And so we have this shooting at a Sutherland Springs church—one of the worst church shootings in American history (also, we now have an active sub-category of mass shootings called “church shootings”). 27 dead. On the same day, and in the same state (Texas), as the Fort Hood shooting of 2009, in which 13 people died.
How long will the vast majority of the American public keep their attention on this tragedy—much less even remember it at all outside of listicles—a few weeks from now?
Remember that “ISIS” attack last week? How ’bout Las Vegas at the top of last month?
The locals remember, of course. Conspiracy theorists who are still hashing out the details remember. Ideologically inclined individuals of one stripe or another will occasionally remember, as to trot out the incident whenever they need to back up their claim.
But the vast majority of the American public. Will not remember.
Because we have become desensitized. And we became desensitized a hell of a long time ago, friends.
The constant barrage of news pulsating on every device, every surface…it travels from the devices and surfaces into the minds of the collective, saturating them with images of the violence, granular details of the incident, and a never ending stream of polarized talking heads.
The overwhelm of information and sensory overload will then subtly influence any number of vulnerable people to increase/set off their anxiety, depression, anger, paranoia, and so forth.
And once in a while—once in a blue moon—a particularly “compromised” individual might even *snap*…perhaps creating a “copycat.”
And then another incident will happen, will be thrown back into the world. And then the media soaks it up, throws it back into the populace…the feedback loop complete.
I figured this all out sitting in a bar after the Boston Marathon bombing, as a cable news channel played footage of the explosion over and over and over again. Of course, that attack followed a whole slew of what felt like unending mass shootings and whatnot, from the Summer of 2012 on…what I called “The Year Of The Mask.”
—And of course, yesterday was Guy Fawkes Day; a “mask” holiday.—
What we have is a populace desensitized, traumatized. As Chris Hedges writes in his essay “American Psychosis” (originally written at the start of 2017):
We are entering a period of national psychological trauma. We are stalked by lunatics. We are, as Judith Herman writes about trauma victims in her book “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror,” being “rendered helpless by overwhelming force.” This trauma, like all traumas, overwhelms “the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning.
And so how do we break this desensitization? Think not on a global or even national scale…think “locally,” both in terms of geography and your carefully mapped out network of friends.
But more on that in another post.
More to read about on Butterfly Language:
The Year Of The Mask: Aurora, Sandy Hook, And The Real 2012 Apocalypse
The White Noise Of Violence In Pop-Culture
The Year Of The Mask: Batman Vs. The Times Square Ninja