Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dear Journalists, Wherever You Are....



Hi. First, let me say, sincerely, that I am sorry for your loss. There is (or should be) a sense of community that makes the loss of one a loss for all. The notion of losing TWO, however, is worse. 

WDBJ 7, Virginia, lost two employees today. Adam Ward, a cameraman, was twenty-seven years old. Alison Parker, the reporter he was filming, was twenty-four. Both of them were in long term relationships with other people working for the company.

Good Christ.

Allegedly it was a disgruntled ex-employee of the station who came up while they were working and murdered them both. Shot them dead on a live feed. He also shot and injured Vicki Gardener, who, happily, is recovering in the hospital.

Vester Lee Flanagan II, a man who was “distraught,” had time to rent a get away car. He sent a twenty-three page fax to ABC News, posted footage of the shootings on Facebook, under a pseudonym. Those recordings, happily, were taken down.

There are people who will claim (possibly with justification) that Flanagan was acting out of anger. He had been fired from the news agency. He was let go in February 2013. Two and a half years ago. I could be wrong about that, Heaven knows, but I only have the Internet to find out the details.

Flanagan was apparently frustrated by his job situation. He was dismissed from at least two jobs as a reporter for anger issues. Flanagan also claimed in his fax (again, allegedly) that he was harassed for being African American and for being homosexual. Sadly, I can see both of those elements causing problems, because, sadly, while this country has improved markedly along those lines in the last 50 years, there is still a tremendous amount of room for improvement.

One co-worker from the past claimed she did not know why he was dismissed from the company they worked for together. She simply knew that he had moved on to another Florida station. She was also shocked to hear about the incident because Flanagan was always such a nice, quiet guy with a good sense of humor.

In a show of absolutely no surprise, some candidates running for the chance to be the next President of the United States were asked how they felt about the shooting. Hilary Clinton said we needed to do something about the rampant shootings in this country. Her competition for the other side said it was a tragedy, repeatedly, but said nothing more, save that prayers were being offered for the dead and those left devastated by the actions of one rogue shooter. I am paraphrasing in all cases.  Finding their actual words is easy. You can Google them, though, of course, every news station will be reporting their words with far greater accuracy through the course of the next few days and possibly all the way to the election.

In a fit of the sort of bravery we see from most impassioned killers out to make a statement (and here I must digress for a moment. Our poor, troubled shooter took the time to A) buy a gun legally, B) rent a getaway car (which was taking him in the direction of the local airport) C) set up a false Facebook and Twitter accounts under his pseudonym, Bryce Williams, so that he could post the footage of his shooting on the internet and D) First compose and then fax a 23 page rambling credo of what had gone wrong with his life and why he was now seeking to become famous.) Vester Lee Flanagan II, one assumes when he realized the police were serious about apprehending him, ended his own life with a bullet.

We will hear about this for days. That’s hardly surprising.

What bothers me, is that, if things continue on the way they have in this nation, we will hear about it for days, or possibly weeks or months, and NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

The NRA has a stranglehold on the purses of virtually every politician in the government. They are, I believe one of the largest contributors to most every campaign that isn’t actively anti-gun and they might well contribute to the other side, too. Why not hedge those bets, kids? Right?

Every time there is a shooting of any national note some testosterone fueled outrage goes out about not taking our guns away.

I’m going to say it again. Keep the guns. I support the Second Amendment just as surely as I support the First Amendment (Though, of course, some of those folks up on the Hill keep trying to muck that one up and stop certain groups, like I dunno, Scientists and the EPA from getting in the way of the money trails. Oh, sorry, I digress.). Know what else I support? Accountability.

If I leave my car unlocked with the engine running and some 12-year-old gets in my car and drives down the street and runs somebody down (God forbid) I’m betting that somebody, somewhere is going to come after me. I’m also betting that unless someone realizes I write novels where that sort of stuff happens, I’d be a footnote on the local news. In the event that they DID find out I am a novelist who writes that sort of stuff, I’d say there’s a damned good chance that I would suddenly be in the spotlight, especially if (again, God forbid) that adolescent I mentioned earlier had actually read one of my books.

There could be a feeding frenzy on that one. I mean. On the positive side, I’d certainly sell a few more books, but because of the way the laws are set up (and I like this one) any possible profit I could make from the commission of a crime would not reach me. (I kid. I’d still make the money from the books already in print. I just couldn’t make money off any books written about the crime as the one found guilty of the crime.—and again, I could be wrong. I’m going off old memories and I’m not about to research it.)

Think about it: a HORROR WRITER’s works influenced a KID who then caused a VEHICULAR HOMICIDE. There would probably be shows about my past, about why I write the things I do, about the fact that I write THAT stuff and read it, too. There would be shows about that poor lad (corrupted by my writings? Maybe, just maybe….) and the trauma that he’s been  through. There would be tales of John/Jane Doe, who died horribly pinned under that Horror Writer’s Car. Members of my family (no matter how estranged) would be interviewed, and a few of my associates in the field might well get TV air time, too. (That’s potentially a silver lining, but I’m not that generous, so, no.)

