In the wake of the shootings at First Baptist Church in Sunderland Springs, Texas, where 26 people were killed, I was assaulted by the following headline by multiple news sources: “Columbine is no longer one of the 10 deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history.” I understand why the media is doing this. They’re trying to get the point across that there’s been so many mass shootings recently that one of country’s greatest tragedies has been eclipsed by recent events. However, in doing so they’ve done a great disservice to many people in the process.
First off, in this society that either only reads the headlines, or only clicks on listicle links, it lessens the impact of Columbine and what happened there. While there were other school shootings in the late 1990s prior to Columbine, Columbine was the flashpoint where school shootings were added to the common American vernacular and has sadly influenced almost every school shooting since. To say it’s been somehow ‘demoted’ from this dubious list not only lessens its historical impact, but it also trivializes the lives and deaths of the 13 victims who died and the many who were left with lifetime scars from the Columbine shooting.
Secondly, lists like this that are ranked by body count, turn mass shootings into a competition. While I’m not saying this article will spur dozens of mass shooters trying to make the ‘top ten’, there may be at least one who was already planning a mass shooting who’s now looking to crack the list. This is not a competition. All the numbers listed on the article are people who are now dead due to some selfish asshole who couldn’t deal with their own inadequacies in their lives.
In my opinion this is irresponsible journalism designed to get clicks rather than to inform.
First off, the term Millennial is incredibly vague. While most old people think Millennials are just kids who do stuff that old people don’t understand, the more scientific term are people who were born somewhere between the mid-1980s to early 2000s. First of all these generational labels are garbage. I was born in the late 60s and I’m considered part of Generation X, that includes people who were born up until the early 1980s. That’s a huge gap for an entire generation considering this includes people who grew up during the 70s, 80s and 90s. Gen X was mostly considered to be the slacker generation but that label didn’t become popular until the mid 90s where I was old enough to have been holding a job for almost 10 years. I grew up listening to heavy metal in the 80s, but other Gen Xers grew up listening to grunge and alternative in the 90s. I personally wouldn’t consider these two groups of people as belonging to the same generation. To drive the point even further home, the Columbine cowards of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were both born in the early 80s. I was 30 when Columbine happened. I would definitely not consider us all part of the same generation. When I was in high school, school shootings weren’t even a thing. So to lump everyone who was born from 1985 to 2000 in the same generational generalization is narrow-minded.
Secondly, the article presents the argument that one of the reasons these young men commit such atrocities is because the male Millennial brain doesn’t ‘fully develop’ until the age of 25. I’ve been hearing this argument for years when it comes to charging juvenile school shooters as adults. Defense attorneys often trot out the undeveloped brain concept in order to have their clients exonerated or sent to juvenile detention for mass murder. While the brain may not be fully developed until the age of 25, people know the difference between right and wrong, and life and death much younger than that. If they don’t then they’re psychopaths.
I think there are two reasons behind most of these mass shootings. The first, as I’ve said many times before, is a lot of these people were raised by inattentive parents who take no interest in their children’s lives and allow their unhealthy obsessions and mental health issues to fester. These parents are also part of the generation who told their kids they were special snowflakes and then act surprised when their kids can’t deal with failure or disappointment. That’s not exclusive to Millennials. The second is the internet. While the internet allows everyone to find a voice, it also allows them to wallow in their obsessions no matter how violent or depraved they might be.
In conclusion, you can manipulate statistics into any outcome you want. What we need to remember is that we are all responsible for own actions and so are mass murderers. There are no excuses.
I didn’t plan on blogging about the Las Vegas shooting. I felt just as bad about it as I did when 9/11 happened. As a matter of fact because of my depression I haven’t been able to blog about two school shootings that took place recently. Then I saw something claimed about the shooter, Stephen Paddock, that made my blood boil and I couldn’t remain silent on this.
Some online political rag, who I won’t link to because they don’t deserve the traffic, used the headline of “Stephen Paddock: Another Mass Shooter on Psychiatric Meds”. The rag linked to another article from the Las Vegas Journal Review, which in my opinion was very irresponsibly written. Basically both articles insinuate that since Paddock was prescribed Valium it led to the shooting. The article claims one of Valium’s side-effects is ‘aggressive behavior’. According to the Mayo Clinic, the side-effect should be more properly referred to as ‘outbursts of anger’ and it’s not that common.
Paddock was believed to have taken the drug at prescribed intervals and didn’t abuse the drug. So you’re going to tell me this so-called aggressive behavior caused by Valium, or diazepam if you will, resulted in Paddock inspecting three different possible locations for his rampage, amassing a stockpile of weapons over a number of years and meticulously planning his crime to include cameras outside of his hotel room? I don’t buy it. Not only that, but it’s bad journalism.
The Las Vegas Review shouldn’t even be trusted as a news source since it was taken over by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is rumored to have bought the paper so it would no longer criticize his business practices. Adelson was also a large donor to the Trump campaign so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Adelson, through the paper, is trying to turn the debate away from gun control to prescription drugs.
