Nation unfazed after tragic shootings

Arjun Thakkar

It’s practically an expectation these days to pick up your smartphone, open your preferred news app, and bear witness to a provocative headline about a recent act of violence.

News coverage has expanded to the point where an event and knowledge of the event are linked almost instantaneously. Sophomore Pranav Doradla explained how after the Las Vegas shooting occurred, he received a barrage of notifications on his iPad about the incident within minutes.

The expanded news coverage does help to initiate valuable discussions on the issue of violence.

Junior Celeste Carsello described her thought process after hearing about school shootings while in elementary school: “That was the first time it became truly apparent that there was a lot of hate in the world. I realized that people had easy access to something that could translate their hatred into killing any person, even if that person was a kindergartner,” said Carsello.

Though this increased awareness empowers us as informed citizens, there’s also a danger in the information’s accessibility.

Shootings, like the one in Las Vegas incite paranoia within the populace, creating unproductive hysteria that raises concern in situations where it can be excessive.

Sophomore Arjun Kaura noted how the influx of emotions after a shooting can cloud our judgement.

“It’s important to distinguish reality from our perceptions. We sometimes think the probability of a shooting actually happening is higher than it really is,” said Kaura.

Yet the hysteria that many feel after an incident is short-lived in the overarching experience of constantly hearing about these violent events.

What ultimately occurs through expanded news coverage and the disconnect between the hearing of and experiencing of an incident is the dangerous cultural trend of becoming desensitized to genuine acts of violence.

Doradla noted how “it feels like another [shooting] happens every week, making it all blur together. I might just read the headlines and glance over it, but these are important events where people are dying. There is that desensitization because it just happens so often.”

Carsello expressed similar sentiments. “My lack of reaction to hearing about a shooting frightens me more than the actual events of the shooting.”

It seems that the more coverage there is of shootings, the less outrage students experience. “Whenever there’s a shooting notification, I usually sigh and am saddened slightly, but it has become so common that it is rarely a shock,” added senior Kirk Stewart.

Stewart attributed this desensitization partly to other mediums of entertainment.

“Reports of violence are usually accompanied by videos, which I always watch. Growing up playing video games and watching movies with blood and gore are also contributing factors. Americans have such easy access to violence that it has become desensitized in our culture.”

Some students expressed a desire to take some kind of action in response to the violence. “I get a sense that we as citizens need to be doing something. In a way, it’s motivating,” added Doradla.

This could perhaps be accomplished by working to reform the very institution that we rely on for information, the media.

Stewart criticized how organizations choose to focus on the hate in an incident rather than the response. “Often times the media focuses more on the shooter than the victims, which is telling of our society because we like to assign blame and avoid the emotional heartache attached with the losses in shootings. Shooters are also portrayed more as criminals than humans.”

The issue, then, is how this provocative news coverage warps our viewpoint. Laboring over the details of the perpetrator is what perpetuates a culture of hatred and fear.

There’s also a cause for concern with how readily many individuals ridicule shootings by joking about them. There’s no doubt that it’s done in jest, but the mass amount of ‘school shooter memes’ and other insensitive jokes are simply unacceptable ways to respond to violence.

By undermining the roots of violence without putting in the effort to truly understand, the incident is reduced to just that: a fact. A tragic statistic, and not much else. Something to note half-heartedly and then move past.

In response to the phenomenon of desensitization, Carsello argued that we should devote greater attention to the issue.

“We should care enough to really look at all shootings, big or small. We need to, especially because it’s harder to glance over when you really see all the violence. Maybe then more of us might see how grave of a problem it truly is.”