The Media should Show the Truth of Gun Violence
The photos of shooting victims should be made public.
I don’t ever want to see those photos. But we should have to, particularly those among us who champion the right to own military style guns, or any guns, over the lives of victims and survivors of gun violence. They, especially, should have to see the results of their beliefs and their efforts.
There are people who have to see the aftermath of shootings. Medical professionals, police, other first responders, crime scene investigators and cleaners, the loved ones of victims, and the survivors and witnesses of shootings, see firsthand the horror and devastation wrought when some asshole with a gun has decided to end the lives and destroy the bodies of other human beings. They have to see blood and the mangled bodies left behind in schools, in work places, on public streets, and they have to carry that traumatic memory with them.
The rest of us are spared that, for the most part. We hear the stories and statistics, see some photos of the scenes. What we see, however, is always sanitized. We see the outside of a building where a massacre took place. We see smiling photos of the victims, taken on days when they weren’t hunted and murdered. The prevailing sentiment for this is that it’s done out of respect for the dead and their loved ones. It shows people at their best, alive, as they should still be, and makes us sad as viewers that they aren’t. We should not simply be sad, however. We should be horrified. We should be disgusted and furious. Some of us are, but there is a problem of desensitization related to gun violence in this country. Many of us have grown inured to it. We hear that another mass shooting has occurred and shake our heads and go on with our days. There are people who don’t have that privilege. Frankly, we should not. And again, those who value the right of people to own guns over the right of slaughtered people to still be alive, or at least have justice done in their name, should never have that privilege. They should never be allowed to look away.
It’s a great irony that the United States, the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” is so loath to witness and acknowledge the realities of violence. The American view of violence is so tied to entertainment and capital that many of us are ignorant to the effects of actual violence.Weapons manufacturing is a profitable business, so the arms industry can pump out all manner of murder machines domestically and abroad with minimal restrictions. Meanwhile, our films, shows, video games, and other media are replete with portrayals of gun violence. With a minority of exceptions, these depictions are not accurate in showing the damage and pain done by gun violence. They are glamorized, minimized, and sanitized.
The photos of beaten and scarred enslaved people, such as that of “Whipped Pete,” helped motivate the abolition movement. The photo of Emmett Till’s corpse aided the Civil Rights movement by showing the country and the world the horrors of racist violence that had destroyed a young innocent boy. The photos and video footage taken of injured and killed civilians and soldiers in the Vietnam war have often been credited with contributing to the war’s end. By showing the global public the horrors of the war, more people were mobilized against it, and those in power were less able to ignore or resist their cries of protest. And many of those photos and video recordings, horrific as they are, would be considered tame and impersonal compared to the explicit, hi-def images that would be taken of modern domestic shootings. It will be an unpleasant day, when US news outlets show the public photos of children’s corpses, destroyed, lying in piles on classroom floors. But it will mark a day of progress. Because it is a lot harder to ignore tragedy when one is forced to look at it. We have to witness the true horrors of these repeated, preventable tragedies in order to end them.