Were you surprised?
That was the question posed by a TV reporter to a guest analyst.
No, the analyst said upon brief reflection. He wasn’t surprised by the killings of Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, this week.
But he was shocked by it, like everyone else was. Like you, like me.
According to one report, the gunman wanted, among other things, to show everybody that mass murder can come to quaint New Zealand, too.
Surprise . . .
It’s a sad statement that while much of the world was taken by surprise, yes, and was mortified at first, by the next day few were really all that surprised. Incidents like this are happening around the world with increasing regularity. Why not New Zealand?
Extremists of various ilks — in groups or acting alone — have long made their point: they will attack anywhere at any time. In the name of some cause or another: they hate Muslims, they hate Christians, they hate blacks, they hate whites, they hate democracy, they hate women, they hate the LGBT community, they hate, they hate, they hate . . .
Still, the New Zealand shooting news was a collective shock that has segued into inevitable resignation for many: this comes with the times. Why are we so shocked by this one when we barely notice others? Or don’t even notice them at all?
No doubt, the media coverage has everything to do with it, particularly the TV networks. In Quebec, the media have been all over the New Zealand story because it hits very close to home for citizens: a lone gunman killed six people in a Quebec City mosque, and has only recently been sentenced to life imprisonment. It has been a festering wound here. It hurt everyone.
But for every mass shooting that gets heavy media coverage around the world, there are many more mass shootings and suicide attacks that are just footnotes on the national news broadcasts, if they’re mentioned at all.
It’s a point that a politician from Quebec noted early in the aftermath of the New Zealand shootings: the slaughter of 32 Christians in Nigeria didn’t get the same kind of media coverage.
I get his point. I understand his pain. Every single murder in this world warrants attention. We should all be outraged by every act of violence.
I don’t have an answer for him, at least, not one I feel excuses the media.
I could talk about airtime and space. I could say Nigeria is not close enough to home.
We hear three-line TV reports or read newspaper briefs about attacks in Muslim nations by extremists, and we hear no more. By the next morning, it is out of the news loops, and we’ve forgotten about it. There was no collective outrage, no collective mourning.
We’ll forget about New Zealand in a couple of weeks, too. Just like we’ve forgotten most of the other mass killings that have had extensive media coverage. They are a blur now, individually and collectively.
I don’t have any answers tonight, other than the obvious about peace and love and how tragic it is we are resigned to a world without it.
I have questions.
Can the media do more to draw attention to mankind’s myriad atrocities?
And, more important, how can the good people of this Earth stop the murderous rampages by individuals and groups?
I’d welcome your answers.