Archive for media lies

Public Tragedies and How to Move Forwards: the Sandy Hook Shooting

Posted in Ramblings, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2012 by KarenElizabeth

Like most everyone else, I’ve been reading the news the last few days with a mix of shock and horror and deep sadness as the details of exactly what happened at Sandy Hook elementary school emerge, and the public responses to the event occur.

There are some terribly hard questions to be asked when tragic events like this take place.  Why did it happen?  Why did no one see it coming?  Who is at fault, and what could we have done differently?  In the midst of grief and shock and horror, we have a tendency to point fingers and assign blame, desperate to have it be someone’s fault.  Because if there’s not a clear, easily-defined reason for the tragedy, then we don’t know when or where or how or why it might happen again, which is (of course) the most terrifying thing of all.  The unknown.  The fact that if there’s no one directly at fault, there might be nothing we can do.  And then we might be the ones at fault.  Terrifying.  So we point fingers, assign blame, aim to punish the “guilty” and the “wicked” for the salving of our own consciences.

But all this rapid-fire blame-flinging (some of it blatantly self-serving, some just misguided and being hurled out of fear and ignorance) does little to help the situation, either.  We can rail against violent video games just because of a suggestion that the shooter might have enjoyed the odd LAN party.  We can rail against the NRA because the shooter lived in a home where guns were owned.  We can rail against the shooter himself for being “troubled”, or his mother for raising him wrong.  We can rail against the mental health care system for not “fixing” the shooter.  We can rail against feminists and pro-choice activists for “denying God” and allowing evil to take place in the world.  We can rail against the police for not showing up faster, the school for not being locked down in an armored and guarded complex, or the victims for not learning to duck.  None of it helps.  What has taken place is in the past, and what we now need to do is face up to it like mature, rational people, and find ways of moving forwards and addressing what has occurred.  Instead we get mired down in yelling at each other, in blaming one group or another, instead of asking “what can I do to help?”

First of all, you can stop sensationalizing and romanticizing murder.  Like the quote in the above image says, you’re just planting the seeds for another attention-starved person to plan a copycat killing, without honouring the dead or those who are suffering right now.  Don’t focus on the killer, focus on the victims.  Focus on efforts to help the bereaved families, to rebuild a shattered community.  Focus on ways to help your own community and family deal with what has happened.  Focus on love, and the heroes who gave their lives to save the lives of others, and all of the positive things that have been done and are being done.  Focus on remembering the names of the victims.

Do not insert yourself into the tragedy.  Do not make this, somehow, about you and your struggles.  It isn’t the time.

Be loving.  Share with other people.  Include other people in your grief, rather than hiding away from the world.  Because if you include other people, if you talk and communicate and share and give and love?  You’re creating a support network that can help victims and protect from further harm.

Resist the temptation to point fingers and blame. No matter what your personal feelings on issues like gun control, this is not the time to air your personal grievances.  There are others with deeper griefs just now.  This isn’t to say that we can’t use this event as a lens through which to view issues like gun control, mental health care, security measures in schools, and the like — it’s important to analyze and dissect things from a political perspective — but when you do so, separate it from the emotionally charged language of the tragedy.  Focus on facts, statistics, numbers:  things that are quantifiable.  Avoid speculation and unsubstantiated rumours.  The more logic that we can bring to bear on the situation, the better and more well-founded our conclusions will be.

This is a logical time for people to be questioning gun control regulations and whether there need to be changes made.  This is a logical time for people to be looking at whether the shooter could have been helped by a differently organized mental health care system.  This is a logical time for people to be looking at how security in public schools is equipped (or not equipped) to deal with these sorts of events.  We should be talking about these things, and many others.  But no one has an absolute answer that will “fix” the problem, and anyone shouting that they do is just pushing an agenda.  There hasn’t been enough time to assimilate all of the information and dissect it carefully & thoroughly.

Be as logical as you can be.  Because irrational, emotional responses?  Those only cause more harm, in more far-reaching ways that you can possibly imagine.


