A culture of fear

Ricky Cavazos, executive officer and admin specialist, surgery, University of Minnesota

On Sept. 28, Fox News aired live coverage of a high-speed carjacking chase in Phoenix, Ariz. Fox put a disclaimer that said, “Live coverage may contain images not suitable for all viewers.” Fox News anchor Shepard Smith was covering the chase with a 10-second delay, in case anything went awry. The man driving the carjacked vehicle stopped, ran into the desert, placed a gun to his head and fired. Fox News mistakenly aired this footage, and Smith apologized to viewers, saying, “We really messed up, and we’re all very sorry.”

Tape delays are difficult. A lot of time is spent when there is no need to cut the feed; then, when it needs to be cut, the person isn’t quick enough. That said, what was newsworthy of the chase in the first place? If they weren’t covering a chase for the mere sensationalism of the chase itself, there would be no need to stay awake enough to cut the feed on time.

A month ago, a shooting occurred near the Empire State Building in New York City. The New York Times posted a controversial photo that showed the victim lying on the ground with a substantial amount of blood showing on the sidewalk where the victim laid. Many people criticized The New York Times for posting such a graphic photo. Some people called it insensitive and said it lacked judgment. The New York Times defended the posting of their photo, calling it “newsworthy.”

I agree with The New York Times that it is “newsworthy” because the public needs to see for itself the violent outcomes of such wanton actions. Why is it that we, as a society, pride ourselves of the right to bear arms, yet we become outraged when we see some of the consequences of owning such arms on television? Why is it that we, as a society, tune into news channels such as Fox News and see a high-speed chase, even with a disclaimer on the bottom of our televisions that reads “Live coverage may contain images not suitable for all viewers?” Then why, when we see something that offends us, do we blame it on the news network rather than taking responsibility for our actions?

The truth is America loves violence. A friend of mine on Facebook posted that no amount of apologizing from Smith is going to make up for the psychological impact to countless sensitive adults and children who just watched a guy kill himself on news broadcast. But there was a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen. And people should have the common sense to know that in such a violent incident occurring, violence could escalate unpredictably. Many of us have no problem going to the movie theater and watching a movie with similar violence in it. Why is that okay and something much less graphic shown on a news network or in The New York Times not? Because a movie is fiction and the other mediums are not? Both still depict violence, yet only one is okay with us.

A few days ago, I went to a forum on Reddit, and people were responding to how a Mexican-themed sorority party raised concerns of racism and stereotyping. One user posted a comment that said how amazing they found it that kids at this university were sheltered and completely oblivious to the real world. Out of the many comments that had been posted on that topic, that one was the one that stuck out to me. Why do people expect our children to be aware of the real world when we do everything in our power to shun them from real world issues? Our education system bans words such as “dinosaur” and “birthday” from standardized testing. Our education system bans the discussion of homosexuality in our public schools. Many school districts across America no longer truly celebrate holidays out of fear of offending someone. More and younger people in this country are obtaining guns while being shunned as to what guns do to people in this country.

Last July, America witnessed the largest mass shooting in American history in Aurora, Colo. Many of us asked ourselves and each other: How could such an innocent-looking, intelligent young man commit such a horrible act?

When we glorify violence, guns and fame and resent the government for spending our money on social services like mental health resources and health care, why are we surprised when crazy people become crazier?