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Chattering Away the Evil

- Abstract

Our news media suffer from a terrible supply-side problem. The number of people paid to offer opinions greatly outstrips the number of things worth having an opinion about. Even now, several weeks after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, I don’t think the slaughter was the kind of event toward which one can profitably form an interesting point of view. Leaving church one morning, so the story goes, the great Coolidge was asked the subject of his pastor’s sermon. “Sin,” Coolidge replied. And what did the pastor say about sin? “He said he was ag’in it.” Some things don’t require much elaboration.

In an important sense—in the literal sense—what happened at Sandy Hook was unspeakable, which is why, I suppose, the public disputations that followed it were a towering jumble of non sequitur and irrelevance, a rodeo of hobby horses ridden by straw men. The disputations began even before the authorities had released a final count of victims. Indeed, at the time, good information was hard to come by. For as much as 10 hours after the first reporters arrived on the scene, print and TV journalists were misreporting the killer’s name, his place of residence, his relationship to the elementary school, his mother’s line of work, the types and source of the guns he used, the reaction of school officials in the immediate aftermath of the crime—the long string of mistakes we have come to expect when the compulsion to get it first overwhelms the need to get it right. 

About the Author

Andrew Ferguson, who appears monthly in this space, is the author of Crazy U, now out in paperback and on the Kindle.