So I had a bit of a revelation over the last few weeks.
Our Fourth Estate, the news, is in trouble. My revelation started with Christina having me run an errand for her at the mall. Going to the mall means two things for me. My first stop is at Barnes and Noble where I always exceed whatever limit I put on myself and walk out with three or four books, then I head over to the food court and hit up Charlie's Cheesesteaks. I'll start on one of my new books with lunch.
I've never read Hunter S Thompson so I selected Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and there next to his section I saw a book that also piqued my interest. Columbine.
I teach active shooter response for the sheriffs office, have written an article on the importance of tourniquets assigned to patrol officers, and train once a year on how to respond to a school shooter. All this yearly training and the new tactics we teach are a direct result of the Columbine incident. I've studied it, some, and when I teach new students about school shooters I always point out that the initial responding officers at Columbine did it right. I was a police officer in 1999 when it happened, and they did exactly what they were trained to do. Contain the situation and wait for a tactical team or SWAT.
We've evolved in the law enforcement community since that time. In 2001 we taught the first five officers should form a "raid team" and move into the school with handguns to address the threat. Today, as a patrol lieutenant, I carry an AR-15 assault rifle and a backpack which has extra ammunition, four combat tourniquets, a first aid kit, eye protection, and water. If an active shooter comes into a school in our county and I'm working and happen to be the closest one, I'll address the threat first, and then begin first aid. So will every other deputy I work with.
Either way, I thought I knew about Columbine. I knew their names, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and knew they killed thirteen people, twelve students and one teacher. I knew they called themselves the Trench Coat Mafia, had been bullied at school and were targeting athletes and the popular crowd. I knew their plan called for them to hijack a plane to escape, but they eventually committed suicide. I even heard they were gay, and assumed that there was something to that rumor since it was on the news. As far as I knew, they were both equally complicit in the murdering of their classmates. I knew they planned the act, and remember there were analogies to the WACO compound where the Branch Davidians perished.
I knew all that because that's what I heard on the news. And, as a police officer I had a vested interest, even more so now that I assist teaching active shooter response.
Apparently I didn't know a damn thing. The only thing I got right was the body count.
There was never any plan for an escape, they both knew they were going to die that day. They weren't bullied, if anything they both seemed to enjoy picking on incoming freshmen.They wore trench coats, along with another group of kids they hung out with. By no means were they Goth or loaners. Both kids attended prom the weekend before with dates and groups of friends. They didn't discriminate who they shot at. Their goal was to kill as many people as possible, not exact some sort of revenge for being unpopular. Both Klebold and Harris were extremely smart. They weren't gay and the only time WACO or other catastrophes are mentioned in Eric Harris' journal were over his obsession with mass killing. There was nothing political about what they did. Dylan Klebold barely fired his gun in the beginning stages of the attack.
I could go on and on, but the book, Columbine, by Dave Cullen is amazing and not only recreates the actual scene, he goes back and tries to address the why. And the truth is, Eric Harris was clearly a manipulative psychopath, and Dylan Klebold was depressed, had been contemplating suicide for some time, and pretty much followed Eric's lead.
I started thinking about how wrong I was about some of what happened. Then it dawned on me. I didn't make the stuff up, it's what I heard on CNN, or Fox News, or CBS.
Dave Cullen does an extraordinary job in his book pointing out where several of those rumors came from, and how many of them went on the news before they could be verified.
So I started brooding, what else am I misinformed on. Do I have to run out and buy a book that is cited with an appendix just to learn about current events?
I started questioning so many different things, like what I believed politically to wondering if I've ever been responsible for perpetuating some false narrative to the news on the rare occasion I've had to give an interview.
I'll try not to get too political here, and the rest of this is all my opinion. Anyway, I started switching back between CNN, (my normal TV news source) and Fox News, (not my normal TV news source unless my dad is visiting.)Here are the headlines from the same time in an hour from both stations. CNN: President Trump admits he gave top secret information to the Russians during the meeting in the Oval Office. Fox News: President Trump did not give top secret information to Russia.
What the hell do we do with that? When did the news, the Fourth Estate, begin to write their own narratives? When did they decide to take a side?
I have fond memories of watching the news with my mom and dad. Of course this was long before cable, and it was just a local channel, but I remember Jim Vance doing the news and I remember how much my dad seemed to like him. I remember he just read off what was happening. He informed us what was going on in the world. That was his agenda, to give us the news.
Now, to me, it's all twisted up. And the more I thought about what twisted it up, I realized it's money. Cable news is no different than any other business. They are here to turn a profit. And that, well that, just fucking sucks.
I watched an interview with President Obama during his last year in office and he said something that I thought was funny at the time, but it's more ominous now. He said, "You know, I wouldn't think I was doing a good job either if all I watched was Fox News."
I'm sure President Trump could say the same thing about CNN now.
Maybe someone smarter than me will figure out a way to get the money out of the news, but until that happens, I don't see a solution. What's so ironic is now that information is literally at our fingertips through smart phones and the 24 hour news cycle, we don't have to wait until the six pm NBC newscast with Jim Vance anymore, we should all be much more well informed. Instead, were watching the newscast we relate to and they seem to bend the narrative so they can tell us what we want to hear.
How do we fix that? Does anyone know if Jim Vance is still around?