Last weekend we learned of another tragic mass shooting. This time, at least 11 people have been killed and nine others injured so far at a Southern California dance studio. And then on Monday, seven people in Half Moon Bay, California were killed in a mass shooting.

The shocking fact is that this latest mass shooting was the 39th in 2023 – and it’s still January. We have to ask ourselves: why doesn’t the government pass stricter, but reasonable, gun laws? Some argue that this is due to the influence of the National Rifle Association. May be. But part of the reason may also be that audiences have become numb to the constant flow of stories about violence.

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As communication researchers have documented, when people are exposed to excessive amounts of images and words detailing alarming events, the natural tendency is to assume that these events are routine, normal, and expected.

Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that there are fewer emotional responses needed to motivate citizens to pressure their leaders to enact policies aimed at alleviating the problem. I’m afraid that’s what we’re seeing with the recent mass shootings and saturated media coverage, especially with the repetitive news loops that occur in this day of 24/7 cable TV.

Richard Cherwitz, Professor Emeritus, Moody College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin.

Accept the reality essential to democracy

Elaine Maimon’s articulate letter made the important point that children should start learning about media literacy early.

Children today are growing up in a media environment in which the volume of lies in circulation must be at an all-time high, simply because the means now available to propagate it did not exist before. I consider myself adept at distinguishing fact from fiction, but I grew up in a world where facts were valued and sought after because of their value in debate. This world is gone. Today, the person unsupported by the facts might just restate their case stronger and, due to a lack of media literacy, get results by repeating it out loud.

There is an additional important point that needs to be made. What Maimon offers is, in many places, a race against time. People who push nonsense serve no purpose for a media savvy population and can be counted on to resist its emergence. Try to imagine someone like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis supporting media literacy education. If Donald Trump were to become president again, what’s the chance that his education secretary would have no opinion on teaching kids to better understand his boss’ tactics?

Two or three decades ago, the movement that brought Trump to the White House began with running for school board seats. They did so because the races were barely noticed by voters and easily won by a well-organized campaign, making such a race a good start to a political career and a path to influence. Don’t think for a moment that they haven’t gained an understanding of the political value of controlling education.

Parents who believe in conspiracy theories like those that stole the last presidential election pass their attitudes on to their children. The education system must counter this before the damage is permanent. Understanding reality is essential in a democracy.

Curt Fredrikson, Mokena



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