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May 15 2013

Puzzling reaction to Mother’s Day shooting

On Sunday, one or more gunmen started shooting into a crowd of people at a Mother’s Day parade in New Orleans. They have not yet been captured though video footage exists of one of them firing into the crowd and later police identified one person they are looking for.

What surprises me is that this attempt at mass killing has not received nearly the amount of news coverage as the Boston bombing. There are many similarities: a predictable gathering of a large number of people, an attempt to kill many of them, assailants who have not been immediately apprehended, and video footage of the crime. It is true that one difference is that fortunately no one has died so far in New Orleans and the number of injured is lower, but surely what makes both stories newsworthy is the common factor of an attempt to harm large numbers of random people at a festive gathering?

Is it that a bomb being used as a weapon, even if a crude homemade one, is inherently more frightening to people than using guns? It is true that gun killings in the US are pretty routine but surely an attempted massacre at a parade for Mother’s Day, of all things, is pretty sensational? Have we got so used to mass gun violence that we just yawn and move on?

Perhaps if the perpetrator(s) turns out to be a Muslim, then the media noise level will ratchet up.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    sunny

    Have we got so used to mass gun violence that we just yawn and move on?

    Yes.

  2. 2
    invivoMark

    The cynic in me says that it’s racism/classism against New Orleans. That city is full of poor and black people, so who cares if they shoot each other up? Boston, on the other hand, is a place where a good, upstanding, god-fearing, law-abiding white man can call home.

  3. 3
    sunny

    Good point. That did not occur to me. In fact, I did not know about the incident until I saw Prof. Singham’s post. I regularly scan headlines; I am not sure how I missed it.

  4. 4
    NitricAcid

    I think the frightening thing about bombs (as opposed to guns), is that when one goes off, you have no idea where the bomber is. The gunman is right there with the gun in his hands, but the bomber may have left town an hour ago, or may be busily planting a dozen other bombs.

  5. 5
    bmiller

    invivoMark nails it!

    Plus, anything that casts blame on the Sacred American Freedom Phallic Totem (guns) is downplayed.

  6. 6
    Guess Who?

    Look at the color of the skin. Which is why the victims of once-in-a-lifetime superstorm Katrina were denigrated and called money-grubbing, but we can’t get money and National Guard troops to help fast enough to the flooding victims in North Dakota, whose town floods 4 years out of 10.

  7. 7
    Physicalist

    Yep. Racism and classism. Boston was “Oh my god! If it happened there, it could happen anywhere. Who knows where the terrorists could strike next?!!”

    New Orleans got classified as, “Oh, yeah. Those black folks go shooting each other all the time. Just keep them out of my neighborhood.”

  8. 8
    abiomike

    I think one big factor is the lack of visual images. The Boston Marathon is a world-class event. News orgs were already on the scene in droves. There were video cameras everywhere in Boston, still cameras everywhere. We see the blasts, we seeing people fleeing, we see the wounded, some of them missing limbs. I haven’t seen anything nearly as compelling with the NOLA story, as horrible as it was. I think the old news adage “If it bleeds it leads” applies here.

  9. 9
    abiomike

    Newtown?

  10. 10
    kyoseki

    We should also remember that the media will focus on whatever generates ratings, which really says as much about the news watching public as it does about the media outlets themselves.

    If nobody cares about watching it, they’re not going to bother showing it (well, with the possible exception of CNN who seem to focus on the weirdest shit – sometimes literally, as in their non stop Carnival cruise ship coverage – long past the point at which anyone cares).

    .. which is really just another way of agreeing with invivoMark in that since it primarily involved poor, mostly black folks, nobody seems to give a damn – not sure about the god-fearing part though, I’d wager that New Orleans in general has a greater degree of religiosity than Boston (poorer cities typically are far more religious than richer ones).

  11. 11
    deepak shetty

    A bomb will always get more attention as it can always be potentially so much worse.

    And anyway muslim + terrorism will always get more headlines in the west.

  12. 12
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    A lot of journalists and cameramen were already at the Boston Marathon. It was pretty big news even without bombings. No-one actually died in New Orleans either, which- like the rest of Louiisiana- seems to still be regarded as semi-detached from the USA, so probably the ‘small earthquake’ rule applied.

  13. 13
    Von Kalifornen

    The terrifying after-effects of the Boston shooting, which were formerly the stuff of adventure romances, probably played a role. Even the September Eleventh attack was not quickly followed up with two firefights and a chase involving grenades.

  14. 14
    Von Kalifornen

    Not really. School shootings, etc get plenty of press.

  15. 15
    jamessweet

    Maybe it’s racism/classicism affecting me, but I got the impression that the gunmen in NO weren’t trying to hit random people in the crowd, I got the impression it was some kind of unrelated gunfight and the crowd got caught in the crossfire.

    I was sorta surprised it didn’t get more immediate press, though, even still.

  16. 16
    Mano Singham

    The video I linked to did not look like a targeted shooting as one might expect in a gunfight but more like a random shooting of people.

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