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July 20, 2012

The Aurora Shooting and Electronic Media - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

Let me start by expressing the thoughts of all of us who woke up this morning to the horrific news of yet another massacre of innocent people by a very troubled man in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight premiere showing of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” 

It is hard to put into words the depth of emotions arising from the senselessness and absolute inhumanity of such actions. It is even harder to imagine what it must have been like either being in that theater, waiting to hear if a friend or loved one got out all right, or being delivered the news that someone you cherished had been severely injured or fatality wounded. 

It goes without saying that our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by this national tragedy. We can only hope that our of the carnage and with the passage of time the memories of those who perished will always bring a smile to the face of those who knew them even if it is mixed with tears of sorrow and an ache in the heart. 

It can also be hoped that at some point these types of insanity are addressed. It is not my intent to mar this awful day with personal views about what we in the U.S. call “Second Amendment rights,” aka, the right to bear arms, except to note that with at least 12 dead and 50 injured, but I think it important to note the remarks this morning by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (News - Alert) —long an advocate of gun control — who stated on the radio that: You know, soothing words are nice, but maybe it's time that the two people who want to be President of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.  The reason is that as a society, no matter how you feel about the gun ownership, the fact that we have not learned from the past and somehow found a way to keep true weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of irresponsible or irrational people whose sole intent is to reap destruction to gain some kind of psychic sustenance, is depressing.   

The U.S. unfortunately has a history of these kinds of attacks on innocent people, including children. My next door neighbor, classmate and friend from graduate school grew up to became Governor Bill Owens of Colorado. He was only a few months into his term as Governor when the massacre at Columbine happened. I remember speaking to him, a Texan who grew up with guns and was/is an avid hunter, about this. He said along with all of the things he needed to do as Governor, some of his very first thoughts when he heard the news was to think about his teenage kids who were in high school at the time, and his desire to make sure they were ok even though they attended a nearby school. I told him those would have been some of my first thoughts as well.

What about the posting headline?

I am going to be brief here. Today is a day about the victims and for reflection and is not about extolling or castigating the role of technology in all of this. Whether the pervasive access to violent content was an issue in the shootings remains to be seen and may never be known. It is always convenient to blame something or someone else when pure evil is on such a grand display. What can be said is that the pervasiveness of cameras and social media has made the world a very different place in a very short period of time because like it or not like the name of an old TV show, “You Are There.” 

The fact of the matter is that if history is not to repeat itself, the fact that we can bear witness to it so personally is actually a good thing. It would be a true tragedy if we somehow became inured or so used to such events, and let distance distract us from the immediacy and impact of horror and desensitize us from sharing the anger and the grief. In fact, it is an odd dialectic that in many ways the role of media is to startle, disgust and yet be therapeutic. We need to be fully engaged with the good, the bad and the ugly in order to remember our humanity. 

I am sure in the days to come there will be lots of articles on how especially social media has changed the way we experienced this massacre as opposed to others. I only hope, given that such articles are already springing up, that we never lose sight of the fact that all those people who were wounded or killed wanted to do was enjoy an evening of entertainment and they should never be seen as just statistics. They were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of someone, and if media has a critically important role to play in the days that follow it would be best used to remind us of that. We all need to be constantly poked that while this can be a cathartic communal experience it is personal.    

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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