Saturday, December 15, 2012

An Incomprehensible Tragedy, Poorly Reported

Yesterday morning, a man murdered more than two dozen people, 20 of them young children. After such a horrifying event, I struggle to hang on to that last bit of hope for humanity. After the irresponsible reporting of the event, I have no hope left for most American news media. In their lust for ratings, their rush to throw the sharpest hook to grab viewers, they got nearly everything wrong. They spent half the day releasing all sorts of rumors and hearsay (conveniently called "unconfirmed reports" as if that eliminates their culpability). The stories contradict each other, and in many cases, themselves.

Whenever I hear about senseless acts of violence like yesterday's rampage, I react like any decent human being would - with sadness, disbelief, and questions of "why?". But ever since the Columbine school shooting, when the killers were wrongly labeled goths, I also can't help but think, "Please don't say the killer was wearing black." Because if he was, some uninformed person is likely to call him a goth, and the American media will once again seize upon the opportunity to demonize goths.

Early in the afternoon, I read a story that began, "A teacher's son, clad in black..." Oh, no.

Then, with a map of the school and pictures of guns, "Before 9:30 a.m. gunman, wearing all black..."

And then I read exactly what I was hoping not to read - some totally uninvolved person calling the killer a goth. Some random woman said her son knew the killer; she said her son said he was "very thin, very remote and was one of the goths."

Does it matter to the media that this woman was not even involved in the situation, that she was just a random person attending a vigil? Does it matter that her words are second-hand hearsay? No, all that matters to the media is that her words make for a jucier story.

All that's left is to fervently hope that the media do not seize upon her statement to issue condemnation of goths. It might restore the tiniest bit of hope if they instead focus on the issues that really matter; say, efforts to prevent yet another such tragedy.

It would be great if goths don't have to once again defend themselves from misinformed people who believe that black clothes = goth and goth = evil. But if they do, I hope they will do so with the intelligence, maturity and class that I know them to possess.

I understand that when something like yesterday's tragedy happens, people try to find a way to make sense of it. They want some explanation of how a human being could be so cruel and unfeeling. It's comforting when they can use a stereotype to explain a killer's behavior and say, "Oh, THAT's why he did it." It's hard to blame traumatized people for believing what the media is feeding them.

But it's harder to bear the unfounded animosity that is too often heaped on goths. Goths are people, and they're just as horrified as anyone by a heinous crime such as yesterday's. (Having been in bed sick all morning, I first learned of the shooting via pained posts on an online goth community.) No one - whether dressed in black, sporting on orange spray tan, or dripping with diamonds - no one wants to see children murdered. I hope that is never questioned.

To anyone who might happen to stumble upon this blog post, I would like to say that I don't judge all Christians by the actions of Jim Bakker and I don't judge all coaches by the actions of Jerry Sandusky. I would ask that you not judge all goths by the actions of one black-clad man.

My deepest sympathies are with those who lost a loved one yesterday.

ADDED:
This is the article containing the quote I referred to.

22 comments:

  1. Oh damn, I haven't read any such pieces of news about the killer being a goth in the Finnish media – yet on the other hand I tend to skip all those articles with a vague headline. (However, I did end up reading how some neighbour told the killer's father and his new wife don't seem to be too friendly people. Rrrright, that was relevant for sure...)

    I think people dressed in black are not so persecuted over here, because people generally think that goths, metalheads and the likes are all the same, and media tends to report that Finnish heavy metal festivals are the ones with fewest disturbances, and those people behave rather well and the police barely needs to intervene (contrary to hip hop festivals). However, we've had our share or school (or other public) shootings as well, and I guess those who are easily frowned upon these days are young men who play a lot of video games and don't have girlfriends. It's just absurd, because many people like that are also the least violent and most peaceful people (out of their game worlds), but some shooters have had such features in common, so yeah...

    And I would say, the only thing such shooters truly have in common is major mental problems, something most of us cannot ever understand. However, yesterday's incident was very tragic, way too many lives and way too many children. :/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't have a lot of exposure to non-US media, but it seems that they take a far more balanced approach to goths and to the black-clad in general. When American media use the word "goth," it's usually in conjunction with some violent act. In too many American minds, there's an inexplicably tight connection between black clothes and evil.

      I agree... broadly, the commonality in shooters is mental problems. Some of them had even been formally diagnosed with a mental illness, yet somehow still managed to obtain guns and go on a rampage. How does that happen? The answer is very complicated and filled with contentious topics. I hope that someone is finally brave enough to face it.

      Delete
  2. So well written my dear Bane. I'm in horror and shock at the events....that's all I can really say.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This tragedy hit the nation harder than usual because the victims were children. Even our stoic president was shedding tears. I think we'll all be in shock for a while. :(

      Delete
  3. I reposted your text on my blog. I think it is very important that people understands that the gothic subculture has nothing to do with terrible deeds like those of Adam Lanza.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. Thankfully, so far, media aren't jumping on the "goth" description (which, like everything else in the reporting, may or may not be accurate). I hope it remains that way.

      Delete
  4. Bane, thank you for writing this. I had been crying for much of the evening because I can't come to grips with the fact that these were babies. Kids. I'm horrified and heartbroken. You've summarized the complex heap of emotions racing through me right now ... better than I even could. And I thank you for that.

