published Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Harpe: Hope for change in the new year

By Corin Harpe

On Dec. 15, 2012, our country faced another devastating school shooting. This time, the shooter went to greater extremes by killing young children.

These shootings are becoming more common and, as devastating as they may be, are we really surprised? It is time to examine what contributes to these events.

When tragedies occur, we tend to unintentionally make celebrities of murderers. After the Columbine shootings of 1999, the identities of the shooters became household names. After the Virginia Tech massacre, the killer's picture appeared in the media along with his life story. Celebrities such as Morgan Freeman have also brought awareness to how our media tends to turn murderers into celebrities.

Obviously, the reason the media so thoroughly portrays the lives of these criminals might be to find a reason for the tragedy. Perhaps knowing their life stories would help us find an answer for their evil acts, but this puts a positive spin on the situation. Instead, as a society we should realize that the media is not only a business trying to make a profit, but it is also a reflection of ourselves.

I have heard many people say that, in past times, the world was safer. There was less violence and tragedy, but perhaps it is just reported more frequently now.

We need to realize that the purpose of the news is to get us to watch the news. One of the primary ways in which the news motivates us is by appealing to our sense of fear. We want to buy something or listen to something that affects our desire for control.

It is also important to realize that the media is also a two-way street. Our own input creates what we see, hear and read. As much as we criticize violence, why do we continue to buy children video games that encourage murder and theft, or allow them to watch movies that have the same premises?

It is not just what we allow our children to view; it is what we choose to engage in ourselves. We enjoy the same violent movies, we pay to see fights, we go to car races. We spend so much time and money on destructive activities that it makes sense that the media and other sources would respond by providing us with more "entertainment."

It is a problem when such entertainment becomes reality. When real tragedies occur because the perpetrator sees such acts as a means of fame or attention, our response in reporting these tragedies becomes another problem.

Yet, do we really want to censor our news sources? A wonderful aspect of our country is our freedom of speech and our freedom of knowledge. By choosing to turn off our TVs during tragedy or boycotting aspects of violence such as video games, we are censoring ourselves. While we don't want to limit our knowledge and our choices, we still need to analyze our response to violence.

With this latest tragedy, I saw how social media sites enabled us to voice our opinions in new and more widespread ways, and these responses helped me understand the benefit of this medium in encouraging freedom of speech and changing our overall media response. People can now express themselves in ways that were previously limited, and this expression enables us to think critically about our world and society.

Evil and violence are always going to be a part of our world, but our responses to it are key to how it will affect us and future generations. With this new year ahead of us, hopefully we can and will make positive changes in our society and our world.

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