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The Flaw of America's Media Coverage on Mass Shootings

Info: 2684 words (11 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in Media

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 In recent years the number of mass shootings has risen and deceased, but the number of average deaths per mass shootings has increased along with the number of injuries in the 2000s (Lott, 2015). Some sources and researchers are vague on their idea of what a mass shooting is, so this paper will be following the idea that a mass shooting is four or more people are injured or dead because of a gun. The numbers of mass shootings have decreased after the late 2000s leading into the 2010s (Schmidt, Michael S., 2014). Large media corporations have reported only on mass shootings that help push their policies and political opinions on the average American citizen. While main news media produces their narrative and try and direct the American citizens’ opinion, they indirectly help to create the next person that will attempt the become a mass shooter. The media reporting on the mass shooting is flawed and leads mentally unstable to cause harm to other American citizens, and their reporting hurts families that do not want to be associated with the shooter.

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In 1980 a mass murder was defined as someone who “kills four or more people in a single incident (not including himself), typically in a single location” (Krouse and Richardson, 2015).  It wasn’t until 2000 that Lott and Landes defined a mass shooting as 2 or more victims injured or killed because of a person with a gun. From 2000 to 2013, active shooting incidents increase by 16% (FBI, 2014). Active shooting incidents do not mean anyone was hurt nor was anyone killed, but it’s someone who has or is thought to had attempted to kill another person. This definition for a mass shooting will change the data to be higher because of the inclusion of people who are thought to have attempted a mass shootings with the addition of people who actually committed a mass shooting.  From 2009 to 2017 mass shooting incidents have declined. Mass shootings over the years have been reported by the media and they vaguely describe how mass shootings are increasing by stating that gun incidents are increasing (Schmidt, Michael S., 2014). Gun incidents is a play on words, so people may shift from actual mass shootings that have occurred and people who the government thinks attempted to become a mass shooter. This change in word can help their argument with the illusion that gun violence and gun incidents are the same things and that illusion leads to data looking as if gun violence is increasing at an alarming rate. Since the 1980s, the school shooter has increased to the 2010s (K-12 School Shooting Database). Since there is an increase in school shootings, there has to be a reason for the trend.

 Major news organizations cover mass shooting, mostly public, that fit their narrative, and it supports the news organization’s political opinions and policies. Before 2012, large news organizations like the Times Magazine had little to no articles on mass shootings, and when they did cover the shootings to was limited to a small amount (Schildkraut, Jaclyn; Elsass, H. Jaymi; Meredith, Kimberly, 2017).  After the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, news organizations cover mass shootings with more emotions and more frequently than before. The “Times covered 90 percent of shootings involving a Middle Eastern perpetrator, 74.3 percent of shootings with a white perpetrator and 60 percent of shootings with a Latino perpetrator” (Jason R. Silva  and Joel A. Capellan, 2018) which cause people not been able to learn about mass shootings that don’t fit the news organizations narrative or political ideals. So, only ratings, political ideologies, and political policies matter to large news organizations, while they fail to report on the atrocities within the U.S.

 The news organizations that continue to push their ideas and their reports on mass shootings lead to the creation of copycats that will want to kill and injure more people in a more memorable or sacred place. The reason for this is because of news organizations that air on a TV channel focuses on the perpetrator. The media’s focus on the shooter, more than the victims, when there isn’t a heroic bystander. When there is a heroic bystander the people seem to, on average, focus on the heroic acts the bystander took to stop the perpetrator (Ordway, Denise-Marie, 2018). When the media focus on the perpetrator it on what they did and his/her ideas or manifesto leads to a brief time of fame that is viewed by the mentally unstable as a time for their ideas to reach U.S. citizens with their ears open and minds attentive to their thoughts on the universe. The more that are killed or dead the more likely that the media will cover the incidents longer and the more likely a copycat will try to try to kill more people. A study done by Sherry Towers, Andres Gomez-Lievano, Maryam Khan, Anuj Mubayi, and Carlos Castillo-Chavez concluded that there is a temporary increase in the likelihood that another mass shooting will happen after a mass shooting story reaches news sources and is aired on TV for about 2 weeks. The mentally ill will gain the idea to follow the shooter’s example and try to gain the same fame or better. This thought process of following the example is why some mass shootings, on average, have become more lethal because people plan where most people will be to be able to kill or injure more people.