Nothing, or an amazing plethora of juicy stories. It depends on the whims of the media.

Unless, of course, someone remembered to focus on the real issues.

Why was junior stealing my car? Where were his parents? What absolute madness made me leave my keys in the car with the motor running? If I’m responsible in any way, legally, will my insurance company have to pay or is that all on me?

Here’s a few more to consider: Why do we need special training to drive a car, but not to own a gun? Why do we need insurance for a car, but not a gun? Why is it that when some disgruntled fourteen-year-old takes dad’s (or mom’s, let’s be fair) pistol to school and shoots fourteen people no one looks to the parents and asks why the blue hell their kid had access? Why is there absolutely no accountability? Why aren’t background checks mandatory across the nation? Why aren’t the fingerprints of every single gun owner registered the same way that the fingerprints of car drivers are (Okay, to be fair that might not be in EVERY state, but it should be)?

And listen, Journalists, I love you guys. Sometimes. But why aren’t you screaming in outrage instead of reporting about the tragedy? I hope I’m wrong. I hope that you are, but if you aren’t why not?

This week alone we had this latest tragedy, a shooting in France that was, thankfully, cut short by several very brave men, and two douche bags who posted on Facebook their plans to go postal on a Pokemon tournament (On supposes they expected to lose) and were stopped by the Boston Police before they could actually commit what was, no doubt, meant to be a massive Thrill Kill that would have made them famous for fifteen minutes.

I get it. You report the news. It’s your job. But how about doing it the right way? Actually report the news and save the editorial spaces. Stop sensationalizing the juicy bits and actually tell the news the way it used to be told. Some stories are bigger, I get that, some stories need a little extra space. But how often are stories brushed aside because these days the whole damned thing is a ratings game?

We’re going to hear about the latest thrill killing spree. We’re going to hear the names of the people responsible and  they’re going to gain a certain level of (God help us all) celebrity. They are also going to be idolized by enough people that others, (and, again, God help us) will decide to follow in their footsteps.

What? Is that a protest? Hang on a second. In his twenty-three page, premeditated ramble, Vester Lee Flanagan II, and I’m quoting NBC News here, “expressed admiration for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the killers from Columbine High School 1999, and Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007.”

Yeah. I did a little research.

We, the people, need to know. We appreciate knowledge, though, of course, there are exceptions. What about the rest of the news? Why do we virtually never hear about the pedophiles who get caught? Why aren’t we aware of their sentences? Why doesn’t every news site post the new locations of those wretches when they move? Why aren’t the news stations pointing out, loudly and proudly, the horrid state of the bridges in this country? According to Congress the reason those bridges haven’t been fixed is because “it’s not sexy enough.” I’m not even sure what that means, but I suspect it’s because they can’t get a loud enough voice going to make it matter. I’m guessing that’s why we don’t hear about the pedophiles. It’s the sort of news that makes people uncomfortable. You know, like the statistics for Gun Violence while under the influence of alcohol versus Gun Violence while under the influence of marijuana. Not sexy. Kind of dry. Why don’t we ever talk about the sad state of mental health care in this country? Or the fact that insurance companies have deliberately separated out Dental and Vision Care from regular insurance so they can a) charge more and b) change the rates of compensation? Not sexy.

How about this: Why don’t you lean the field in the favor of stopping Thrill Killers? Maybe if you just hide that crap under the rug with the pedophiles and the non-celebrity DUIs we can stop the next generation from looking for a chance to go out in a blaze of glory while shooting the bejesus out of a movie theater or, or trying to kill any more reporters on live TV. I know that sounds crass, but I genuinely believe that Vester Lee Flanagan did willfully and deliberately decided to make certain his murders were televised in an effort to increase his notoriety.

How about, instead of worrying about the latest fashions, you actively find out and report which members of Congress have kept their word to their constituents and which ones have lied repeatedly.  Make public how much they have received from every corporation or lobbyist group that has offered them bribes (Naturally, I mean donations) to think their way? How about you actually ask questions of the people who want to run this country and then make them fear not being truthful? How about NOT making Donald trump the flavor of the week? Instead, tell us what ALL of the candidates are doing, and call them to the carpet when you catch them lying and backtracking.

How about the next time some poor girl goes down to spring break in Mexico, if she disappears, you look into how many other disappearances have occurred and give us a list? I know they aren’t all model quality in the looks department, but they should still be mentioned.

How about, once a week, you mention the cost of the United States’ war efforts on behalf of the entire world? Or the possible repercussions of Prisons For Profit?

You know, like how it was before it became a ratings game.

I am sorry for your loss. You are not alone in mourning. Unfortunately there are preposterous numbers of gun crimes every day in this country. They are disproportionate the rest of the world. We have seen that the politicians simply want nothing to do with the subject. Maybe you could help them see the error of their ways, and make it something that is less “sexy” and more something they need to focus on if they’d like to get reelected or even elected the first time.

James A. Moore

PS, having just written this rant I see that I have mentioned the gunman's name repeatedly. I can see the dilemma when reporting the news. But maybe after day two you just let it go, okay?

PPS, Not my first RANT ON THIS SUBJECT.



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