are responsible. But we can’t ignore that too many aren’t—stockpiling firearms and ammunition, claiming they “need” guns that have no legitimate civilian use (but they look really cool), and threatening those who don’t agree with them, including survivors of mass shootings.
We also can’t ignore that the pervasive tribalism in the nation has had too great an impact on our social discourse. Point out fallacies in one side’s arguments, and you’re obviously carrying water for the other side. Call attention to the fact that few issues are black and white, and you’re a waffler, or you’re part of the Deep State that doesn’t want people to know the truth. Nobody’s listening anymore.
When deadly weapons and other mitigating factors are added to people conditioned by their tribes to be uber-reactionary, you’re asking for trouble. But maybe that’s the point.
Maybe we’re supposed to be in a constant state of fear and anger. Perhaps civil behavior is just too much to expect, especially since we’re all the most important people in the world and our demands must be met no matter how incredible. And maybe we should refuse to discuss some things unless everyone has a Ph.D. in the topic.
We as a society are sick—we’re obsessed with viewing the world as it isn’t, as heaven or hell, paradise or the deep abyss. We don’t want to see what’s right in front of our faces because then we might have to deal with it.
And that’s just messy and not fun at all. It’s much more fun to play politics and attack everyone with whom we disagree.