This Video Needs to Be Replayed After Every Mass Shooting in America

by David Harris Gershon –

When mass shootings occur, as happened in Santa Barbara, the only thing most mainstream news outlets can be counted on for is this: an endless dissection of the shooter, which becomes nothing more than an ironic glorification of this anti-hero-in-the-making.

In other words: what we find are complete and utter abdications of journalistic responsibility in the name of swelling rating. Do we find thoughtful analyses of gun control laws? Nope. Or discussions on the 2nd Amendment from a constitutional perspective? Not likely.

What will we find? Grainy video of the shooter from when he was in kindergarten or when she played Cinderella in 5th grade. Pictures from his high school prom or with her first car. Letters he wrote to his spurned lover or texts she sent to her friends.

What we find are media outlets not covering these events, but socially influencing their preponderance, as Charlie Brooker in the essential video below (and Roger Ebert after it) both argue.

Interestingly, Roger Ebert eloquently expressed a nearly identical sentiment in his review of Elephant.

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

Now, let me be clear: I do not blame CNN for mass shootings in America. There are too many forces at play, with the NRA and our country’s disdain for sound gun control front and center.

However, do I blame CNN and other networks for sensationalizing and glorifying these events, making it more likely for them to happen within an environment which makes them all too easy to perpetrate in America?

You’re God-damn right I do.

David Harris-Gershon is the author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos