Another mass shooting sears deep into the collective consciousness of the American people. Another school — this time a community college in an otherwise peaceful town in rural Oregon — is devastated by a young man taking aim at students trapped in classrooms. Nine are murdered, and many others wounded, before the gunman is killed in a shootout with the police.
Within a few hours, President Obama appeared before the camera, reinforcing the notion that America is under siege. “Somehow this has become routine,” noted Obama with obvious emotion. “The reporting is routine.”
Although the sense of urgency may be overstated, Obama is certainly correct about the almost formulaic media response. The Oregon shooting had countless news outlets flooding the airwaves and the Internet with questionable statistics on the incidence of mass shootings along with sidebar listings of the deadliest shooting sprees in U.S. history. In the usual rush to offer up some breaking information, news reports were embellished with unconfirmed details about the massacre and the assailant that did little but fuel a contagion of fear.
For context, media folks reminded us of the unforgettable, high profile shootings that have taken place over the past few months, hinting of a problem that has grown out of control. They lumped together rather different types of incidents (the hate-inspired church killing in Charleston, the random shooting at a Louisiana movie theater in which two victims were slain, and the targeted killing of two employees of a Virginia television station by a disgruntled former co-worker seeking payback for perceived mistreatment) as if there is a pattern emerging.