TV news — and especially local TV news — is dominated by news of violent crime, the more spectacular and murderous the better. TV news creates a false picture of a country under attack by rampaging criminals, and especially nonwhite criminals. The people who watch the most TV news, Americans older than 50, also happen to be the group most likely to own a gun.
Only one-fifth of young Americans own a gun; one-third of over-50 Americans do.Republicans are twice as likely to own a gun as Democrats. Maybe not so coincidentally, Republicans are more likely to watch the scariest news channel of them all: Fox. Whites are twice as likely to own a gun as nonwhites — and it may also not be a coincidence that gun purchases have suddenly spiked since November 2008.
Proponents of gun control are baffled that horrific massacres such as the one in Aurora, Colorado, do not lead to stricter gun control. They have their causation backward.
The more terrifyingly criminal the world looks, the more ineffective law enforcement seems, the more Americans demand the right to deadly weapons with which to defend themselves. It is local TV programming directors, not the National Rifle Association, who are tirelessly persuading Americans that they need to strap a gun to their legs before heading to the mall.
I cannot make my doctor’s office stop showing The Today Show no matter how much I beg. The nurses like it, she says to me. Okay, but after five minutes of it in the waiting room my blood pressure spikes to stroke levels. The morning after the Aurora shootings, before anybody even knew what this was, we were having a panel debate on whether you should “be worried about taking your kids to this movie.”
First of all, the fucking thing is rated PG-13 and is incredibly loud and violent so no, you shouldn’t take your (young) kids to this movie. Not that that stopped half a dozen people at my midafternoon showing from bringing toddlers. I swear the next time a retail spot opens up next to my ‘hood’s theater I’m snagging it for a drop-off babysitting service for the kids’ sakes. I hope that two-year-old keeps you up ALL NIGHT with his nightmares, geniuses.
Second, though, WHAT THE FUCK ON EARTH. Really, that’s our major concern right now, if you should take your kids to a movie because somehow one dude who went on a rampage at Batman means every movie is now dangerous? You know what’s dangerous? The WORLD. I will never understand, when so much out there that we cannot control limits our freedom, we would voluntarily scare the shit out of ourselves on a near-constant basis about things that have already happened when it’s what we haven’t thought of that’s gonna come out of nowhere and kill us.
You watch morning TV (and evening TV about YOUR CHILDREN and how will you KEEP THEM SAFE) and the whole world starts to look like this network of safe areas and danger zones, with checkpoints and times where and when you can cross. Streets you won’t go down, people coming to get you, everybody else out there filled with murderous intent and you, helpless. We know, somewhere deep in our bones, that we can’t protect ourselves. We know this is futile. And instead of saying look, none of us are safe or all of us are and there is no middle ground, we build a bunker, top it with battlements, and hurry everyone inside after dark.
Only to find that we sit, surrounded by ammunition, with no one to shoot at but ourselves.