The Power To Ignore

“And now the news…”

The news media’s choice of news stories, which to highlight, which to ignore, which to bury, has never seemed more suspect. NBC has made heroic efforts not to cover the Fast and Furious scandal; the Washington Post made a painted-over slab of rock at a hunting lodge a front page story to embarrass Gov. Rick Perry, and now the latest madman shooting tragedy is being mined for all the anti-gun sentiment that can be stimulated by human interest stories about the victims and solemn grandstanding statements by politicians. Meanwhile, the fact that every psychologist experienced in such matters cautions that publicizing such shootings encourages future massacres carries no weight with journalists at all. They will lecture us on the panacea of gun control but refuse to restrain themselves from giving homicidal maniacs exactly what they seek…fame. Ironically, the anti-gun slanted news coverage may ultimately be more responsible for the next Aurora than lax gun laws.

Journalists also will avoid confusing the public with stories that suggest that the issue of gun violence is more complex than they would like to acknowledge.

A week ago, 71-year-old Samuel Williams and his wife were  with 34 other patrons at a Jacksonville, Florida internet café.  Duwayne Henderson, 19, and Davis Dawkins, also 19, burst in on the scene, Henderson with a handgun and Dawkins with a baseball a bat. They announced their intent to rob the café and its customers, prompting Williams, a concealed carry permit holder, to pull out his .380-caliber handgun, drop to a semi-crouching position, and open fire on the would-be robbers.

Dawkins and Henderson were shot, arrested, and treated for bullet wounds. They are being charged with attempted robbery.

How many mainstream media outlets saw this instance of legal firearms being wielded to stop a tragedy as newsworthy? One: Good Morning America, and that was clearly because of the age of the hero. Had Williams been, say, 50, it wouldn’t have made the cut on ABC either. Similarly, no major dailies or news websites covered the event outside of Florida.

Maybe they shouldn’t have, to be fair about it. This was a local story, and publicizing it nationally would necessarily create the appearance of trying to bolster the pro-gun argument that lawful gun ownership prevents as many tragedies as criminal gun ownership fosters. Still, without making an effort to show both sides of the difficult gun violence equation, it cannot be said that the American public is getting a fair and balanced representation of the facts “they have a right to know.”

The power to ignore news is every bit as influential on public opinion as the power to publicize it. It needs to be wielded by journalists just as responsibly.

Now that I think about it, it is.

That’s the problem.

____________________________________

Facts: Guns

Source: Newsbusters

Graphic: Trade Show Institute

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

15 thoughts on “The Power To Ignore

  1. Why was not the Aurora, CO shooting a local story (at least before Westboro Baptist Church decided to picket the memorial services and funerals for the victims)?

    This power to ignore is most abused in the media ignoring race riots.

    The dangers to the nation as a whole are an even bigger problem. The truth has a way of eventually coming out, in spite of media silence and politicians’ spin. If the truth becomes widely known, and a white backlash follows, turning one-way race riots into two-way race riots, then a cycle of revenge and counter-revenge can spiral out of control, as has already happened in too many other countries around the world.

    Most blacks and most whites in the United States today get along with each other. But what is chilling is how often in history racial or ethnic groups that co-existed peacefully for generations — often as neighbors — have suddenly turned on each other with lethal violence.

  2. Two things I’m curious about. How many citizens who are carrying their handguns with them to public spaces have proper training in taking down a gunman like a police officer does? And what are the implications of having an amateur deal with a gunman in a crowded space?

    • Great question. And to ask and talk about it, it sure helps to know about the Florida incident. (How many people who operate a heavy machine at high speed on the public roads actually know how to drive safely? You live in DC—what’s your guess?)

    • I would bet close to zero. And even if they did have some type of self defense weapons training. Its one thing to do it in a classroom environment and another to do it when someone is pointing a gun at you or even worse shooting at you.

    • And what are the implications of having an amateur deal with a gunman in a crowded space?

      It can not possibly be worse than the following examples .

      What about Kelly Thomas, who screamed for his father while five cops beat him to death? Or Patricia Cook, shot to death by a deranged alcoholic with a badge? Or Andrew Scott, killed during a wrong-door raid? Or Nick Christie, gagged and pepper-sprayed to death by prison guards? Or Seth Adams, shot four times by a cop behind his family business, then left to die? Or Wendell Allen, who was unarmed when a New Orleans cop shot and killed him during a raid? Or Ramarley Graham, the 18-year-old New Yorker shot and killed by plainclothes cops for trying to flush a small bag of marijuana down the toilet? Or Kyle Miller, killed by Colorado police for waving a BB gun in the air? Or Todd Blair, killed by Utah police for raising a golf club above his head?

      • Training and willingness to intercede varies but the first step would have been for that individual to get a permit and have a gun. Secondly this incident didn’t happen in a split second; he was shooting people for long enough for someone who may have been momentary caught off guard or from another theater to intercede. Many military members would get a permit if it was easier process and there were several in the theater that night.

  3. In Texas, there was a 1 vehicle accident which killed more people(15) than the Aurora incident because there were 23 people in a pickup truck. Where is the coverage? When will they start to investigate the death toll from “undocumented workers”?

    Also, when will they start to look at the man behind the gun? At two of the three Universities where I have studied, mentally unbalanced people went on shooting sprees, killing multiple people each time. In both cases, the person’s mental problems were well known. With the information shown so far, it does appear that the shooter in Aurora was having some problems. It may not be politically correct to notice, but it does not seem unsurprising that people who plan to shoot a bunch of people often are having some mental health problems.

