Media Can’t Make Sense of Colorado Shootings

The tragic events in Colorado at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” — with a gunman shooting more than 70 people — will produce the inevitable outpouring of coverage. Of those lines of inquiry, most will be a waste of time.

First, there are the specific circumstances of what happened, who was hurt and killed. It is senseless and beyond terrible.

Next, there will be the questions about the gunman himself, and his motives. This will be interesting to many — just look at how much of what we watch, even for entertainment, hinges on the actions of deranged lunatics — but it will be specific to him and not informative or useful, like the other loners before him who seemed benign enough, neighbors said, before they did something horrible.

There will also be talk of gun-control laws in the context of whether the alleged killer should have been identified in advance and denied access to weapons.

After that, pretty much everything you’ll hear is pointless — in part because tragedy is a bad launching point for a serious discussion of public policy, and in part because there is no political force behind the movement to strengthen gun laws. (Republicans strongly support the National Rifle Assn., and vice versa, while Democrats have largely accepted the “They’re taking our guns away” line of attack as a political loser for them.)

The media will try looking at other factors, such as whether the details of this case can help prevent such shootings in the future, which (if history is any guide) they can’t. As a reader pointed out, there’s a long litany of random violence surrounding such events, including one I’d forgotten: A fatal shooting at a screening of “The Godfather Part III” back in 1991.

People will ask what we can do to make ourselves safer in public places, not really wanting to acknowledge that there’s only so much that can be done to prevent crazy people from carrying out awful acts, especially if the political class has ruled out serious efforts to disarm them.

People will wonder to what extent movies and pop culture are responsible, or whether — as the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane has done in an otherwise-thoughtful essay — it might be time to dispense with midnight screenings of eagerly awaited movies, which seems like an act of capitulation to the criminally insane.

And of course, the cable news channels — prone as they are, given their postures, to politicize everything — will politicize these events, particularly looking for some idiot congressman who says something stupid about it, mostly in order to ridicule him.

Although I’m sympathetic with news operations whose job it is to try to make sense of such events, I’ve witnessed enough of them in my lifetime to know that they can’t. And the best advice I can offer, frankly, is not to excessively subject oneself to the process of watching them try.

 

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