If last April’s headlines reporting the Columbine High School shooting jarred the nation, then the recent actions of local authorities in releasing videotapes of the aftermath should bring America’s shock and loathing to a zenith.
One year later, while the town of Littleton, Colo., is still grieving for the dead, Jefferson County authorities are publicly peddling copies of a three-hour long tape — complete with a soundtrack of popular music — for $25 per copy, with no mention of where the profits will go. The video, recorded by firefighters at the scene, is a graphic depiction of the slaughter that left 12 students and a teacher dead.
There are few words to describe the ghoulishness of these actions, and ever fewer to make sense of a society that capitalizes on tragedy at every chance it can. Even if the tape’s sale hadn’t been so obviously disrespectful of the victims and their families, of what use can video images of bloodstains and bullet holes be to the public?
The sale of these tapes violates the victims’ families, and society’s morals. Added to this is another betrayal, one directed at the other Columbine survivors–the students.
“It’s something you’d see on a gory music video,” was how the mother of a slain student described the Columbine videotape, which showed the body of her daughter, Rachel Scott, being dragged to a fire engine. This reaction is a reminder of the nationwide impact the Columbine tragedy has had on personal freedom and individual rights.
Following the Littleton massacre, numerous gun control bills were proposed and school safety measures were instituted across the country. Students have been restricted to carrying see-through backpacks and purses, passing through metal detectors and undergoing routine searches, all because of increasing fear of student-on-student violence.
As usual, the brunt of blame has fallen to the media.
The two teen-aged killers played a violent video game? Take it off the market.
They had a website detailing their homicidal plans? Regulate the Internet.
Censure violence in movies and hide anything remotely resembling a gun from them.
And of course, don’t let the media report the tragedy.
All these accusations of the media glamorizing violence and desensitizing America’s youth are rendered meaningless by the hypocrisy of the Jefferson County authorities.
Media reporting involves skilled professionals conveying factual information to the public at virtually no cost. Who can honestly say this is more damaging to the youth of America than packaging a real-life tragedy as an MTV special and profiting from it?
To say that the sale of the Columbine tapes is a national disgrace is nearly an understatement. The authorities who released that tape for public sale have shown contempt for human life more intense than the most senseless act of movie violence.
This is one instance in which the media deserves commendation for doing their job with journalistic integrity and tact, while those who seem to champion ethical behavior end up cashing in on tragedy.