Tag Archives: news

Don’t Call the Shooter “Crazy”: Toxic Masculinity, Mental Illness Stigma, and the Red-Herring’s of Mass Shootings

Our country has a serious gun epidemic.

We’re all aware of it, and it seems that almost weekly now we’re presented with yet another account of a mass shooter wreaking havoc among innocent civilians. We talk about gun control. We talk about mental illness. We talk about religious extremism. But we always seem to skirt around the underlying issue. By doing so we often cause harm to more innocent lives.

There’re so many “red herring” distractions to mass shootings, but the real issue lies much deeper in our society. Through our language, the media, our laws, and our acceptance of gendered norms, we manage to allow these massacres to continue and instead place undue pressure on mental illness. Sufferers of mental illness are often the target, although statistics show they are rarely violent people. The issue lies elsewhere: within toxic masculinity and the need to seek control.

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Another Mass Shooting, Always One Group to Blame

Mental illness is commonly brought up after a mass shooting. News anchors will emphasize the importance of mental illness awareness, and will suggest laws to evaluate the mental stability of gun owners. It’s an easy target to paint: those that kill others must be crazy.

The word “crazy” is used so loosely in our society, but it’s with this type of language that we perpetuate the stigma around mental illness. Entertainment and television were large perpetrators of spreading harmful stereotypes for a long time, but that is slowly changing in fictional media. News-centered media is still behind the times, however.

It’s taken us a long time to get where we are today in mental illness treatment and care. According to Bradley University’s research about 18% of the American population admits to suffering from some sort of mental illness. Of those 43.6 million people, only 6.7 million sought and received treatment for their varying ailments. Those who did seek treatment found that it was extremely beneficial, but still only a fraction of those suffering seek out the help they need.

Language and negative connotation are one of the main reasons people avoid seeking help. Despite that fact that only 3-5% of violent acts are committed by sufferers of mental illness, the issue is always brought up around cases of murder and shootings. The mental health of the shooter is put into question, and the media is quick to jump on the blame train; to distance themselves from the “crazy” or “unstable” population.

“We aren’t responsible for this, because we’re not insane.” Continue reading

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What Happened to Comic Book Resources?

“Change is good.” That’s a slogan I very vividly remember from a McDonald’s commercial around the turn of the century. A classroom full of kindergartners is shocked to find out that the Golden Arches are now serving white meat chicken nuggets, and are silent as one of their members takes the first tentative bite. Once she speaks those three words they break out into cheers, ecstatic that their beloved nuggets are just as delicious as before. Change is good. Or, more accurately, it can be.

This past Tuesday I was going through my handful of comic book news sites only to find that Comic Book Resources [also known as CBR], the fourth and last on the list, was borderline unrecognizable. Instead of seeing-

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-like I was used to, I was greeted with-

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While I was taken aback by the seemingly sudden redesign, the truth is that if I’d been more observant I would have seen this coming from a long way off. Continue reading

When Life Gives You Don Lemon IV: If A Lemon Tree Falls In The Forest…

In 2014, I became familiar with the career of one Mr. Don Lemon, a young, charismatic news anchor over at CNN. I say “news anchor” because that’s what they call him. I assume the more accurate title of “Shameless Propagator of Tabloid Drivel Making A Mockery of Journalism” wouldn’t fit on the business cards.

Yeah, I’m not a fan.

In fact I went so far as to dub Lemon “one of the most destructive forces in culture.” A harsh accusation, but I’d argue not an unfair one. And so I try to keep tabs on the guy, hoping against hope that a Google search of his name will not result in some fresh wave of misinformation, Islamophobia, and general fearmongering nonsense. So is this our lucky year?

I’m afraid not.

Here’s what the country’s lousiest news anchor has been up to since we last checked in:

Asking A Muslim Lawyer If He “Supports ISIS”

By Muslim lawyer, I mean Arsalan Iftikhar, esteemed human rights lawyer, adjunct professor at DuPaul, and internationally recognized author and intellectual. And no, Lemon did not ask Iftikhar that question to establish for the audience that Muslims don’t automatically support terror. You can see the pained shock on Iftikhar’s face and the obliviousness on Lemon’s. And to be clear here, Lemon’s exact words were:

“Do you support ISIS?”

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That was it.

No set-up, no context, no follow-up. Just an insulting question that was (if intentional) designed to rile up Iftikhar or (if unintentional) so blithely dumb that it could have come from-

-well, the likes of Don Lemon.

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That said, baiting Muslim guests for for ratings is par for the course where Lemon is concerned, but the blatancy here seems just plain painful. I shouldn’t have to explain that one might ask with equal legitimacy if Don Lemon supports the Crips on the basis of his race, or if he supports the LRA on the basis of his religion.

But asking for a bit of incisiveness from news anchors is clearly demanding too much. Continue reading

Escaping Trump’s America: One Writer’s Harrowing Tale of Survival

trump-011It has been 51 days since Drumpf became president, and I lock the door to my apartment for the final time. It’s a cold day in March, but even my thick coat raises eyebrows as I arrive at the station.