There are a group of people who are so opposed to antidepressants or any medicine used for the treatment of mental healthcare, they almost always attach it to whatever mass shooting may have just occurred. To my recollection this has been going on since at least Columbine, when it was made a big deal that one of the shooters was prescribed Luvox for depression. Never mind that the other shooter was on no such meds. That’s not even mentioning that these people will blame the drug if the shooter was either on or off of the drug they were prescribed.
The worst part is these people are further stigmatizing mental healthcare, something that doesn’t need any further stigmatization in this country. Not everyone on Valium is a potential mass murderer, they’re more likely trying to stave off a crippling anxiety attack. Furthermore, people on antidepressants are more than likely just trying to function normally in society and not plotting the mass execution of dozens.
24-year-old Randy Stair, of Dallas, Pennsylvania, shot and killed three of his coworkers at a supermarket in Tunkhannock before taking the coward’s way out. Stair was a columbiner, as he made a 42 minute film that was said to include homages to the Columbine cowards Harris and Klebold. Like most columbiners turned shooters, he was also a loser who blamed his problems on everyone else…
“I’ve been stepped on my whole life; not anymore. …I’ve had enough of this putrid planet and I’m going to leave my mark,” he wrote in the film.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Stair also claimed to be transgender, saying he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. I’m aware of the struggles transgender people face in trying to establish their true identities. However, that should not excuse the fact that this coward taking the lives of three innocent people just so he could leave his ‘mark’.
As far as leaving a mark, I don’t even remember if this broke the national news last week. I don’t watch a lot of TV news and I’m actively avoiding Facebook as much as I can. If I didn’t have an email alert registered for the word ‘Columbine’ then I probably wouldn’t have even heard of this shooting. His name will be forgotten in time, lost among the toxic throng of mass shooters that this country unfortunately produces on a continuous basis.
The names you should remember are 63-year-old Terry Sterling, 26-year-old Victoria Brong, and 47-year-old Brian Hayes. These are the people whose lives were selfishly cut short by a coward just for trying to make a living.
Being a columbiner is not a phase, it’s a sickness. If you know someone who shows the characteristics of being one of these failures, tell someone. Too often their so-called phase turns into real word violence.
For a few years now there’s been a movement among some who believe that the names of killers like Omar Mateen shouldn’t be made public. They believe that this gives them the notoriety they wanted. In the past I have posted why I disagree with this practice. Long story short, we shouldn’t forget history’s villains and if we let the media give them names, like Son of Sam or the Zodiac Killer, that gives them even more notoriety than they were looking for. Instead, what we should be doing is not over-reporting the story.
For example, it’s no secret that Mateen pledged his allegiance to ISIS right before the shooting and ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack even though it wasn’t organized or ordered by them. ISIS thrives on having their name in Western media, lone wolf attacks like Orlando should not be attributed to ISIS as it just gives them free publicity and propaganda which in turn could influence more ISIS inspired lone wolf attacks like the Pulse nightclub shooting.
The other worrisome practice I see being carried out by the press is the reporting of every ancillary detail and minutia about the attack. Do we really need to know that Mateen texted his wife during the attack and also checked Facebook to see if the attack was trending yet? No, we don’t. In my opinion those are what I like to call rubbernecking details, items the news reports on solely to get pageviews and clicks. Journalism used to operate under such tenets of whether there was a need for the public to know certain details of a story, emphasis on the word ‘need’. Now most major media outlets are more concerned with SEO keywords than information that is in the public’s best interest. In my opinion this is just another practice that gives the killers the notoriety that they were looking for since their every move during the incident is dissected like they were some Hollywood celebrity ordering lunch at a small town diner.
I’m not holding my breath on any of these changes to take effect anytime soon since news publishing is the industry that coined the callous phrase ‘if it bleeds it leads’.
I normally don’t post about major headline grabbing crimes like this. I prefer to post niche stories that are under-reported, but the Pulse Orlando shooting is so significant that I can’ just ignore it. If you’d rather see how a real crime blogger posts about this please visit Bonnie’s post on the matter.
Anyway these are some random thoughts I had on the matter. Some I’ve shared to social media this weekend and others I haven’t
First I’d like to share some old blog posts I’ve written on other topics that I think may apply to this tragedy. The first is that the media is beating us over the head again with lists of the deadliest shootings in America. Again I think the more they do that the more trivialized the shootings can become. Secondly, as I’ve posted before, I don’t think it’s the access of guns that is the problem. It’s never been more difficult to purchase firearms legally yet we have greater levels of gun violence than at any point in our history. Lastly, for those of you who think that every practitioner, or even the majority of practitioners, of Islam are terrorists than you need to do more research, like I did after 9/11, rather than repeating the same old myths that keep getting propagated in the more ignorant parts of the internet.
Now for some random thoughts on the matter…
Just because some murderous assclown swears allegiance to ISIS, and ISIS claims responsibility for the attack, doesn’t necessarily mean that this was an orchestrated attack by ISIS. It could have just been a moment of opportunity for ISIS to claim responsibility. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the cowardly scumbag was the only one involved in planning the attack.
