Posts Tagged ‘shooting’

‘Enemy of the People’? Not the Press

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

capital gazette reader

Little did I know.

A week later, an angry white male with a shotgun and a history of threats shot and killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. For a brief time in my career, I was managing editor of the Evening Capital, which the Baltimore Sun later bought and merged with the Capital’s sister paper, the Maryland Gazette.

When I saw the first report on the shooting, I had an “Oh my God” moment. Who? But I quickly did the math and realized that, having left Annapolis more than 40 years ago, the odds that anyone I worked with was still there were slim to none. Also, the paper had long moved from its old offices on West Street — a convenient walk to the State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Historic District, the Naval Academy and City Dock — to a modern building farther from downtown.

Still. People were shot at The Capital, I said, processing the information, and Donald Trump keeps calling the press “the enemy of the people” and conservative commentators and “pundits” keep issuing warnings about the media’s “time being up.”

This is not only not normal, this is dangerous because the most rabid followers of Trump and the media-bashers include some people with a violent nature who are looking for any excuse to use the guns they are hoarding to attack the “enemy” as fingered by their leader. That includes, at the top of the list, those who report the facts.

For Trump, that means anyone who points out his daily lies, mistakes, failures and contradictions and their impact on the rest of us. The so-called mainstream media. The big guys, to him. But to many Trump followers, that label translates to any journalist anywhere, including Annapolis.

This is classic government by fear-mongering. Angry white males keep slaughtering school children in America and newspapers report the facts and, in many cases, publish editorials and columns calling for more responsible gun laws. Trump, after first acting like he agrees with the need to pass sensible gun restrictions and criticizing Republican congressmen for being “afraid of the NRA,” then gets in bed with the NRA and points his finger at “the enemy” — the press — for reporting “fake news.”
“Defend the Second Amendment!” shout the zealots. “It’s the press’ fault!”

They apparently never heard of, or don’t care about or understand, the First Amendment, but I think most Americans do. I also think most Americans are a bit spoiled and lazy about understanding and appreciating what Freedom of the Press means to them.

It means that reporters in Annapolis, for example, can keep readers informed on meetings of local groups and schools, report on city council or state legislative action, local sports news, the status of the Chesapeake Bay and changes at the Naval Academy and editorial writers can offer reasoned opinion on the news of the day, unswayed by political or business interests.

Does this happen so purely every day at every paper in every community in America? Of course not. But I believe it it does in most. I am convinced by more than a half century of working with journalists that getting the story right and telling it the best way possible is still the primary objective.

For most journalists, the pay is good, but not spectacular. The ego is fed by the byline. The job is alternately fun, interesting, boring, challenging, stressful and always unpredictable, which may be the best part.

I mentioned I was managing editor of The Capital briefly in the 1970s at the height of the Watergate scandal. The unpredictable happened to me one morning when I was news editor. At the regular morning news meeting, the managing editor and editor got into an argument over something of great import of which I no longer have any memory. The managing editor abruptly stood up and said, “I quit!” and marched out the door of the editor’s office. Without missing a beat (at least that’s how I remember it), the editor pointed to me and said, “Gaydos, you’re managing editor.”

I eventually left Annapolis with that good personal story and wound up in Middletown, N.Y., another small city with a lot of good local journalists telling readers what was going on in the area. Among other things, I wrote editorials calling for sensible gun control laws, not repeal of the Second Amendment. Those sentiments continue to be expressed in the local paper and reporters and editors continue to do their best to serve the public, operating with sharply reduced resources due to an industry-wide corporate culture that is more interested in maximizing income than increasing the news hole.

Those newsroom people may irritate a politician occasionally, but as I see it, that’s part of the press’s responsibility of telling the truth. They are not, however, the enemy of the people any more than the five employees of the Capital Gazette who were gunned down in Annapolis. Just average Americans doing their jobs.

Words have power. When those in position of power use words recklessly — and Trump does so routinely — innocent people can be hurt. The facts speak for themselves. The Amendments to the Constitution are in order for a reason. People should not have to live in fear for speaking or writing the truth. That’s what makes America great.

