Friday, July 20, 2012

The Tragedy in Colorado

Last night a young man dressed for battle (or as my local paper said, as a SWAT officer) and entered a movie theater in Denver and proceeded to shoot people.  He did so after throwing a tear gas canister into the theater, perhaps for concealment or to create confusion.  The casualty count was high, with several dozen wounded and around a dozen killed.  It's a terrible situation.

There are appropriate responses to this in public forums, and inappropriate responses.  We should offer sympathy for the victims and their families and friends.  We should support justice for the offender.  We can ponder the situation, learn from it and be better prepared ourselves.  Those are all positive responses on the day after a tragedy.

What we shouldn't do is postulate the motives of the killer, try to pin blame on people we don't like or use the death of people to emotionally advance a political agenda.  We saw the media do this with Jared Loughner a couple years ago.  Many media outlets started blaming random "right wing" people and groups- they surmised it must have been the Tea Party stirring up the violence, or people like Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin.  When it turned out Jared was more of a lefty all those assumptions were proven wrong.  I'd like to suggest they were even slander.

The sad thing is the media didn't learn from it.  They are so eager to be first with a story, they have given up the concept of accuracy.  Reason magazine has done a good job of cataloging media reports that jump to conclusions and assign blame on this story.  One of my favorite blogs, Says Uncle, has a similar report offering some entertaining commentary.  Without knowing facts, these so called "journalists" and news companies have started slinging accusations without basis.  From blaming the Tea Party, to the loss of Christian values, to video games, to the Occupy Wall Street movement and even Star Trek.  It's all conjecture at this point.  And I'm going to suggest that not only is this speculation an immoral attempt to make money, but it's illegal slander as well.

Because that's what the news organizations are- multi-billion dollar companies.  And the best way to try to change their habits is to stop supporting them, stop watching and reading the sensationalism and funding their profits.  Very rarely do they report anything useful anyway, and there are better sources for the news.  Today you can read the news directly from the Associated Press (which admittedly, have their own issues) which is where the big news companies get their stories.  Or go to sources you respect.  Every visit to Fox, MSNBC or CNN puts money in their pocket from advertising.  It's time to stop supporting these companies.

Today is a day of mourning and waiting for the facts.  In a few days I'll share my thoughts on practical solutions to preventing mass shootings in the US.

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