Is the Main Stream Media’s polarizing politicization of race radicalizing the mentally ill? Let’s examine the local terrorism that New York experienced earlier this week.
If you aren’t familiar with the shooting, here’s what happened: at around 8:24 AM on a commuter train in Brooklyn, alleged shooter Frank James detonated two smoke grenades, filling the train car with smoke; he then fired 33 shots into the surrounding passengers, resulting in 10 gunshot wounds and two passengers suffering smoke inhalation. There were other injuries reported; five were in critical condition, but thus far no deaths have been reported.
When the train pulled into the station and the doors opened, all passengers poured out and James left behind his belongings, including the gun, extended magazines, a black garbage can, a rolling cart, both detonated and undetonated smoke grenades, a hatchet, gasoline, and the keys to a U-Haul van.
The keys to the U-Haul led police to 62-year-old Frank James and a manhunt ensued, with the promise of a $50,000 reward. The alleged shooter Frank James subsequently turned himself in by calling the police, telling them “I think you’re looking for me. I’m seeing my picture all over the news, and I’ll be around this McDonald’s.”
During all of this, YouTube removed the account that allegedly belongs to Frank James under the username prophetoftruth88. According to those who watched videos on the channel before the account was terminated, James had posted rambling and profanity-laced videos calling the United States both racist and violent. In one of his videos he said “This nation was born in violence, it’s kept alive by violence or the threat thereof and it’s going to die a violent death. There’s nothing going to stop that.” Perhaps most importantly, James also talks about struggling with mental illness in his YouTube videos.
YouTube, as well as other platforms including Twitter, has been accused of radicalizing people. By now it’s almost impossible to not have heard of the “echo chamber” effect of social media, which is defined as “an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.” Because of computer algorithms, the internet creates an echo chamber for those who never search for anything different than what they expect to be true.
In Main Stream Media, there is not a single news channel that presents the news without spinning it one way or the other. The Left hates the Right and the Right hates the Left, which deepens the divide people feel from the “other” and can create radical behaviors, including an act of terrorism by a mentally unstable man who is easily influenced by what he hears said about his country, regardless of truth.
Let’s face it: Frank James is mentally ill and has not received the care he needs. There is evidence that he did a test run with the smoke grenades at a nearby airfield in New York before his act of terrorism, but he fled the scene leaving behind an identifying item and later called Crime Stoppers to report himself. His attack was horrific, but it was not well thought out, despite how prepared he seemed. We can speculate about his motives, but it was previously established that he suffers from mental illness. Anyone who watches the news is barraged with information spun in such a way that it does not represent fact, but political agendas that divide and radicalize individuals. This has a negative impact on healthy people, but for those suffering from mental illness it can warp their minds.
Even Fox News was under fire in January of 2021, when a Washington Post columnist called for it to be removed from Television for radicalizing individuals. This portrayal of people with opposing political views as “radical” has an effect on those who get their news from those sources. There are few civil conversations between the two parties, and the results of this divisiveness within our own country can be devastating.
Will the media ever be held accountable? If we can blame guns, and not the people wielding them, for violence, how can we not place blame on the people who propagate divisiveness that leads to violence? While in an ideal world the media would be held accountable, placing the blame isn’t as important as changing what is happening in our country. People from all walks of life and all sides of politics have been radicalized, but what are the common factors? According to Devon Children and Families Partnership, radicalization happens over time and can include any of the following:
–being groomed online or in person
–exploitation, including sexual exploitation
–exposure to violent material and other inappropriate information
–the risk of physical harm or death through extremist acts
At least two of those criteria are met by Main Stream Media channels. The news constantly shows violence, and often times news stations will use violent acts as platforms for their political agendas. The National Library of Medicine states that media violence does contribute to an increase in violence in the real world, enough that it is measurable and has been categorized as a known threat to public health. Showing violence and speculating about the reasons for said violence is influential; viewers expect the news media to be a trustworthy source, despite the fact that news stations care more about views and ratings than presenting the truth.
The second criteria the Main Stream Media meets in potential radicalization of its viewers is “the risk of physical harm or death through extremist acts.” Every station points the finger at the station whose politics don’t line up with theirs and says “Danger!” If you’re a 62-year-old black man like Frank James and you’ve been watching the continuous extremist Left-Wing news since the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020 then you’ve been told, for several years now, that the cops if not all white people are the enemy. You’re being told that you’re at risk for physical harm or death by an extremist group based on the color of the skin, which is one of the steps to radicalized behavior. This fear-mongering has consequences.
Radicalization happens most often to isolated individuals. Even if Frank James lived at home with a wife and children, if he spent most of his time alone on the computer or sitting in front of the TV talking to the news (as so many do), he could have been radicalized by the constant politicization of race and the portrayal of violence he allowed himself to experience.
Perhaps the best thing we can do for the mental health of our country is to have family dinners, discussions with friends, and to limit our time taking in the news and perusing the internet. It starts at home, and there are those who do need more help than can be provided by a healthy family environment, but if we don’t pay enough attention to those around us, we may never notice that someone needs more help than they’re receiving. We may seem connected by social media, but just as the name “echo chamber” suggests, being on social media is like standing in an empty room full of sound but with no real interaction.
If we can’t hold media outlets legally accountable, at least we can turn off the switch for ourselves and that’s a start. We hope we’ve given you something to think about with this article. Here’s hoping for a better future for ourselves and our country.
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