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Buddhism in the News


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Media and Suffering.

Have you heard about this terrible shooting in a Wendy's fast food restaurant here in the USA a few days ago? My heart always breaks and mourns when I hear about these things as there is so much suffering involved.

Obviously their is the suffering of the victims who did nothing but be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That being said, it is clear that the shooter must have been severely suffering mentally to feel pushed to do something so terrible as this.

Once again the media just focuses on the horror of the event rather than putting the spotlight on mental illness and what we can do to increase help and support for the mentally ill so that we can reduce this kind of thing that has become all to common. We never seem to use these nightmares to increase research into new and improved medicines and double our efforts to raise more awareness and educate the public on the truths and the misconceptions behind mental health problems. We need to find the positive in these events. We need to look at them as learning opportunities rather than just a salacious news story.

Today the media got their hands upon the 911 tapes of this terrible event and as usual are playing them over and over. I am always baffled why they do this because what good does this do but rub salt in the wounds of the families suffering? It isn't good to dwell on the panic and fear of those moments. It does nothing but amplify the disturbing nature of this shooting and broadens the suffering to the general public. Why would anyone want to listen to those traumatic moments?

I remember the people after 9/11 who wanted the tapes of the disaster released to the public and was greatly saddened when they did so. I think those are private materials that should be only accessible to the families of the victims. There is something really bothersome about listening to someone's last terrifying moments of their life. It seems intrusive and just waters the seeds of fear, delusion and anger. It only serves to fuel the suffering in this world. The other reason that we shouldn't air these tapes is because there are people who are on the edge of violence themselves and playing these tapes stirs up their urges to do something similar.

The other event that I remember is the Columbine massacre that occurred in my state of Colorado, USA when they released the video tapes of the killers roaming the hallways with their guns and you could see the crazy look in their eyes. It was a disturbing event in an of itself and airing those tapes was irresponsible in the least.

There is enough suffering in this world, we don't need to fuel that strong habit energy further.

I just firmly believe that somethings shouldn't be splayed out in front of the general public.

~Peace to all beings~

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Cardozo said...

I'm with you, James. There's also the issue of the guns used in such attacks. How do they end up in the hands of maniacal people who do this kind of harm? But every time I go near the issue online, I rouse a storm of controversy. And what do our leading candidates have to say about this important issue? Virtually nothing. It's enough to piss you off, no?

PeterAtLarge said...

Actually, that last comment was not Cardozo, it was PeterAtLarge. Got some wires crossed there. Cheers...

Red Cedar said...

Beyond mental illness (and I totally agree it would be nice to see a focus on helping people rather than horror) - the media also misses the most fundamental question in all of this: how have we created a society that so alienates individuals that the most unstable of them pull stunts like this? I think the media culture we live in only helps perpetuate that alienation - fundamentally creating the images promote competition and dissuade compassion. Not to mention the celebrity culture which rewards even the most horrible killers with instant fame. It's very disheartening to say the least.

vegetables3 said...

I'm not sure if you all remember this story, but I live near Kirkwood, MO where the deadly attacks during the council meeting occurred. After this tradgety, the media focus was only on the white victims, not the reasons why this man (who happened to be african american) felt so much anger towards his own city government. To quote a very common phrase, there are always two sides to a story. I believe this to be completely true. This man who felt such strong anger acted out in a moment of rage. His friends and family were later interviewed, and unaminously they all said what a great, loving person this man was.

Garnet said...

In a society where the mass of people are desensitized (or is that unaware?) you have people grabbing for whatever fastfix emotion they can get. Sadly, that seems to be the interest of other's suffering which the media loves to report to up their ratings. Greed. Emotionally blocked people. Suffering. Bad mixes.

A friend of three years was on the bottom floor of the towers, making a routine delivery (FedEx) when it all happened. He made it out alive but as of yet has to recover, it's left him scared and afraid of people and leaving his house.

They call him James Ure said...


I agree that guns are too easy to buy.

Red Cedar:

Excellent points.


The media has long ceased to be the balancing power in America. You're right.


Desensitization is a major obstacle in our world. That is why I think that meditation is so powerful, it facilitates an understanding of oneness and our need to look out for each other.

david said...

My suggestion is this.

While I think the world at large is interesting it can be a real distraction to living your actual life.

I highly recommend looking at a newspaper once a month. If that. The world will get along without you, and you will get on with your own life by focusing all of your attention there.

I used to be a real news junkie, but at one point I gave up my connection to that media world. I let it go.

What an amazing experience!! I discovered I have a beautiful peaceful life to live. I didn't have to worry about the word.

With all my extra positive energy I got more invloved in doing the simple stuff , like actually loving my neighbors and got involved in improving my local community.

I highly recommend going "off the media grid", become a simple human, we have beautiful lives to live

Riverwolf said...

Like Red Cedar posted: Why did this happen? It was too awful to believe. I kept imagining myself being the guy who was shot, who went back in to switch out a kid's toy. How mundane, how ridiculous. I kept imagining being his child, his wife, thinking: "Why isn't he back yet?" Did they hear shots and worry/panic?

Yeah, I definitely don't care for the endless replay of tapes like this. Does nothing for us IMHO.

They call him James Ure said...


Indeed. It plays on our worst fears and creates suffering in our minds that is not helpful. It would be nice if we would all just focus our energy and attention after such incidences on what we can do to positively move forward.

We can use their memory to do something positive rather than let that pain and suffering fester in our minds and hearts. I hope that this family can find that space for their own sanity and peacefulness.

Red Flashlight said...

Here's a question - what is going on with the kabillions of people who want to hear this kind of thing? If it wasn't profitable, the media wouldn't play it.

It can't be mere desensitization, although I do believe that's a real phenomenon.

How can we find compassion for the people to need to see and hear these things? Is it possible that these same 'kabillions' of people are suffering, but not aware of their suffering. They want to see and hear the 911 tapes because it gives them a proxy to feel the real pain and fear in their lives, that they deny and repress in the name of 'going along to get along.' People not living authentically, and feeling the pain of that.

I agree with David, btw. And maybe dropping out of the media blitz can help people begin to feel their own lives.

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