Gun Violence and the Media

Posted: December 3, 2013 in The Hunger Games Op Eds
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By A. Neuman

Navy Yard, New Town, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech—it is as easy to rattle off mass shootings as it is to name the players on a favorite sports team. While mass shootings certainly gain national attention, estimates nearly 31,000 people have died from guns since the Newtown shooting 11 months ago.

But when will America say that enough is enough? Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was the target of gun violence two years ago, yet Congress can’t manage to compromise on gun control. In April of 2013, the Toomey-Manchin bill, that would require background checks for all gun sales, failed to gain enough support to break a filibuster. This was a bill that 90 percent of the American population supported according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Where is the outrage over this clear legislative failure? After the initial outrage, it has taken a backseat to Syria, the government shutdown, the NSA leak, and the IRS scandal. And while our concern for gun violence has waned, we are exposed to more gun violence than ever before. A study in the upcoming December issue of Pediatrics found that the level of gun violence in PG-13 movies has risen, surpassing the violence in rated-R movies from the 1980’s.

In a culture where four of the top ten movies this month are rated PG-13 or R for violence and Call of Duty, Battlefield 4, and Assassin’s Creed are the most popular video games on Amazon, it appears that the need to be entertained is of greater interest than real political change.

Yet, even our entertainment makes strong critiques of American’s need to be entertained through violence. The dystopian society of Panem, as described in the widely popular and bestselling series The Hunger Games, offers one such strong critique.

Main character and national sweetheart, Katniss Everdeen, is amazed by the self-absorbed materialistic Capitol citizens, wondering, “What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?” To the Capitol citizens, the Hunger Games are a party filled with extravagance and excess; to the districts, it is a time of sorrow, watching their children die, one brutal murder at a time.
But are Americans any different when CNN chief Jeff Zucker publically celebrates the networks highest rating in a decade just two days after its infamous misreport of an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing? I say no.

What have the Capitol citizens given up in order to have material goods and constant entertainment? As Katniss learns, they have “given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power.” By creating a culture centered on entertainment through violence, the Capitol could subjugate the districts as they deemed necessary and maintain its little empire. Violence was a cycle that became very difficult to break. It took cutting off the Capitol from their material goods and luxury foods before mass rebellion ensued.

In the same perverse logic, the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of America’s strongest lobbies and anti-gun control advocates, blames American culture for mass shootings. Responding to calls for gun control, the NRA attempted to shift the blame for mass shootings away from a gun control to cultural influences, like video games and entertainment.

A clever move, until the NRA released a shooting game less than a month after blaming the video game industry and the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. Like in Panem, the cycle of violence in American culture has become impossible to break. The American media jumps at the chance to break mass shooting news, even if it means reporting unconfirmed and simply false information as they did in both the Boston bombing and the Navy Yard shooting.

At what point will the American people wake up and realize the violent cycle perpetuated by the NRA and the media? America should know that it has a problem when national headlines include, “Navy Yard shooting unlikely to jump-start the debate over tougher gun control laws” and “Foreigners say they are no longer surprised at U.S. gun violence.”

We have grown apathetic to gun violence, as if it is just another part of life. At an extreme, like the Capitol, we will come to anticipate it with excitement. But will Americans be able to stop it before then? Today, the NRA argues the Sandy Hook shooting was because “there weren’t enough good guys with guns.” We must break the cycle of violence, perpetuated by politics and mass culture, before that can happen.

Articles consulted:

A Neuman

  1. […] Gun Violence and the Media ( […]

  2. Rachel Opperman says:

    I really enjoyed your take on the issue of gun violence in America today. The articles you provided were relevant, and served to round out your perspective on the issue. I also enjoyed your details used to illustrate your point, such as the lack of action after the Gabriele Giffords shooting. A good article all-around!

  3. Jordan Lee says:

    I think it’s incredibly disappointing that school shootings are not enough to mobilize the populace and the legislature to make a real difference to stop something like this from happening again. It’s also really scary to think about how easily Americans drop the issue and move on with their lives. I think this is also telling of how powerful organizations can be of twisting a situation and moving blame away from the real targets. Overall, I think this article says a lot about how Americans handle very real issues, both as defendents and those who wish for change.

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