There is disturbing news, and then there is disturbing news coverage. To me, the past weekend’s reporting on the death of “Super Sniper” Chris Kyle was much more disturbing news coverage than it was disturbing news.
The news that a professional assassin was shot to death while enjoying the many pleasures of a shooting range — people who understand these things assure me that there are, indeed, pleasures at a shooting range. Go figure — Kyle was killed by another weaponized ex-soldier. Sympathies to those who knew and loved the victim, but my frank reaction to the news was, “What goes around …,” or, in older terms, “Those who live by the sword ….”
What bothered me much more than Kyle’s perhaps untimely death was the way that the incident was covered by the broadcast media on both sides of the border. There’s no need to compare and contrast the coverage above and below the 49th. Both of the TV news reports that I watched, one domestic and one from the U.S., covered the story in exactly the same way.
The broadcasts reported the facts of the incident, as far as they were known at the time the programs aired. We learned that the victim was perhaps the “most distinguished” American military assassin in history. We learned that the shooter (the “alleged shooter,” as it’s always put) was a combat veteran with reintegration issues. We learned that the victim was “working with” the shooter on those issues, although no one explained how in the world the victim thought that meeting the shooter at a gun range would help effect his reintegration.
What else we didn’t hear about in the story is the reason that I’m disturbed by the coverage.
Neither broadcast had anything at all to say about a culture that celebrates a silent assassin enough that his death is newsworthy. Not a word about the morality of the sniper, the legitimacy of the foreign incursions in which he performed his “services,” or any other notion with the slightest hint of questions of moral values or national character.
Nor did either broadcast even hint at the considerable irony in a military assassin’s having been, well, assassinated in the supposed safety of the country that he had killed to protect. Come on! The killer is killed, the gun expert is gunned down, the soldier who survived the battlefield is murdered at home — isn’t all of this just too juicy, too obvious, to ignore?
Finally, and most surprising, neither broadcast made even the slightest connection between this latest case of domestic slaughter and the current gun control debate that otherwise occupies much journalistic space at the moment. The murder weapon was reported to be a semi-automatic pistol, one of those high-efficiency killing mechanisms at the heart of the gun controversy. Why no link? Why not make this obvious connection?
I don’t want to believe that all of the writers, editors, and commentators who staff the high-profile news divisions of networks in two countries never thought of any of these highly-relevant “side” topics. After all, everyone I’ve talked to about the incident has quickly and easily grasped each of the points I’ve outlined.
Why not the newspeople?
Perhaps the only way to rationalize a culture that celebrates human killing machines and dehumanizes the “targets” they hunt is to not notice the moral issues that accompany stories like this.
Not notice them at all.