Why We Need to Stop Co-Opting Tragedy:

Whenever something terrible happens in this country, it’s immediately sensationalized by the media and co-opted by literally anyone with a political agenda… and quite frankly this has to stop.

It’s been a little over a week since the shooting in Santa Barbara, California, and in that short time, I have seen news outlets give endless, relentless coverage and commentary on the issue. I have seen a misleading hashtag engulf twitter as a certain wave of feminism has accused “male culture,” and men in general by association, of being directly responsible for this event; saying the event is proof that they were right all along. I have seen gun control activists come crawling out of the woodwork, like they always do, declaring “This is what’s wrong with America! If we could just ban guns, none of this would ever happen!” I have seen people lambasting violent video games and movies, declaring that THEY are the ones responsible, and that action is needed NOW to stop such terrible material from disseminating into the public! I have even seen certain “Men’s Rights Activists,” or MRA’s, trying to mitigate, defend, or even JUSTIFY that sociopath’s deadly rampage.

Basically, I have seen each and every person, group, and organization with an agenda hop onto this terrible event, and use it to shamelessly promote their own respective causes.

And that sickens me.

Shootings and murders should not automatically kick up a dust-cloud of people trying to use it as a reason to advance their own tangentially-related politics, but we live in an age where Rahm Emanuel’s saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste” has come to typify and define the mentality of both mass media moguls and political activists.

So let’s work back-to-front, arguing why groups like those listed above need to stop exploiting UCSB’s tragedy for personal, political, or moral gain.


First and foremost: There IS no way to mitigate, defend, or justify the shooter’s actions. So STOP TRYING.

This goes beyond the shady forum-boards and online comment sections where you assume this kind of bizarre talk goes on; something that both surprises and annoys me. There is a small, but present number of people, both MRA’s and otherwise, who actually sympathized with the killer!
That is just wrong, pure and simple. I don’t how lonely or rejected someone feels. Going on a rampage and killing six men and women is not understandable, and DEFINITELY not worthy of sympathy.

The fact that people tweet things like this show they have no grasp of the gravity of the situation:
I feel like this shouldn’t even have to be SAID, but apparently it does: The only person this deranged, confused, and ultimately lethal young man has to blame is himself. He wasn’t FORCED there by rejection, he carefully premeditated it of his own accord. Women should not and can NOT be even remotely pointed at as an underlying cause.
I’m saying this as a white, male, conservative Christian: NO ONE IS EVER OBLIGATED TO DATE OR SLEEP WITH ANYONE ELSE.
You’re not obligated to “bite the bullet” and take one for the team. You’re not obligated just because someone spent money on you or took you somewhere. You’re not obligated just because someone is sad and lonely and accusing you of being a terrible person if you don’t. YOU’RE NOT OBLIGATED.
And if you’re one of those people that thinks you have a right to someone else for any of those reasons and more… you’re human trash.


Second: Violence in video games and on television is not, and has NEVER been the problem. So stop confusing things.

I’m not even going to dignify this with more than a paragraph: If you honestly think that violent video games and TV shows are causing the spike in mass murders, then you just need to be quiet. Period. Every time a shooting happens, somebody blames TV and video games… but there is literally ZERO data to support this, so stop throwing a red-herring into the discussion when there are much more relevant causes to be debated. You’re not helping anyone. Go home.

(For the record, even as video games and TV get steadily more violent and explicit, overall gun violence has gone down, suggesting that maybe, just MAYBE they don’t have anything to do with the crime rates.)


Third: Blanket Gun Control is still hotly debated, and capitalizing on the death of children and trauma imposed on families just to push your anti-gun agenda is messed up.

Those links listed in the second point apply to this point too: There is NO CONCLUSIVE PROOF that gun availability has anything to do with mass murders. Americans own and use more guns and more kinds of guns than ever before in our history and yet, again… violent gun crimes are actually going DOWN.

You also have the undeniable fact that several of these recent shootings have occurred in states with notoriously strict gun regulations.
I’m not saying that more guns prevent gun crimes or that gun regulations encourages more gun crimes. I’m just saying that the odds are pretty good that gun control is not the “magic bullet” solution to the problem of violent rampages. Keep in mind that the worst school killing in history occurred in the 1920s and DIDN’T EVEN INVOLVE GUNS.

Also keep in mind that the Santa Barbara shooter used a knife and a car to kill half of his victims.

Automatically screaming “GUN CONTROL” whenever something like this happens is not helpful, is not a solution, and only helps to politicize agonizing tragedy in the most impersonal way.


Fourth: STOP using a single lunatic’s twisted rampage against one sex as an excuse to demonize the other one.

