Sunday, January 06, 2013
Media: Stop Shouting Fire! in Crowded Schools
School shootings have gone up dramatically since 1990. What has changed? First, the Gun Free School Zone act, sponsored by Joe Biden, went into effect, was found unconstitutional, and was then reenacted with intense lobbying by President Clinton. School shootings have increased at least four fold since the act was implemented, making schools a popular target full of unarmed victims for mass shooters.
Second, the major media, with a clear desire to pass anti-gun legislation in a media-induced emotional frenzy, has given school shootings enormous coverage far beyond other events that are as horrific. This coverage amounts to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded school.
As is well documented in Loren Coleman’s book “The Copycat Effect”, published in 2004, when the media create a firestorm of coverage of events such as this, it provides incentive for unstable individuals to do the same sort of crime.
We may be grateful that the media is so intent on disarming the population. If it promoted arson attacks as spectacularly as it does mass shootings, the death toll could be much higher.
What restraint could be applied by the media to reduce these attacks in the future, without violating the first amendment? Author Coleman has some suggestions, a few of which I mention below:
1. Accept that these stories have an effect and that the way they are covered is important.
2. Stop glamorizing the deaths with wall to wall coverage.
3. Stop using cultural stereotypes about the perpetrators or victims.
4. Do not give details about the killing. That serves as a road map for copycats.
5. Give alternatives, such as seeking help or counseling.
I would rather not see legislation restricting the First Amendment, just as I would rather not see any legislation restricting the Second Amendment.
However, restricting the ability of the media to sensationalize and glamorize these mass shootings would be far more likely to reduce them than would any legislation mandating that no more magazines of over 10 rounds be added to the existing stock of over a hundred million.
©2013 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch
Update: Clayton Cramer recieved an award for media ethics, writing aobut this in 1993!