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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Thoughts & Prayers Are Not Enough

One issue that I have found to be increasingly prevalent, in not only society but also myself, is a desensitization to extremely violent or traumatic events. This trend is problematic as it takes away from the actual focus of a tragedy: the victims. There are a few reasons this has started to take root nationally and globally. Some of the major reasons include social media, politics, and general overexposure.
The migration crisis has become relevant in world news and politics within the past few years. As of June 19, 2018, the UN estimated that there were 25.4 million refugees in the world and estimates that over 1,000 people have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. When I think of this crisis, I immediately think of the photo of Alan Kurdi, a dead Syrian boy washed up on the shore. His family, along with many other people, were trying to cross the sea to Greece in a small boat which ultimately capsized and caused his entire family to die except for his father. After I saw the photo of his body, I paused for a moment. I remember thinking how terrible it was and that no one should ever have to go through that. I experienced a moment of sadness and compassion but then swiped on to the next news story. Like me, many people recognize tragedy and let themselves feel sorry for a brief moment but then continue on with their days, not even thinking to stop or wonder how they can help. Even the father of the boy was later interviewed saying that the photo of his dead child had no effect—not on people and not even on the politics concerning refugees. Citizens around the world have seen photos of the terrors of war and yet there still hasn’t been a global outcry for change.
I find it interesting to compare the effects of current photos from war with ones from the past. The Vietnam War and how it was covered detrimentally impacted American citizens’ attitudes towards the war. This war is commonly referred to as the first televised war where many of the atrocities were captured and publicized for the American public to see. One photo that is similar to the dead Syrian boy is one of a young Vietnamese girl escaping a napalm attack; both images emotionally affected people because they brought to light the casualties of unprecedented terror. This coverage is arguably one of the major reasons why the war became extremely unpopular towards the end of the 60s. Both of these these infamous photos spread, but only one of them caused a massive surge of people to speak out.
What has changed from then to now? Why do we not care as much for the people who are suffering and dying as casualties of war? We are all too easily exposed to these terrors by social media and the news, but the general population is not taking action to voice outrage. Nowadays, people express concern through something akin to a tweet talking about the tragedy or a simple Facebook post offering prayers and support. While there is solidarity, there is no appropriate effort taking place. Making a post takes minimal time and little thought; it does absolutely nothing other than make someone look like a decent human being. In situations like these, it’s not the thought that counts, it’s taking proper action.
One can say that as Americans, we are desensitized to terror and war in other parts of the world because it does not directly affect us, but events of extreme violence are becoming more common within our own country. Our reactions are always the same, giving prayers and thoughts, but we aren’t doing anything to prevent these tragedies from happening. When I was twelve years old, both the Sandy Hook shooting and Boston Marathon bombing occurred. Much like older people with the events of 9/11, I remember exactly where I was, how I reacted, and most importantly what I was thinking. In both situations, I was sitting down with tears in my eyes, hand covering my mouth in shock, eyes glued to the news on the TV, and thinking of ways I could help. This was when mass shootings weren’t as common, with there being only 16 mass shootings in 2012. Now terrible events have become a recurring theme throughout news and the media. Most of the time people don’t even bat an eye after reading a gruesome headline–they often just read it and scroll past it.
We’ve begun to focus on the wrong aspects of these tragedies. Instead of recognizing and helping the victims we automatically look for the blame: What was the race of the perpetrator? What is their religious affiliation? Was it because of gun control? Politicians offer their condolences but then go on to use the tragedy to push their own political agendas. Despite all of these events and the abuse of the calamities, there has been no corrective action in our country that helps to prevent these shootings from ever happening again. People are so absorbed with their own needs and concerns that we barely stop to contemplate how others are being affected.
I’m grateful to have had the realization about myself and society that understanding our problems and why they happen is just one step towards correcting our mistakes and, inevitably, our behavior. Tragedy and violence will forever be parts of our lives, but when we stop reacting to these events is when we become a part of the problem. Keeping our minds sharp and our hearts open will not only make us better human beings but will make society a better place for many generations to come.