I have many memories and mixed feelings about my time in Annapolis. It’s a great town. In the end, it’s all part of my story. But I am saddened by the newspaper’s — the city’s — loss and I hope and pray that more Americans wake up soon to the real enemy of the people.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

Helping Children Cope with Tragedies

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

By Nadia Allen

Mental Health Association in Orange County joins Americans in mourning the loss of those killed in the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn. Our thoughts and sincere prayers are with the families of the victims and everyone who is affected by this horrific event. Additionally, we express our hope for the full recovery of those who were injured.

At this point, we do not know the motivation behind this senseless act. We do know that events like this will impact families, the Newtown community and the nation. Many may feel at risk and may experience feelings of anxiety and fear. Parents may be groping with how to discuss these and similar events with their children.

Mental Health America has developed guidelines to help Americans respond and cope with tragic events, which can be found at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/information/get-info/coping-with-disaster. To guide discussions about the shooting, MHA offers the following suggestions for parents as they communicate with young people in the area and across the nation:

• Children sense the anxiety and tension in adults around them. Furthermore, like adults, children experience the same feelings of helplessness and lack of control that tragedy-related stress can bring about. Conversely, unlike adults, children have little experience to help them place their current situation into perspective.

• Each child responds differently to tragedy, depending on his or her understanding and maturity, but it’s easy to see how an event of this magnitude can create a great deal of anxiety in children of all ages. Most likely, they will interpret the tragedy as a personal danger to themselves and those they care about.

• Whatever the child’s age or relationship to the damage caused by tragedy, it’s important that you be open about the consequences for your family, and that you encourage him or her to talk about it.

• Talk honestly about the incident, without graphic detail, and share some of your own feelings about it.

• Encourage young people to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings, and validate the young person’s feelings and concerns.

• Limit television viewing. It can be difficult to process the images and messages in news reports.

• Recognize what may be behind a young person’s behavior. They may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative, withdrawn or allow their school performance to decline.

• Keep the dialogue going even after media coverage subsides. Continue to talk about feelings and discuss actions being taken to make schools and communities safer.

• Seek help when necessary. If you are worried about a young person’s reaction or have ongoing concerns about his/her behavior or emotions, contact a mental health professional at their school or at your community mental health center.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives and everyone who is affected by these shocking events. And we join in applauding the brave actions of individuals who prevented greater harm.

It will likely take many days to understand the reasons and motivations behind this national tragedy. Many have pointed to mental health as an issue. It must first be emphasized that people with mental health conditions are no more likely to be violent than the rest of the population. Furthermore, we have science-based methods to successfully treat persons with even the most severe mental illnesses. A very small group of individuals with a specific type of mental health symptoms are at greater risk for violence if their symptoms are untreated.

It is also important that, as a community, we assist persons with signs and symptoms of mental illnesses to seek treatment. Although rare, when a person becomes so ill that he/she is a danger to themselves or others state laws provide a way to provide them help even if they don’t believe that they need it. The best strategy, however, is to have an accessible system of care that is easy to use, well funded and provides effective services.

Science has not developed tools to predict reliably individuals at risk for violence. But we can reduce the small risk of violence in those with certain mental health conditions by investing in proven intensive, coordinated community-based mental health services and making certain that they can access these services.

We do not know if the mental health system failed in this situation or if there were missed opportunities or if effective treatment might have averted this tragedy. It’s our sincere hope that we can find answers and create solutions that prevent this tragedy from ever happening again.

If you are worried about a young person’s reaction or have ongoing concerns about his/her behavior or emotions, contact a mental health professional at their school or at your community mental health center. We encourage you to call MHA’s 24/7 Helpline @ 1-800-832-1200 and/or text MHA’s TEXT 4 TEENS @ 845-391-1000 for information, referrals, or to simply talk or text with a trained listener.

