In case it isn't blatantly obvious to anyone who reads this, I'm going to clarify in advance that I don't minimize the violent deaths of 12 people – police, journalists, and a maintenance worker – in Paris today. Any and all deaths from violent crime are sad, pointless, and tragic in my view.
But here we are, another week and another mass shooting. Only the presence of some novelty to the story – it didn't happen in the United States for once, and the assailants had political motives rather than being the usual disgruntled, angry, and usually white males lashing out at the world with their guns – has made this a Big Story. Mass shootings have become so common that they don't even make the main headlines anymore. They've become the kind of thing that gets mentioned on page 3 or that gets 90 seconds in the middle of the broadcast, before weather but after traffic.
What I don't understand, at the risk of accusations of "politicizing" the event, is why I am supposed to be more angry or more interested because this particular mass shooting was done by radicalized Muslims with a vendetta against a media outlet. If it hardly makes waves anymore when some American white kid brings a gun to school because Reasons or some angry grunt kills a bunch of his coworkers, why should this make any? If deaths by senseless violence are tragic – and they are – then they should be relatively equally tragic. Whether the victims are factory workers, high school students, edgy journalists, or completely random people milling about in public their deaths are a pointless tragedy.
It's not that I'm not saddened and angered by what happened in France. It's that I resent the implication in the media coverage that I'm supposed to be more upset or this is somehow a bigger tragedy because Free Speech and Muslims. If someone walked into a Walmart in the middle of nowhere and shot 12 people today, would the right wingers be at a boil right now? Twelve deaths by gunfire are excused away when they occur in the context of domestic politics, yet if some Muslims who just returned from Syria are the killers everyone is whipped into a frenzy. That, to me, makes no sense whatsoever.
Mass shootings are so common that someone who pays attention to the news only casually will miss most of them these days. This one will be a Big Story, though. That's what bothers me. Lots of people are getting shot and killed for no good reason. Either we care or we don't. It makes no sense to care a lot about some and barely notice others.