(Rhona Wise / Contributor / AFP)
Print & Pixels
We All Play Our Parts

Five discomfiting aspects of the media spectacle that now accompanies every mass shooting.

Published on: March 5, 2018
Martha Bayles teaches humanities at Boston College, is author of Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America's Image Abroad (Yale 2014), is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, and a regular columnist for TAI.
show comments
  • Tom Scharf

    “This is also common sense, as expressed by the long-time neighbor who told the Miami Herald that the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, spent hours playing violent video games”

    What about the other 100 million people who play violent video games and don’t become school shooters? The “plays violent video games” label can be attached to 90% of teenage boys. The recent Call of Duty sold 12 million copies since November.

    Attacking people who play violent video games and watch violent movies makes as much sense as attacking law abiding gun owners. What does the author want? Just more outrage or is she suggesting we ban this entertainment? If so then the “science” part is important. They haven’t found a link, but it’s not because they haven’t looked, it’s because they haven’t found one.

    As for the rest, another discomfiting aspect of the coverage is how the media parades the victim’s families around like trophies after a school shooting but never does this after a terror attack. This fits the narrative they want to push. People notice. The entire thought process of “we must pass legislation in the midst of a moral and social panic” is simply crazy.

  • Gary Hemminger

    I am not a big gun fan but how are guns responsible for school shootings? Does a gun have a mind that allows it to be shot without a person attached? I don’t get it. there were guns before and no school shootings. the problem is clearly somewhere else. Certainly guns allow wicked people to kill more people than knives, but if it becomes common place knowledge how to build a bomb, and students use them to kill people, is it the bombs fault? At some point someone has to realize that people pull the trigger. Would Mr. Cruz have not done what he did if he didn’t have access to guns? Maybe he would have used a bomb. And if somehow guns were magically eliminated would Mr. Cruz have somehow been cured of his desire to kill people? Unless someone can successfully answer these questions to my satisfaction, I see no reason why the absence of guns changes anything.

    Also, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If every other mass killing resulted in no new gun laws, why do you think this one will? Try something else for god’s sakes, or I will be within my rights to call you insane.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Did you know that when people pull a trigger not actually attached to a loaded gun that there is no explosion inside a bullet casing and no projectile hurls forward from a barrel at speeds capable of penetrating people?

  • QET

    Well, Bayles is certainly doing her part: many Americans to believe that the young people who stepped into the national limelight after the Parkland shooting are not students but “crisis actors” hired to trick the public into supporting gun control. This morsel of troll-bait has been circulating through pro-gun websites for a long time, swelling on occasion to a full-blown conspiracy theory claiming that no mass shootings have actually occurred in America—that they’ve all been staged by rabid anti-gun Democrats and their accomplices in the liberal media

    First, how many are “many Americans”? Because it might be 1,000. Which sounds like a lot. Until you reflect that in a nation of 340 million, it is nearer to none than to many. Second, giving such prominence to the relative handful of people who believe in the crisis actors thing (although one should note that hoaxing is a typical stratagem of the Left across the range of its causes; and when caught, they plead “raising awareness”), as though such people were representative of anyone other than themselves, is itself the kind of part-playing Bayles decries. And crisis actors or not, scripted questions or not, it is known that these poor kids did not self-organize but were organized immediately by professional organizers whose mission it is to “spontaneously” organize protests against their political enemies. It matters not that the hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of the tens of millions of lawful, background-checked, permitted gun owners are not used to kill other people. What matters is that said gun owners are the political enemy of the progressive Left and its professional “spontaneous demonstration” organizers.

    More importantly, though: Bayles teaches in the city I live in, and unless she has been away on sabbatical or something she will know that in the 2 weeks before the Florida shooting, we had here 2 high school girls stabbed to death by mentally ill boys, and just last week we had still another high-school girl stabbed to death by still another mentally ill boy, who chose her at random. And some years back, in the year before my daughter entered our local high school, a mentally ill boy stabbed another boy, again, chosen at random, to death in the high school restroom. Of course CNN will do no Town Hall on these as it would not serve their political agenda which they don’t even attempt to disguise (and why should they, given the hysteria at large on the Internet?). And anyone who really thinks that four deaths of children at the hands of four mentally ill persons with knives is somehow “less than” 17 child deaths at the hands of one mentally ill person with a gun, is probably mentally ill himself.

    All of the above-described killings had one and the same thing in common, and it was not an AR-15. It was severe mental illness with visibly violent tendencies which was known to local adults. One of the local boys who stabbed a girl to death had been in and out of our local psychiatric hospital, raising the obvious question–why was he out? Another of the stabber boys was like the shooter Cruz–everyone in his neighborhood knew he was deranged and violent and were terrified of him. Yet he roamed the city as freely as you and I. The boy at my local high school was known to be mentally deranged with probable violent tendencies and yet his parents (one of whom was a nurse and knew better) forced the regular high school to accept him because stigma or something. Even normal adolescents can barely handle high school; it’s just a very mentally and emotionally trying time in our lives. Putting a severely mentally ill 15 year-old in a large high school with other 15 year-olds whom he doesn’t even know is recklessness to the point of criminal negligence, or ought to be so considered. That boy had been attending a special school for crazies like himself for years before his parents decided they didn’t want to pay for it any longer and would let him loose in an environment they knew he could not handle. And some poor kid died for their experiment in “destigmatizing” mental illness.

    I have been astounded to see the progressive Left (not saying Bayles is a member) wave off as entirely irrelevant the fact of Cruz’s mental illness and the fact that the authorities knew about it. In my city–4 kids dead by knives wielded by mentally ill teenagers. In every one of those cases the story was about the killer’s mental illness. No one pushed for a knife ban. But now, the only “solution” the Left will even allow to be entertained is to ban and confiscate AR-15s?

    Part-playing or not, such people just cannot be taken seriously (except in the way one takes a tsunami seriously).

  • Kenneth Currie

    So, Martha, interesting analysis. Now that you have said you want to put a plague on both houses, do you have a practical solution to the problem that does not involve berating both sides?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2018 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.