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Monday, September 30, 2013

"Media Glamour Explains Mass Killings" - The Tartan

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Image via The Economist
Original Article:
Check out my article this week in The Tartan, focusing on the issues of mass shootings and gun control.  In it, I describe why media glamorization and the way American society as a whole views mass shootings is the real cause of the increase in them.  Overall, mass shootings have increased, while gun violence has decreased.  In this article, I explain why gun control is irrelevant to the issue of mass shootings and why mass shootings will continue to increase unless we change the way that we view and cover them.

According to a recent article in The Economist, the United States is facing a strange trend: Gun violence has been decreasing overall, but the number of mass shootings has been increasing. In the past 20 years, deaths from mass shootings have risen from less than 0.05 per 1 million people to over 0.22. While this number is still small enough that Americans have no reason to panic when going to theaters or sending their children to school, this rise in the rate of mass shooting deaths reveals that there is most certainly an underlying problem.
For those who have never been exposed to guns, it is hard to imagine a world where everyone owns one, and to understand what purpose guns carry. However, according to a Gallup Poll conducted in October 2011, 47 percent of American adults own at least one firearm. Despite the fact that this is the highest rate since 1993,The Economist points out that gun crimes have been cut in half over the past 20 years, from around seven homicides per 100,000 people to 3.6. To state that gun ownership is directly related to violent crimes makes no sense at all, as the correlation between them appears to be negative.
One explanation for this increase in mass shootings is far from hidden. In fact, it stares in the face of Americans every time they pick up a newspaper or turn on the news: the glamorization of mass shooters. News media networks are publicizing these criminals like never before. If one began a conversation with a random person on the street regarding a recent mass shooting, chances are that person would be easily able to name the shooter but would struggle to name even one of their victims.
One particularly disturbing example of news glamorization was the Aug. 1 edition of Rolling Stone. On its cover was a close-up of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, staring from the page like a celebrity that deserved the public eye.
Many Americans were outraged. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino responded in a letter to Rolling Stone, stating that the cover sends the message that “destruction gains fame for killers and their ‘causes.’” His words, according to CNN, summarized the feelings of many: “The survivors of the Boston attacks deserveRolling Stone cover stories, though I no longer feel that Rolling Stone deserves them.”
Sadly, however, U.S. News & World Report says that putting this homicidal maniac on its cover increased the sales of Rolling Stone by 102 percent. Therefore, media companies alone cannot take the blame, as they are merely delivering the content that Americans wish to consume. These crimes will only continue to increase until Americans would rather read the stories of those who lost their lives in mass shootings, instead of the stories of the culprits behind these unspeakable crimes.
Taking away the guns of the other 99 percent of Americans that are mentally stable enough not to carry a firearm into a school or mall will do nothing. As such, the recent increase in mass shootings is not as simple of an issue as gun control. It is as complex as society, and it reveals the true problem that Americans would rather read about the people who massacre than those who attempt to save the victims.
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