Turn off your television.

This also in a huge part has to do with the sudden surge of “open carry” phenomena in the South.

In his address in regards to the Seattle shooting, the President pointed out a very strong and harsh truth: we are the only developed nation where we got roughly one shooting a week since Sandy Hook. And he’s right: we should be ashamed of ourselves. And nearly all of the firearms obtained for those shootings were obtained legally.

The public, and most of the members of the NRA all support extensive background checks for gun owners. All background check measures have been stalled in legislature, because the NRA owners bought their politicians (like a lot of corporations do, but that we know already). Even more interestingly (read: disturbingly) Georgia enacted a law that allows concealed carry to every public place, then was shocked, shocked I tell you, when a guy with a gun started stalking children’s playgrounds, and a disgruntled employee then opened fire on his workplace – within a week of the law being enacted.

And of course, there’s nothing that Georgia can do about it, because the genius legislature there enacted that “guns everywhere” law in the first place, without even once thinking that there may be very negative consequences to this. Because if everyone carries a gun, everyone’s safer, right?

Nothing is further from the truth. If I’m in any region where there’s a gun per person, the absolute last thing I feel is safe. Even if I myself owned a weapon, I’d never feel safe in an environment where everyone is packing heat. Why? Because I have no way of knowing if one of those “law-abiding citizens” isn’t batshit insane and will start shooting up the place. You can’t tell crazy just by looking at them. After all, look at Eliot Rodger, who was stopped by police and let off because he was a “nice, polite young man”, and what happened after that cop encounter. Again, most guns used in these shootings have been legally obtained. The problem, of course, is that they’re manufactured with the exclusive purpose of killing.

The right to own a handgun should not trump someone else’s right to not be shot. The whole “life” section of “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” section of the Bill of Rights, remember? The part that came before the Second Amendment? It’s kind of more important, someone’s right to not be shot to death.

There is also a disgusting media breakdown of shooters’ mens rea based on their origin. White shooter = mental illness, black shooter = culture of violence? NO. Excuse me, but no. People kill other people because they want to kill them, and whatever their race or ethnic origin, the urge to murder doesn’t discriminate. Not because of culture or mental illness, or whatever. It’s really not that difficult to understand. They want to kill. Which is why they usually have something that is specifically designed to kill: a gun. They want to kill, and in a lot of cases, feel like they have to kill. Whatever makes them want to kill is another question altogether, but the fact is, the percentage of people who get up and say, “Gee, the sun is shining, I’ll go and open fire on bystanders” is effectively nonexistent. In their minds, they have a reason, and that reason is nearly always, “I want to kill them all because [insert in blank]”. The insert-in-blank can be anything, but again: it’s there.

I’m a little sick of the mentality that all of these are isolated incidents. These things start somewhere, always, and nothing ever happens in a vacuum. None of them are isolated, and comparably very few of them have an actual and documented mental illness. What they are, however, to a T, would be angry. Quite a percentage of them is also angry and entitled.

The open-carry people, who think nothing of walking into a public place with a full-on assault rifle, both baffle me and make me glad I live in NYC, where such BS doesn’t happen. WHY. For the love of cheese, WHY. Why does anyone need an assault rifle? Those people are straight-up insane, and the term ammosexual describes them very nicely. Because really, in terms of pure common sense: why in the hell would a civilian living in suburbia need a semi-auto or an assault rifle? I mean, really. What’s so dangerous about Target? Chipotle? Because seriously, they are not inspiring anything apart from straight-up fear with their displays, and it’s not fear of the mysterious boogeyman – it’s fear of them using those assault rifles. Nobody needs a firearm. Nobody needs an assault rifle either. And I, for one, can’t imagine how they’d come in useful in suburban Americana.

The most popular excuse for the gun nuts to stock up on ammo like there’s a war is simple: “I want to defend myself” – everything after those words ceases to be relevant. That’s their mentality. There was, some time ago, a news story about the police in a small Indiana town breaking out full combat gear because “it’s a war zone in the US”.

Really? Where? Because last time I checked, the only “war zone” in the US I can think of is commuter traffic in the morning, and even in the NYC foot traffic, no one wants to kill anyone.

Apart from properly and thoroughly background-checking and psych-evals for anyone who wants to be a gun owner, there are two things that need to be done in order to put the shootings to an end in the long-term basis, something that keeps getting worse, not better, with time:

STOP. WHIPPING. UP. FEAR. EVERYWHERE. 

