Picture: GETTY IMAGES/DAVID BECKER
Picture: GETTY IMAGES/DAVID BECKER

Eleven people were killed by gunmen in an ambush at the Marikana informal settlement near Philippi in the Western Cape last week.

It was, by any measure, a mass killing worthy of national outrage. But, perhaps because we have become inured to violence, it was just another news story that came and went.

These days, it takes spectacular violence to grab attention. And so, when a gunman raked a crowd of country music fans with sustained automatic gunfire, killing 59 and injuring more than 500 in Las Vegas, it was global headline news. For a while, anyway.

All this wanton violence raises questions about how the media should approach such incidents.

The facile debate over how much attention the local incident gets compared with the global one is getting stale. One could even argue that less attention should be given to all such incidents. After all, if it is attention that the perpetrators seek, should they be granted it in large headlines and sustained coverage by television stations?

There are, in any event very big differences between one incident and another.

In the SA case, the killings were part of an ongoing rising tide of violent gang-related crime. In the US, the killings took place in an environment of lax gun control, but appear to be the act of a man acting alone.

Commenting on the local incident, community safety MEC Dan Plato had this to say to 702’s EWN: "The community is in panic mode because nobody knows what’s going to happen next.

"The youngsters, according to [the community], are running amok and they’ve asked government to step in ... with programmes to assist the youth."

It does not take a great leap of the imagination to conclude that the Western Cape killings are a symptom of SA’s youth unemployment problem, surely the most serious challenge facing the country.

If there is any consolation to be found in these desperate tragedies it must surely be that, in SA’s case, a solution is possible: employment, hope and belonging.

hartleyr@tisoblackstar.co.za

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