Nadia Allen is executive director of Mental Health Association in Orange County. MHA is a private, not-for-profit agency seeking to promote the positive mental health and emotional well-being of Orange County residents, working towards reducing the stigma of mental illness, developmental disabilities, and providing support to victims of sexual assault and other crimes. 

 

‘Armed and Dangerous’: America’s Scary Gun Culture Erupts Again

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

By Emily Theroux

It’s been a wild fortnight, as the Brits would say, in America’s homegrown “killing fields.”

Two shooting rampages have bookended the nightmarishly brief span of a mere two weeks, leaving the national psyche reeling from a surfeit of firearms carnage. On Sunday morning, the cable news channels were firmly focused on Mitt Romney’s propaganda prizefight with former boxer Harry Reid over whether the GOP candidate had paid any taxes during the past decade.

Meanwhile, at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a neo-Nazi white supremacist named Wade Michael Page allegedly opened fire on a dozen worshipers, killing half of them before being shot in the stomach by police and “finishing himself off” with a self-inflicted shot to the head. Amardeep Kaleka, the son of the temple’s slain leader, Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, later said Page appeared to be deliberately picking off male members of the congregation who wore their uncut hair wrapped in turbans, in accordance with Sikh religious practice.

The mainstream press sat up that afternoon and took notice, however briefly — which, with the exception of CNN, appeared to be just long enough to ascertain whether any white people had been killed in Wisconsin. Here’s how I imagine the chit-chat in the afternoon news meetings went down: “Sikhs, you say? A 500-year-old monotheistic religion with 30 million members worldwide, approximately 500,000 of whom live in the U.S., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, those strange lefties who keep track of racist hate groups. It says right here: ‘Sikhs are not Muslims.’ Bet Wade Michael Page thought they were. So what are we looking at? Brown-skinned ‘other’ victims; tattooed skinhead member of the white-supremacist Hammerskins; disgraced ex-soldier; punk-rock musician “hate band” member; and drunken loser of a shooter who is already ‘history’ himself. Well, we all know what happened there. No pretty young white girls killed or kidnapped. Nothing to see here. Bummer — toss it to the bloggers!”

Riddhi Shah, who practices a related Indian religion known as Jainism, wrote an opinion piece in The Huffington Post asking why the American media appeared to care less about this attack than the one that had stunned the nation two weeks earlier in Colorado. The Week, a roundup of online news and opinion, offered four possible reasons:

  1. Sikhs are being treated as second-class victims.
  2. The relative randomness of the Aurora shooting is scarier.
  3. The Oak Creek shooting wasn’t as dramatic.
  4. It’s just media fatigue.

My vote, I’m afraid, remains largely with Numero Uno — not because the mainstream media are racist, but because I truly believe they peg their coverage primarily to readership and ratings. Round-the-clock coverage had already been designated to the Olympics; did TV viewers really want gymnastics superseded by wall-to-wall cable broadcasting devoted to members of an obscure religion that most Americans — including, very likely, their killer — confused with Muslims?

Unlike the cases of Jared Lee Loughner, James Holmes, and even Major Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, the Sikh temple shooting by Wade Michael Page is reportedly being investigated by the FBI as a domestic terror incident. (Fox News, by the way, wasn’t at all pleased that the Hassan shooting case was classified as a “work-related” incident — and they’re not too keen on the shooting of non-white Sikhs warranting the domestic terror designation they expected for Hassan. The difference is that, while Page may have actually committed a hate crime targeting members of a specific ethnic and religious group, Hassan shot  co-workers of no particular race, creed, or nationality.)

 

Jared Lee Loughner sorry he ‘failed’ to kill Gabby Giffords

Two days after the Sikh temple tragedy, Arizona mass murderer Loughner — who killed six people and seriously wounded then-Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — resurfaced to plead guilty to his crime.

During the tense weeks after Loughner’s arrest, pols and pundits alike buzzed with speculation about whether the shooting rampage had a political motive. The gunman appeared to have targeted a Democratic congresswoman who had barely won reelection in 2010 in a blazing red state. At issue was the fact that 2008 GOP veep candidate Sarah Palin had included Giffords among 20 “vulnerable” Democrats whose districts Palin believed had a good chance of falling to their Tea Party opponents. Palin’s infamous “Don’t Retreat; Reload!” map featured what resembled a gun sight hovering over each “targeted” district.