STOP GLAMORIZING AND ANALYZING THINGS INTO INFINITY.

In short…

Turn off the damn TV.

Seriously. Just as an example: turn on the news. What do you see? Shooting this. Terrorist that. Torture this. “Are we safe?” talking-head analyses. Lengthy, long, arduous “interviews” with “experts” who dissect the mentality of a shooter and are asked questions about the crime in the most infinitesimal details, most of which defy any code of ethics that journalists usually follow.

Here’s why it’s relevant.

We glorify fame in our culture to a ridiculous degree. Did you notice that teen pregnancies went up after Teen Mom premiered on MTV? Did you notice that right now you don’t even need to have a modicum of talent to have a “reality show”, i.e. Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, any of the “Real Housewives”? The message is clear: get yourself on TV and you’ll be famous and discussed, and you’ll have big money, etc. So in this culture, if a shooter is getting himself or herself dissected, discussed, analyzed, etc etc etc – it sends a very disturbing and dangerous message. It sends a message that murder is a good way to get yourself on television. Very disturbingly, people believe that.

The First Amendment that this country is based on needs to be clarified. I am not an attorney, but I did study law fairly extensively, and I will now say something that you will likely fight me on vociferously, but it needs to be said loud and clear:

Freedom of speech from government persecution will never make the speech free from consequences thereof, and from prosecution in regards to those consequences.

Just like Sarah Palin’s crosshairs map inspired a guy in Arizona to shoot Sen. Gabrielle Giffords in the head (she survived), just like the Alex Jones “radio show” has inspired a couple in Las Vegas to shoot at cops (fairly recently), it should be known, once and forevermore: words have an immeasurable power, and nearly everyone seems to forget that words, especially heated words, inspire action. There’s a reason that a court case established that it’s against the law to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater: because words lead to actions, and some actions are dangerous to the public. Words have strength. So do images. So does repetition.

If you ever wondered how come the German propaganda was as effective as it was in the 1930s and 1940s, and the same way as Russian propaganda was extremely effective in the Cold War and years that followed, I’ll explain it: constant, consistent repetition. What’s the old saying? “If you repeat a lie often enough, you begin believing it yourself?” This is a very true thing, especially in messages sent by media. And the media knows it. When images are cycled on a repeating loop, over and over and over again, with the same message, that message and that image become associated as one whole, and that’s what your brain remembers.

The world of psychology calls this technique operant conditioning. In short, it’s a basic form of brainwashing, which is also extremely effective.

I mean, case in point: we all know that the Fox news station is infamous for lying. Fact-checkers all over the place can pinpoint at least three lies in every “news” story they air. However, it has almost a cult-like following of people who take that station as gospel. Same for CNN. Why? Because both stations loop the same story, discussed only slightly differently, ad infinitum. CNN is supposed to have 24-hour news. If you turn off the sound and just record the “headlines” they discuss, you’ll find that they just rehash the same stories on a constant loop, discussing every tiny little detail, to where the average Joe feels like he doesn’t need to ask questions, since everything is already discussed for him.

And that’s the problem.

This is the fastest way that people stop thinking: someone else does it for them. So they stop thinking for themselves. And before you know it, the idea of owning a whole lot of guns because the government will take them away (which still hasn’t happened, even though the gun nuts had screamed about it for six straight years so far) doesn’t seem as ludicrous as it may seem if someone didn’t watch the news dissecting and re-dissecting “gun rights”.

In reality, violent crime is down nationwide. You wouldn’t know it from newsreels lately. But the overall rate of crime, nationwide, has been falling. Stranger danger, which prompts many parents to confine their children to home instead of sending them to the park to play, has been proven to be a myth: 95% of child crimes that happen, including abuse and molestation, happen within the family. In other words, Uncle Ralph is a far bigger threat to your child than whoever might be lurking around the corner.

Might be. That’s the operative word here. Might be. Not is. Might be. As in, not real, but could maybe become real.

That’s what all of this insanity behind the “guns everywhere” law is hinging on: manufactured fear. Might be a threat. Might need to defend themselves. Against what, exactly? What is so horrible and threatening and lurking behind the next corner? And what about you – why do you think that there’s something horrible waiting to happen to you that you think that a gun carried everywhere on your person is a panacea?

