THE TRAGEDY INDUSTRY….I don’t agree with every sentence in Rosa Brooks’ op-ed today about the Virigina Tech shooting, but she does manage to put into words something that bugs me as well:
Convincing ourselves that we’ve been vicariously traumatized by the pain of strangers has become a cherished national pastime. Thus, the Washington Post this week accompanied online stories about the shooting with a clickable sidebar, “Where to Find Support” — apparently on the assumption that the mere experience of glancing at articles about the tragedy would be so emotionally devastating that readers would require trained therapists.
….Count me out. There’s something fraudulent about this eagerness to latch onto the grief of others and embrace the idea that we, too, have been victimized. This trivializes the pain felt by those who have actually lost something and pathologizes normal reactions to tragedy. Empathy is good, but feeling shocked and saddened by the shootings doesn’t make us traumatized or special — these feelings make us normal.
It’s well past time to dial down the Virgina Tech coverage. There’s a point where genuine empathy turns into artifice, an attempt to loudly and publicly demonstrate our continued empathy bona fides rather than a genuine demonstration of empathy itself, and I think we passed that point some time ago.