Journalists Covering the Santa Fe Shooting Need to Do Better, Stop the Victim-Blaming
On Friday, there was another school shooting — the first of two shootings that day — at Santa Fe High School in a suburb of Houston, Texas. Ten people — eight students and two teachers — were murdered in the Santa Fe shooting, and while obviously the shooter — who we’re declining to name (head here to learn why) — is the only one to blame, unfortunately much of the coverage seems to put blame on a single victim for having previously rejected the shooter’s advances.
Shana Fisher was one of the victims. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Fisher’s mother, Sadie Rodriguez, said Fisher had “four months of problems from this boy,” claiming the Santa Fe shooting perpetrator repeatedly made advances on her. According to Rodriguez, Fisher stood up to him a week before and allegedly embarrassed him in front of the class. Rodriguez said that humiliation caused Fisher to be the first person the shooter killed.
Despite the fact that Rodriguez’s story is unable to be corroborated — which itself was even mentioned in the Los Angeles Times article — the headline for the story reads “Texas school shooter killed girl who turned down his advances and embarrassed him in class, her mother says.” And, as The Mary Sue points out, a number of outlets took this dodgy fact and ran with it, using victim-blaming language like “spurned” or “provoked.”
Journalists simply must do better when covering incidents like the Santa Fe shooting. Even taking the basic fact-checking failure aside, blaming a victim of mass murder for “provoking” her killer is disgusting. Not just that, but it takes deserved blame away from the shooter. If Rodriguez’s claims are true, the issue focused on shouldn’t be that Fisher turned him down but that he continually harassed Fisher for four months.
Coverage like this has consequences.
Not only does this type of coverage perpetuate the myth that straight men are “entitled” to women’s attentions, but it plays into the myths perpetuated by dangerous subcultures like the incel movement.
As David Futrelle of We Hunted the Mammoth reports, some incels claimed the Santa Fe shooting perpetrator as one of their own thanks to these reports. (Others argued the shooter was too handsome, saying “This dude has chad looks,” using the in-group slang for a man too attractive to be involuntarily celibate.)
Are you as frustrated by the Santa Fe shooting coverage as we are? Sound off in the comments.
Featured image courtesy of Reuters