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“What Will We Do After The Next Slaughter?: Shut Up About San Bernardino, Because There’s Nothing Left To Say

The right and the left have both issued verdicts on what not to say after a mass shooting.

The right ridicules calls for gun-safety measures. The left mocks what it perceives to be hollow nostrums about “thoughts and prayers.” I think they’re both right. I think it’s time to say nothing at all.

I realized this when I discovered the most trenchant thing I’d read about San Bernardinonoting that Sandy Hook didn’t begin a national conversation about guns so much as end it—was actually written about the murders at the Emanuel AME Church.

There is no way to overdramatize the speed with which San Bernardino followed Colorado Springs; it happened too fast for hyperbole. There wasn’t even time for an idea to be proposed, much less fail. Columns written about Richard Dear are still being published even as we hunt for answers about the massacre farther west.

Sure, the particular gruesomeness of this crime—at a center for the disabled—seems like it might be enough to…what? What about this crime will shove the graceless leviathan of our national consciousness from the sludge-gummed track we’ve developed to deal with what should be unspeakable, unthinkable, at very fucking least rare?

In the hours after the California killings, heavy traffic crashed a mass shooter database. Which is more horrifying—that so many people needed the information, or that there was so much information to be had?

We have reached the point where mass shootings have a “news consumer handbook,” where the most helpful journalistic tool in covering a killing isn’t local sources so much as search-and-replace: Newsweek reporter Polly Mosendz keeps a pre-written mass shooter story fresh in her text editing files. “A mass shooting has been reported at TK, where TK people are believed to be dead and TK more are injured, according to TK police department,” it says. “The gunman has/hasn’t been apprehended.”

So I propose a columnist strike, a hot take moratorium, a sound-bite freeze. The only response that could possibly match this gut-punching tragedy isn’t made up of words but silence.

I envision blank blog posts, empty sets, magazine pages slick and white from edge to edge. I want to open up The Washington Post or The New York Times and find the grainy gray of naked newspaper stock in place of columnists’ prose.

Let’s fill Twitter with dead space and leave Facebook with a total absence of “likes.”

Let the cable talking heads mute themselves.

Hear in that noiselessness the echo all the prayers and the pleas, all the policy proposals and screeds that were written about the last mass shooting, and the one before that and the one before the one before that. Hear the thundering clap of absolute inaction in Congress, and the crazed, giddy titter of those loosening gun laws state by state. Hear the voices that don’t speak, that can’t, the conversations some families will never get to have.

What I want is not a “national moment of silence,” nor really a prayer. I don’t wish to summon contemplation or reflection but choking sobs and knotted throats. I want to share with the world the wordless groan that is the only prayer the grieving have.

I want a strike, a shutdown, a refusal to move. Not just inaction as a pause—rather, stillness as an action in itself.

I don’t think what I want to happen actually can happen, not in this world. The media machine inexorably churns and, less reflexively, our mutual ache and mourning demands recognition on screens and off.

Then again, our suspension of discussion doesn’t have to last forever. I don’t want to create a vacuum so much as create awareness about how much has already been said.

There’s nothing left to say, so let’s just not say it.

I write this, my fingers cold and my heart broken and hesitating before I press “send.” If I publish this column now, if I let this idea into the world after this slaughter…Why, then, what will we do after the next?

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, December 3, 2015

December 4, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Mass Shootings, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The ‘I Don’t Wanna’ Caucus”: Who The Hell Gave Republicans A Monopoly On Morality And Spending Of Public Dollars?

Of all the arguments put forth against everything from the Affordable Care Act to social safety net programs, the “I don’t want to pay for X” argument from the right has to be the most asinine. The upcoming decision on the Supreme Court’s King vs. Burwell case – which could yank subsidies out from under anyone using the federal health care exchange – is a prime example.

As Robert Schlesinger has pointed out, the lawsuit’s proponents are relying on a known falsehood about the intent of the law because they don’t want taxpayer support going to people who otherwise couldn’t afford health insurance. It’s “I Don’t Wanna” as a Supreme Court test case.

Newsflash to the right: I don’t want to pay for a lot of things either, starting with Exxon subsidies, Bush’s wars and the millions we paid to sociopaths to come up with torture techniques for the CIA. Who the hell gave you a monopoly on morality when it comes to spending public dollars? Do you think you’re the only ones who object to where our tax dollars go? Because if we only have to pay for the things of which we approve, I’ve got a long veto list.

The I Don’t Wanna Caucus is willfully oblivious to the fact that a whole lot of people pay for them, too. Texas is more than happy to accept Federal Emergency Management Agency money – they actually got more than any other state in 2011 and 2012 – at the same time Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deploys the state guard against an imaginary Obama takeover and sues the federal government over the environment and health care.

Here in Colorado, as the Colorado Springs Gazette has reported about its home of El Paso County, “The county is more dependent on federal money than most other places in Colorado and the nation … Federal spending accounts for one-third of the local economy.” Yet Colorado Springs would rather have its parks go brown and its streetlights fade than increase taxes locally to pay for them.

The I Don’t Wanna Caucus is not only ideologically hypocritical, it’s also irresponsible. The I Don’t Wanna Caucus of Colorado Senate Republicans killed our highly-successful program that slashed the teen birth and abortion rate by providing free long-acting reversible contraceptives to low-income women. Every $1 invested in the program saved the state $5.85 in Medicaid costs. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimates that the program could have saved Colorado $49 million to $111 million in Medicaid dollars per year in birth-related costs.

