Twenty children are dead. Twenty. It is beyond imagining that someone could do this. It is beyond understanding how these families, the Newtown CT community, will make it through.
Like so many others, I have been glued to the TV. What, exactly, happened? Who was this mass murderer? Why did it happen? How?
And in the first days after the massacre, (no other word seems to have enough force) it made sense to watch the news, hoping for answers.
But now —- Now the coverage feels more like exploiting parents’ grief than relaying news. The CNN anchors repeatedly use the phrase “out of respect for the families…” Wolf Blitzer is positively apoplectic in his disclaimers: “The family came to you, correct?” he asked of a reporter who had just aired an interview of parents and their six-year-old. “You didn’t have to convince them, or coerce them? They wanted to do this.” He must have said that, or something like it, at least three times in less than five minutes.
Methinks thou dost protest too much, Wolf.
And Anderson Cooper. I like Anderson. I think he’s a good guy, a well-intentioned guy. By all accounts he is. So I hope he’s uncomfortable still being there under the guise of “we want to remember the victims.” By camping out outside their funerals with cameras in tow? By laying in wait at the foot of their driveways? Even if he’s not doing that, he’s perpetuating a culture that does.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the solemnity of much of the early reporting. I have seen and heard reporters display real emotion, real caring. I think that showing the victims’ names and faces is important. Not in the least because seeing those babies – babies! - reminds us that something needs to be done about the culture of violence in this country. I believe we should keep the story front and center lest we squander the one good thing that could come of this: “meaningful action” on gun control, and a robust discussion of why our society is so gun obsessed.
But the 24 news cycle lends itself to endless iterations of the same thing. So until there’s something new to know, why should these people - already besieged by grief - be further besieged by an army of round the clock journalists jockeying for position as most compassionate?
I, too, want to know what happened. More than that, I’d like to understand why we live in such a violent society, and what we can do about it. But until that’s what the news is about, until there is some explanation of the unexplainable, I’m leaving the TV off, and leaving those parents, those families, that town, to grieve in peace.