Toughest question is still unanswered — pdf
This is one of those areas where the entertainment and news media inadvertently have contributed to the coarsening of our culture’s sensibilities. You heard that Monday, when the traumatized Virginia Tech students were interviewed and automatically referred to the killer of their teachers and fellows as “the shooter.” This bland, police-report-neutral language is the stuff of tough-guy cop shows and hard-edged news reports and commentators. It is not part of the usual vocabulary of a young man or woman grieving for a dead friend or mentor.
It is â€” or should be â€” deeply unsettling that our journalistic technology and entertainment culture have implanted in the minds of so many young Americans a syntax of distance and dehumanization.
[...] One of the things that distinguished reports on the Virginia Tech massacre was the fact that it represented the first such atrocity in which “new media” were coequal participants in the coverage. This is a process that emerged first during the terrorist attacks on the London transit system, in large part because Europe has run ahead of us in the adoption of camera phones and other handheld technologies. In that instance, ordinary people trapped in the carnage, photographed and recorded what was going on around them and then made it available to regular news organizations, particularly satellite television.
The collaboration intensified Monday at Virginia Tech, where media-savvy students used camera phones and Internet technology to “document” their experiences. [...]
[...] [N]ew media’s other face â€” the blogs â€” clearly displayed their major shortcoming. Their approach to even events like this is almost completely politicized, and facts are subordinate to ideology. Thus, within hours of the shootings, these sites â€” both left and right â€” already anticipated and were preoccupied by the possible political fallout of this latest mass murder.
Right-wing and conservative sites immediately began a defensive discussion of the event’s implications for the never-ending debate over gun control and fulminated darkly over the loss of respect for teachers and adults generally, about the malevolent influence of Hollywood and violent video games. By Monday evening, when false reports that the killer was a Chinese immigrant began to circulate, an I-told-you-so denunciation of allegedly lax immigration policies began.
On the left, similar discussions of Virginia’s gun laws, the lapsed assault weapon ban â€” no such gun was involved â€” and the pernicious influence of the war in Iraq broke out.
All of it was drearily predictable; none of it was at all helpful.
In case you missed some of the kind of shocking and destructive blog hysteria that is cited above, Tim Grieve gives some examples here without being too egregious himself, except, perhaps, in his choice of titles: Compassionate conservatism and “Heartily ashamed”