School massacres have become a meme, or a contagious idea. That’s the astounding conclusion of a thought-provoking article in one of the weekend papers. The media noise – advertising, films, TV, conversations – affect our self-image from which everyone, including deeply disturbed individuals, take their cue.
The distressingly large list of similar massacres has become a genre in its own right, and one which grows in power at each retelling.
Sam Leith, the Daily Telegraph‘s young arts editor, describes the mindset that causes us to seek a target to blame:
“As a species, we are very bad indeed at coping with eruptions of meaninglessness. We like things to have causes and effects – ideally, causes and effects whose relationships to each other are simple. And this seems to be why, in the wake of any eruption of violent senselessness, we tend to comb through the wreckage looking for explanations. And it’s art that usually cops it.”
Advertising is possibly one of the least valued and most despised form of communication to which everyone is exposed. If Leith is correct, then I wonder to what degree advertising, often guilty of stereotyping and of attaching a consumer’s idea of self-worth to brands, can be blamed for having one of the loudest voices.
I’m not suggesting that endless repetitions of the latest KFC ad is going to make someone brain a waitress with a chicken wing. But maybe some people’s perception of what constitutes happiness and fulfilment could be affected by these messages. To someone with low self-esteem and affected by violence seen elsewhere in the media, how would their failure to achieve such contentment manifest itself?