Monday, July 23, 2012


Twelve people died, 58 were injured and media went into overdrive following the horrific shootings in an Aurora, CO movie theatre last week. Most of us would agree that this is not the time to pontificate about society’s ills or gun control or God’s messages or whatever. Most of us. But there are those select few who are so hungry for headlines, or who simply must be heard whether the time is right or not.

 Exhibit A would be one evangelical zealot named Jerry Newcombe, the PR face of a group called Truth in Action Ministries. Newcombe, not content to let the dust settle from the shootings, had this to say: “I can't help but feel that to some extent, we're reaping what we've been sowing as a society. We said to God, ‘Get out of the public arena.’ Lawsuit after lawsuit, often by misguided ‘civil libertarians,’ have chased away any fear of God in the land -- at least in the hearts of millions.” 

Not content to allow for the possibility that the shooter was just a deranged kid whose life had spun out of control, Newcombe evidently feels that some imaginary collective dismissal of God caused the tragedy in Colorado. And, to make matters worse, he went on to say some of the dead were doomed to hell: “If a Christian dies early, if a Christian dies young, it seems tragic, but really it is not tragic because they are going to a wonderful place ... on the other hand, if a person doesn’t know Jesus Christ ... if they knowingly rejected Jesus Christ, then, basically, they are going to a terrible place.”

So sayeth PR mouthpiece Jerry Newcombe. Most disturbing about Newcombe’s comments are that they are self-serving and timed simply to push forward Truth In Action’s agenda. According to their web site, the organization’s mission is “To introduce people to Christ, nurture and encourage Christians, and reform cultures.” Evidently, if they have to dishonor those who died in Aurora, and insult their families, that is all done under the guise of Christianity.

Reaction to the shootings has been largely shock and empathy. However, those select few who garner the big stories are individuals who lack an understanding of the negative power of their ill-timed words. Consider ABC News correspondent Brian Ross. Shortly after the shootings, Ross made a poorly conceived and clearly inaccurate connection between the alleged shooter and the Tea Party. Watch: After 20 years with ABC News, Ross knows better, but in the current “gotta be first” media climate, Ross likely felt unduly pressured to get something on ABC’s airwaves that no one else had yet discovered. This is the same reporter who in 2009 tied the now infamous “underwear bomber” to a plan hatched by former Guantanamo prison detainees. It turned out to be total fiction. Ross also dreamed up an Iraqi connection to the 2001 post-9/11 anthrax attacks. As it turned out, there was no truth to the story. But this time, he seemed determined to find a political angle to the Aurora story that was total fabrication.

Others advancing their own agenda after the Aurora tragedy include Former Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce,(right) a longtime advocate for gun rights. Here’s what Pearce saw fit to say on his Facebook page: “Had someone been prepared and armed they could have stopped this 'bad' man from most of this tragedy. He was two and three feet away from folks, I understand he had to stop and reload. Where were the men of flight 93????
Someone should have stopped this man. Someone could have stopped this man….Lives were lost because of a bad man, not because he had a weapon, but because no one was prepared to stop it. Had they been prepared to save their lives or lives of others, lives would have been saved. All that was needed is one [courageous]/brave man prepared mentally or otherwise to stop this. [I]t could have been done. When seconds count, police are only minutes away.”

 It is the old “guns don’t kill, people do” argument, and Pearce clearly saw an opening to put forth his personal dogma. Here is the problem with his position: He assumes that everybody else in that theater who could have been armed (had they subscribed to his theory) was completely sane and reasonable. In other words, let’s just let everybody be armed in all public places and hope for the best. Were I able to reach him, I would ask Pearce, with even more weapons being fired in a dark, crowded movie theater, is it not likely more people would have been shot? Pearce’s misguided passion overtook his logic, but it still makes for great news copy, huh?

Finally, the ultimate insult to those directly affected in Aurora comes from none other than pop superstar Madonna. During her current tour, Madonna has hit the headlines for exposing her breast, exposing her butt, showing Nazi symbols on stage as part of her act and standing on top of a black cross holding a gun to her head. One could chalk up these antics to a sort of desperation to hold on to her fan base via shock value, but what she did just hours after the Aurora shootings is simply irresponsible. At a concert in Scotland, the singer reportedly waved fake machine guns and pistols on stage. At the time she did that, the Aurora story was front page news in most major European publications.

 Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor. Would it not have been more thoughtful of each of the above-mentioned individuals to forgo calling attention to themselves and their own agendas in favor of respecting the families and survivors of Aurora? Brian Ross was simply looking to “scoop” other reporters and news organizations. Jerry Newcombe tried to use the Aurora tragedy to call attention to and possibly enrich his organization. Just under the mission statement on the site is a call for donations. Russell Pearce, no longer a Senator and lacking constant media coverage, obviously saw Aurora as a vehicle to perpetuate his platform for gun rights. And Madonna? Well, Madonna is 53 years old, competing in a genre whose participants are decades younger. Her motives are selfish, to say the least.

Aurora is yet another American tragedy. Those who cannot contribute something meaningful and substantive to the national conversation need to simply shut up.

1 comment:

Joan Eisenstodt said...

Applauding! Fist pump "YES" to all that you wrote. The experts brought in, including Ray Kelly, NY Police Chief (Commissioner?) said it was clear the person who did this was mentally ill. No one even knew the gunman's name. Where are the sane reporters when we need them?