As it turned out, however, Jared Lee Loughner was a schizophrenic who was probably too preoccupied with listening to the cacophony of incoherent voices inside his head to have been paying much attention to the rantings of wingnut radio haters.

All Loughner had to reveal this week was how sorry he was that he had “failed,” as he had in most of his past endeavors, in his mission of killing Gabby Giffords. (Loughner also admitted that he likes the menial jobs he is assigned in prison, because even he can succeed at them.)

 

Gov. Rick Scott vows to defend Florida’s  ‘Docs vs. Glocks’ law

Somewhere along the short and winding road from Aurora, Colorado, to Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Florida’s trigger-happy governor, “Sheriff Rick” Scott, stepped out into the public square, six-shooters blazing, for yet another “Second Amendment remedies” showdown: a solemn oath to appeal Florida’s controversial “Docs vs. Glocks” law, which makes it a crime for doctors to ask patients if they own guns.

“The NRA’s gun for hire” (as Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones’ national security reporter, tagged him), Florida firearms lobbyist Marion Hammer told The Tampa Tribune, “Patients don’t like being interrogated about whether or not they own guns when they take their child with a sore throat to a pediatrician, nor do they like being interrogated in an emergency room when their Little Leaguer broke his leg sliding into first base.”

“First, do no harm” is rapidly being replaced by “Shoot first; ask (no) questions later” in the clinic and urgent-care waiting rooms of America. While you’re filling out the standard physicians’ questionnaire about past illnesses and unhealthy habits (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, and fast food dripping in trans-fats and high-fructose corn syrup), doesn’t it stand to reason that your doctor might also want to know about “risk factors” unrelated to stuff you consume — such as whether you sleep with a loaded 9mm handgun under your pillow? Or how about locking up that unsecured Uzi before it occurs to your 5-year-old to play “show and tell” with his little neighborhood friends?

Until a federal judge tossed the 2011 Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act out of court on the grounds that it violated doctors’ First Amendment rights, this bogus bill was capable of costing inquisitive physicians their medical licenses and a $10,000 fine, according to Weinstein. Since the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in June, NRA supporters now fear that the feds could “coerce the names and habits of gun owners out of doctors’ medical records,” as one Florida gun-rights advocate told a local newspaper.

Dr. Bernd Wollschlaeger of North Miami Beach, one of a group of physicians who successfully sued the state over the law, considers the governor’s quest dangerously quixotic.  Scott has already spent more than $880,000 in taxpayer funds, fighting largely unsuccessful court battles over conservative causes, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “My fear is the state will appeal and keeping wasting money to fight windmills,” Wollschlaeger told a McClatchy Newspapers reporter last month. “This is an ideologically driven, politically motivated vendetta by the NRA that has to stop.”

 

Motormouth Mitt confuses ‘Sikh’ with ‘sheik’ at Iowa fund-fest

It couldn’t have been more ludicrous if Mitt Romney had attempted the tried-and-true tongue-twister “the sixth sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick” at his recent Iowa fundraiser. Mitt made more moolah than any candidate’s ever pulled in at a single cash-bash in Iowa history — almost $2 million. (Looks like he’ll just have to undergo a news cycle’s worth of media humiliation to get his karma out of hock.)

Philip Rucker of The Washington Post took up the challenge of Mitt mockery, writing that, after getting the tricky articulation right Tuesday morning, Mitt muffed his lines at the Iowa fundraiser, where “he instead talked about the ‘sheik temple’ and the ‘sheik people’. Sheik is an Arabic honorific, whereas Sikh is a religion with roots in South Asia.”

Without a videotape, Mitt could just as easily have been talking about the  “chic people” — just doing a little bit of “framing” for his well-heeled audience. The outcome of this increasingly surreal election, after all, depends on how Mitt “sheiks” the dice.