Graffiti is costly annoyance for property owners and a mild aggravation for passersby. When we walk through a neighborhood that has been heavily “tagged” it suggests vandals have the run of the place. It creates a sense of disorder and projects a vague, low-level threat.
Mass media news coverage of events like last week’s Virginia Tech massacre strikes me as virtual vandalism. Strong words and images of dubious utility are splayed over every ear and eyeball within reach — and in our constantly-connected society, that’s a hecka lot of sensory input.
I don’t care to discuss why mass media go into feeding frenzy on such stories. It would be a long and inconclusive debate and, in any event, media have the constitutional right to go overboard in this regard. But I do have some control over my reaction to such coverage which I exercise by filtering my awareness to a bare minimum. I know more or less what occurred. Knowing more strikes me as useless. There may be some public benefit to a discussion about gun control but is this the “smoking gun” that settles that debate? I doubt it.
Mostly I look upon this as a sad instance of individual human weakness, a morbid lens into a twisted soul. Perhaps you viewed the video that sad young man made in preparation for his carnage. I have not seen it. Nor will I. It strikes me as no more revealing than the messages “taggers” spray on walls. They also say something about their authors to the effect of: “We rule these streets.” Graffiti is an incoherent signals that is barely more communicative than an animal marking its territory. I would no more dwell on such images than I would get down on all fours and sniff a fire hydrant.
So while media have the legal right to spray paint such stories onto any willing eyeball, to my mind such coverage does little more than foster a vague sense of societal apprehension.Â And that is just not the neighborhood in which I choose to live.
(Image above from Pargill Investments which sells a line of wall-scrubbing equipment. EDITOR’S WARNING: not advised for use on brain tissue.)