Not many people do like Monday mornings. Some people don’t like any mornings. The prospect of that early morning start and journey to work seems hideous especially after your weekend off. Your mood is temperamental and tiredness kicks in, everyone and everything seems to annoy you, but is Monday morning that bad that you could actually shoot someone?
A student in Emory’s Oxford College in Atlanta threatened to carry out shootings on Monday morning. This was posted on the social media page Yik Yak. Police were immediately called and Emily Hikari Sakamoto is now facing terrorist charges. When questioned, Emily replied that it was “just a joke”.
This reminded me of a very similar event I studied. In 1979, a girl walked into high school and opened fire on the school playground killing 2 adults and injuring 9 pupils. When questioned, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer simply replied “I don’t like Mondays”.
These events are almost parallel despite being 36 years apart. The role of the media is extremely influential in both cases.
The shooting in 1979 caused a media storm and a high degree of controversy. There were many questions surrounding Brenda’s upbringing, the effect of her mother’s absence and her relationship with her Father. Despite being interviewed many years later the motive for her actions still causes confusion in her most recent Brenda suggested she “was trying to commit suicide” despite the people on the playground clearly being targeted. Society’s attitude was one of disgust and outrage with many seeing Brenda’s crime as a basis for many other terrorist actions over recent years. If we look at the headlines we can clearly see the differences in attitude being portrayed.
- “The First Modern School Shooter Feels Responsible for the Rest”
- “Victims of San Diego School Shooting Are Forced to Cope Again 10 Years Later”
- “I Don’t Like Mondays – How A Failed Society Produces Mass Shootings”
Headline 1 removes Brenda’s name completely perhaps to create intrigue or to emphasise her crime evident in the use of the noun “shooter”. This suggests the paper encourages the reader to consider Brenda’s motives, was there a reason behind her crime?
Meanwhile, headline 2 removes the agent, instead choosing to focus on the victims (the goal). This clearly suggests a lack of understanding of Brenda’s mental state when she committed the crime. Headline 3 chooses not to focus on either the agent or the goal, instead it focuses on Society’s involvement. This proves that different papers can represent the same stories from very different view points.
On the other hand, the Headline from the report on Emily’s actions appears to be harsh: “Police: Student accused of Emory shooting threat says it was a joke”. The foregrounding of ‘Police’ aims to emphasise the work of the police and their role in stopping an awful crime from occurring. Meanwhile the contrast of “shooting threat” and “joke” reiterates the critical viewpoint. These headlines prove how language can either influence our thoughts (language relativism) or determine our thoughts (language determinism).
Our use of the media has adapted greatly over the 36 years between these crimes. Through different mediums a response was created.
Despite a similar act being threatened, I have to admit until I was given the stimulus I hadn’t heard about Emily’s crime. This leads us onto news values which act as a checklist for what stories are chosen for broadcast. In this example proximity is important one person’s actions in the USA are less likely to affect us. Superlatives involve the scale of the event, at the time Brenda’s crime would have been shocking now it seems gun crime occurs all too often. At the time the song “I don’t like Mondays” was produced based on Brenda’s crime. The fact a song was produced emphasises how shocking the crime was viewed as and how widespread the news was.
The news value consonance is also important which involves how the news fits in with our ideology and stereotypes. Do we expect this type of crime to happen now?
In Emily’s case social media stopped a crime. However, if we didn’t have social media the panic could have been avoided in the first place. It is therefore very important that we use the media responsibly. Be careful what you say and how you treat people as you never know what someone else is going through. Words can be just as important as actions.
Further note: I apologise I didn’t post this on a Monday, being a perfectionist can be quite stressful.