It has now been 12 days since the shooting in Parkland, Florida. The story is still headline news across every major news outlet. Public interest in the tragedy is still quite high. Media interest has not waned very much.
Meanwhile, every major question about the crime has already been answered. Indeed, most of them were answered within a couple of days of the shooting. We know about the shooter’s “troubled” past, the death of his mother, his expulsion from school, and his history of violence. We know that he was reported to the local police dozens of times. We know that someone called the FBI about him. We know how he carried out the attack. We know that he was able to shoot so many people because at least one sheriff’s deputy was cowering outside the whole time. We know pretty much everything there is to know about the hows and whats and whys of this case. But still it is a lead story. Still the media has not left Parkland and moved to other things.
How does this compare to another recent mass shooting?
If you recall, dozens upon dozens of people were gunned down in Las Vegas on October 1. There were 58 fatalities in total. Another 422 injuries. That’s 480 casualties — 480 casualties — and I’m not even counting the hundreds more injured by trampling or shrapnel. It was the worst mass shooting in modern American history by a mile. It had more casualties than Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Parkland combined — times two. And it was carried out in the middle of a major American city.
Yet that terrible massacre seemed to fade from the headlines rapidly and inexplicably. The country had almost entirely moved on by the beginning of the following week. It seemed to me that we had forgotten about it within three or four days, but I’ll say a week just to be safe. The media is so obsessed with Parkland that several of its survivors are now practically household names. Does anyone remember the names of a single one of the Las Vegas survivors? Did any of them do media tours? Did CNN hold a “town hall” about Las Vegas? Was there an extensive conversation about potential law enforcement failures in Las Vegas, as there has been about their failures in Florida? We’ve all had quite a bit to say about the police officer who waited outside while kids were gunned down, but what about the police officers and armed security who made it to the shooter’s hotel room while he was still raining shots down on the crowd, but stood outside the door for an hour before entering?
And that’s just one unanswered question that still remains in Las Vegas. There are many more. We still don’t know why the shooter did what he did. We still don’t know much about his background or his finances or his psychological profile. We still haven’t seen any photos or videos of him, despite the hundreds of hours of footage that must exist. We still don’t know why the timeline of the shooting changed three times in the first few weeks after the shooting. The lack of answers should increase media attention because they keep the story open and active, but the opposite seems to have occurred. Attention to the story waned as the questions piled up. There are no questions in Parkland, yet there is still plenty of attention.
I can’t answer that question. You might speculate that the media has found Parkland to be more politically useful due to the anti-gun activism from some of the survivors. You might speculate that the media simply had less sympathy for the Vegas victims because they were white country music fans. You might speculate that there are some very powerful forces — Vegas hotels and casinos, namely — interested in burying the Vegas shooting. You might speculate that the unanswered questions just made the story too difficult for our lazy and apathetic society to track. You might come up with a more conspiratorial explanation than any of these I’ve listed.
I think there could be some truth to all of these theories. There may even be some truth to the conspiracy theories. I don’t know. It all just adds up to yet another open question. And, at this point, I’m not sure if we’ll ever get answers to any of them.