OPINION: News media shouldn’t try to explain Pittsburgh shooter’s actions

A couple kneels before a memorial at Murray and Wilkins avenues on Sunday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The memorial was for the 11 people that were killed at the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. (Charles Fox/Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service)

The domestic terrorist attack on the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last Saturday is just another mass shooting to add to the record.

While media outlets all agree this is a horrendous act and the case’s prosecutor is calling for the death penalty, it won’t be long before there is some sort of tragic background story uncovered that creates sympathy for the 46-year-old murderer of 11 people.

The media may report these crimes and make these people infamous, but after the initial wave of reporting, news outlets also have a habit of attempting to remove fault and explain the shooter’s actions. It’s all cause and effect, right?

In the case of the church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, where mass murderer Dylann Roof committed crimes eerily similar and equally horrific to this week’s atrocity, the media eventually reported that Roof had a difficult childhood and a criminal record. Whether or not that was meant to somehow excuse his hate crime, it certainly gives that impression.

The media also has a habit of calling these incidents “isolated,” as in “this is the only one like it.” This is intellectually dishonest.

No, these people may not have known each other and may not have targeted the same group of people, but that doesn’t mean these events aren’t related. The fact that they are hate crimes unites them.

The media must be responsible with its reporting of these crimes and must ensure that the individuals that commit these acts are held responsible for what they have done.

However, the media is not the only institution responsible for painting the accused in a better light, or deferring blame. President Donald Trump, while supporting the death penalty for the shooter, began the reversing of fault early by saying the synagogue should have had armed guards outside to protect themselves.

The President even offered to visit Pittsburgh. Jewish leaders from Pittsburgh declined in an open letter, saying Trump was not welcome “until you fully denounce white nationalism” and “stop targeting and endangering all minorities,” also saying that the shooting “is the direct culmination of your influence.”

Naturally, Trump departed for Pittsburgh anyway.

The fact that our president is bigoted is not unknown to most of the world, and I imagine those who don’t see anything wrong with what he is saying or doing share his views.

Trump allowing these white supremacists to voice their opinions through him and the media’s own rationalization of these acts of terror desensitize the American people to these issues.

If we continue to be so afraid of what is around us that we need to own a firearm to protect ourselves from firearms, yet so numb to what actually happens when people are torn apart by a hail of bullets, we will end up in greater chaos.

The media needs to know that it does not matter why a sane, self-aware individual killed 11 Jewish people, and the government needs to be taught that two wrongs do not make a right. Violence does not counter violence, it only multiplies the problem.

People who know right from wrong and are fully aware of the fact they’re committing an atrocity do not deserve to have their crimes sugar-coated by a troubled past while the people they hurt get no coating at all.

People who know they are doing wrong need to feel the full force of their actions from everyone, especially our president, who seems to think that another gun would have stopped anyone from dying that day.

Alycea Hammond is a Collegian staff writer and a sophomore in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.