web analytics
July 6, 2015 / 19 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


The Wrong Track

People are not mere machines who repeat back what they are given, but nor are ideas empty signals shouted into a void.
subway crowd

The troubling thing about people is that if you throw a torchlight parade, people will join in. If you hand out armbands, they will take them. And if you tell them to kill someone else or themselves, some of them will do it. Not all of them, but enough of them to make for a bloody ugly scene. Most dictators already know this. So do most reporters. And both use the phenomenon for their own purposes.

“No man is an island entire of itself,” John Donne wrote, “every man is a piece of the continent.” And some pieces of the continent are more easily invaded than others. Some of the peninsulas in the gulf are very suggestible indeed.

Suicides spike after front page coverage of a suicide. After Marilyn Monroe’s death, 197 more people killed themselves than the statistical norm. Suicides rise even after fictional suicides on soap operas. And murders are also influenced by the coverage of real and fictional murders. The rise in the number of shootings after a heavily publicized shooting isn’t a mysterious conspiracy, it’s Werthers being Werther or Lanza or Holmes; identifying with the method of dealing with their frustrations, if not the man.

The Young Werthers and the Holden Caufields, and their many modern literary and cinematic counterparts, whether they kill themselves or not, represent a violent shift to the wrong track, a forceful break with convention and the demands of their society. By breaking with expectations and obligations they achieve a measure of freedom. They even become role models. Rebels without a cause who seem more alive because they reject conformity and society, and follow their passions and energies, even if they occasionally end up dead.

Their real life counterparts may lack their artificial appeal, but they still spread ripples in the pond that add up to patterns of death. And their accomplices promote their legends on the evening news, laying out every detail of their violent break with conformity for those who might consider following in their footsteps. And the violence spreads.

People are not mere machines who repeat back what they are given, but nor are ideas empty signals shouted into a void. Society is built on such signals. As is civilization. And it is foolish to pretend that the streams of communications that surround and connect those islands do not also influence the direction in which they drift. In a society where fame is the object, media coverage acts as both reward and punishment. And like any other training method, it produces its results.

Stick a photo of a man about to be hit by a train on the cover of a citywide newspaper, and more people will be pushed under trains and jump under trains. Spend weeks making a mass shooter famous and others will decide that resolving their problems with a shooting spree makes sense. Bad ideas are like bad signals, even if disapproved of, they are imitated if they are broadcast loudly enough. And the modern media is a deafeningly loud broadcast mechanism with few standards and many cynical and hypocritical agendas.

That does not mean that we ought to push the 1st Amendment under the train, the way that the media has been trying to do to the 2nd Amendment, but it does call for soul-searching and responsibility not by the people who make guns or defend the right to carry them, as the media insists, but by the people who make school shootings and subway suicides. The people who insist that everyone must search their souls, but them.

Stephen King, who recently jumped into the fray with his own gun control screed, was credited with inspiring one of the first clusters of school shootings in the United States. To his credit, King has wrestled with the question, withdrawing “Rage” from sale and conceding that it had an incendiary effect on troubled minds. To his discredit, King has used that action to argue that gun owners, manufacturers and civil rights groups should agree to a ban on the mythical assault rifle.

Ideas are more powerful than weapons. Weapons can kill a man, but ideas can cause a man to kill. Nevertheless the United States is a country built on the premise that ideas and weapons should be available to all. We are a country with high capacity magazines of both kinds. That experiment in human liberty is a dangerous one, and even though some Americans get on the wrong track, whether it’s the left-wing terrorists who haunted America in the last century or the spree killers who trouble it now, it is a profoundly worthy experiment because it allows us to choose who we are.

About the Author: Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/ These opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Wrong Track”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Rings with Islamic State slogans on them.
Shin Bet Foils ISIS Terror Cell in Negev Bedouin Town
Latest Indepth Stories
President Obama

Sources say seemingly irreconcilable differences between the 2 main parties, Washington and Tehran.

Seder at the White House. The one without the kippa is President Obama.

Instead of accepting reality, the President is trying to hold on to an illusion.

peace in our time iran

Those who suggest further capitulation to Iran are wrongly harming the interests of the West.

Haneen Zoabi (L) and Basel Ghattas (R), Arab members of Israel's parliament, both participated in flotillas attempting to break Israel's legal naval blockade of the Gaza strip.

Few Arab Israelis found anything positive in the decision of its MKS to join any Gaza flotilla.

US Jews prefer to be like their non-Jewish liberal friends complaining about “settlements” and Bibi

New Israel Fund & its supporters must be countered; Israel’s in the midst of an unprecedented storm

PM Netanyahu this week identified ISIS and Iran as Israel’s primary threat. It is a planetary threat that carries the promise of peace.

Haym Solomon, overlooked hero of the Revolutionary War, was America’s “Funding Father.”

Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive

There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN

Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

More Articles from Daniel Greenfield
Abbas and Obama

After obsequious claims of devotion to Israel, Obama took to criticizing Israel on peace process

jws

The gap isn’t between Israeli and American Jews-it’s between American Jews and the rest of the world

It’s Time for Israel to Recognize the Royal Republic of Ladonia!

Dead Yazidi children won’t inspire any protests or much in the way of outrage.

It’s because in Gaza, Hamas and the UNRWA are the same thing.

Obama went to begin the Arab Spring in Egypt which is still his target; Israel is just the lever.

It is not Cain’s fault that he kills. It is Abel’s fault that he builds.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/the-wrong-track/2013/02/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: