Monday, October 5, 2015

Welcome to #Amurdica

When it comes mass shootings, the gun is the tool of the coward. Their individual weaknesses are over compensated for by hatred and semiautomatic weapons. A profound lack of courage is at the center of these attacks. For some, it's easier to shoot innocent people than it is to address the unfulfilled areas of their lives. They often leave manifestos behind detailing their desire for cultural relevance. These perpetrators are products of a culture obsessed with fame and instant gratification. The socioeconomic factors facing our youth must be addressed, but we have to accept the fact that some people don't value life. There's not an economic metric that can make life more valuable to someone who has decided their life is worthless. Once we accept this fact we have to (collectively) keep an eye on the loners around us. 

For years I incorrectly thought the greatest danger associated with hate TV and radio was the habitual misinformation that has made political dialogue almost impossible. I've been forced to admit my mistake. The greatest danger this medium has given us is hatred as a socially acceptable virtue. The vitriol found in comments sections of political websites and blogs are a reflection of what passes for cogent arguments in this world. This cycle keeps repeating itself. In order to get ratings: the pundit class makes hyperbolic claims that play to the fears of their listeners. In order to gain, or maintain a national platform: elected officials, and candidates frequent these shows- thus adding legitimacy to their claims. This cycle has spiraled out of control. The need to be more outrageous and outlandish than the competition never ends. 

I'm not blaming every mass shooting on radio and television, but we shouldn't deny the atmosphere created by the purveyors of this genre. We have a generation of young men who grew up playing video games where the simulated images of death are just as real as any dash cam footage. These same men have been bombarded with movies and music that glorify killing. Now, combine all of these underlying factors with easy access to guns, and a hatred for "others" that's validated by their source of news. It's a wonder we don't have more mass shootings. The genius of right-wing media is how they have walled off a segment of our country from any information that challenges their agenda. When almost 50% of the country trust the guy who hooked up their router more than the scientists and engineers who developed the technology there's a problem.

(5×3=15) isn't controversial because arguing its validity makes you look like an idiot. Yet, Conservative media consistently refute factually accurate claims. Ignorance has two deadly forms: unknown and unchecked. As a culture, our collective ignorance often goes unchecked. When cable television pundits are more trusted than academia and journalist ignorance flourishes. The right-wing's denial of scientific evidence supporting man-made global warming, and the hysteria during the 2014 Ebola scare are the fruits of this perverted tree. We had citizens who trusted Fox news more than the CDC and the doctors treating Ebola. When a lawyer argues a case they don't present facts that counter their arguments. This is the foundation of politically slanted news. So, when we point out statistics about gun violence we fall into the trap of thinking facts are enough. Every argument we make has to pierce a thick layer of defense that's designed to dismiss any information that comes from untrustworthy sources. We are actually powerless to those entrenched in their ideology. There's not a set of facts in the world that can't be refuted or reduced to liberal bias.

I believe we can reduce some of these tragedies through community mental health services and common sense legislation, but we also need to force people to admit that Ahmed, Manuel, and Jamal aren't the only threats our country face. Little Billy and Timmy are quiet until they make noise. We shouldn't shame people for their personal fears, but we should be brutal in our criticisms of individuals and institutions who perpetuate those feelings and encourage people to act on them. Passing any meaningful legislation on semiautomatic weapons and magazine sizes seems impossible, but we have to create an atmosphere where opposing such legislation is an embarrassment. No reasonable person believes we can stop every mass shooting, but we should try to make it as hard as possible.