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Dec 16 2012

Fake Morgan Freeman quote may have a few points about the Newtown school shootings

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

Some anonymous internet jerk posted a picture of Morgan Freeman with a quote from someone else about the cause of the Newtown school shootings.  There is a running joke that anything attributed to Morgan Freeman sounds true. This is the picture along with the quote. (picture caption mine)

"Cheese doodles are nutritious!" sayeth Morgan Freeman.  Hypothesis about Freeman's truthiness has been falsified.

“Cheese doodles are nutritious!” sayeth Morgan Freeman. Hypothesis about Freeman’s truthiness has been falsified.

“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why. It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Even though it is in extreme poor taste to make and edit this quote about a mass shooting and attribute it jokingly to Morgan Freeman, the quote itself may have something to say about the cause of the shootings. I don’t agree with the entire quote, it has a few good points about some of the possible causes.

The usual suspects have begun their speculation about how God could have stopped the tragedy, but he didn’t because the god they describe is spiteful.  Apparently, he never forgets a slight. The accusatory fingers are already flying pointing to secularism from the usual god-bots. Bryan Fischer is quite the fount of religious nonsense. (Don’t click on the link.  Save yourself a headache and your keyboard too.)

Fischer said that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted” and so if school administrators really want to protect students, they will start every school day with prayer:

The Friendly Atheist already did a takedown of this garbage.

Since Columbine, there have been dozens of mass shootings in America.  For all the talk that God was kicked out of our schools and that God won’t go where he’s not wanted, it seems appropriate to mention that several of the shootings occurred at religious schools or places of worship

There have been more rational posts about the possible causes too. Like this one at Pharyngula discussing more rational gun laws or this one at Ashley Miller’s blog by Kate Donovan about tying the shootings to assumptions about mental illness. If it hasn’t been said already, I’m a little tired of the speculation about quietness or social awkwardness as some sort of explanation of what would cause something like this. My teenage son is probably tired of hearing about violence in video games triggering this behavior as well. I don’t think you are going to find a simple or single cause to mass shootings or a single or simple solution to them either.

Despite the stereotyping and wild speculation that always happens after a shocking event like this, a rational discussion on what causes these things is long overdue.  If we could identify some of the causes, we could start making sure these tragedies never happen again. Even stopping a few of them would be worth it.  Of course Greta Christina put it better…

But when terrible tragedies happen, we use our grief, and our rage, and our shock, to drive us to action.

That is not the worst of us. It is the best.

On that note, I like every other reasonable and rational person don’t ever want to see another innocent person’s life wasted, so I would like to contribute something to the discussion. Like the quote misattributed to Morgan Freeman says, the mainstream media like Fox News plastered the killer’s face on their channel for hours. Mass murderers achieve infamy with brutally violent acts.  You can’t really rely on individual media outlets to police themselves, and not sensationalize the killer. Ratings are what keep them in business.  So yes, people need to show their disapproval of media profiteering that goes beyond journalism by writing letters, emails, blogs. Perhaps, there needs to be a law that the media cannot show any identifying information, pictures, or videos about mass murderers. If it could prevent just one of these tragedies it would be worth it. They can leave out a few of the gory details, and still tell the story.

We don’t need to see the face or know the name of the murderer in order to discuss the story. When will we have enough of the fascination with the identity of mass shooters? Chronicling their stories is ghoulish. Of course, I would much rather instead see more stories about the victims, survivors, and heroes than a glassy-eyed wannabe villain. Stop feeding the real trolls.

29 comments

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  1. 1
    ohiofreethinker

    I would say we should shame them into covering these stories appropriately, but I’m not sure they even understand how tacky their reporting actually is. They even play horribly dramatic “theme music” when advertising their special reporting of these “events”.

  2. 2
    Andrea Mills

    Mr. Freeman is an idiot! This is not a competition for media coverage between the shooter and the victims. I believe the most asked question is WHY this happened and we’re never going to get an answer to this if we completely ignore the shooter and put all the media attention on the victims. Obviously, something is seriously wrong with our society, the way we treat each other – ignoring the shooter means ignoring the root cause and the root cause ain’t guns!

    1. 2.1
      David Wells

      I think you kind of missed the point that this was a FAKE Morgan Freeman quote. Granted that might be hard to miss, since it was the first word in the title.

    2. 2.2
      Bronze Dog

      The other thing: It’s not about ignoring the shooter, it’s about not fixating on him. It’s about not giving them so much media coverage other potential killers start wondering if they can get as famous, or get their message out, or something like that. Essentially, the media turns mass shootings into a competition, which encourages others to top the records.

      Also, the mass public isn’t composed of psychology experts. Keeping us posted every 15 minutes on new bits of evidence isn’t how they diagnose the cause, but that is how rumors can spread more rapidly, which build into urban legends, which sow public confusion about the real causes. The media should leave it to the experts and patiently wait for conclusions instead of giving countless preliminary speculations.

  3. 3
    lilandranelson

    Morgan Freeman didn’t really say the quote. It was an internet hoax. However regarding the quote itself, I think you should discuss the shooter just not show their face or any identifying information like names. It would cut down on shooters who do this for notoriety.

