:: Murder, televised
by David Hoppe
Surely there’s a story here.
There’s always a story, right?
Two small town television journalists are shot dead at a shopping mall, while interviewing a lady from the local Chamber of Commerce. They were on the air, they were, as the saying goes, live, when a gunman walked up and opened fire.
Then it turns out the gunman was himself a television journalist. He’d been fired from the station where his victims worked. It wasn’t the first time he’d been sacked. He had a history of “anger issues,” according to a station manager.
The gunman faxed a lengthy message that he called “A Suicide Note for Friends and Family” to ABC News. He posted video of the killings on Facebook. He tweeted that Alison Parker and Adam Ward, the journalists he murdered, had insulted him at different times. He said he was “on the edge” and that he wrote the victims’ initials on the bullets he fired.
He said he was inspired by the shootings in Charleston, at Columbine, and Virginia Tech.
A few hours after killing Parker and Ward, the gunman killed himself in a rented car.
I haven’t used the gunman’s name because I don’t want to make this his story. That’s what usually happens in cases like this. Reporters try to find out as much as they can about the perpetrator, to tell his or her story.
They want to know whether the killer acted alone. Or, on the other hand, whether what happened could be part of something larger.
Somewhere in there lies a flickering hope that knowing these things might help prevent them from happening again.
It turns out, though, that the answers to the reporters’ questions are becoming less and less relevant. In this case, yes, the gunman acted alone. He was a dangerously deranged individual. But this doesn’t make what happened an isolated incident.
This gunman saw himself as part of a larger tide, a movement. Like you, like me, he must have watched the news and seen that hardly a day goes by when someone isn’t killed by someone else with a gun.
He also must have noticed that while these stories are often told, hardly anything is ever actually done about them.
And so he upped the ante. As the New York Times noted: “The shooting and the horrifying images it produced marked a new chapter in the intersection of video, violence and social media.”
After the televised images from 9/11, and the videotaped butchery of ISIS — mayhem resembling, even anticipated by, Hollywood product we’ve consumed for years as entertainment — these latest murders are a shock, but hardly a surprise. People have expressed bewilderment that they happened in a small town, some place off the beaten path. But media makes any place everywhere. It makes a small town loser the focus of national news, a featured player in our society’s ongoing history of violence.
The gunman must have known this.
But this doesn’t make what happened his story.
It is our story. Isn’t it?