Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Look into the eyes of a killer

In the quick-hit world of corporate dominated mass media, there really is no time to pause and reflect upon what staggered its way onto the television set or in print. There are angles to cover –albeit most of them hackneyed and tiresomely explored in previous reports–but angles nevertheless. When national news breaks, localize it; bring it in terms they’ll understand the incomprehensible.

Monday was no exception as a seemingly benign South Korean senior coolly shot down students and faculty members at the Virginia Tech campus with lethal precision. Nearly a thousand miles north in newsrooms across the Capital Region, there was a crack of a whip then a drive to put a face on a “tragedy that rocks the nation” story for the evening news and the morning paper.

Capital News 9, like several others, picked up on the Ralph Tortorici connection, then interviewed University at Albany students about how “safe” they felt attending the school in wake of the shooting. The Saratogian followed suit by interviewing several students and administrators at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, who indicated that the campus appears to be safe, but there’s no way of fully securing the college against a shooting as horrific as the one perpetrated in Virginia.

In retrospect, there were always warning signs. The news is often savvy to point out the things administrators could have done, measures of security that could have been taken and tell-tale indicators that could have been reported. After all, tragedies always appear increasingly preventable as time wares into the future. And to some extent, they are.

While there is no way to prevent desperate people from perpetrating violently random crimes, there’s usually sociological cause that brings their finger to the trigger. Brooks Brown, a former student at Columbine where 13 people died in a similar massacre, told the Associated Press that he wasn’t surprised by the most recent shooting.

"Once you've reached the point where you have lost everything it is not hard to be pushed in any direction," he said of campus shooters.

And for many of the increasingly apathetic masses among the adolescent and college-age populations, it’s not too difficult to lose everything for those who don’t think there’s anything to left in the first place. These are people bore from the increasingly barricaded neighborhoods of suburbia, where neighborhood and community are vestiges from a by-gone era.

But even as reports flow in about “the worst shooting in U.S. history” and as news organizations throw together haphazard timelines of all the other violence in schools across the country, no one has bothered to comment on the sudden increase in their frequency.

Starting after Charles Whitman killed 16 people from a University of Texas clock tower in 1996 and spanning more than four decades, there were no mass shooting in U.S. schools or colleges. That is, unless one considers the college killings conducted by government agents in Kent State, Jackson State and Orangeburg between 1968 and 1970.

Something changed in 1997. First, there were school shootings in West Paducah, Ky., and then Jonesboro, Ark., four months later. Four months later, the shootings moved to Oregon and then to Colorado by April 1999. The horror of Columbine slowed the body count, which took nearly six years to resume in Red Lake., Min. And of course, no one will forget the mass shooting of the Amish children in Pennsylvania last year. Counting Virginia Tech and not the respective killers, 75 innocent people have now perished in school shootings over the course of one short decade.

See, there is a cancer floating somewhere in the bloodstream of America that is slowly metastasizing throughout the nation, moving methodically from one state to the next like a lone gunman. No one is immune to it; no one is safe and no measure of security will protect. Rather there’s a social problem that is afflicting these deeply troubled killers, perhaps a sort of cheapening of life that has caused them to embrace ultraviolence.

Some say it results from violence in the media, some say it’s the guns, some say it’s a lack of morality. However, there is no magic bullet, so to speak, no micromanagement solution. There is some combination of societal influences that are driving these young killers forward. And until society –or maybe the media that seems rife with these reports –reflects deeply and inwardly into why these gunmen now sprout from our soil like crabgrass in the springtime, chances are pretty good there will be more not too far in the future.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your post departed from it after the first couple of paragraphs and went into speculation about the causes of such violence and their frequency. I think that you may be factually wrong about the increasing frequency claim but this is neither here nor there. What I really wanted to comment about is The Saratogian's headline "College Massacre." Glancing at the paper in the corner vending box, there was no way to tell what college the massacre occurred at and I can't help but think that the editors wanted to grab people who would immediately think that the violence happened at Skidmore. Talk about sensationalism that borders on the ethically wrong.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously? That's your best guess? You think that the editors fashioned that "ethically wrong" headline in hopes of scaring the heck out of that ONE reader who was under a rock for the previous 24 hours, thus making him thrust his 2 quarters into the box, only to read the first sentance of the story after which becoming very upset that he was tricked by the underhandedly conniving geniuses at the Saratogian for playing with his emotions like that?

sometimes people, i think we grasp at straws when trying to come up with criticisms about the lake avenue publication.

there are employees at that paper who work hard and are good at their jobs. people have to go where the open positions are. people have to put in their time, gain experience, and then move on.

horatio, you know this. how about making a 180 for a change and letting your readers hear some of the good things about the saratogian? personally, i'm interested to hear what, if anything, you DO like about the paper.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Iron Bowl said...

Very tragic event.

The past is used to for us to remember so it will not happen again.


11:21 PM  

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