You stand on a street corner and you hear a screech and a crash. You turn quickly and you see the crushed fender, a mother and child and the driver of a pick-up truck. You are an eye-witness but in point of fact you really don’t know what happened. If you are a member of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) you might jump to the conclusion that the driver of the pick-up truck has been drinking. If you are member of the local chamber of commerce, you might insist that this accident would have been avoided if a traffic light was in place at that intersection instead of a stop sign. If you are a misogynist you might automatically assume the fault lies with the woman driver. Maybe texting is to blame for the lack of careful alert driving. Maybe someone was smoking pot. Maybe the child should have been in a car seat. It was an accident!
Children are needlessly struck down at their elementary school. A tornado strikes with almost no warning. Patrons of a movie theater are assaulted and indeed terrorized resulting in a death toll. A citizen is killed by a commuter train as a press photographer helplessly photographs the impending doom. In each case the news media, influenced by floods of social media input, desperately tries to make sense of it all. Twitter blows up. Controversy ignites. The news windows are filled with righteous indignation and shoulda coulda woulda speculation. Special interest groups shape stories of how things might have happened differently. It’s almost silly. We are overloaded with information and yet we still don’t have the facts. The power of crowd-sourcing suggests we ought to have a POV on guns…on video games…on drugs… alcohol…on safety…on security…on diet, exercise, health, fitness… The list goes on and on.
Gadflies and Moral Entrepreneurs who take it upon themselves to persuade us to make policy from particular moral viewpoint really like to seize the day. Isn’t it sad these horrific events have to happen to trigger such activism to make the world a better place? Isn’t it a shame crime that it seems to take images of the horrible to incite political action? I wish we would all take just a moment to remember the dead, aid the wounded and pray for innocent victims everywhere. And, of course, take measured steps to understand ways to mitigate the worst in the future.