Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thoughts on Recent Arizona Shooting

In light of the recent shooting in Arizona, questions emerge: Does this act of violence involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Judge John Roll symbolize a larger social problem in America or can we chalk this tragedy up as simply the lunacy of a troubled young man? Has America gotten to the point where we can’t disagree without being violently disagreeable? It is my firm belief that with human nature, conflict and disagreement are both inevitable, yet violence is not. For those that don’t already know the story, a 22 year old young man by the name of Jared Loughner opened fire in a shooting spree just after 10 am local time on Saturday as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting her constituents in the city of Tucson.

If there is any lesson here in the aftermath of this carnage, I do believe it is that violence only begets more violence, it doesn’t actually solve the problem. However, before analysis takes place, let me extend my heartfelt condolences to all the families that were harmed by this cowardly act. Indeed, my heart goes out to those families as they undergo this heartbreaking tragedy. As officials accumulate evidence and conduct a thorough investigation, more facts will surely come out. Until then, in my opinion, all we can do is reflect on the question as to whether this was an isolated incident or more a social problem that needs to be nipped in the bud ASAP.

Despite how bleak this situation may appear, I do believe what happened in Arizona has shed much needed light on the polarizing political climate in America. I believe this sort of climate is not good for the country at all. Now please don’t get me wrong, I don’t imagine a world where everyone agrees with each other and we all sing 'Kumbaya My Lord' in unison, I’m not that naive. Moreover, I take no issue with healthy political partisanship. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with taking a stand and backing it up rationally with evidence, so long as you are willing to hear and listen to dissenting voices that may have counterevidence. This approach to political debate is American as apple pie.

However, in today’s political climate, we find talking heads (media personalities) like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glen Beck ratcheting up the rhetoric and thereby intensifying the polarization we find in society. As a case in point, we see Rush Limbaugh has openly and unabashedly called President Obama an imam (i.e. the man who leads prayers in a mosque or a Muslim authority figure) when anti-Islamic sentiment is running rampant in the country. Secondly, we have Sarah Palin saying President Obama pal’s around with terrorists using the old guilt by association tactic. Lastly, we have Mr. Glen Beck saying President is a racist. However, in Mr. Beck’s case he has retracted his comment thankfully. I honestly don’t know if these media personalities understand how influential their voices are in mainstream society. I hope they realize that many people accept what the media has to say uncritically without questioning it. As a result, I have a few suggestions for the media:

State the facts:

I know it sounds like common sense, but sometimes common sense needs to be reiterated. As a person with the authority to inform the public, make sure your facts are accurate. People rely on your facts to make informed decisions.

Unabashedly admit when you’re injecting your opinion:

When stating your opinion, be sure to indicate that this is your opinion. Sure, your point may be backed up with sound evidence, nevertheless, please indicate that this is your opinion so that the general public doesn’t confuse fact with fiction.

Refer your audience to outside sources to confirm your findings or opinion:

If you have an opinion, that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to one. However, please keep one suggestion in mind, give your audience some of the sources that helped you arrive at your conclusion.

I think if our media personalities try these steps, we may end up with a more informed citizenry that has the ability to hold the media accountable for their reporting. What do you think?

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