    Yet, I didn't hear that he was "goth," maybe because I was watching MSNBC for much of the night? They only talked about "how many more tragedies" will it take for a responsible gun law be put into place. sigh ... the media needs to stop taking a whole day to play the same sound bites and the report the same false information. They desperately want to paint a stereotypical, Jack-the-Ripper kind of picture. What we'll end up finding out is that he's some normal kid with some major issues. Oi.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. UGH! I just read all of the reports. This makes me sick to my stomach. sigh ... apparently he was a RPG, nerd, super smart, undiagnosed autistic, etc. etc. BUT, he came from a "perfect family." Seriously? His parent's were divorced. His brother hadn't talked to him or his parents in over two years, and his Mom owned an assault rifle but didn't hunt. Help me here.

      Delete
    2. I don't typically write about news topics, but this one struck me in many ways. Of course I was horrified that someone could murder children. Then as I read more stories, I also became disgusted with the reporting. Blaming the wrong person, broadcasting rumors, trying to wrench a statement out of an elderly woman whose grandson had just murdered her daughter, interviewing young children about the trauma they'd just experienced... the media should be ashamed. With that kind of irresponsibility, I feared who they would go after next. (Still do.)

      I live near a middle school, and as I was reading about the shootings yesterday afternoon, I could see out my window the line of parents' cars waiting to pick up the kids. And I thought about all the Connecticut parents who weren't able to pick up their kids that day... who will never again be able to pick up their little children. It is heartbreaking.

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm a Goth. I also work at a primary school. When I heard the news I felt sick; I couldn't help but imagine what would happen if something like that happened where I work. The media are just latching on to whatever they can - this has nothing to do with whether or not Adam Lanza was a Goth (and by the sounds of things, he wasn't.) and all to do with him being deeply unhappy and mentally disturbed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely. The media are exploiting everything that made him "not normal" - he was "one of the goths" (doesn't seem like he was), he was autistic, he was a loner - and contrasting them with his so-called "perfect" family life. But none of those things will make a person a murderer.

      Delete
  7. Reposting Little Miss Phantasm's comment here with a slight edit to keep things "all ages" appropriate:

    "I had also read the quote about him being "one of the goths", and at first I was offended by it, but then I considered that if he is only 'one' of the goths, and the other implied goths have not committed a horrifically disgusting act, then the fact that he is goth has no relation to the act whatsoever.

    All joking aside, they shouldn't be throwing stereotypes around. Why the hell is acceptable to call someone a goth in an article about a homicide? It rarely comes up if the killer wears Calvin Klein... There are reasons they include that information, because the reporter clearly has a bias against goths and typecasts all of them as blood thirsty, misguided killers who have mommy and daddy problems.

    I guess if it does fuel hatred toward the goth community we could always organize a widespread goth walk. We will all dress up in our best club-wear, and parade around town with fluffy stuffed bunnies spreading awareness that we're actually human beings underneath it all."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry I had to delete and repost your comment; there's not a way to just delete the word. I don't disagree with your sentiment, just trying to keep GIY G-rated.

      Using a "scary" stereotype is a great way to hook readers, and that's what matters to much of the media. Fairness is irrelevant to them. (As is fact vs. fiction in this case.) :(

      I can just picture the goth walk... maybe even with a real bunny or two. :D

      Delete
    2. Lol sorry, I've been told I'm something of a truck driver, especially when it comes to something I'm passionate about!

      Delete
    3. 's okay. Strong feelings often lead to strong words... and I think many of us have very strong feelings about this situation. I'm starting to want to use "media" as a curse word. :/

      Delete
  8. I heard about this on the news some days ago and I was shocked. I'm also shocked by how they are blaming goths for this murder, that's downright insane. This is beyond prejudice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The American media now seem to be focusing on the "fact" (unsupported by any real evidence) that he was autistic. So, of course, the autism awareness groups have to step up and defend themselves against prejudice. It's ridiculous.

      Delete
  9. US weapon laws are completely insane! What on earth do a person need an automatic military weapon for??
    There are lots of weapons in Sweden as well but the purpose to own a weapon is only for hunting or competition shooting in a sport club. You are not allowed to buy a weapon in sweden because you want to defend yourself. It should take at least 6 months to buy a gun with a membership in a sportclub or hunting team, education and check of police record. It should also be easier to loose the gun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even if an argument could be made that guns are okay for self-defense or sport shooting, nobody needs an assault weapon for those purposes. Nobody. It has taken the murder of little children to make the pro-gun people admit that maybe assault weapons are a bad idea. Well, yeah... that's what the sane people have known all along!

      Delete
  10. I love this post, Bane. It is perfect. The media did a TERRIBLE job on the reporting and rumors were flying all over. As always, freaking Twitter had the most up to date information, but you had to sift through the utter CRAP to find it.

    I think that Goths will luck out on this one. The race to vilify guns will over shadow what demographic he belonged to. We can all hope that this prompts some well educated and level talks about gun laws, mental health laws, and insurance legislation; but something dark and unhappy in me does not think so.

    Too many babies are being buried, and that is a fact that cannot be ignored. Someone horrid (for reasons known only truly to themselves) killed babies, and our media made it death porn instead of waiting for facts and doing actual measured reporting as out of state relatives, online friends, and the rest of the nation watched and hoped for NEWS. It is all disgusting, no matter where you look.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think the mentions of "goth," "loner" and so forth are fading into the background in favor of the gun control and mental health system topics. And the media are now reporting on the media's intrusive behavior and bullying of Newtown residents. This is the worst circus I have ever seen.

      Delete