The Washington Post Has Got To Be Kidding Me
I read something yesterday that disturbed me, to the point I knew I had to take the day off from publishing. I was afraid of what I might say if I wrote this in that moment. While I have no problem criticizing The Washington Post I didn’t and still don’t want to pick apart the article in question, nor its author. I don’t have a problem with the article. My issue is with the fact The Washington Post actually published it.
Yesterday, as I sat at my desk scrolling through Medium I came across the grossly sensationalized headline of If I Could’ve Gotten a Gun, I Would Have Been a School Shooter: If I’d possessed a rifle, I would have been a killer. If I’d known love, I would never have wanted one.
I’ll admit, it’s a fantastic headline. An attention grabber for sure. Mainly because school shootings happen on what seems like a weekly basis here in America these days. Which embodies my entire issue with the fact The Washington Post would actually print this. They’re not just profiting from the pain this Country, the victims of every school shooting and their surviving classmates and family members have tragically endured — they’re sensationalizing it. They’re converting it to cash via advertising money.
Though, I’m sure The Post will tell you the angle of the article they were looking to promote was the fact the author points to how “he would have never wanted a rifle, had he known love”. Please, just stop it.
On April 20th, 1999 I sat in my middle school classroom as news broke of The Columbine High School shooting. There were TV’s in every classroom. The teacher turned on coverage , which in retrospect was probably highly inappropriate.
Though the reports obviously shocked me, as I sat there watching the surveillance tapes of those two monsters , one word continually found its way to the forefront of my mind — cowards.
Anyone who brings a gun to school and opens fire because they felt they were mistreated or picked on, is nothing more than a coward without a conscience.
You can save the heartfelt story about how bad things were at home for them, I don’t give a fuck. They’re not martyrs, heroes, or victims. They’re heartless killers who never found a way to deal with the unpleasant aspects of life that the rest of us find a way to.
I knew a plethora of kids who got picked on for no reason in school. I always went out of my way to stand up for them. I don’t say that for applause and I didn’t do it for attention — I did it because it felt like the right thing to do. While I was lucky enough to be a part of “the cool kids”, we weren’t the captains of the athletic teams and prom queens. We weren’t the kids who picked on the less popular. In fact, we were the ones who made fun of the kids who thought their status made them better than the rest of us. We picked on the kids who picked on the less popular kids. And most importantly, we stood up for ourselves.
The author of the article I have an issue with The Washington Post publishing cites growing up in a violent and chaotic household, I don’t doubt it. Many of the kids I grew up with endured the same. Alcoholic parents who hit them, Mothers who were more concerned with their next fix than they were their own child’s well being. Kids who didn’t grow up exactly feeling the love — but who never thought maybe they’d take out their frustrations by bringing a gun to school and opening fire. No, they found a way to cope and persevere. They moved out when they were young. They decided the best way to try and right all the wrongs they had suffered, was to never be like the people whose hands they suffered at.
The cover of Rolling Stone used to be reserved for the likes of — well — The Rolling Stones. Rock stars and celebrities we all idolized and for good reason. Then after the Boston Marathon Bombing, they gave the cover to one of the sociopaths who perpetrated the cowardly act. Sensationalism at it’s grossest.
An aspect of the The Washington Post’s article in question I found interesting, to say the least, is the year the author claims he tried to buy a gun to commit a mass murder. 1997. I’d simply like to note the fact this was two years before The Columbine High School shooting. Which is to say, it was before showing up to school and murdering the masses at random was a thing. Reported shootings at schools date back to the 18th century. However until Columbine, they weren’t random and rarely were multiple people targeted. These were people who showed up to school, knowing who their exact target was. People they had a previous problem with or vendetta against.
Make no mistake about it, the Columbine High School shooting and the way it was sensationalized by the American media is the square root of the mass schoolhouse shootings we unfortunately see so often today. It didn’t happen before Columbine. But I’m expected to believe the author of The Washington Post article planned on shooting up his school at random, two years before Columbine happened. Okay — it’s definitely possible.
However, as a writer, here’s what else I know to be a possibility. The author of it knew it’d be a sensational headline. One a major media outlet like The Washington Post would gobble up and be print to quick. Not in hopes of spreading awareness but in an effort to drive in traffic. While I’m certainly not claiming the author made the story up and I believe every word he wrote about the hardships he endured growing up, I also think it’s possible the article itself was exaggerated or fabricated for effect, for print.
I acknowledge many of my views in this piece probably won’t go over well and some will question how I could criticize someone with such a troubled past. Well I’ve got a better question. How could The Washington Post consciously print an article that does little more than to give America’s troubled youth a really bad idea? One that puts mass school murders back to the forefront of their mind. The author of the article cites love as the reason he eventually decided against committing mass murder. Well what about the kids who read the article, who feel exactly like the author claims he did in 1997, who never feel the love the author thankfully found? Where does that leave them?
It leaves their minds spinning in directions we don’t need to be pointing them. True or not, the article’s happy ending most likely leaves them feeling deprived of their own happy ending. The author felt there were two solutions to his problems — mass murder or love. He found love. What is that suggesting to those who don’t? I took no comfort in the article’s conclusion. I was repulsed by the whole thing. It suggests maybe almost committing a horrible, heinous and cowardly act will get anyone who ever considered such their fifteen minutes. It’s suggesting to the American general public that maybe love is the solution to school shootings.
While generally speaking, I have no personal problem with The Washington Post and it was not my intention to demean the author or belittle his experience — sensationalism is dangerous and it just troubles me most major American media outlets fail to acknowledge that. I found the headline to be irresponsible and felt compelled to write this, it’s really that simple.