Look: if the government wanted to take people’s guns, don’t you think that you would have that happen by now? You’re all shouting about how the guns should be kept from dangerous people, but yet every single measure gets voted down or tabled. Why? Because the NRA, which profits wildly off people’s hysteria – remember the spike in gun sales in 2008 and 2012, both years of Obama’s electoral success? – has absolutely no intention of stilting its successes. Gun manufacturers’ profits spiked in the past seven years alone, all because people bought into repetitive messages of manufactured fear, and ran out to stock up on guns and ammo. Will Colt, or Smith & Wesson like to see a drop in their profits, which will inevitably be brought about by most background check measures? Give me a break. Sure, it’ll save lives. But it’ll also cut into the bottom line and in this country, which has long made it clear that everything comes second to the almighty bottom line, that just won’t do.

This is why we had a shooting per week. Because fear was whipped up to where people stopped thinking, and the NRA and gun manufacturers smilingly capitalized on it. None of the people in the media, the open-carry nut jobs, the leadership of the NRA, or the CEOs of the manufacturing companies are willing to admit the very ugly fact that they do not care about the rising body counts across the country as long as their guns and their money are A-OK. The simple, human things such as compassion are, to them, irrelevant. And lest you think I’m wrong, think about this: there is such a thing as a Sandy Hook denier. There’s a group of people, actually, who claim that Sandy Hook never happened and the children lost were a myth.

The fact remains, though, that the repeated media cycle of fear is hugely responsible for a lot of things. Because of freedom of speech being protected, there’s little that the government can do, unless said speech is used to incite dangerous action. Which it has, but I severely doubt that NewsCorp will get any sort of a slap on the wrist without censorship! screams. Realistically, herein, the private citizen has a lot of power. And the number-one thing that the private citizen can do?

Stop watching.

The fear-mongering is as simple to stop as hitting the power button on the remote.

Stop the regurgitated, fear-driven, infinitesimal-dissection analyses. Stop the hourly news reports of the same incident being broadcasted all over, and think for yourself. And you will find that quite a lot of what you’re told can be refuted with a pen, paper, and a logic equation. And you will find, when you turn off your television and realize that there’s actually pretty little to be afraid of, that things are a lot simpler than they appear on CNN.

I live in NYC. You can argue that it’s a dangerous city. Maybe, possibly. Myself, I’ve had only one incident, years ago. My mom, same. Over a period of twenty years. And know something? Neither of us wants a gun. Neither of us feels unsafe on a regular basis. Weird, right? But no, it’s not, not really. Why? Because neither my mother nor I watch any TV on a daily basis. The last time I turned on my television, even temporarily, was for the 2012 election results. Because if I had to turn on the news for any reason whatsoever in the current climate, I’d be spending my life inside a bottle. At any given moment in NYC, I’ll find about thrice as many “armed [insert crime]” reports as I would find “Charity raises X sum for Y cause” reports. And you know something, pretty much all of us here would prefer the latter.

I threw out my TV in March. I don’t miss it at all.

You can argue that it would mean that you wouldn’t know what’s going on int he world. But that’s not the case. Because media saturates our lives to an almost unreal degree, and because people around us talk about it, we’ll always have an ear or an eye on everything around us. But there is a lot to be said for not having it in your face on an endless loop. Operant conditioning is only effective with repetition, but if you don’t have the repetition, it’s basically ineffective and irrelevant.

If our media and “news” networks are starting to resemble a Pavlovian-style conditioning method, then it’s well past the time to turn it off, or at least stem it.

Because, before cable television grew to over a thousand channels, if you notice, there were a lot less school shootings.

Don’t blame video games. Video games are designed to be an escape from reality. Blame the fact that the “reality” is cycled over on an endless loop that’s perfectly designed to discourage thinking. If someone knows the difference between fantasy and reality, then Halo is no more than just another game on a screen. If that knowledge of the difference is blurred, then you have a far greater problem than a video game.

Remember: there’s a world out there. You may as well live in it and enjoy it.

K.G.

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One thought on “Turn off your television.

  1. K. G. – your writing is amazing. The way you dig into a subject and present such articulate analysis, blows me away each time. I’ve shared this post via your buttons there, on Facebook. You really should be published in several magazines, newspapers, and…oh wait, you’re not advocating fear and blind consumption, what was I thinking? ;-).

    I’ll continue reading though and sharing with others.

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