Throw a stone and it’s a punishable offence. If a thousand stones are thrown, then it’s a political movement. Set a car on fire and it’s a punishable offence, set a hundred cars on fire and you begin a revolution.
Then something new comes along and your stones and cars are forgotten: your movement and revolution are forlorn.
That’s the agenda of news reels. That’s the system of the media. That’s the pulsating beat of public opinion.
A new story comes along, we’re hooked and we throw a stone. The more dramatic the story, the more tragic, the more stones we throw.
First come the Tweets: ‘26 dead in Connecticut school shooting.’ Then come the news articles: ‘26 dead! Gun policy should be reconsidered!’ Then comes the political discourse in response to the nation’s cry, the charismatic leader proclaims: ‘we’re going to have to come together to take meaningful action.’
If another school shooting takes place tomorrow, we will set a car on fire. If there is another the following day, a hundred cars will be burnt.
But if tomorrow it turns out Greece will leave the EU, no cars will be sacrificed. If the day after that the Queen dies, no stones will be thrown. In fact, the Tweets will read: ‘Greece leaves EU’. The headlines will go: ‘Break-up of the EU’. The Prime Minister will cry: ‘referendum now!’ The school shooting is once again long forgotten… until the next one.
The tears shed for those 26 lost in Connecticut have all been shed before; the news stories on gun crime have all run before; the speeches of Presidents promising action have all been spoken before.
Columbine 1999, 13 dead. Dunblane 1996, 18 killed. Tuusula 2007, 9 murdered.
We’ve seen this all happen before. We’ve all joined the debate. We’ve all heard the promises. Yet, history just keeps on repeating itself again, again and again.