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Shooting leaves no room for speculation

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | JULY 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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I woke up in the early afternoon on July 20 to nearly a dozen notifications on my phone. I began to scroll through them hazily, fighting sleep and a carbohydrate headache from the fettuccini Alfredo I had the night before.

I could barely believe what I was reading: A dozen people were dead and more than 50 were wounded in a shooting during a midnight première of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colo. I flipped on the radio and stared at it, desperate for information about anything.

Bits of the puzzle trickled in over the next few hours: the shooter's name, how many people were dead on the scene, and reports of a booby-trapped apartment.

But as I clung to every word of the broadcast, I began to wade through a sea of necessary facts coupled with sensationalized information.

Most people cling to any information when tragedies such as this happen. I know, all of 21 years old, I have barely lived long enough to speak with any authority on national tragedies. But what I do know is simple: The facts of this shooting should not be paired with superfluous information, which sole purpose is to incite more fear or sensation to the horrific situation.

Like that Friday night, the Drudge Report had a huge column of different articles compiled about the shooting. I mean, fine, that's what the news-aggregate website does. But next to the column was a huge graphic of the last Dark Knight movie — the one featuring the Joker drawing a bloody smile with the phrase "Why so serious?"

To unpack the compounded insensitivity and irresponsibility of this poster would be to write a book in a 15-inch space. Insensitivity: A man walked into a theater and shot more than 70 men, women, and children — this is not a movie. Irresponsibility: To hype up a story by linking the victims to fantasy because the suspect allegedly made some vague remark about a comic-book villain is sensationalizing the story.

And then there was the incident with Brian Ross of ABC News, who implied on air that Holmes was a member of the Tea Party.

"There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo., page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year," Ross reported. "Now, we don't know if this is the same Jim Holmes, but it's Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo."

Ross and ABC News later apologized for the implication, but really the apology should have consisted of was feeling ashamed that the political tie even mattered.

Why should I care what political party this shooter aligned himself with? Why should I care that this guy was quiet on the playground?

We don't know all the facts. We don't know his motive. We don't know why this tragedy happened.

All we know is a man in a tactical ballistic vest opened fired in a crowded Aurora movie theater around 12:30 a.m. July 20. A dozen people died, 10 of who were dead on the scene, and 58 others were injured, as reported by the New York Times.

The suspect, James Holmes, was detained around 12:45 a.m. at the back of the theater. Holmes reportedly told police he was the only shooter and made reference to The Joker from the Batman comics. He later told police his apartment was booby trapped with explosives and retained a lawyer, as reported by CNN.

These are the facts. In a tragedy like this, there is no room for speculation.


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