International News

Have we as a country become desenstitised to US school shootings?

We're 45 days into 2018 and there have been 18 school shootings in the US. But how many of these have you actually heard about?

By Kate Wagner
There was a shooting at a Florida school today and some media outlets around the world questioned if it was worth reporting as a straight news piece. Not the organisations which focus on breaking news - the BBCs and ABCs of the world were across it - but outlets which focus on a point of difference. Seventeen children were killed by a disgruntled, expelled former student and there'll be some people who didn't even know it happened, and why? Because there have already been 18 so far this year.
We're only 45 days into 2018, but there have been eighteen school shootings. How many of those have you heard about?
Obviously not all of the shootings have been as devastating as today in terms of fatalities, but there have been seventeen other instances where teenagers, who should be worried about exams and prom, have been cowering under tables, texting their parents to let them know someone at school has a gun.
Throughout the day, heart-wrenching pictures of the parents in Florida frantically trying to contact their children have been circulating. They're watching their worst nightmare unfold and the terror and anxiety on their faces is palpable.
Just like we carry their angst, we also feel their overwhelming relief as their kids run into their arms… if they run into their arms. We know at least seventeen parents won't feel that relief.
With such devastating footage, we have to wonder, if this isn't a topic on everyone's lips when they talk to loved ones tonight, then why not? It's not a concept unique to American schools by a long shot.
Similarly, we appear to be desensitised to terror attacks at a worrying rate. Last year, we experienced a horrific spate of terror attacks that seemed to pick up in incidence and devastation during Ramadan – a holy period of fasting, prayer and contemplation for Muslims but also a period terror groups use to commit atrocities and entrench division.
In Baghdad on May 30th, a bomb went off outside an ice cream shop that targeted young families enjoying a late-night Ramadan snack. That day in Sydney, as a chef finished an eight-hour shift at a restaurant, she said: "We haven't even talked about the bombing today. Nobody brought it up, no one's distraught. What an awful reality where this is becoming normal."
And she's right. According to Story Maps, 7,891 people died in terrorist attacks last year. We heard about the ones in England, in France and maybe you even heard about the suicide truck bombing in Somalia that killed at least 512 and injured another 316, but we definitely didn't cry for 7,891 individual people.
With every attack, is there a new precedent of normal being set? Every time over a hundred people are killed by a suicide bomber, do we need over 200 people to die for it to be newsworthy?
Every school shooting and every terror attack should be devastating, should be important, should be discussed. Let's resist every impulse to be desensitised; this can't be our new normal. It just can't be.