This series began with a news story that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has begun a program designed to lure young children into an appreciation of the destructive power of firearms. That venerable "gun rights" organization has recently begun sponsoring a program to update classic children's literature, such as the stories of Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood. The updated versions feature the child characters - and Grandma - carrying guns and supposedly showing children that they don't have to fear wolves and witches if they have the foresight to bear arms when they wander through the woods.
The NRA is grooming children to become paranoid adults who will spend large portions of their incomes buying guns - and gun sales are the lifeblood of the NRA.
At almost the exact same time that I came across the piece on the NRA and its fairy tales, I also stumbled upon some old materials that I had collected and papers that I had written while at the University of Missouri in the late 1990's pursuing a graduate degree in social work. When I began this blog in 2007, one of the purposes had been to collect and preserve various things that I had already written in a place where they could be easily located and accessed by any of my descendants or future researchers who had use for them.
The materials that I came across while rooting through the garage included a collection of articles on the Jonesboro school shooting which occurred in March of 1998 toward the end of my first year in the two-year masters program, as well as three small papers that I had written on the topic: a compilation of what the local and national media had to say on the topic, an interview with a juvenile officer on the topic of violent juveniles, and a paper summarizing my findings. After carefully rereading that collection of writing, I decided to re-explore Jonesboro and present that material here. It will run over the next three days, beginning with look at how the popular media covered the horrific crime back when it occurred.
(Note: At the time this paper was written, the Internet was just beginning to come into full-flower as a quick link to numerous media outlets. The professor for whom this paper was compiled, an older gentleman, had visions of his students spending long hours digging in the dark recesses of the rows and rows of card catalogue cabinetry at the university library, and to some extent that was necessary, but large amounts of news and opinion were also readily available on the Internet. This experience marked a turning point with my familiarity with the new medium.)
The news magazines, much like the larger newspapers, used Jonesboro as a springboard for a wide-ranging examination of violence in society. Time and Newsweek each had a cover featuring a photo of an armed Drew Golden (the younger of the Jonesboro shooters), and while Drew failed to make the cover of U.S. News and World Report, that magazine did carry a full page color photo of the youth, again armed, inside of its covers. (The sheer number of armed family photos of Drew that found their way into the press was actually reminiscent of the endless deluge of JonBenet photographs that saturated the media for so long.)
The electronic media also had a lot to say about kids and violence. National Public Radio featured news and editorials about violent children for a couple of weeks following Jonesboro. Several of the talk shows have focused on violent children over the past couple of years. Geraldo Rivera has had Baby Face Killers, Teen Thrill Killers: Why?, and What Do You Do with Kids Who Kill?, and a week after Jonesobro Oprah Winfrey aired a program entitled When Children Commit Crimes.
(Tomorrow: Notes from an interview with a juvenile officer on the subject of violent juveniles.)