I posted recently on the combination of Twitter and 24/7 news adding to the feeling of desperation in the world. A wise commenter posted that it isn’t that the world is getting worse, we’re just hearing about it all the time. I couldn’t agree more. And I have an example to prove the point.
Ask the random moderately educated person what is the worst school massacre in America is, and they will tell you one of a couple of things. Depending on their age, they are most likely to say Columbine or Virginia Tech. A few might pull out the Texas Sniper. Others will think of some incident they might have been involved in, however remotely. They would all be wrong.
The reality is that the worst school killings isn’t ingrained on the public psyche because it happened in a time prior to world wide news coverage. It happened on May 18th, 1927 in the little town of Bath, MI. And there is a good chance you’ve never heard of it, unless you’ve heard me ramble about it.
Andrew Kehoe was upset about new taxes. So to get even, he blew up the school in Bath. He killed 44 people in two explosions during the school day. He planned the attack for months, getting hired on as the schools janitor and spent 8 months wiring up the school with explosives. An entire wing of the school failed to explode, or the death toll would have been much higher. Kehoe also killed himself in the final explosion. In addition to the deaths, Kehoe destroyed the majority of the school building and town leadership. The last explosion, done via a car bomb just like in Iraq so even those things aren’t new, killed much of the leadership of the town.
Now this made the news. It dominated headlines around the country for weeks. But news was slow, pictures rare and unless you picked up the paper, you didn’t read about it. News was a very passive thing then. Today, we’d have live footage from helicopters, kids around the country would twitter about it while fifty people who just “felt bad” because of it opened up fan pages on Facebook. A group in Iowa would set up a website saying that George Bush knew about it and helped plant the bombs. Another here in Alabama would theorize on their website that it was really a cruise missile fired from the USS Ronald Reagan.
And it’s that difference that makes today’s world seem to be going to Hell in that proverbial hand basket. It’s the same one we’ve been in for years, and fundamentally it’s a better and more comfortable basket than ever before but the complaint of a single occupant carries far more weight today than ever before. I mean why make your friends depressed, when you can depress the whole world, right?