Mona Charen

It "begins in 1959, at major turning points for both the future president and his assassin. John F. Kennedy ... is in Washington, D.C., preparing to announce his presidential candidacy, while Lee Harvey Oswald finds himself in the U.S. embassy in Moscow, renouncing his U.S. citizenship. These two events start both men -- one a member of one of the United States' most wealthy and powerful families, the other a disillusioned former Marine and Marxist -- on a cataclysmic track that would alter the course of history. Throughout (the film), we see their highs and lows, culminating in not one but two shocking deaths that stunned the nation."

One character enters history by serving his country and being gravely wounded in the U.S. Navy, winning a Pulitzer Prize (however dubiously), becoming a U.S. senator, and running for and being elected president. The other character -- given equal billing in this account of a great historical event -- achieves immortality by committing murder. We get "two shocking deaths."

The power of media saturation is difficult to overstate. A recent Wall Street Journal piece by Ari Schulman focuses on research showing that rampage shooters are highly motivated by the desire to achieve attention and fame through their shocking massacres. They often intend to kill themselves at the conclusion of their shooting sprees but hope to get the media to report their names and publicize their grievances. Schulman recommends that the press consider guidelines originally promulgated in 2001 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the surgeon general. These include never reporting the names of mass shooters, never speculating on their motives (and certainly never reproducing their manifestos), and never broadcasting images of the crime. The "breaking news" wall-to-wall coverage of these grisly atrocities gives the twisted perpetrators exactly what they seek.

The morbid focus on JFK's assassination -- particularly those programs that stress the "two stories" angle -- send exactly the wrong signals to unstable minds. The rifle, the close-ups, the music, the drama. It all screams, "This is the way, if not to glory, at least to notice."


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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