After recent mass shootings, I’ve seen a particularly unhinged request in comments sections: publish images of the dead. It seemed for months like nobody was going to answer that ugly call, but after warnings from some of the victims’ parents, the Washington Post ran a non-paywalled post yesterday doing just that. I will not be sharing links to it, but it shows a lot of bloody images of school shootings and other attacks. One photo included showed bodies left behind after the Las Vegas shooting.
The media, of course, has every right to do this. The images are mostly taken from law enforcement evidence and those that were published were obtained by WaPo lawfully.
But just because you can legally do something doesn’t mean it’s morally right. Particularly when you do it as selectively and cynically as the Washington Post has. The Post has published only photos from shootings carried out by killers with AR-15 rifles. It’s chosen images designed to shock in a clearly politicized attempt to whip up opposition to “assault weapon” ownership.
The fact that shootings with ARs constitutes a tiny minority of all shootings in America — even using the inflated numbers cited by the WaPo from the debunked Gun Violence Archive — didn’t warrant a mention by the paper. The implication here is that that the aftermaths of shootings committed with ARs are somehow more bloody or shocking than those carried out with other weapons like shotguns, handguns, knives, or bombs.
That, of course, is false. But the Post’s editors had a cynical political point to make and didn’t care about the effect the published photos might have on victims’ families or survivors.
The only reason we knew ahead of time that the Washington Post was going to publish this activist stunt was that many of the parents and relatives of the shooting victims expressed their opposition on social media.
Here’s a tweet from Kimberly Garcia, a parent of a child who died at Uvalde, begging social media users to not look at the images and to not share them. I chose to honor her request and did not include links in this article.
The Washington post will be releasing an article and graphic photos from May 24th. PLEASE DO NOT RETWEET or SHARE THEM.
— Kimberly Garcia (@kim_amerie) November 14, 2023
Here’s another tweet from someone who lost a loved one, warning people about what was coming . . .
Survivors…the Washington Post has been working on a story about the AR15, mass shootings, & the physical & emotional trauma left in the wake of these tragedies.
There are videos & photos that may be activating to you.
Please take appropriate steps for your wellbeing.
— Sandy Phillips (@MamaRedfield) November 14, 2023
Phillips revealed the date of publication and said she knew why WaPo intended to do it. They supposedly want the public to “better understand the trauma” associated with these shootings so that the public can know what it’s like to be a victim of them or a responder who has to deal with them.
As a Post editorial claimed . . .
A responsible newspaper does not publish such upsetting images lightly, but doing so showcases the destructive force of the AR-15 in a way words fail to do.
The fact remains that the Washington Post knows that the families and friends of the dead will suffer emotional harm from the publication of these photos. That’s clear from their attempt to reach out to give them a “heads up.”
But none of that ultimately mattered. The Post concluded that the political and potential anti-gun benefits of publishing the images outweighed any trauma and harm they might do to the shooting victims’ parents and survivors.
People Already Understand
Make no mistake…these images were released under a false pretext. Just about everyone knows the pain of losing a loved one. Almost everyone has lost a loved one, whether it was a grandparent when you were a child or a parent when you were older. Whatever age you might be, you’ve probably lost friends and family to accidents or illness. . Some of us have witnessed death first-hand.
The Post’s editor, Sally Buzbee attempted to justify publishing the images this way . . .
But because journalists generally do not have access to crime scenes and news organizations rarely if ever publish graphic content, most Americans have no way to understand the full scope of an AR-15’s destructive power or the extent of the trauma inflicted on victims, survivors and first responders when a shooter uses this weapon on people.
Releasing gory images, however, doesn’t improve our ability to empathize with those who’ve lost their loved ones. We already know what it’s like to lose people close to us. That pain runs just as deep whether the cause of death was old age, cancer, or a deranged killer who took them from us.
That I had to take a break from writing after typing that last paragraph (and you may have needed a break after reading it) is proof enough that most of us know what it’s like already. We get it. We understand completely.
In the end, we decided that there is public value in illuminating the profound and repeated devastation left by tragedies that are often covered as isolated news events but rarely considered as part of a broader pattern of violence.
The goal here, however, wasn’t to increase understanding or empathy, let alone illumination. The Post didn’t include photos of the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting (32 dead, handguns), an average weekend in Chicago (scores shot, double digit fatalities, also using handguns), or the University of Idaho stabbings, or the Wisconsin parade attack (SUV).
The goal here was to shock people into supporting gun control laws, possibly another “assault weapons” ban. The bloody images were published to get people in a mental state where they suspend their critical thinking skills and are open to the idea that limits on gun rights will solve the problem. It’s an intentionally deceptive, manipulative assault on the human mind and soul designed to create a political opening that statism can exploit.
This Is The Behavior Of Vultures, Not Humans
When a death happens in the desert, it isn’t long at all before the ecosystem gets to work recycling the materials that once enabled life. Why? Because nature is a brutal place. If an animal doesn’t take advantage of every opportunity for sustenance, that animal will themselves be dead before too long. Vultures specialize in this, and have excellent vision in order to spot such opportunities from high in the air.
But, as humans, this is not our way. We aren’t made and/or evolved to seek out the dead and take advantage of them. It’s in our nature to care about each other, even after they’re gone. We honor our dead and remember them instead of looking for ways to use and take advantage of them.
The fact of gun control’s failure has driven the so-called journalists at the Washington Post to this kind of ghoulish desperation. They’re behaving more like members of the Donner Party, using the dead to benefit themselves and further their own interests. They’re so invested in civilian disarmament that they’ll do anything to try to revive their cause, no matter the cost to the people who were affected or their own humanity.
We shouldn’t share the links or the photos, but we should definitely let these people know what we think of them.