The Media's Influence

March 13, 2014
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The Media’s Influence

Tragedy hits America every day. Some tragedies may be small, some large. Some have a huge impact, and others just fade into the background. America has gone through many different hardships and tough times, like 9/11 and the economic slump. No matter what, tragedies are a terrible thing to endure, but there is one type of tragedy that brings out every American’s worst fear, mass shootings. These mass shootings aren’t brought on by random ideas and thoughts, mental health and all different kinds of media are planting seeds that in turn are creating these horrible circumstances.

Many people argue that the cause of these events are weapons. But I believe that weapons are not the problem. Many people think that by having weapons, it gives the attackers the idea and motive to kill. In my opinion, it is not the guns that are initiating the people, it is the media, the hunt for fame, and some mental health cases.

Over the past few years, the numbers of the phenomenon we call mass shootings have sky rocketed. Not only has it become something we as Americans are used to, but it’s also something we now expect. As more and more of these shootings happen, the media goes wild. Every shooting is analyzed and covered thoroughly by many new stations. This is not a good idea. The media is influencing these tragedies more than they will ever know.

In 1996, a 14-year-old boy walked into his school class in Washington and killed his teacher, 2 classmates, and wounded another student with a gun. The media went crazy. They talked about what he wore that day, how he planned out his attack, and even gave a descriptive overview of how he hid his gun in his jacket. For me, this is a game changer. About two weeks later, another school shooting happened, that almost completely paralleled the Washington shooting. Three more school shootings of a similar plan happened after that. This goes to show the influence the media has on these tragedies.

Without the media enlarging those shootings, the kids who initiated the other three may not have had the idea to do it. By explaining the Washington boy’s methods, the media gave directions on how to carry a gun in your jacket and get away with it. This is a dangerous issue that needs to be resolved immediately. After conducting the shooting, the Washington boy quoted a line from Stephen King’s book “Rage.” The next three shooters did the same. The media publicized the boy saying that, which gave the other three the idea.

I know the media is encouraging these actions. After every shooting, they have named the shooter, described their characteristics, detailed the crime, numbered the victims, and ranked them against other “successful” attackers. This is what every attacker is looking for. They want everyone’s attention and focus, which the media gives them once the crime has been committed. They strive for the panic and fear of people, which is why they pursue these terrible killing sprees. (Grenny, 2013)

In every shooter’s story, there seems to always be an influence as to why they carried out that action. The small town shootings are always a result of a student not getting along with a teacher or another student, or they are pursued out of rage. The mass shootings all seem to have a common link though, mental health. Many of the mass shooting’s shooters have issues with mental health and have struggled with it all their lives. An example of a shooter influenced by mental health and the media would be James Holmes.

James Holmes was a very intelligent man. He had a degree in Neuroscience with highest honors from The University of California. He carried a 3.9 GPA and was known to many as extremely smart. He then went to The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and enrolled as a Ph. D student in Neuroscience. He was involved in many honor societies and classes and was well known. He held a job and his boss described him as stubborn and hard to handle at times. Holmes had always been a fan of superheroes. His home was decorated in Batman décor. Then all of a sudden he changed. He began to slack off in school. He failed a comprehensive exam and a verbal exam. He started the process of withdrawing from the University. Not too long later, he dropped out of his studies without any explanation and left no hints as to why he did it.

He visited three mental health professionals at the college before he left, and they all agreed something seemed to be wrong with him or upsetting him deeply. Two weeks before the shooting, he texted one of the graduate students from the University and asked them if they knew about a certain mental illness, then told them to watch out for him because he was dangerous.

On July 20, 2012, Holmes walked into an Aurora, Colorado Movie Theater dressed as “The Joker” from the movie Batman that was premiering that night. He sent off a few smoke bombs then walked into the theater and opened fire on the audience, killing 12 and wounding 70 people. It was a gruel crime that no one could explain. People’s lives were changed that night because of Holmes.

This story is a great example of a type of media influencing people to carry out these unruly events. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Batman movies, but are they a dangerous thing for people who are unstable? Are they giving people ideas and plans? I believe that Holmes was influenced by the Batman movie, which is why he dressed as “The Joker”, who in the Batman movies carried out many murders and terrible crimes. The media is causing these events to look popular and fun. Just like the many other killers, Holmes wanted attention and he wanted his name out there. Sadly, what he did worked.

Just like Holmes shooting, there are many other attackers whom carried out these events because they thirsted for fame. In my opinion, mental health and media are the two big contributors to these attacks.

Adam Lanza was a normal little boy. His mom had been a gun enthusiast for a while, and they had a good relationship. Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a little kid, and he was known to be a little grumpy at times. Although Asperger’s is not linked to violence, it can contribute to anger or anxiety problems, so his mom assumed that was why. His mom’s friends said he would become upset and if other kids tried to touch him he would get mad. School workers said he would occasionally have episodes and withdraw from the class.

As a boy, Lanza never showed too much aggression. The adult Lanza, however, did. The day of his fatal attack, his mother Nancy took off work because she wanted to be home and take care of him. Before taking his rage to the school, he shot his mother in the head. He then went 5 miles to Sandy Hook Elementary School, shot and killed twenty students and six teachers. Mental health was a huge influence in this case.

Lanza was said to have Asperger’s, but also Sensory Integration Disorder or SID, which sometimes made him feel as though he couldn’t feel pain and caused him to feel uneasy. In this case, Lanza’s major influence was mental health. He should not have had the access to the guns that he did, or the freedom that he had either. Although his mother had tried to fix him and control him, nothing could work. He was unable to be sustained, which caused him to feel powerful and unstoppable.

These are only three of the many cases of shootings in America. The interesting things about the shootings are the time differences between them as the years go on. The mass shootings date back to 1949, then seventeen years later, another. Eighteen years later another occurred. These are all very spread out and uncommon. The crazy thing is, as the years go on, more and more happen, more closely together too.

Altogether there have been ten mass shootings take place in the United States. The first five took place in a time span of 42 years. The last five took place in a time span of fourteen years, some even happening in the same year. As the years have gone on, our technology has gotten more and more equipped. It has enabled us to cover so much more of these crimes and publicize them. In the example I just provided, it shows how much the media covering and publicizing these events has caused them popularity. They have occurred so much more often.

These mass shootings aren’t brought on by random ideas and thoughts, mental health and all different kinds of media are planting seeds that in turn are creating these horrible circumstances. I believe that the media and mental health are the two biggest contributors to these horrific attacks. Not only do they cause grief and hatred, but they also cause our country shame. As Americans, we do want to know what is going on in our country and what is taking place. I do agree that people should know when these terrible things happen, but I also believe that it is a dangerous idea. When people see how much attention these shooters get, they want the exact same. From the mental health perspective, I believe that it is truly the main cause behind most of these massacres. Looking into every attack, the killers always have a disability or something in their life that has caused them grief or anger. Something should be done to limit or stop these terrible occurrences.
Many people argue that the guns are what is initiating and/or causing these horrific occurrences. It is not the weapons that are influencing these events, it is the schemes that mental health and the media are giving the killers. “Ideas are more powerful than weapons. Weapons can kill a man, but ideas can cause a man to kill.” (Greenfield, 2013)

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