Paula’s Post #14 Some sober reflection.

We 5writers have deliberately made a collective decision not to politicize this blog. This is a decision I whole-heartedly support. But I am a dual US- Canadian citizen and a grandmother (a young grandmother) and the tragic events in Newtown Connecticut have rocked me to the core. As a writer, I feel compelled to write something about the issue of gun violence.

I am not today, going to join in the debate over the proper interpretation of the Second Amendment. That is an issue for another day, for another forum.  But I must raise an issue that has weighed on my conscience since learning of the circumstances surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, and that is the suggestion that ‘media’ in all its many forms, may have acted, in part, as a ‘catalyst’ for these tragic events.

The past few years have been particularly horrific. Columbine, the attack on Congresswoman Gabby Gifford, the mass shootings at Virginia Tech, in a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado and a shopping mall in Clackamas, Oregon. Now the crushing blow of the slaughter of 20 young children and 6 adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut,.

We are all asking one question?


Since Friday, I’ve watched the ‘talking heads’ provide commentary on CNN, the BBC and NBC. One fact seems clear: each of the young male shooters responsible for this carnage had been, to one extent or another, deeply disturbed. In some cases, mental health professionals have made suggested psychosis.

Many commentators have also decried the role of violent media on the minds of these assailants. Video and role-playing games, have, in particular been singled out as a potential trigger for these attacks. Whether an actual link can be established is still a subject for debate, but something that must be examined.

What about books?

What about fiction?

What about murder mysteries and techno-thrillers? What about the incredibly violent, (particularly Part III), of the Hunger Games Trilogy, a Young Adult Novel?

Did Agatha Christie worry about the impact of her novels? Did she worry they might provoke copycat murders?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. But I can’t help thinking about them.

I must.

6 thoughts on “Reflection

  1. Without a doubt we all want to know and understand why and what pushes these deeply disturbed individuals to make such horrific decisions. We want to help prevent them happening again. Medicine and psychology can’t give us the answers yet. As individuals we’re helpless in preventing the flaws in human nature that lead to these events, but what we can control is the environment we raise our children in, teaching what’s real and what isn’t, what’s right and what’s wrong, etc. and having our communities safe through policing, etc. to keep the human nature of controlling and conquering in check.
    As for entertainment such as violent games and book genres such as murder mystery and thrillers, I don’t know the answer. One thing that many humans seem to seek though, is the adrenalin thrill of risk-taking through athletic endeavors (i.e. skiing, sky diving, sailing, bungee jumping), or video gaming, or reading. I would rather this “normal” part of our human nature be satisfied this way than through REAL violence in REAL criminal activities like we have been seeing. Food for thought any way….

  2. There is no answer to the question “Why?” Isolated and disturbed minds decide that mass killing will solve some problem they have, or right some wrong they feel they’ve suffered. THAT’S IT. Giving a clinical description to that observation might be more satisfying to some, but it’s just that simple (so to speak) and that insoluble. A mind that can do that can avoid thinking about repercussions, consequences, or innocent suffering.

    Violent media is an easy but false target. Millions of people watch violent movies and don’t commit violent crimes. Violent media and art as “triggers” is another facile avoidance of the unsatisfying truth. People who do this kind of thing would be “triggered” by any neutral stimulus once they decide that mass killing is their answer. An offhand comment, a look interpreted the wrong, way will set them off. They watch violent depictions BECAUSE they’re unhinged, not the other way around.

    There will always be a few people seriously inclined to think like that and act upon their thoughts, and behavioral science isn’t anywhere near being able to identify them before the fact. But the one thing we can do is to deny them efficient technology. I’ve used the term mass killings to make appoint. Mass stabbings by one deranged perpetrator against many victims are extremely rare, and almost never fatal. Mass strangulations are unheard of. But mass SHOOTINGS are deadly because the technology of murder is highly developed, available, and cheap. Make firearms less available, especially military grade firearms. Remove the technology of mass killings from the equation, and the disturbed minds will be less likely and less able to engage in mass killings, and will be far easier to stop if they try.

  3. Paula, I applaud your involvement with this issue. I believe the proliferation of gun ownership in the US – particularly weapons of war that now lie around in people’s homes – is a kind of mass insanity. Many gun owners cite their right to bear arms in the interests of personal safety. But more guns do NOT make people safer, and every statistic, no matter how you slice the numbers, corroborates this simple fact.

    As to our modern, violent stories – whether these be in the form of news reports, books, movies, or interactive games – and whether they might “trigger” unstable individuals to kill, I’m much less sure about how much of a contribution they make. Certainly, young people who are still finding themselves – particularly those who may not be very well socialized – are influenced by powerful heroes, and many stories aimed at boys romanticize violence.

    But how different is this from the 1950s when I grew up? When the gun-toting, shootout-loving cowboy ruled the Wild West in the movies, in books and on TV? The psychology, I think, is much the same. Guns make you powerful. Guns get you respect. Guns are the only means to controlling your world, protecting yourself, achieving justice. All that’s changed is the type of weapons. With one of today’s automatic rifles, the gunfight at the OK Corral would have lasted about two seconds.

    As you know, I have strong opinions about guns. Contrary to the puerile popular chant “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” guns obviously DO kill people – and the more extreme the gun, the more people it can kill, faster and more brutally. They say that cigarettes are the only product legally pushed on consumers which will kill if taken as directed.

    I put guns in the same category.

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