Sadly, another disgruntled person with access to a gun made a dramatic, ugly statement today. Oh, not that he had any verbal prefacing remarks before releasing his anger . It was visual only. And graphic. He took video as he went ballistic. He knew the news wires would get the alert on the shootings, and send out a satellite truck, a reporter and a camera operator to “get that story!”
Television news programs, whether big market or small market will, unless some stunning, natural or man-made mass disaster demands full attention, likely lead each broadcast with whatever the news editor deems be a most attention-getting story. You may have heard the derisive phrase if it bleeds, it leads invoked regarding such choices for the news anchors to breathlessly proclaim as “breaking news!” or “developing story!” before jumping to the on-the-spot reporter rushed to that fire, that drive-by shooting, a horrific traffic accident. Get video! Sure. I saw this first hand when I briefly interned at a Chicago news station years ago.
In a most bitter, ironic twist on this news media modus operandi aimed at immediately grabbing the attention of the viewers, this morning’s crazed gunman’s victims were, of all possible victims, a female reporter and her male cameraman, working for WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia, out shooting a routine story on tourism in Moneta, Virginia. Those viewing this sedate remote news segment watched the 24 year-old reporter and the woman she was interviewing get shot. The shooter, wearing a video camera, captured his own actions and the cameraman being shot and then posted it on social media. He then fled, was cornered by police, at which time he turned the gun on himself and then took a couple of hours to die at a nearby hospital. The shooter, as it turns out, was an ex WDBJ reporter himself. His left-behind “manifesto” indicates he felt unfairly dismissed by the station.
One can only imagine the WDBJ news viewer’s shock, revulsion and disbelief of a typical, live remote “fluff” piece of general interest reporting perversely transformed into it’s own crime scene. The shooter’s POV video briefly being available on social media added to the surreal aspect of this profoundly regrettable instance of what has otherwise become a rather not-so-unusual news story in the United States: gun violence and deaths, in varying numbers of victims.
It’s really not shocking that this emotionally twisted person killed two people. It’s not shocking that he was able to get guns. Sad, but no longer shocking. The only people for whom unadulterated “shock” ensued from this particular crazed gunman story would be those who watched it on live TV, rather than in the usual after-the fact, news reporting of a now common type of crime. Also, those working at WBDJ had to have been quite personally devastated on a few dizzying levels. Try to maintain an objective sense of electronic journalism when the blood and death being mulled over happen to be your own reporter and cameraman, killed while on the air! Their world turned inside out and upside down. And, by professional extension, broadcasters everywhere feeling a little less secure about that next remote assignment.
So, what to make of this latest shooting tragedy that took the lives of two young people? Beyond the fact that this gun-toting man with a mentally deranged mission had a live TV audience and another one in social media land (ever-so-briefly), it surely is not inherently a story that will change the non-existent debate on gun control. Let’s face it, when 20 six and seven year-old children can be slaughtered, along with six adult staff members at Sandy Hook elementary school in December 2012, and our political “leaders” can’t muster the will to stand up to the NRA lobby, then there is no further debate on the issue. The NRA has won. Each time another wacko with a reason to feel slighted grabs a gun–or an arsenal–takes down a couple, a few, a dozen or twenty-six or more people, the NRA can etch another notch on its pearl handled metaphorical pistol it holds to heads of virtually every gutless member of congress. Every disgruntled spouse who walks into his/her (usually it’s a gunman) former lover’s place of work or stalks his prey and shoots and kills said ex; every gang-banger who picks off a kid sitting on the stoop, whether that stoop-sitter was the intended target or not; every time a convenient store clerk gets whacked by some junkie, or not if but when the next domestic, born-and-bred citizen plans and carries out mass carnage, the NRA will issue their pathetic dogma about guns not killing people, but criminals getting guns illegally doing all the harm, and how we need to arm the store clerks, the teachers, the ushers at the movie houses and live performance venues, arm the wait staffs at every restaurant from Alinea to Arby’s, and now even the news reporters sent out to cover the dead and wounded resulting from access to everything from Saturday night specials to AK-47s and shoulder-mounted rocket launchers need to pack some heat of their own. Each of these seemingly inevitable breaking news! stories will further resound with the deafening silence of the non-existent gun control issue.
Get the body bags. Mark off the crime scene. Start the investigation of how and why. Investigate the mental health records of the shooter (who usually commits suicide afterwards). It’s a mental health issue, not a gun issue, you see.
At this rate, we will all succumb to the NRA’s utopian desire to have any and all good citizens armed to the teeth. How else to feel safe? After all, there are guns, guns, guns galore to fulfill this fight-fire-with-fire fantasy.
When that flood of firearms becomes reality, I predict the most common manner in which relationships will be broken up will be a murder/suicide scenario. We humanoids are so emotional! We get very angry and descend into mental imbalance. And to quote a character from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, “there’s nothing as sweet as revenge!” And recall that, as the saying goes, “revenge is a dish best served cold.” Hot heads, but cold-blooded all at once.
So, when will we address the issue of so many mentally ill people in our society? I’m sure that will be a huge campaign issue in next year’s elections.
Or never mind. Nothing to see here. Move along. Clear the street! Go back to watching TV. You’ll might get a real bang out of it.