What happened in Connecticut this morning -- and what happened here in the Portland area earlier this week -- is tragic, and senseless, and devastating. But it is not news that I need to see Right Now -- and the lesson I take from these events is not the one you might think.
The thing is, I think the fastest way to reduce the number and severity of these mass-shooting events is not to rewrite gun laws or reallocate mental health care resources. It's much simpler than that.
We have to stop paying attention to them.
To the extent that there's a common thread running through these events, it seems to be that their instigators were looking for attention. And in almost every such instance -- the media has given them that attention in industrial-size quantities. Which sends a message to those viewers who are potential instigators: if you do something like this, you will get all the attention you could ever want. (It generally doesn't matter that you may not be alive to revel in said attention, at least not to this specific subset of the population.)
If you're a veteran of Internet or pre-Internet online communities, you're doubtless familiar with an earlier formulation of this premise: "Do Not Feed the Energy Creature". The fastest way to defuse a flamewar or rout a troll/bully is simply not to respond. The same applies in the present context -- if we simply stop giving these events more attention than they deserve, we supply less motive to the next generation of real-world "energy creatures".
The major media outlets need to learn and assimilate this lesson -- and to stop perpetuating the life-cycle of such events as the Aurora shootings, those in Clackamas Town Center, and those today in Connecticut. Saturation coverage, especially when it consists of reporters saying "information is still developing" every five minutes for hours on end, is expensive. If we as viewers stop watching it, we can help teach that lesson; if we tell our media outlets why we've stopped, it may teach that lesson more quickly.
Let me be clear: I don't mean to suggest that there should be no news coverage of such events, especially in communities where they may occur. But the style of coverage needs to be thoughtful and careful and investigative, and the level and focus of coverage should be appropriate to the needs of those directly affected by the specific event being covered.