  4. The issuance of concealed carry permits in most states often requires SOME knowledge of the weapon’s use, although not all states. In my experience, those who seek these, are granted them (myself included), and actually implement the use of these permits, are usually knowledgeable about what they are doing. THESE people are your protection in everyday life, NOT THE POLICE. The police are fine to call up after the fact, but aren’t much help during a horrifying event like the Aurora Colorado rampage. Oh, and by the way, liberals, the best way to encourage something like this is to announce a “gun-free” policy, as the Century 16 theater did in Aurora. That’s carte blanche for loose screws like Holmes to do what he did, just as it was for Cho to do what he did at the Virginia Tech campus a few years ago. Obviously, when you know that noone with concealed carry will kill you, you’re free to have at it.

    http://news.investors.com/article/619196/201207231853/aurora-colorado-theater-gun-free-zone.htm?p=full

  5. Just a few points I’d like to make. Media outlets are in the business of making money and guns are one of those topics that will bring out strong supporters and detractors, hence lots of readers and people wanting to comment. Second, just about any reporter will tell you that when a large story breaks, they first cover the basics, then spread out to cover any story that has some relation to it. CNN had one that illustrates this perfectly; it was about weather parents should take infants to late night movies.
    Regarding coverage of the horrific accident that claimed the lives of illegal aliens, I’m sure every major news organization covered it and while it probably initially drove traffic to their websites, it eventually diminished, while the Aurora shootings still brought heavy traffic. That means the accident story would be given less priority on the website and the stories related to the shooting would maintain a strong presence. This is a business decision.
    On another note, I would have liked to have seen the Florida story receive wider coverage; in the least, it should have been picked up by the wire services and listed in their reports to subscribing, smaller newspapers.
    Personally, the topic of guns and gun control has been regularly posted by people I converse with on Facebook. There are both pro and con arguments, with lots of politicians getting their moment in the limelight by coming out with an opinion – I couldn’t stomach watching Michael Moore’s speech so I didn’t watch it – and many strongly held views. I commented only once; I just had to let commence sense come out. While some are screaming to get rid of guns and others are arming themselves to the teeth, the fact remains that in this country, there is a right to own guns. There isn’t a majority of elected officials to overturn that right so talking about it like there is a chance the U.S. could be gun free is nonsense. It will never happen.
    And I agree Jack, it would be nice to see a journalist take the time to talk to rational people who will discuss just how complex of an issue gun control is.

    • Ahh, but you are missing one of the journalists favorite hooks, the “hidden catastrophe” or “formerly undocumented but massively dangerous phenomenon”. My town has seen 3 such accidents in the last year, and we only have 25,000 people. OK, none killed 15, but 7 killed from 18 in one vehicle is still pretty bad, especially when three of the victims were under 7 years old. If you add up all the deaths, it is staggering (those three accidents probably resulted in more deaths than all the murders in town). All the accidents were single vehicle with unlicensed drivers, no insurance, etc. There aren’t that many mass killings like Aurora, but there are a lot of these. The only problem is that it doesn’t paint illegal immigration in a positive light.

      • All the accidents were single vehicle with unlicensed drivers, no insurance, etc. There aren’t that many mass killings like Aurora, but there are a lot of these. The only problem is that it doesn’t paint illegal immigration in a positive light.

        The media are anti-American for refusing to cover such stories. I wish there were effective means of making them cover what they ought to cover.

        On another note, unlicensed and uninsured drivers who kill should be executed. And in such cases, there is zero possibility of innocents being executed (just as if drunk drivers who kill are executed), so that particular objection to the death penalty will be void.

  6. That’s not a fault in my thinking. Believe me, if mass media was aware of these situations – and they get the information from local accounts – they would have been all over them. The draw, for readers, is the victims. That brings page views and dollars.

  7. Cops are not nearly as well trained as people think. Many are borderline to outright incompetent with firearms. One young retired marine was the victim of a no-knock raid; he could have been the victim of a home invasion for all he knew. The youtube vid shows the SWAT team – best trained on the force, dont’cha know – stumbling over themselves to get in, guns pointing everwhere, fingers on triggers, while our young marine with his weapon in hand is a model of firearms discipline, finger off trigger and weapon on saftey. Of course they shot him 72 times with no regard for over-penetration of their rounds, nor of the fact that he never levelled his rifle in their direction, and of course they had the wrong address. And of course they all patted each other on the back and faced no action whatever for the dead ‘perp’. Cop training is a joke; most CCW owners know this; all gun store owners know this. Fact is, if the department isn’t paying for range time and ammo many cops don’t bother. And they get couple hours of both per year in most places to ‘qualify’ their weapon.

  8. Meanwhile, the fact that every psychologist experienced in such matters cautions that publicizing such shootings encourages future massacres…

    I’m not aware of any studies but for anecdotal comments from ‘media psychologists’ that give this idea validity. I think the confusion lies in the popularity of a story and the media’s attempt to capitalize on the public’s interest with anything that can be written as similar.

  9. Meanwhile, the fact that every psychologist experienced in such matters cautions that publicizing such shootings encourages future massacres…

    I’m not aware of any studies but for anecdotal comments from ‘media psychologists’ that give this idea validity. I think the confusion lies in the popularity of a story and the media’s attempt to capitalize on the public’s interest with anything that can be written as similar.

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