I posted the following both on Twitter and my personal Facebook page…
This once greatest country in the world is now nothing more than a poisoned well of hate.
As a society we’ve declined so much in the past 15 years that we didn’t even wait until the bodies were cold before we were waxing politically about our pet ideologies. The usual tropes were all carted out, immigration, gun control, Muslims, etc. Instead of coming together to fight hate we just kept fanning the flames of hostility. I wouldn’t say that we’re headed for a 2nd Civil War but as a country we’ve never been more divided since then, and as we all know a house divided can’t stand.
We’ve lost the ability to be objective in this country. We’re all too worried about being left or right, conservative or liberal, religious or atheist, than being human and American.
Almost inevitably after a mass shooting, like the recent ones in Colorado or San Bernardino, some conspiracy theorist will say that the shooting was a false flag designed to distract the public from some hidden agenda. Usually the tin foil hat crowd says that these shootings are being used in order for the government to confiscate firearms from gun owners. Well two can play at that game.
Something else that’s almost inevitable after a mass shooting is that there is usually a spike in the number of firearms being purchased. They’re usually purchased by those who think that this will finally be the time where the government tries to take our guns. What if instead it was a false flag being carried out by the firearms industry designed to increase their profit?
Sounds ridiculous right? It should, just like every other conspiracy theory.
My hometown newspaper, The Press of Atlantic City, recently published an article asking the question “Can a mass shooting happen in South Jersey?” No matter the location the answer to that question is always tragically yes. This is almost the equivalent of saying “We didn’t think it could happen here” after a shooting. South Jersey almost had a mass shooting back in 2006 when a plot to attack Winslow Township High School was uncovered.
As I’ve said before I can’t think of a mass shooting in recent history that took place in a major urban area like New York or Philadelphia. There almost always in suburban or rural areas as in small town America. So yes, they can happen here no matter where here is in our country.
In the wake of the tragic loss of life at Umpqua Community College the debate has stirred up again whether or not naming the killers is giving them the fame that they craved. As I’ve said in a previous blog post I believe that the killers should be named so they don’t become more legend than statistic. However there is something that most media outlets use usually on the heels of such a crime that does more damage than naming the killers and that’s the ‘timeline’.
It never fails after a mass shooting like this. Just about every known part of the media will publish the list of the past mass shootings in this country, usually using Columbine as a starting point.
Here’s an example of some of the headlines I received in the days after the tragedy in Roseburg, Oregon.
“Recent history of mass shootings in the United States”
“Tragic List: The Deadliest Mass Shootings in US History”
“The worst school shootings in American history”
“142 school shootings since Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn” (Trench’s note: That stat is grossly overblown, I posted about this last year when the number was claimed to be 74)
“In the wake of Oregon massacre, here are 11 of the bloodiest school shootings since Columbine”
“Major school shootings in US since 1999”
“Factbox: Major shootings in the United States”
“5 Deadliest Mass School Shootings in Oregon”
“A look at the history of high-profile shootings in the Pacific Northwest”
“Deadliest shootings on or near U.S. college campuses”
“Timeline: Deadliest school shootings since Columbine”
“A look at major school shootings that have erupted in the US over the past decade”
“A look at deadliest shootings on or near US college campuses”
And so on.
These timelines are not only unnecessary but just lazy journalism. They’re used in out post Buzzfeed society to garner pageviews and anyone with a half a brain already knows that there is a crisis of violence in our country unmatched by any other Western society. We don’t need a constant reminder of every singe tragedy and every single loser who perpetrated it. When you do that it’s my opinion that the killers are then being glorified by posting these ‘hall of fame’ lists.
The only place I found that used the timeline concept wisely was the Washington Post who posted a list of the victims who should be remembered rather than the monsters who killed them.
After his arrest for the movie theater murders in Aurora, Colorado, a number of James Holmes fangirls showed up on the internet, mostly Tumblr, because…well…it’s Tumblr. Having dealt with a murder groupie or two in my time I wrote about the self-proclaimed ‘Holmies’ here.
With his recent conviction this article from Slate by Amanda Hess revisits with the Holmies to see if their attitude has changed towards their mass-murdering heartthrob. Surprisingly it has but not necessarily for the better. A number of them now see him as some sort of martyr for mental illness in this country. As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety on a daily basis let me make it clear that in no way, shape or form should this assclown be used as the poster boy for mental illnesses. To do so would be wrong for a number of different reasons.
First to portray him as some sort of sympathetic figure is akin to excusing him for the brutal murders of 12 innocent people. Secondly, there’s enough of a stigma against mental illnesses already that this would make people think that anyone with even the slightest psychological defect is a potential mass murderer. Lastly and most importantly it would further discourage people suffering from a mental illness from seeking treatment lest they be thought a danger to those around them.
If you want to make anyone the spokesperson for mental illness and treatment make it the person who suffers in silence since no one around them can understand how they’re feeling and who receive advice like “Have you tried not being depressed?” by people who don’t know any better.