In the Middle East, news of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy broke against a turbulent backdrop of violent clashes in Egypt over a new constitution proposed by Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, and a civil war in Syria in which dozens die daily.
So as millions in the region tuned in to Al Jazeera and other local broadcasters, all of which played the story prominently, and also to CNN, the BBC and other international outlets, CNN.com summed up the one common reaction: “This is what parents in the Middle East go through every day.”
Media commentators in the region slammed lax U.S. gun control laws. But they also placed the blame on Hollywood.
“With guns being a prominent feature in American popular culture, the gratuitous display of violence in its films, needs serious introspection — and could be cited as the single most important factor for the gung-ho behavior among U.S. youths (and adults!),” opined the Arab News, an English-language daily published in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Mahyad Tousi, a creator of transmedia content centered around Middle East themes, who spent his formative years in Iran amid the revolution and now heads Brooklyn-based BoomGen studios, had a similar take.
“The gun control conversation is a hardware conversation. But the Hollywood conversation is a software conversation — it has to do with how we treat the human consciousness on a software level of people.”
Tousi added that the context in which violence is portrayed is more problematical than violence itself. “If you are using narrative and storytelling to just show violence for the sake of itself and show it in a context that is negative, then that is quite dangerous.”
Tousi recounts that just days before the Newtown tragedy, he was at a Silicon valley school getting feedback from students about the educational app for his transmedia project “Operation Ajax,” a history-based interactive graphic-novel-style spy thriller about how the CIA plotted a real 1953 coup in Iran.
“A little girl raised her hand and asked me about a scene in which a guy stabs another guy in the neck with a fork. She told me she thought it was excessive,” he said. “Our jaws dropped, (and) the rest of the class disagreed, but it was a wake up call in a lot of ways.”
In Iran, reaction to the Newtown massacre was a mix of condemnation and condolence. Iran’s state-owned English-language Press TV on its website played up comments by Mike Harris, a former Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, who blamed “Zionist-controlled Hollywood” and a “Zionist-controlled news media” as a conduit for the massacre. Meanwhile, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a message of sympathy to families of the slain students.