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News Coverage of Mass Shootings Has Become 'Ritualized'

CNN anchor Victor Blackwell stood outside a Buffalo supermarket in Buffalo on May 16 and choked back tears as he reported the details of a mass shooting in which 10 people were killed. "I’ve done 15 of these, at least the ones I can count,” Blackwell told viewers. “Are we destined to just keep doing this, city after city? Have we just resigned that this is what we’re going to be?” Barely a week later, he was doing No. 16. It fell to Blackwell to break the news to CNN viewers that a South Texas elementary school had just been attacked by a gunman. Media coverage of the massacre in Uvalde feels like a grotesque deja vu —police alerts, a teeming crime scene, the live helicopter shots, the family tragedies and another round of inconclusive debates about gun control and mental health, says the Washington Post.

News coverage of mass shooting has become so ritualized that it was famously satirized by the Onion newspaper in 2014. Headline: “'No Way to Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” The Onion has republished the parody more than 20 times, including last week and again Wednesday, when every headline on the homepage read: “No Way to Prevent This.” The commentary in reaction to the shooting unfolded with a certain sameness, said political scientist Daniel Cassino of Fairleigh Dickinson University. “The talking points have calcified since Sandy Hook,” he said, referring to the Connecticut school where 26 people were killed in 2012. While pundits once seemed boggled by the horror of a mass shooting, many now retreat to well-rehearsed stances. "If I'm against gun control, I talk about mental illness, the tragedy of the situation, the individual characteristics of the shooter, and the need for ‘safer schools,’” Cassino said, noting that “safer schools” usually means arming teachers and security guards. “If I’m for gun control, I will call for regulating certain types of weapons and particular types of ammunition. The mentions of mental health are usually about how Republicans have gotten rid of funding for mental health treatment.”


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