Our short attention span is as short as ever
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the horrific school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed 26 lives and changed nothing.
Of course it cruelly changed the lives of the families who lost loved ones. And maybe it moved some people to, as President Obama said after another mass shooting, “hug our childen a little tighter.”
But as for lasting changes to the gun or entertainment industries, which blamed one another for the deaths? Nothing.
And of course there haven’t been any Sandy Hook-inspired laws from a Congress officially designated the least productive in U.S. history.
Great work, everybody.
How little have things changed? The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch notes that gun companies are one of the hottest stocks this holiday season. In September, “Sons of Anarchy” kicked off its season with a school shooting, and hardly anyone made a peep about whether that was thoughtful.
How many children have to die before we change our attitudes about guns and violence? Apparently more than 20. That was the number of children killed a year ago, along with six women who died trying to save them.
As The Associated Press notes, Obama and the first lady lit 26 candles in the White House to remember the lives lost. But he hasn’t been able to do anything more lasting than a candle.
Gun restrictions the president supported were shot down by the National Rifle Association and stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The NRA took the position that guns don’t kill people: Movies and TV shows and video games kill people. That led to a brief period of caution in Hollywood, when executives talked the talk about being sensitive in their portrayals of violence, but mostly kept doing what they were doing.
Is there anything wrong with that? I don’t know. Because almost no one in the entertainment industry wants to even touch the question of whether fictional stories can inspire actual violence.
When I asked Fox entertainment chairmen Kevin Reilly last year if he thought any work of art has ever inspired any real death, he looked at me and asked, “Are you serious?”
Well, yeah. It seems like something we should think about, if we’re going to have film and TV ratings. Especially in a country where kids killing kids in “The Hunger Games” get a PG-13, but two women doing what people in love do in “Blue Is the Warmest Color” get an NC-17.
Even Quentin Tarantino has started rejecting questions about movie violence. But after Sandy Hook and before he went silent on the subject, he told “Fresh Air” that it’s “totally disrespectful” to bring it into the discussion: “Obviously the issue is gun control and mental health.”
Oh right, mental health — another thing we haven’t done anything about.
Why not? Because, collectively, we have no attention span. We’ve been distracted by serious stories, like the Boston Marathon bombings, and stupid ones, like Miley Cyrus twerking. Today, Miley yields 565 million Google results compared to 236 million for “Sandy Hook.” Bear in mind, this is the Sandy Hook anniversary. Cyrus, somehow, is barely in the news at the moment.
We haven’t had another Sandy Hook, thank God. But God’s the only one we might want to thank. Because the rest of us haven’t done much of anything to stop it from happening again.