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"When are we going to be able to curb the kind of violence that is so fraught and so rapid we can't even keep track of the incidents?" Paterson asked at a news conference." http://www.comcast.net/articles/news-general/20090403/NEWS-US-NEWYORK-SHOOTING/
This is New York Governor responding to the recent shooting deaths of 14 people at the American Civic Association.
Like apparently rampaging gunmen are all the rage these days and we just simply can't keep track of all the large-scale massacres. They are so difficult, in fact, that there is an entire wikipedia article detailing all of them (damn you, wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mass_murderers.
Okay, so here's the rather difficult breakdown of mass murders for 2008-April 2009
10 dead and 2 injured in California
6 dead and 3 injured in Tennessee
5 killed, 18 injured in Illinois
8 dead in Illinois and Arkansas
6 dead, 4 injured in Washington
6 killed in California
10 dead, 6 injured in Alabama
13 dead, 4 injured in New York
8 dead, 3 injured in North Carolina
There you have it, the rapid rate of violence that we cannot track.
I do not mean to belittle or demean the tragic loss of these 72 lives. Violent deaths are always heart-breaking, and it's always baffling when people decide to commit such egregious acts of cruelty and violence.
But let's not call this type of violence common. Contrast, for example, Oakland's murder rate. In 2008, 124 people were murdered in the city. That's almost twice the number of people killed during these supposedly rapid-fire mass-killing incidents. In San Francisco, 99 people were murdered. Across the country, 16,000 people are murdered annually. 16,000. Try to keep track of that.
Mass killing are sad affairs, but they are by no means rampant and frequent. Because they are over-reported and more common forms of violence are not, we are engendered with an irrational fear and paranoia of mass killings...even though they are exceedingly rare and unlikely events. Good job, media and public officials, good job.



Apr. 4th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
I see interesting parallels with pit bull hysteria & also rape reporting.

1) Rather than focus on "ANY dog can bite and probably will if pushed far enough" the media focuses on one type of dog, allowing all those lab owners to feel just fine about never socializing or training their dogs. Fido just doesn't like to be bothered when he has a bone, that's why he growls, he's not a menace like those pit bulls.

2) Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, but the media (and a lot of rape prevention materials) prefers to focus on relatively rare instances of stranger rape, and what women can do to keep themselves safe (don't go out alone at night, etc etc).

All of it comes down to having a sense of control of risks, I think. People don't want to believe they're not safe. So they focus on a relatively rare occurance that seems more controllable, more rare, with risk factors they can mitigate somehow (stay away from pit bulls and dark alleys &c &c) rather than admitting that life is an inherently unsafe place.

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