#YesAllWomen. The hashtag that engulfed twitter in the wake of this shooting, as people held the event up as undeniable proof that, in this patriarchal and women-objectifying society of ours, women are in danger from men everywhere, all the time.

Just like that, the death of six people is now callously demoted to being merely a “symptom” of systemic social issues, just so certain parties could use it as their most effective soap-box yet. White male privilege is run amok, men are to blame, and they’ve all been taught to be sexist, murderous rape machines.

Honestly, I think this hashtag trivialized sexual harassment and violence in the worst way and is just aggravating the bizarre gender war that a small but very vocal group of specific “feminists” seem to want.

Gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence is a serious problem, one that I, and many others, take very seriously. With all due respect, using this hashtag to put one person’s experience with a wolf-whistle on par with someone else’s rape and attempted murder should be offensive not just to me, but to everyone.

Stereo-typing an entire gender based on the acts of a select few is also incredibly offensive. As one sarcastic tweet quoted by  Nooga put it:

“Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. Ten percent of them are poisoned. ‘Go ahead. Eat a handful. Not all M&Ms are poison.’ #YesAllWomen.”

This is ridiculous. Imagine the outrage if someone tried to publicly demonize all women everywhere based on the actions of just a couple. Even though over 40% of domestic violence victims are men, even though women are more likely to stalk and harm ex lovers than men are, even though male victims of sexual abuse or harassment are often laughed right out of courtrooms and police stations… it’s women who have EXCLUSIVE right to demonize the other gender; accusing them of being socially programmed to hurt and destroy.

No. NOT all women have to afraid of men, nor men afraid of all women, especially when there is plenty of violence and discrimination to be served both ways. We need to STOP dividing people on this issue and STOP fanning the flames of a gender-war. Opposition to sexual abuse and discrimination is something that EVERYONE needs to get behind, rather than pointing fingers and shouting angrily about how terrible those brutish men are or how terrible those shrill feminists are.

This is not a women’s issue. This is not a men’s issue. This is a HUMAN issue, and it’s time we started treating it like one, instead of exploiting a terrible tragedy to have one group smugly pat itself on the back.



THIS, this right here is the biggest problem with events like these: Media exploitation. And this picture from the UCSB campus says it better than I ever could:


No sooner does something terrible happen than do the news crews descend like flies on the literal carrion aftermath. The more controversial, terrible, and horrific, the better. Broadcasting each and ever single detail followed by hours of talking heads picking apart the events trying to fan the disgusting feeding frenzy of news outlets.

The killers name, his work, his rants, and his image are blasted across the airwaves and cyberspace, throwing them into the public eye, and getting them all the attention they wanted but never got before. It’s a tired trope, but it holds true: With their endless coverage, dissection, and glorification of mass murders or dramatic murder suicides, we are giving sociopaths like the Santa Barbara killer exactly what they wanted, and sending a subtle but dangerous message to everyone else:

Are you lonely? Are you unappreciated? Are you not getting the girls or attention or compliments you wanted? Then go kill some people. We’ll talk about you for weeks. You’ll go down in history. No one will ever forget you. People will finally acknowledge your worth and physical appearance.

Think I’m joking? Just LOOK at the news coverage we’ve given to this killer, and every other one like him. Then look at this article’s compilation of tweets where everyone fawns over the great loss… of such a cute-looking psychopath. These are just two of them:




THAT’S what we’ve focused on ladies and gentlemen. We’ve rewarded the man who killed six people and injured several more by giving him EXACTLY what he wanted: Glory, praise, and a twisted attraction to his appearance. His video rantings are are widely viewed online, his person is the talk of the nation, he’s the flashpoint for several massive social movements, and his face is finally getting the recognition he wanted on twitter.

Our news media has glorified the killer while hounding and traumatizing the families of the victims.

And we’re proud of ourselves because of all the social dialogue it’s spawned.

Even in the process of saying why we shouldn’t be exploiting this tragedy, I’ve spent more time talking about him than I ever wanted to, but I’ve still refused to use his name, and anyone else discussing the matter should do at least that. I don’t care who you are, but when you go on a petty, solo-rampage and snuff out the lives of classmates, friends, or just people on the street, you don’t deserve to be remembered.


In closing: Stop using events like these to further political or social agendas. Stop exulting and elevating these murderers to celebrity status. Just. Stop.

Instead, trying spending time with your family. Teach your kids to have respect for people; ALL people. Teach your boys to be proper men, who will protect women and respect them as fully realized individuals, rather than over-grown children who see them as objects for personal satisfaction. Teach your girls to be confident and assertive; to be women who WON’T be victimized by sexual discrimination head-on, while recognizing that not ALL men are evil.

Actually BE the change you want to see. Don’t just throw up a hashtag on twitter and demand the “other side” fix all the problems.



Louis W. F. Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter.


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