Following the recent shootings in America, the author Lionel Shriver was approached by the media for her opinion on the tragedy. Having written the novel 'We need to talk about Kevin' the story of a juvenile serial killer, she was expected to provide some kind of explanation for events that have shocked the world. To her credit she declined, she had nothing to say. She is a novelist who uses a dramatic narrative to explore the darker aspects of the human experience, in her opinion the facts speak for themselves.
Sometimes there is nothing to say. Since the news broke we have not watched the conventional news. From experience I know that the media cover these incidents in such a distasteful way, that one can end up feeling like a voyeur of other people's grief. The bare facts spoken are enough, without the endless images, videos and exploitation of people's grief, the close ups of emotional agony that have no place being broadcast across the globe. It as though these people have stumbled unwittingly into a reality show at a time when they deserve privacy the most.
And then there is the coverage of the killer. A disturbed individual who was let down by their society, a society that made it possible for him to access lethal weaponry. I haven't been able to avoid all media , the front pages on display in the supermarket today illustrate the usual attempt to create a new story from one which needs no further dramatisation. Computer games, music, Gothic clothing are to blame not the gun or the mental illness that goes untreated. An isolated and evil individual remote from the society to which he belonged. I deplore this aspect of the media, the hunt for new stories, utilising the techniques of dramatic writing to wring the emotions. There are few people who will not be touched by the facts, the rest is cheap and fuels a macabre fascination that dehumanises us all.
My child is six. One night he walked into the front room and looked at the television. I wasn't watching it but I looked up to see a grainy black and white image of the Yorkshire Moors, a child's body was being lifted into an ambulance. 'He was sexually abused and killed' the voiceover said. My son looked at me but we said nothing. It was a moment we shared but there was nothing to say.
I haven't watched the news because I cannot bear to see. My sorrow changes nothing but a change in gun laws could have saved lives.