 One connection between most mass shooter that killed in public areas with no specific targets is that they are mentally unstable and narcissistic. A study in 1999, by McGee and DeBernardo, found that 18 U.S. school shooters had a narcissistic superiority attitude (Bushman, Brad J., 2017).  In 2009 a study by Langman found that narcissistic attitude between 14% – 20% of school shooters (Bushman, Brad J., 2017).  Helen Smith conducted over 4,000 interviews with violent youths and concluded that narcissism is a distinct trait in school shooters  (Bushman, Brad J., 2017). “however, neither a compelling theoretical rationale nor a persuasive body of empirical evidence exists to support the overarching assumption that aggressive and violent people usually suffer from low self-esteem (Brad J Bushman, 2017).  There is the thought that low self-esteem is because people are aggressive and violent, but the study stated earlier said that this thought isn’t true. It now thought that school shooters tend to have a narcissistic superiority attitude.

 The shooter does not only affect the victims of the crime they commit, but they also affect the lives of their relatives and friends. The families of mass shooters are shown in a negative light by large news organizations that lead families to hide from society or beg for forgiveness from their communities for the actions that their relative committed.  Aradhana Bela Sood is  a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Virginia Commonwealth University and she committed on the family of the Las Vegas shooter:

“It was a surreal experience, watching the grief of a family coming apart,” Sood told The Washington Post. “They had learned that they were the parents of this evil character who murdered that many people in cold blood. They carried such guilt, and you could see it. It’s as if their life had stopped. They were undone by their shame, she said, shut off from their community in America and from their family overseas. A great aunt in South Korea commented publicly that it wouldn’t be wise for Cho’s parents to flee to their native country. “We wouldn’t let them return,” she told Time magazine, “and would even try and block them if they tried.”. Even exes find themselves marked by their shared history with a shooter, called to account for the actions of the person they’re no longer affiliated with.”  (Sood, Aradhana Bela, 2017).

The parents and family members of the shooter are guilty of the idea that they are associated with the shooter by blood and/or family ties. The families of shooters usually do not believe that they would commit such atrocities and sometimes gain little to no signs that their relative is planning or is about to attempt a mass shooting. The families are remembered for the notorious atrocity that another family member committed. Families look at their children as a problem that they failed to fix, and this leads to a title of parents of mass murder or monster. Parents and friend usually don’t think it possible for their family member or friend would be possible to commit such an act, and even if the person gain support there is still the chance that they will attempt or succeed in following through with their idea. 

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 One solutions smaller news organizations suggest, and some have tried, is that they do not name the shooter nor do they list their ideas and/or manifesto. The idea behind this is that the shooter can not gain a brief period of fame that some shooters are looking for. It wouldn’t lure people to think that this act will get them noticed by citizens. The news organizations would list the place, time, victims, and heroes of the event and what lead the shooter to commit the act. Not wanting to censor free speech it would be best to list the name of the shoot on the news organization’s website because most people hear about the mass shooting through TV. When the name is on the website fewer people will be less inclined to read the shooter’s name and ideas/manifesto, thus helping and somewhat protecting the families of the shooters. Copycats looking for a short period of fame or someone working through a mental illness who look at shooters as an inspiration wouldn’t be able to gain the fame they want preventing everything they worked for. 

 People may argue that we should have the name, face, and ideas of the shooter present on broadcasting TV stations because people would want the shooter’s name on television so it’s easier to find. But, the information is to be online under an article that is for the public view because it’s supposed to not lure people who have a mental illness, are fame-seeking racial thinkers, or are mentally unstable in the current period. The solution that some news organizations follow is not to stop those who want to know more about the shooter, but it’s to stop the idea that someone who seeks to gain the attention of most Americans the said person must commit an atrocious act. Copycats get their idea from the previous mass shooter and try to become worse than the previous shooter to stand out from the rest. Yet, there will be those who think that that there isn’t any connection between reporting on the mass shooter and the frequency between shootings, but there is data that supports the claim made that the rate at which the probability increases.

This paper in no way, shape, or form supports censorship forced by the U.S. government or private businesses and condemns any who wish to force censorship of language, except that of the call to action. This paper only supports and encourages news organizations to change how they report on mass shootings and shooters.

A mass shooting is an event that will never be supported by a reasonable and sain American citizen because the crime doesn’t solve any problems but only create more than other Americans must solve. It should never be an option an American considers. It is found that reports on mass shootings by some large news organizations do have an increased chance for another mass shooting to happen in a short time period, but no large media organizations mention this. Reports also give a mass shooter a period of fame and give their family guilt for being associated with them. Mental health has a large factor within mass shooters and so is a superior narcissism attitude which is shown within mass shooters personal traits. To combat this new age of violence there needs to be new solutions that differ from previous failed tries of other countries.

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