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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Americans are desensitized to terrorism

Americans+desensitized+to+violence
Americans desensitized to violence

In light of the recent Sutherland Springs, Texas, church shooting, I have considered the unseen effects terrorism has on civilians, both victims and witnesses.
I, in addition to my peers, have been exposed to countless acts of terror, domestic and foreign, since childhood, and these have recently seemed more recurrent. Many say as a result of times ridden with terror, civilians have become indifferent to and may even discount national tragedy.
In an article by Anna Doble, Nesta McGregor and Thea de Gallier of BBC, they explore this very idea of disregarding acts of terrorism.
“News like this happens so often that you see this one and forget about the last time,” one of those interviewed stated.
Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist, describes why such recurrent events cause us to become indifferent.
“Most of us have empathy but we can’t spend all our emotional energy [on terrorism] because we need to retain something for ourselves, because of the challenges we’re facing in our own personal lives, ” Burke said.
It is a horrific notion when disaster can be treated as a normal or inevitable occurrence, or disregarded simply because it is inconvenient to worry about.
It seems as if a new act of terrorism occurs within a month of the last, and sadly it does have a desensitizing effect on those exposed. Interestingly enough, some believe desensitizing effects of recurrent terror could lead to groups, such as ISIS, receiving an undesired response.
In an article by Amarnath Amarasingam and Colin P. Clarke of Slate, they argue ISIS could be losing its ability to “terrify,” which ironically, is the sole objective of this terror group.
“The quest to organize and inspire a steady stream of attacks in the West comes with a cost. It can make the outrageous seem relatively normal. As the once-shocking violence becomes normalized, they are no longer able to muster the requisite outrage or compassion to respond,” Amarasingam and Clarke said.
This claim about desensitization, while true, takes an eerily positive stance. It is true desensitization is an emerging effect, but to suggest the deaths of innocents and our indifference to it will be the end of such events is another unacceptable claim entirely.
The acts of terror will never end, and the groups conducting these atrocities will no doubt formulate new ways to harm and generate a heightened “shock value.”
In addition, Jonah Goldberg of The New York Post explains while there are periodic terrorist acts, there are also many the public is not made aware of, such as families killed in a bombing of a popular ice cream parlor in Baghdad, Iraq.
As for other events heavily publicized, “These attacks will be forgotten, absorbed into the gray maw of ‘the way things are,’” Goldberg said.
While desensitization is an obvious effect of increasing acts of terror, the effect is in no way something to be satisfied with or justified.
Accompanied by desensitization of these events comes a decreased sense of empathy, which allows us to care for others and make ethically sound decisions.
If we deem acts of terror as normal and turn our heads, we are no better than those who commit these violent acts. Rather than ignoring the issues or putting a hashtag “justice-for-said-individuals” on social media, we need to search for real solutions to a very apparent and recurring problem in society.

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Americans are desensitized to terrorism