Mass Messaging, Gun Violence and a Massacre in Buffalo

Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash

I’ve been sitting with the weight of knowing that people died in Buffalo, NY this past weekend because they live in a neighborhood where there is no Whole Foods.

My heart aches for the family and friends of the 10 victims who died, three others who were injured, and the entire community of Buffalo.

The reality of what it means to be a target because your community is not gentrified is staggering and horrific. The racist, anti-semitic, anti-non Christian, anti-immigrant rhetoric that sits at the heart of this tragedy brings to mind how powerful messaging is. We are now learning that the “replacement” ideology and online sites that encourage its proliferation spread to people willing to embody its defense to the fullest and most lethal extent.

This tragedy demonstrates the power of mass media and messaging which can be used to bring communities together or tear them apart. We shouldn’t forget that radio programming was used to encourage the genocide in Rwanda during the 1990s. Currently, the media plays a persuasive role in suffocating the truth out of Russia about Russia’s war in Ukraine.

As bleak as the events are, and they are, there is also opportunity to consider ways we appropriately regulate the use of media and technology to reduce rather than incentivize the spread of hateful ideology that supports and equips further violence. For example, relatively new measures that allow tech companies to identify and remove such content are steps in the right direction.

But we all have a responsibility — when we see a video that is violent and glorifies such violence, we don’t have to download, save or share it. We can report it. We can act as responsible digital citizens who are more interested in reducing the spread of hate than satiating our own curiosity or the curiosity of others.

But these steps in some ways would be unnecessary if there were greater limits applied to who can purchase guns in America. The question of gun control in America is one that with each passing year and the growing number of unnecessary deaths only points toward the urgency for change.

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