  4. 4
    David Wells

    It’s a ratings game pure and simple. People can opine what poor journalism is being demonstrated, but media outlets are going to report in a manner they’ve learned gets the most ratings. How many people actually turned on their televisions actually waiting for victims’ names or details? Very few. More likely, people wanted to know about the shooter, who he was, what he read, and how they characterize him as somehow being similar to people they disliked or different from people they agreed with.

  5. 5
    paige

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I think you made some interesting and valid points. Keep up the good thinking.

  6. 6
    microraptor

    While I do find the journalism style of “We’re bringing you this update to tell you that there has been no new information released in the five minutes since our last update” extremely annoying, I’m sick of the armchair psychology that always seems to pop up in relation to mass shootings. Particularly, I’m completely sick of how the shooter is always painted by the media as being some sort of freak who had bizarre hobbies like playing video games or reading comic books or was a social outcast with no friends, even when it’s a completely untrue representation of what the shooter was actually like.

    1. 6.1
      Aliasalpha

      Chances are that the continued attempts to link things like games to mass murderers is just a shameless jab at a medium that is taking more and more eyes off the sewer that is regular tv

      1. microraptor

        Chances are? It’s a blatant attempt to grab attention- all the speculation about these events accomplishes nothing but to give people their five minutes of fame as they tell everyone else how they should hate and fear whatever the person’s pet issue is.

  7. 7
    Patch

    A friend posited the theory that the shooter may have felt his mom loved her students more than him, and so sought to destroy what she held dearest. It’s an interesting thought.

    1. 7.1
      digitalatheist

      actually, I’ve had the same thought as your friend for a couple of days now.

      1. Sir Pantero Knightwolf

        His mom didn’t even have any ties to the school.

  8. 8
    lilandranelson

    @Patch it has been established that the shooter’s mother did not work at the school.

  9. 9
    davidct

    “But when terrible tragedies happen, we use our grief, and our rage, and our shock, to drive us to action.
    That is not the worst of us. It is the best.”

    And the meaningful action coming out of this horrific event – so far much like those before it. Blogging does not count.

    1. 9.1
      lilandranelson

      What meaningful action do you suggest?

  10. 10
    Sheikh Mahandi

    Perhaps the media should take a lesson from a science fiction novel I read once (unfortunately I can’t remember the title), in the story there were problems with continuing and escalating acts of terrorism, the society in question addressed this by identifying the accused solely by a number, and forbidding any “real” identification, such as photography, sketches, etc.
    So in this case the perpetrator could have been identified simply as say “Number 6″, with no images reported showing society as a whole that while we care about the victims, the victims relatives, and would like to know the reasoning (if any) behind the actions, the perpetrator himself will not be permitted and publicity, or notoriety.

    1. 10.1
      lilandranelson

      or they could just identify them by the town they happened in like this one could be the Newtown mass shooter

      1. sheikh mahandi

        I think the only potential “danger” in that is then it might become competition to get the town “on the map” so to speak, whereas with a number ‘we” could even retroactively fit this so that Anders Breitvik for example would only be referred to as number 6, the Fort Hood shooter as number 7, etc,

  11. 11
    MatthewLaboratory

    If we outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns

  12. 12
    Dragan Glas

    Greetings,

    The main similarity with the Hungerford Massacre in the UK – both “loners” who shot their mother, first, before going on a random shooting spree – is what struck me about this latest sad event.

    As if they blame their mother, in the first instance, for not helping them learn how to cope with life before turning their attention elsewhere.

    Needless to say, gun laws wouldn’t have helped in this instance, as the guns used weren’t his – although the availability of guns does increase the probability of such occurrences.

    Kindest regards,

    James

  13. 13
    Eric R

    Seriously #2 did you even read the FIRST sentence of the article???

    There are bits of the misattributed quote I agree with, the fascination the media puts into these events though I think mirrors the fascination the public has for such events, if the American public wasnt so fascinated by the blood of others, coverage might be more reasonable.

    “I don’t think you are going to find a simple or single cause to mass shootings or a single or simple solution to them either.”

    Absolutely true and a sentiment all too difficult to find anywhere, there are all manner of armchair legislators out there ready to offer their “solution” as if some single plan would completely eliminate the underlying problem.

  14. 14
    Sir Pantero Knightwolf

    I saw this quote attributed to Robert Ebert and it was stated that he’d made the statement after the Aurora shooting, I believe. This was about a day or so before I started seeing it attributed to Morgan Freeman.

  15. 15
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Fischer said that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “God is not going to go where he is not wanted” and so if school administrators really want to protect students, they will start every school day with prayer:

    Hmm, why does it feel as though I’ve heard this so many times in virtualy every film ever made about the Mafia?

    Fischer said that Mr. Capone could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn’t because “Mr. Capone is not going to go where he is not wanted” and so if nightclub owners really want to protect their staff and customers, they will pay Mr. Capone his dues:”

    There, fixed it.

  16. 16
    arensb

    For what it’s worth, I’d wager that more people remember John Lennon than the man who shot him. I think I can remember his name, with some effort, but I prefer to think of him as “the asshole who shot John Lennon”.

  17. 17
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