Likewise, insurance is cheaper than no insurance. People without insurance end up in the emergency room, where they have to be treated and where the cost shifts onto someone else. Guess who pays for that? People with insurance. But now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, hospitals saved at least $7.4 billion in 2014, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

All of us have someone else paying for us in some form or another, through paved roads and clean drinking water and home mortgage tax deductions. Those of us without kids subsidize schools and teachers for other people’s children. Living in a civilized society means we all share in the cost and responsibility. Living in a civilized society also means we all pay for things we find morally objectionable – conservatives and liberals alike.

Because the alternative – the I Don’t Wanna Caucus – doesn’t belong in a first world country.

 

By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, June 12, 2015

June 13, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Public Spending, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Collective Media Shrug”: Just Because No One Died in the NAACP Bombing Doesn’t Mean The Media Should Ignore It

The NAACP chapter in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is located on South El Paso Street in a one-story building with faded redwood siding, where it shares space with Mr. G’s Hair Design Studio. The surrounding streets are lined with modest, largely single-story homes. The men and women who work herenot just in the NAACP building, but also in the neighborhoodhave been very busy lately, organizing local vigils and sending out e-mail blasts in response to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York.

Late Tuesday morning, an improvised bomb exploded outside the building. No one was hurt or injured, though three people were working inside in Mr. G’s salon and two staffers were in the NAACP office. The explosion scarred the outside of the building, and knocked a few things off some shelves inside. The FBI has indicated that the bombing could well be motivated by hate, but that other motives are possible, too. Amy Saunders, a spokesperson for the Denver office of the FBI, told The Los Angeles Times that it wasn’t yet clear “if the motive was a hate crime, domestic terrorism, a personal act of violence against a specific individual,” or something else entirely.

The FBI is looking for a balding white man in his 40s who may be driving an old, dirty pickup truck. News organizations initially refused to identify the man’s race as “white,” though, despite having that fact in handa refusal that extends one of the principle benefits of white privilege to someone suspected of domestic terrorism.  The New York Times, cribbing an Associated Press story but eliding the question of race, indicated that authorities were searching for “a man.” At least they covered the story, though. Many news outlets simply ignored it all together. And then, in what has become a ritual, outlets were called out on Twitter and Facebook for ignoring the bombing. “PLEASE,” actress Rashida Jones tweeted, “everybody, mainly national news outlets, CARE MORE ABOUT THIS.” If not for this grassroots #NAACPBombing campaign, we might not even be talking about this today.

It is too easy to explain the national media’s silence. The collective shrug in the first 24 hours after the event was, perhaps, evidence of a sort of racial fatigue, a consequence of the country’s collective desensitization to anti-black violence, to the drumbeat of stories about men and women and children who’ve been shot or tasered or thrown in jail. But it was also a reflection of the scarcity of details, and concern about covering a fast-moving story from a distance. The news moves so quickly, and a failed bombingfailed, that is, because no life was taken, no property destroyedmay have seemed hardly worth reporting. And then, even as the events in Colorado Springs slowly caught the attention of some, word came of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The eclipse of the story only added to the frustration. On Twitter and in Colorado Springs, what began as a heartfelt plea for media attention quickly became a complaint about the algebra of media coverage, which makes room for only one big developing news story. This bitterness is understandable. It is a terrible thing to be caught up in a traumatic event of local significancescrambling to learn more, earnestly believing that your story is a part of a long national nightmare linked not just to Ferguson but to violence against of NAACP offices a century agoonly to have an even more traumatic event, one that’s part of another nation’s growing nightmare, draw all the news attention. You might, in this set of circumstances, begin to suspect that your trauma will never even be seen, that it doesn’t even deserve to be forgotten. “Dear so-called journalists,” another tweet reads, “even if you don’t cover #NAACPBombing, it still happened.”

#NAACPBombing skeptics have wondered why so many have jumped to conclude, without supportive facts on the ground, that race was a factor in the bombing, asking instead whether there might not be a more pedestrian explanation. Indeed, it is unclear right now whether this bombing was an act of domestic terror or even a hate crime, but the assumption of domestic terrorism is a reminder that instead of becoming a post-racial nation with President Obama’s election in 2008, as many hastily proclaimed, organized white supremacist and anti-government groups are been on the rise (as are gun sales).

The enumeration of hate groups is perhaps less significant, though, than the depth of individual feeling, the darker passions that enable one to sit in a garage or a basement, stuffing a small pipe with loose metal fragments and gunpowder. Crafting a homemade IED and detonating it outside an NAACP office isn’t an act of whimsy. It emerges from the worst fever swamps of racism. Those can’t be so easily measured, because they are usually kept secret or private. It’s one thing to launch a white supremacist website, sell David Duke t-shirts, distribute leaflets, spray-paint swastikas, and build a firing range. These acts don’t tell you whether someone is willing to try to kill. The true temperature of hate is best measured through an accounting of things like bombs.

 

By: Matthew Pratt Guterl, The New Republic, January 9, 2015

January 10, 2015 Posted by | Hate Crimes, NAACP Bombing, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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