On May 23 six innocent people were slain in another American massacre Santa Barbara, California.
The bullets, blood and terrorized faces are almost normal to Americans now, but when you get into the details it always seems to draw a tear. Many of the victims were celebrating graduation and end-of-the-semester parties, and anyone who is in school knows the ecstatic relief that comes at the end of May and beginning of June.
At first the coverage was just the usual reports on his social awkwardness, his bizarre behavior, his absurd social media rants and posts and the usual quote from those affected in these types of massacres on how they missed all the warning signs the killer gave. Aside from a phenomenal narrative by the AP that told a chilling account of the massacre, it was the routine post-mass murderer journalism.
But then the vampirism began when social media connoisseurs and ignorant people hijacked the focus of the story with the vainglorious hashtag #yesallwomen.
Before I move on, I need to clear the air ahead of time. Usually I save my disclaimers and context-explaining for after I say my point, but in this case so I don’t get accused of being a misogynist, anti-womanist, anti-feminist, mens-rightist, sexist, bigot, bully, or any “ist,” I’m going to get this out first.
I’m not against women speaking publicly about when men rape, assault or even make crude, sexist remarks. I think more women should – for their benefit and for bringing awareness to all – speak out more on when they’re sexually harassed, even if it’s just an ambiguous touch at a concert or club. Whether social media is the best medium for that discussion can be determined at another time, but let it be known I’m all for it.
I do not support women getting paid less than men. This was oft referenced with the #yesallwomen hashtag so I wanted to throw that out there. Women should be paid equal wages.
I do not support the thought that women bring on sexual assault or harassment (including catcalling and whistling) because of what they wear. Yes, revealing clothes can be assumed to be a sexual invitation and I’m sure many girls probably do want attention, but in the end men should control themselves and understand when a girl doesn’t want your pitiful touching or ogling.
So now that that’s out of the way, back to my point. The U.S. treats mass killings almost like a bizarre fetish. We fantasize about it, make ludicrous theories and worst of all, we capitalize on mass killings as a starting point for our often completely irrelevant theories. Matt Walsh put it perfectly in his excellent analysis of the killing spree as he addressed those who used this latest massacre as a springboard for ultra-feminism:
"Calm down. Get a grip. Go away. The bodies aren’t even in the ground yet. Shut up with your inane hash tags and your sickening, smarmy “See? I told ya so!” victory laps. It’s gross. It’s disturbing. People are dead and you’re coming up with cute Twitter slogans? Have we all completely lost our minds?
It’s true that The Coward apparently hated women. He also hated men, his family, himself, and all of humanity. He lamented his lack of sexual experience in a series of YouTube videos and said he wanted to kill women to exact vengeance upon them for not sleeping with him. Ultimately, he murdered three women, three men, and himself.”
NOTE: later reports confirmed it was actually four men and two women who were killed.
The problem here, when stripped down, is truly a lack of empathy, sympathy and a huge serving of social media-age narcissism. It’s a lack of empathy because these social media warriors aren’t putting themselves in the shoes of the victims’ friends and families and offering condolences of their brutal emotional suffering. There is no sympathy in bringing up your ex, as this Twitter user did:
“Just thinking about how my latest ex would be responding to #YesAllWomen, I am urgently relieved he’s out of my life forever.”
Well isn’t that tragic. You’re ex, who I’m assuming is a misogynist, sexist, rapist, and mass-murderer, might be thinking meanie thoughts about your beloved hashtag. How about what the victims’ family and friends are thinking? Suddenly their loved ones, who are now lifeless with bullet, knife and blunt traumatic force wounds, are no longer the center of attention like they should be.
There are hundreds of absurd examples of such uses of the #yesallwomen hashtag, but there is no need to post them here. Look it up on your own time if you like. The point is Americans have woefully failed when it comes to post-massacre responses. Instead of broadcasting the victims and their legacies, we get all giddy about how evil the shooter was or how this proves that guns should be banned (keep in mind he killed three victims with a knife and injured several with his car) or that misogynistic violence campaign had its Napalm Girl moment (Google it if you don’t get the reference). And I’m not even mentioning the incredibly insulting theories of how he had Asperger’s Syndrome, as if that means anything.
While the news organizations often over-glorify the shooter’s manifestos, diaries and pictures, at least that’s news.
Hijacking the attention of who the victims are is just cold blooded, however. It’s one of the most insulting things that could be done to such a delicate tragedy. If people and useless aggregates want to play that game, so be it, but understand you’re on the wrong side of history.
For some reason we (including the news, blogs and social media) can never get the focus of a massacre right – we always focus on some ridiculous, manufactured aspect. This time apparently it’s the growing problem of mass-misogynist murderers. Buzzfeed (the things I want to say but I’m not) called it “a powerful reaction on social media” in one of their ludicrous Twitter-based reports (yes, they literally use Twitter users as sources). The Huffington Post had their own little Twitter-based report, too. As if the thoughts of non-relevant people who are using a medium that in its worst state is a means to post abstract relationship drama and drunk pictures holds any weight.
But this has nothing to do with violence against women. The guy killed 4 men, injured several more and hated guys in his writings as much as women. This guy just hated people who were successful and had a good time. His reasoning was just as self-righteous and desperate for attention as all the other mass-murderers.
Besides, in every mass shooting/killing spree, there have been many male heroes. Take Daniel Hernandez, an intern, who held up Gabby Giffords head so she wouldn’t choke on her own blood. Or how about the three boyfriends who took bullets for their girlfriends during the Aurora Theater shooting. Just Google “(insert tragedy here) heroes” and you’ll find many more examples.
So please journalists, bloggers and social media-ers alike, let’s focus on the true story here: the victims. Let’s get to know them. Let’s know what their favorite bands were. What food did they like? Did they have a funny laugh or a goofy smirk? What made them mad? Did they collect shoes or did they think fashion was silly? A lot of them were recent graduates. What were they’re post college dreams? What were some of their inside jokes they shared with friends or family?
Every person has a purpose, and these victims and all future victims will soon be forgotten if we don’t do our job and remember them. At least there is still time to make this happen once we hopefully clear out the debris from this hashtag nonsense.
In the meantime, we need to stop glorifying these evil murderers and stop using tragedies as an ideological ramp. And yes, I’ve done the same before. I’ll admit that. Besides, if you think social media is a good medium to change the world, the laughs on you. You’re sitting on your butt doing nothing. Just ask the college-aged Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement or the women of the voting rights movement in the 20’s their thoughts. They didn’t have Twitter, smartphones or even a computer to browse for knowledge, yet they still captured the attention of literally the entire world.
Perhaps that was one of the reasons why they were so affective, since they didn’t feel beholden to technology. Maybe actions do speak louder than words.