Opinion: Fear the fearful



James Sherman

I hope by now that all of you have had a chance to read Bryan Staul’s column on the Tucson shootings, “What ‘sane’ Americans can learn from the shooting in Tucson.” It’s a very well-written piece, and I wanted to take this opportunity to elaborate on a few of the points he made.

In closing the article he says, “The days of fear controlling our country must come to an end immediately.” I could not agree more. Unfortunately, this is a hard habit to break. The best way to sell anything, from ideals to tangible products, is to scare your audience into buying them. If someone tells you very bad things are happening all around you, and they offer a solution, you listen.

Cable news networks understand this. Fox News has mastered the art of sensationalizing the news into a hybrid of hard news sprinkled with doom-filled speculation, making every major news story feel like it’s the end of the world. Fox regularly dominates the cable news ratings. It certainly is easier to let a talking head on TV tell you how to feel about an important issue than to take the energy to formulate your own personal opinion. This “infotainment” form of news is extremely dangerous.

I’m not saying it’s bad that these pundits have an opinion; I’m saying it’s bad that so many people regularly watch programming that looks and feels like they’re watching the news when in actuality they are being fed a constant stream of one-sided opinions and arguments.

It is up to us, the viewers, to be conscious of these tactics and be cautious of whom we listen to and what we believe. We cannot wait around for those with extreme views on either side — whether they have a nationally syndicated program or not — to calm their speech. However, understand that it is just that: extreme.

Now, when it comes to trying to prevent something like the Tucson shootings from happening again, there are varying opinions. Of course, there is no easy solution. You could argue that you cannot prevent all tragedies of this nature from happening, and you’d be right.

Staul’s article states that Congress should look into banning the type of weapon used in the Tucson shootings. A recently popular opinion, but I think the problem here is that it’s too simple. Banning weapons won’t make them go away. Go ahead and ban crazy while you’re at it. I don’t think the answer to this problem is to start taking people’s rights away. In the long run, revoking rights will cause more problems than solutions.

I think a more reasonable solution is to help those suffering from mental illness. I realize this isn’t an easy solution. This would require more time, money and energy; therefore people would rather just ban the guns. I wholly support more programs and funding for research and rehabilitation for those that suffer from mental illness. It would not only help those suffering, but also everyone around them.

James Sherman is a junior newspaper journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].