I had another blog planned for this week; but with the terrible tragedy that happened in Florida, I feel the need to try to inject common sense into the inevitable controversy surrounding gun ownership and its role in the recent rash of mass shootings. I was a high school freshman when the Columbine massacre happened, and experienced firsthand the devastating effects it had on schools nationwide. But the spiritual sickness infecting the US was never addressed, and what was rare then has now become a sad epidemic. We are now living in a world where mass killings just as bad or worse than Columbine occur every few months.
A man walks into a church and shoots babies at point-blank range. A lunatic enters an elementary school and guns down as many children as he can. A man perched in a high tower rains bullets down on concert-goers he’s never met. Welcome to the new reality.
The outrage is understandable. No tragedy seems to spur any action. Once the smoke has settled and the bodies are rounded up, one expects lawmakers to do something.
The back and forth of the gun argument also never changes. Cries from celebrities and families of victims for “common sense gun laws” reach a hysterical point for about two weeks. They’re met with gun ownership groups calling for mental health reform and trying to address a spiritual crisis without violating second amendment rights. Or that armed guards or staff could prevent any more school shootings. Some blame the NRA. Some blame violence in movies and video games. Some blame both. But in the midst of this stormy debate, nothing is ever actually accomplished.
As a gun owner myself, I would point out the lack of common sense over emotion. Calls for “common sense reform” never define what exactly that means (there are already over 10,000 gun laws on the books), and also seem to be making that call out of emotion rather than reason. Jimmy Kimmel isn’t using “common sense” when he cries and points fingers to an applauding audience that lives in the bubble of his own worldview.
Gun advocates rightfully point out that gun control would be ineffective, and we should pursue an actual solution to stop mass shootings. Gun control activists, on the other hand, want to hysterically ban guns or pass laws as coping mechanisms to create the illusion of safety while exacerbating the real problem. No new law will stop a mass shooting in a nation where hundreds of millions of guns are already everywhere.
Gun control groups, in their emotional activism, also never consider the long-term consequences of what they want. Theoretically, let’s assume that the second amendment is repealed and gun ownership is banned in this country. But as I just mentioned, there are already hundreds of millions of legally owned guns across the nation. How exactly do we enforce this? I can tell you that many proud gun owners boast and taunt “try to take them!” Charlton Heston summed it up when he said “Out of my cold dead hands!”
So let’s play this out logically. Not every gun owner would fight back. Most law-abiding citizens probably will surrender their firearms. I’m not even saying that those who fight back would win. But with numbers in the hundreds of millions, even a small percentage of them shooting at anyone trying to confiscate their firearms would be catastrophic. If SWAT teams armed with M-16s and bullet proof vests break into their homes, gun owners will probably lose. But they will be killed. And inevitably, so will many of their families. Wives and children will be shot dead in more than a few instances. Some SWAT team members will die, too. On a nationwide scale, this may not equate exactly to a civil war. But it will be one of the most apocalyptic bloodbaths in American history. All of the mass shootings combined will pale in comparison to the collateral damage from an attempt at real gun control in America. It’s not worth it.
Politicians know this, and Washington DC can’t afford the public relations nightmare that would follow. I’m confident that we will never see real gun control in America; and even if we did, it could never be successfully enforced. And this is real common sense.
But if gun control will never happen, and wouldn’t work anyway, what can we do about mass shootings? This brings me to my main point.
It would be very easy to make the clichéd argument that ultra-violent movies, TV shows, and video games have desensitized children. But there’s another, perhaps more sinister side to the equation that rarely gets mentioned. And it points the finger of blame not just to mass media, but specifically the major news networks. You see, the dirty little secret is that big corporate news organizations don’t want major tragedies like the Florida high school shooting to end. Because they’re good for ratings.
In the 1800s, a German author named Johann von Geothe published a popular novel entitled The Sorrows of Young Werther. The book was a soap opera-esque young adult fiction. Its popularity was so immense that young people around Europe went to parties dressed up as the main characters (fandom was a thing back then, too). But the book also has a dark legacy. It ends with the lovelorn Young Werther committing suicide. And wherever this fictional story was sold, suicide rates among the youth skyrocketed.
The legacy of von Geothe’s novel was so terrible that many European nations banned in from publication. But this chillingly fascinating phenomenon, known as the Werther effect, has remained entrenched in large-scale psychological persuasion ever since.
According to scientists, the Werther effect is more powerful than any of us realize. And it saturates mass media today. It can be used to sell products in advertising. But its dark legacy continues, usually unseen. It’s so potent that even a character from a low-rated TV show dying will lead to a spike in suicides around the country.
Media moguls have known this for years. But this reveals the underbelly of 24-hour cable news industry. We live in a day and age where big media have to create news to stay on the air constantly. It makes advertisers happy and keeps them paying big bucks. And the horrifying reality is that we’re paying the price with our blood.
Mass shootings are a classic example of the Werther effect. When one occurs, news media jumps on it and blows it up into the story of the year. This may sound cynical, but the drama makes for great television. And they know it. Aerial shots of teenagers lined up evacuating school. Reporters breathlessly giving word-for-word coverage. Interviews with victims. Sheriffs giving press reports. The screams of the dying. All brought to you by Lipitor.
But the most sinister heart of this slimy beast is the portrayal of the suspect. Mysterious past photographs. Interviews with neighbors trying to make sense of what happened. Mug shots. Instant fame. For the mentally ill, it depicts an irresistible notoriety. These stories are scientifically formulated to appeal the depraved to follow suit. Barely have the bodies hit the floor, and mass media is already subtly creating a news scape that will breed the next shooter. It is inevitable.
And they know it. Media moguls devote their entire lives to the psychological science of creating stories that sell ads and make obscene profits. Don’t tell me they don’t know the lethal consequences the Werther effect is having on our children.
While the NRA tries to come up with solutions that won’t punish law-abiding gun owners, news corporations profit obscenely from mass shootings, sponsored by big pharmaceutical ad revenue.
But don’t be deceived by the cries for “gun reform now” (I’ve noticed that just like “climate change,” “gun control” has a negative connotation, so the master manipulators are trying to rephrase the language to something more appealing). Even if they are being made from exploited families of the deceased. Big media are trying to reshape the landscape of our collective minds. Famous actors and left-wing activists want to us be more open-minded to “common sense gun laws,” which actually has nothing to do with common sense and everything to do with power. They are the totalitarians crying out for total control. The other side of this rainbow isn’t a peaceful world where mass shootings never happen and everyone lives together in harmony. It does, however, resemble Orwell’s nightmarish future from 1984.
The people who want gun control couldn’t care less about saving children; if they did, they would take a stand against abortion and Islamic terrorism. They want total control. No matter how many people have to die to get there. They live and die by one of Saul Alinsky’s foundational Rules for Radicals: the ends always justify the means. The cynical tyrant wannabes cry crocodile tears when a mass shooting takes place, but deep down inside rejoice gleefully at the opportunity to enforce total control.
So how can we stop more mass shootings? Here’s where I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But the only truly effective method will involve overturning the Werther effect. The media must stop covering them. End the fame and notoriety the mentally get when they mow down innocent people, and copycats will quit. Sadly, windfall profits the news industry rakes in from tragedy give me very little hope this will happen. Hunker down, America. The killing is not likely to end soon.
Stay aware, stay safe. No matter what anyone says, pray. It’s more effective than gun control could ever hope to be.
Cialdini, Robert. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. William Morrow and Company, NY, NY, 1984, pages 45-47.