They say Mussolini made the trains run on time, but I’m guessing the strange intricacies that seem to govern the Greyhound buses would’ve sent tears running down the fat, doughy face of the Italian despot. My ticket reads 5:30 to Chicago, No. 302, but the sun is already starting to rise over the desert. All the seats have been taken. I find myself a free spot of ground beneath a leering poster of the president. The bitter morning wind, reeking of diesel fumes and cigarette ash, sends loose papers skittering across the concrete. Discarded ticket stubs, crumpled receipts- a single page that looks like it may have come from some shoolboy’s essay. All decadent, unpatriotic schools have been replaced with Drumpf Universities, where we are to be re-educated to stop thinking like “bimbos” and “losers.”

An hour passes, and the guards return- weak, winter sunlight glittering off of their glossy, golden uniforms. They have proper haircuts- as we all do now. Aryan blonde, brushed forward to cover the parts of our head that absolutely aren’t balding. Any illicit hairstyles will earn you and your barber 80 lashings. They takes measurements our hands, to ensure their proper size. They search my belongings. I’ve prepared for this. Just enough clothes for a three day trip. No money. No passport. Just my mandatory certificate proving native birth and authorized religious beliefs. My papers say that I am going to Houghton to visit a sick friend. I am lucky that I already have documents that show I went to college there- at least, to the Houghton in New York. I do not think I could have afforded to have all my papers forged. Continue reading

3 Reasons Why the Paris Attack Feels like 9/11 and 1 Reason Why It Demands A Different Response

Since the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, I encountered several articles that criticize the way the Western world responded to the tragic loss of life in Paris. While each of these articles bemoans the loss of 132 innocent lives, they also highlight similar atrocities that happened before the Paris attack and were almost completely overlooked.

In a lot of ways this event, and its media response, reminded me of the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. While the media response to this tragedy has been a little more self-aware, our international reaction has been similar to how it was last time this kind of tragedy affected a Western nation. Rather than discuss the way we responded to these attacks, I wanted to examine why we reacted the way we did.

1) It felt close to home

I remember waking up the morning of 9/11, walking into the living room to see my mom crying. My dad turned to me and told me the world had changed overnight. Hearing about the attacks on Paris gave me the same shiver of fear that I felt that day. I don’t think it’s hard to dissect what motivates that feeling. These particular attacks were frightening because they happened to Western nations, and we in the West are very accustomed to feeling in control. We took control over much of the world during an age of imperialism, colonization, and slavery. Today we continue to control much of the world through unfair aid practices and political manipulation. These kind of attacks are terrifying because they make us feel like we don’t have as much control as we think we do.

Even though last Thursday 45 innocent victims lost their lives to a terrorist attack in Beirut and, 6 months ago a similar attack in Kenya killed 147 innocent people, many of us heard little to nothing about those attacks until their news coverage was compared to what occurred in Paris. In our effort to show solidarity with Paris, the Western world made it apparent that certain tragedies frighten us more than others.

As Elie Fares explained in his blog comparing the media response to the Paris and Beirut attack,

“When my people died, they did not send the world in mourning. Their death was but an irrelevant fleck along the international news cycle, something that happens in those parts of the world.”

Continue reading

Unofficial Fame Day: Shep Smith

We make an effort here at Culture War Reporters to not only decry travesties but to celebrate advances in art, politics, music, and media. And in this day and age, the presence of an honest journalist isn’t so much an advancement as it is a flippin’ miracle. That such a journalist should emerge from the McCarthyite dystopia that is FOX News is more baffling still.

But lo and behold-

Shep ****ing Smith.

Now granted- Smith’s been around for a while. His career as a journalist started clear back in 1985, and Shep’s been a top-rated newsman since the mid-90s. Still, it would be a decade later, during the “war on terror” that a change seemed to occur.

What (if anything) prompted it, I do not know. When exactly it happened- who can say? Perhaps it had been building for a while, but whatever it was, Shep Smith frickin’ lost it.

In the best possible way.


Now that clip was from 2009, by which time the debate on America’s use of torture (“enhanced interrogation”, to use the official term for it) had already been going on for some time. Again, the exact causes of Shep’s outburst are a mystery to me, but it really doesn’t matter.

This, people. This is the kind of stuff we need more of. Continue reading

This Post Contains Pictures of Dead Children

43 years ago, a picture was taken. It captured the moments after a napalm attack on a Vietnamese village. Against a backdrop of smoke a nine-year-old girl runs towards the camera, naked and screaming.

The shock that image’s managed to elicit is credited as having helped end the war, and that photograph has become perhaps the most powerful pictures of the horrors of war ever taken.

Until last Thursday.

That is the body of Aylan Kurdi, 3 years old.

Refugees from the Syrian civil war, Aylans family’s had attempted to escape to Vancouver, only for their application to be rejected by the Canadian government. With nowhere else to turn, the Kurdi family fled to Europe in a final effort to escape. While the Kurdis found passage on a small boat bound for Greece, the vessel was far overloaded with refugees and tipped a few miles off the Turkish coast. Aylan, his brother Galip, and six other passengers (all but one of them children) fell overboard and drowned, their bodies washed ashore to where this heartbreaking picture was taken.

Once again, there are no words. Continue reading