Mass shootings are like climate change and other complex events that have been taken over by politics. You can't have a logical discussion on them anymore.

Most talk is done by people who have to repeat their automatic responses ("White supremacy!" "Blame Muslim jihadists!" "Blame the president!" "Preserve the Second Amendment!") before the rest of us can gather and analyze enough information to figure out what really happened.

A few years ago, I decided I wouldn't read news reports if an incident occurred in an area I was not familiar with until at least 24 hours after the event because so much of the early information is wrong or incomplete.

Now I give myself 48 hours so I don't have to wade through the virtue signaling. Even after that, it's not easy. You can turn any event around in order to blame a politician, a party, a cause or a person you don't like. And a lot of people will. As former White House chief of staff and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

Have you ever gone on Twitter or Facebook right after one of these events? Talk about an open sewer of malice and opportunism. We can't even respect the grief of the victims' families before we have to get our two cents' worth in, assuming it's worth that much.

Sometimes you have to stand back and let the people who gather the facts do their jobs before you go into what-it-all-means mode. Unfortunately, that doesn't sell in this news environment, particularly on cable TV and online. This is the internet age; there's a deadline every second and a demand for information right now, even if it's not complete.

An old saying attributed to several people goes, "A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on." When it comes to lies, misinformation, disinformation or off-the-cuff comments disguised as thoughtful analysis, that's even more true today.

Some people sneer at the phrase "thoughts and prayers," but thoughts and prayers are the only immediate response many of us can offer. Instantaneous outrage hasn't solved anything yet.

Now if you were to ask me what the solution to the problem of mass shootings is, I would have to say I really don't know. The problem is that in this diverse secular society we've created, it's not easy to come up with a simple solution to a complex problem.

I would have to say a big part of the problem is our culture. How many people have Arya Stark, Tony Soprano or Rambo killed? You can probably find a supercut or two to answer those questions. Or how many people have participated in political rallies or protests where violence is encouraged or committed?

I don't know what I would say to the families of this past weekend's victims except to offer my sympathy and my hope that individually we can live lives that don't encourage the kind of thinking that triggers unbalanced people to commit such acts of horror.

There is much evil around us, from the mass shooter to the abusive parent who holds his toddler's face against a heater because she cries too much.

I don't know what the answer is on the large scale, but it probably has more to do with the small decisions we all make every day than any grand plan a politician can come up with. And we must decide whose opinions and values we listen to as we go about our day-to-day lives.

That's not much, but it's all I've got.

Jim Ross is Opinion Page editor of The Herald-Dispatch. His email is


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