WAGNER: The fog created by tragedy

By on October 4, 2017


On Sunday night, the darkness encroached a little further. A gunman, whose motive remains unclear at the time of publication, opened fire from an elevated position on thousands of concert go-ers in Las Vegas. Fifty-nine people, including the shooter, died in the chaos.

Disturbing video from the concert grounds at the time of the attack shows the palpable confusion among the victims, even as bullets rang out around them. Recorded audio from police and first responders on the scene reflect a frantic search for the origin of the shots — which was later pinpointed as coming from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel.

It only took a day before “alternative” (and conspiratorial) explanations of the tragedy began to emerge online.

The tragedy of the situation is not isolated to Las Vegas — it is made all the more real by the fact that the victims came from all over. With so many people affected by the weekend’s events, the thirst to find a reason behind the massacre is a powerful — and yes — dangerous thing.

The human mind is excellent at seeing patterns. We have an innate desire to draw a line between points to see the bigger narrative — and in the absence of such an obvious through line, it is human nature to connect some dots that don’t go together.

When a vacuum exists where true, verifiable information is hard to come by, falsehoods will rush in to fill the void.

In the case of the Las Vegas shooting, the chaotic nature of the situation bred uncertainty and sheer scale of tragedy spurred the search for meaning.

Like the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 9/11, or the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, our search for meaning behind tragedy stretches out ahead of our better judgement.

It is especially important during times of tragedy to remember to practice good media literacy.

Over the next few weeks, news outlets will likely blanket the airwaves in coverage of the shooting. Discussions of the shooter’s motive will evolve with coverage, while stories of heroism during the night itself will be exaggerated in some cases, and glossed over in others.

Keep a keen-eye out, especially over social media, for stories from non-reputable sources pushing narratives that answer all your questions.

The reality is that we are all struggling to understand these events.

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