Here we go again.
Whenever a shooting occurs, it seems the mainstream media is all too happy to pick up a story and run with it. Be it for ratings, political agenda or nothing better to do, an otherwise awful event suddenly finds itself cheapened as it is transformed into a media sideshow that is broadcasted nonstop for days on end. Politicians and administrations rise to the occasion, plugging “common sense” snake-oil gun control proposals that have all but failed to halt violence in the states and metro areas where said proposals have been long established into law.
Even as a journalist, I cannot help but shake my head in dismay at such shameless behavior. However, while looking into the recent murder of the Virginia journalist and her cameraman by what was apparently an ex-coworker, I saw something that was more horrifying than said behavior and the act of the shooting itself: My social media feed was flooded with the footage of the shooting- from the perspectives of both the killer and the victims.
Surely, many of the posters and re-posters meant well. Some called for solidarity, others used the video for promoting situational awareness at all times. Regardless, it seemed in poor taste and only seemed to give the shooter what he- like many shooters- desperately wanted: attention and notoriety.
Fortunately, I wasn’t alone in my sentiment. Among all the “snuff posts”, I came across a diamond in the rough by way of Benjamin Thomas, consultant for Spike’s Tactical and well-respected member of the firearms community. He posted a video, condemning the constant and careless sharing of what amounted to little else than the televising of someone’s murder.
Impressed with Benjamin’s intestinal fortitude, I decided to give him a call and ask his take on the matter.
“I’m no better than the people posting, you saw me point a camera”, he lamented, though standing firm that what had been said needed to be said. “My newsfeed was flooded with the video of this woman and man being murdered. I mean, people who know them and love them are just finding out by watching this video all over Facebook. It just breaks my heart.”
As we discussed it, I will admit that something horrible dawned on me. I realized that by way of combat experiences or other, I couldn’t feel the sadness that he and others felt. Somewhere down the line, I had lost the sympathy normally reserved for those who are killed, instead accepting it as part of human nature’s integral but rarely-discussed dark side. I had come to accept the cycle- the killing of man by his fellow man, the inevitable media circus, the hastily baked cookie-cutter call for “common sense” gun control by out of touch politicians, the endless posting and reposting of gruesome details by individuals. It all seemed like a big act: an endless cycle of “murder porn” for the general public to eat up and for politicians to peddle away rights and power from the people, thus absolving the citizenry of the burden that is the realities of our species’ bloodthirsty nature.
We will share, repost and bicker on about it. We will blame inanimate objects and Constitutional rights. We will cover it 24/7 for weeks on end. We will senselessly fight each other from the deep trenches of this nation’s major political lines, oblivious that neither faction truly cares to protect or represent us. We will willingly participate in this farce of national proportions, completely unaware of the dark and horrible fact that we’re making things worse for everyone.
By giving the killer so much exposure, we not only empower his act, we are cheapening the lives of the deceased and pave the way for future killings of similar nature.
While modern technology was designed to bring us closer together, it has seemingly made us more disconnected from each other than ever before. Nowadays, people’s value appears to be measured in how much exposure they get, how many “likes” they can accrue or how many followers they have. Even the suspected killer in the murder shot his own footage with a GoPro, uploaded it to Facebook and tweeted about the incident.
We’ve created a society so deeply rooted in narcissism that murders are tweeting atrocities for all the world to see- and the people eat it up like ancient Romans, cheering as lions tear a man asunder in the coliseum. We give legitimacy to these acts of terror, encouraging others -some troubled, some just downright evil- who desperately seek attention and validation to commit similar acts in the name of fame and a lasting place in history. Individuals who would otherwise kill themselves in the privacy of their own homes now set out to take as many people with them as they can in as grandiose a display possible, all in an effort to be immortalized.
In a sense, we are setting the stage for the next brutal killing by participating in glorifying the most recent one.
So what do we do? How to we stop “lone wolves” from carrying out senseless killings, be it by way of gun, knife, car or other means?
Well, you can’t. Humans are animals with the ingrained capabilities to kill his fellow man, sometimes for no other reason than an errant thought passing through their mind. Be it for resources, affection, revenge, recognition or the cognitive malware that is sociopathic behavior, we will never rid ourselves of our bloodthirsty nature as a species. There will always be killing, rape, suffering and plunder so long as more than one human exists on the planet. Regardless of the weapons used, man will find a way- the largest school killing in American history (occurring in 1927 and killing 45 people) was primarily done with explosives, not guns. Nearly 15 years ago, a handful of box cutters allowed the weaponization of aircraft and subsequent deaths of almost 3,000 individuals. Even in American metro areas with strict regulations regarding various weaponry, people are murdered with the very weapons deemed unobtainable and illegal to possess by people with ill-intent. To kill is a basic human instinct, one no man can escape, particularly when circumstances demand it in the name of life or death.
We can, however, get back to basics. We can close the distance created by the modern age of social media and 24/7 news networks. We can voice our disgust concerning politicians who dance upon still-warm bodies to promote agendas. We can show restraint in wantonly sharing footage of individuals being murdered, live suicides and Worldstar-esque beatdowns, no matter how tempting it is to our baser nature. We can exercise codes of honor, placing the well-being of others before our own selfish desires (that ultimately fulfil nothing), all without sacrificing freedom in the name of safety. We can get back to remaining active in our communities, looking our neighbors and being vigilant of anything amiss that might upset the balance. When I was a young man, my neighbors had full warrant to reprimand me. I was raised by community- people who knew and looked out for each other. This is not a uniquely American practice- I saw it growing up in other countries and cultures. Despite the fact that humanity is indeed flawed (and inevitably doomed), we get out of bed every morning because there is a desire among many of us to help each other and do the “right thing”, even on occasion at the cost of our very lives .
Above all, we can fight evil by doing our part, no matter how big or small. For some, it is joining the military or emergency services in defense of the Republic. For others, it may be carrying concealed to defend themselves and those around them. For those unwilling to partake in violence under any circumstances, it is going that extra mile to take care of others in jeopardy or providing a much needed service in the already eroded communities across the land. For a few, it is all of the above in varying capacities. Sir Edmund Burke once said that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
When I was growing up, I was an American first, a Tennessean/Kentuckian second, an Eagle Scout third and last but certainly not least, an individual. Later, I added “Soldier” to that list- someday, I will add “father” and so on. Despite growing older and more involved with my own affairs, that mentality still stands. Regardless of title, wealth, tool of trade or work attire- I will always be an American first, in service of my Republic and all native and adopted children she holds close to her breast.
With any luck, my children and community will be imprinted with the same virtues not by force- but by example. I will continue to live by the words permanently emblazoned in ink across my heart: Acta Non Verba, or “Deeds, not Words”.
Historically speaking, it is no walk in the park: the road has and will always be hard, sometimes dangerous or even seeming like an exercise in futility. However, though the task ahead seems difficult, I truly feel that I as an American can do nothing less.
We can do nothing less.
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