Turning Tragedy Into Trauma Porn

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There is something hideously pornographic about the media’s treatment of traumatized witnesses in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting or terrorist bombing. Just look at this eyewitness account in the wake of the Isla Vista killing spree. Pretty, blonde, and damaged for life, the girl being interviewed is barely distinguishable from a performer in some facial-abuse hatefuck video, save the absence of assorted bodily fluids covering her hair and face.

Sure, the media could have waited a week or even a month to ask her how she felt about narrowly avoiding being shot to death (there will no doubt be some follow-ups), but that lacks the same urgency and vicarious sexiness of shoving a camera in her face and letting it absorb the terror and shock in her eyes. That’s it, baby—cry for us. Tell us how scared you were. We’ll get you some treatment just as soon as you give us the money shot, but don’t cover your mouth like that. It isn’t pretty.

This is by no means a form of exploitation strictly directed at females—in fact, the media’s favorite prop in the ongoing “Virgin Killer” saga is a man, namely Martin Martinez, father of one of the shooter’s male victims, Christopher Martinez. The American left is predictably embracing his anti-gun stance (the fact that he lost a son and not a daughter is something they’ve had to overlook) and using him as a mouthpiece for their disarmament agenda as he blames “irresponsible politicans and the NRA” for his child’s death. Martinez can’t be faulted for trying to find a bogeyman to hold responsible for his loss; after all, the person who actually pulled the trigger and cost him his son is also dead and can never be confronted.

But the political and broadcasting agencies who see fit to run him through a media wringer, in light of how understandably eager he is to be heard, and despite the fact that he can’t possibly have reached the “acceptance” stage of grief yet, most certainly can and should be. Yes, the guy has a right to his opinion, but like anyone suffering from such a devastating loss, he also has a need to get well before expressing it on a national platform.

Don’t misinterpret me as trying to silence the victims of tragedies, either, because like most I want them to be able to speak; I just want them to do it in their own time, not in press time. Besides, losing a family member to gun violence doesn’t qualify you to dictate how gun legislation should be rewritten—if anything, it disqualifies you for the time being because unless you’re totally unfeeling, there’s no way you could even approach objectivity with your life still in ruins, and if you were that cold and twisted then you wouldn’t be speaking on the matter at all.

I lost my father to cancer before I was even halfway through puberty. At the time I blamed God, I blamed cigarettes, I blamed my mother and even my father himself. I couldn’t bring him back, so I just wanted to blame something, if only as a means of trying to feel empowered during a highly chaotic and deeply traumatic time. If, as I’d walked out of the hospital with a dad-shaped hole in my heart while the sun came up, some predatory reporter had marched up to me with a camera and a boom mic and asked me what I thought should be done to prevent similar deaths in the future, I can’t imagine how I would have reacted. I was basically a zombie for the next twelve months, barely responsive and trapped in a protective bubble of shock.

If my dad’s death had been violent and unexpected instead of drawn-out and foreseeable, I imagine my mental state would have been a hundred times worse. To ask even the strongest of people how the world should be run when theirs has just ended is not only dangerous for themselves and the rest of us, it’s sick. Still, the media are only responding to the will and desires of the public, and so none of us can completely condemn them for handling the traumatized with all the grace and dignity of a casting-couch director. After all, there’s a nasty little part of us that enjoys watching them weep, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. TC mark

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