I remember when Columbine happened.  I was in the 6th grade, and I was what was defined as a “troubled” kid.  I had few friends, was considered “antisocial” by my teachers.  I dressed differently from other kids, listened to loud music, and yes, I owned a long trenchcoat-style jacket.  In the weeks and months following, I had everyone from fellow students to teachers to my own mother express concerns that I might be “just like those Columbine shooters”.  I was treated like a dangerous menace, a ticking time bomb, because of the media hype surrounding how the Columbine shooters wore trenchcoats and listened to metal and were outcasts without many friends.

The media hype surrounding that event almost drove me to suicide, because I was so afraid of what might be “wrong” with me.  I’d been profiled as a killer, lumped in with people who’d done something so awful that my mind couldn’t even totally comprehend it.  And I still feel a lot of that same anxiety as an adult, when I see murders blamed on people’s mental health issues or their turbulent relationships with their mothers or their introverted natures.


It took me years to realize that people’s reactions to that event, and to me in its aftermath, were the product of fear.  They wanted, desperately, to have some sort of control over an event that had seemed utterly unfathomable right up until the moment when it occurred.  They grasped at straws, seeking to connect the dots in any possible way, hoping to protect themselves and instead furthering a witch-hunt that unfairly categorized not only me, but thousands of other kids like me, as dangerous and scary.  And instead of reaching out to people like me, instead of making us feel more included, more loved, less like outcasts in the first place?  They drove us further away.  The people who made me feel so awful, so worthless, were not asking “what can I do?”  They were asking, “who’s fault is this?” and pointing blame at the people like me.

Don’t let that happen.  Don’t give in to that temptation.  Live with love, not with fear, and see how much farther that will take you.


The Difference Between a Bad Pet and a Bad Owner

Posted in Animalia, Rants with tags , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by KarenElizabeth

So, I’ve been a bad blogger and let my personal life completely override my ability to blog, lately.  It’s been a crazy couple of months, to put it in brief.  But I’m trying to get back into it, and today I saw a little piece on the news that got me mad enough to want to rant here.

This is the piece I’m talking about.

And here it is on another news website.

To give you the story in brief:  this week there have been two incidents of loose pet snakes being discovered in apartment buildings, both of which happen to be just a few blocks from where I live.  One was a corn snake, apparently discovered coming “through the wall” (I’m assuming a heating vent of some sort), while another was a ball python, found in a bathroom.

As is usually the case with such stories, the news outlets have completely ignored the reality of the situation (that these snakes are harmless to humans, completely legal to keep, non-aggressive, etc).  Instead they’ve focused on interviews with “terrified” residents, and labeled the animals as “pests” and “dangerous”.  They’ve stirred up anti-snake sentiment, which of course (being as I’m a snake owner and enthusiast) gets my hackles up.

What really bothers me about the coverage of this story is that the focus is in completely the wrong place.  The real question is:  why were these snakes loose in the first place?  Why has no owner stepped forwards to claim them?  If someone’s pet had managed to get out of its cage, why did that person not tell their neighbors, and ask them to be on the lookout for the missing critter?  This is, quite clearly, a case of bad and irresponsible ownership — it’s the humans, not the snakes, who are to blame.

While it hasn’t happened yet, I’m sure that in the coming days there will be an uproar as panicked residents, egged on by the biased journalism, begin the hue and cry for harder crackdowns on reptile owners, tougher restrictions on which pets can be kept in apartment buildings, and other general witch-huntery.  The comments on the stories that I linked to above already show signs of it — people freaking out because their children and pets are at risk from these “dangerous” animals.  Seriously, people?  Maybe if you have a pet rat — but somebody’s loose cat is much more likely to be a danger, in that case.  Cats will kill for fun.  Snakes only kill if they’re hungry.

In fact, a dog or cat (considered perfectly acceptable pets, by most people) is certainly a much more dangerous animal than any legal-to-own reptile, and also much more likely to escape — snakes are generally kept in tanks which are designed to be escape-proof, while your mammalian friend likely roams free about your home or apartment, and may even be allowed to go outside unsupervised.  People are bitten by dogs or scratched by cats all the time, but it doesn’t make the news, nor does it start a witch-hunt scenario with all and sundry calling for “dangerous” dogs and cats to be banned.  If a dog bites, it’s generally the owner who is blamed, because it is the human being who is responsible for training, restraining, and generally keeping control over their pet.  The same should be true of reptiles and other exotics.