How Inflammatory Language Brought Us to the Age of Mass Shootings

SWAT team members approach a building with a gunman inside. Thirteen people were killed and 30 more wounded in an attack by a lone gunman at Fort Hood Nov. 5, 2009 (courtesy Wikipedia).

First Planned Parenthood, then today: San Bernardino, Calif.

Both are medical clinics. Both are supposed to be safe places … kinda like schools (anyone remember Sandy Hook)?

According to CNN, president Barack Obama said, “We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.”

Regardless of what you think of our president politically, you have to admit: HE’S RIGHT.

How Did We Get Here?

I was in high school when Columbine happened on April 20, 1999. The massacre shocked the world because things like that just didn’t happen. Since then, mass shootings have begun increasing in frequency, until today, they’ve become commonplace.

So how did we get here?

Some say we need more gun control. Others say we need better access to mental health care. Personally, I think it’s a combination of both … but everyone seems to be leaving out one very important factor.

This is a sociological problem, not an individual one, which means a sickness has somehow pervaded our society. 

What’s the one thing that’s changed from 1999 until now? SOCIAL MEDIA.

The Age of Propaganda and Inflammatory Language

Now, I’m not blaming social media. In fact, I’ve worked in it for a living.

However, social media gives people, institutions, political parties and special interests an unfiltered platform to broadcast their thoughts and ideas.

You know those Facebook memes that people love to share that instigate endless political debates on comment threads? They’re developed by groups with certain agendas to garner engagement and prompt action by plugging into people’s emotions.

You know what that’s called? PROPAGANDA.

Hitler used it. Stalin used it. Kim Jong-un still uses it. Propaganda is powerful because it plays into people’s emotions and fears. Even the most educated can become susceptible to it.

In the age of social media and content marketing, propaganda is running rampant in our country. It’s causing the best of us to scream at each other and it’s making our society angry.

As angry individuals, we insult others behind the blanket of “freedom of speech.” We say whatever we want because “we have that right.” We develop a sense of persecution, which leads to an “us versus them” mentality. “Them” always end up less human than “Us.”

How Do We Fix It?

We need to begin using our words responsibly again. I’m a journalist; I’m all about the First Amendment. But with great freedom comes great responsibility. And words can kill.

We also need to hold media outlets, political institutions and special interest pages accountable when using inflammatory language. Don’t watch them. Don’t share their memes. Don’t comment. JUST DON’T ENGAGE.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What are your thoughts on the increasing mass shootings in the U.S.? Do you agree with my conclusion?

7 responses to “How Inflammatory Language Brought Us to the Age of Mass Shootings”

  1. I SO agree with you. social media opened the door for people to hide but still comment. These days people don’t feel the need to hide and will say mean things to your face just because they can. We can’t continue to ignore the results of our words.

    1. I think you’re right, Jeri. People have gone from hiding behind anonymity to becoming emboldened to insult others to their faces, just because they can. Great thought.

  2. Hey Shari,

    Looks interesting and I look forward to reading. Thx for sending!

    Thank you,

    Jeff “Buck” Barry 901/489-9119


    1. Thanks Buck! I always enjoy hearing from you. 🙂

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Our tolerance for hate speech and the “well, I am entitled to my opinion” excuse has reached a tipping point and it’s sad and scary. You said it much better than I could so thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks Caryn! Thanks for reading and offering your viewpoint, too. I haven’t heard from you in awhile (then again, I haven’t blogged in awhile). How have you been?

      1. I’ve been great! I’m just starting to crawl back into the blog world, but I always enjoy reading your posts and have picked up great tips from them!

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