Media Manipulation & the Gun Control Debate
The 'Innocent' Exaggeration:
We have all witnessed the local news station advertisement; their dramatic cliff-hanger followed by "...details at 11." This is almost forgivable, we understand they want people to tune in. However, when the exaggeration finds it's way into the story, we need to ask ourselves "Why?" Below I have an example of seemingly innocent exaggeration. It is very silly and no one got "hurt" as a result, but I can't help but wonder what is the motive?
"...well past my knee, no question about that."
The Truth Is..
As a society, we allowed this type of 'harmless' exaggeration to have a home in our media. Whether it made the news more interesting, or gave us some "backup" to our ideas and beliefs, the damage is done. This has made way for a new era, the era of sensationalism.
Sensationalism & Gun Control
Unfortunately Americans get the majority of their information through mass media and entertainment. This is why sensationalism is so harmful. We are often 'fed' incomplete and opinion based 'stories'. If I wanted a biased or tailored version of the facts I would ask my uncle for the current events. We tune into our local news to get information that otherwise wouldn't be readily available to us. This is includes the Gun Control Debate.
Although I prefer to remain neutral until I am confident that I have all the facts (which is near impossible), it is ok to agree with a reporter or even to react to something they say. It is NOT okay to walk away from a twenty minute segment with your mind made up. Whether delivered by a news anchor, a celebrity, a journalist, or the president themself it is impossible to receive all the facts in that short amount of time. In fact I am positive in these instances we are taking their word for it and choosing to trust their judgement, or the opposition.
This is unAmerican. We don't hand over our power to the prettiest news anchor or blindly follow the best spoken journalist. I would rather have someone not vote than to vote based off of incomplete or incorrect information, even if it means I'd lose a vote on 'my side'.
Compare This Image:
To This Image:
With The Two Examples Above..
It is easy to see how sharing and discussing only one of these would create a very different experience than to share both along with ALL of the facts. Here is where our 'frenemy' sensationalism comes in. Our media is a professional reaction provoker, and a master at focusing on one or two things rather than the whole picture.
The Problem With The Gun Control Debate:
- There is no universal meaning for gun control- there isn't a clear and defined degree or means of gun control across all platforms. It is impossible for two groups to discuss the same item when they intend separate definitions.
- Gun Violence is often wrongfully correlated with Gun Control - thanks to the media's coverage and lack of explanation semi automatic guns are the most closely related (in the public's mind) to Gun Violence in America. The media will repeatedly reference a tragedy then shift to facts and statistics without explaining the detail of statistics.
- The two parties don't compare similarities- like any political discussion, it is first instinct to defend your views and attack the opposition. I have found the majority agrees on a few things. Some examples are: a sort of regulation, that mental health is a major key, that gun education is a major key, etc.
We need to approach the conversation about gun violence as such, rather than a debate. We need to strip our parties ( even if just for a moment ) and start with the similar beliefs. The conversation could start with the similarities I stated above. The fact that mental health plays a major role in gun violence. That the majority of attackers in gun violence are male. This implies immense importance of Men's Mental Health; the encouragement that they seek it and 'unlearn' all of the stigmas around appearing weak or 'less of a man'. We could talk about gun education and encourage all adults, supporters or the opposition, to become educated about them. We should encourage education of the Constitution and the possible laws or amendments, as well as the significance of each article to the American people. And so on...
From here we could enlighten each other. If someone were to feel so strongly than they must have knowledge to convince them. Knowledge is only ever a benefit, and there is no reason to deny yourself access to new information. With enlightenment would come understanding and then willingness to work together.
This is not intended to sound naive. This is written as an adult in control of her emotions and her ability to think and exchange ideas with other adults.
The Problem With The Media & The Gun "Debate"
- They rarely feature more than a few details
- These details are more often than not - flattering to their point
- They often ignore major factors ( such as mental health & it's costs )
- Most of their content is opinion driven
- They almost never present the "other side" respectfully, instead of mockingly
- They often fall 'victim' to that pesky sensationalism and innocent exaggeration
These are problems because when someone gets all or most of their information from one source it is essential that they receive the information whole and and without influence. Then they can participate in opinion based discussions to further their own understanding. This is crucial to the gun violence vs. gun control debate because it is an intense subject. It's surrounded by lack of knowledge, quick judgements, tragedy and fear. This means people are apt to jump to conclusions or cling to one side even without the help of bias information and dramatic delivery.
- Be equally critical of all information
- Inquire several sources of information, if not than at least a few impartial sources
- Reserve your initial reactions
- Decide with your knowledge, not your emotions