For as long as anyone could remember, the United States has been the main source of public shootings for decades. It seems that we hear at least once every few weeks of a lone gunman shooting at unarmed people in confined spaces like schools, offices or government buildings with the intention of killing as much as humanly possible in as little time as possible from the United States. This year alone (as of the Santa Fe High School shooting), 101 mass shootings have occurred, 22 of which happened in schools, and in total left approximately 70 dead, with many more injured.
This cycle of mass shooting and other violence is becoming quicker and quicker. What used to be a year between such tragedies has now turned into weeks. What is fuelling these horrendous people from going out there and commit such violence? What is causing this cycle to spin this fast?
In this article, we will be discussing one factor which may play a part in this very complex matter. The media, and how it covers such mass shootings.
First of all, one must remember that media sources (news stations, newspapers and other media outlets) are, like everything else, a business. For them to stay afloat in such a competitive market, they require companies to buy so as to advertise on their papers or sites. The more views, subscribers and loyal readers a news company has, the more valuable their ad space becomes.
The problem with this is that traditional media is nowadays dying, due to the exponential increase in people getting their information through the internet. Newspapers have already mostly failed in the United States, and now the cable networks are next. If viewership falls, if more people cancel their cable packages, these advertisers will stop pouring their money into cable and instead advertise more online.
This changed networks forever. How can they keep the attention of the people who get information online? They try to make the news interesting and entertaining to watch. But sometimes, entertaining things do not happen. Therefore they create pointless controversies just to fill time, getting random people to debate so as to pat for time until the commercials role in.
With this, one can realise that when a mass shooting occurs, its jackpot for the media, as they would have proper news and content to talk about. They provide who, why, where, how, their motives and every other detail about what happened in a shooting. This information is poured on an hourly basis. This creates more time, more viewership and higher ratings, increasing the amount of advertisers and keeping themselves afloat, and profiting from deaths and tragedy.
Showing the shooter’s face, weapon, social media page, his victims, his motive and his kill count, while comparing his to past shootings, inspires copy-cats. By milking the unfortunate incident, they make a celebrity of a killer, leading to people who sense that they have nothing to live for and how want to leave a legacy behind, to do the exact same. All it takes is a single person watching the media constantly talk about a shooting to create another one.
This is the problem with showing the killers face and motivation, it inspires others. It tell those on the edge that they’ll receive the same celebrity treatment for doing such acts of violence.
This obsession from the networks to keep ratings high and advertisers pouring in at all costs has effectively created such a horrific boost in the United States. These acts are a reliable boost in the dying network every couple of weeks or months.
Written by: Nathan Portelli