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18 Sep, 2019 23:59

School shooting fear porn? Gruesome imagery used to get people's attention (and sell clothes) inspires backlash

School shooting fear porn? Gruesome imagery used to get people's attention (and sell clothes) inspires backlash

Violent scenes of kids running from an armed attacker are publicly applauded when released by a charity working against such tragedies, but what about a fashion show recycling such imagery? Is this fear porn or raising awareness?

Wholesome images of children touting their favorite new-school-year accessory quickly give way to kids repurposing those accessories to try to survive while under attack from a shooter in a new commercial from Sandy Hook Promise. The ad, released on Wednesday, is being alternately embraced by gun control proponents and reviled by gun rights groups – and parents distressed at the rise of sensationalist "fear porn."

Rather than the usual gun-control narratives centered on ripping guns out of the hands of Second Amendment-loving citizens or "cracking down" on the nonviolent mentally ill, Sandy Hook Promise's stated goal is educating families on the warning signs that a person might be planning a violent attack. Its website claims that "in 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker's plan but failed to report it."

Gun control proponents on social media didn't quite grasp the nuance, however, retweeting the charity's ad alongside claims that it "should play on loop for all our politicians who are against gun control." Even some opponents of gun control found the ad "chilling and really good."

Not everyone was impressed by this "trauma porn," however. "We're ramping up fear of school shootings when we need to be talking about gun suicide, family gun violence, community gun violence," one user said. "Fear mongering is not the answer," said another. 

If showing violence for the purposes of education is acceptable, recycling school shooting imagery for a fashion show was met with significantly more opposition. New York label Bstroy showed off a line of sweatshirts emblazoned with the names of schools where mass shootings have taken place, including Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, and some of the models walked down the runway with faux arrows protruding from their bodies.

Survivors of some of the referenced shootings were appalled by the designs. "A clothing line making hoodies featuring schools from famous school shootings with fake bullet holes punched through is peak 2019 exploitative edgy cringe culture," said Parkland shooting survivor Cameron Kasky, denouncing the show as "completely disgusting and shameful."

"It won't sell, and they might end up going bankrupt simply because they made the decision to try to capitalize off a tragedy like Sandy Hook and the other shootings that they put on their shirts," school safety advocate JT Lewis, a University of Connecticut student who lost his brother in the Sandy Hook shooting, told RT. "Gun violence affects so many people here in America, and this just adds on to the grief."

There are two different kinds of people that appear after a mass shooting: those who are seeking to help the community and those affected by the shooting, and those who are seeking to capitalize off the shooting.

"Shooting is a cash mine," Lewis continued, pointing out that no less than 80 organizations sprung up in the days following the Sandy Hook shooting, many of them fraudulent.

Also on rt.com ‘The Hunt’ cancellation: A healthy country doesn’t ban fiction & allow real lies, hatred & violence

Not everyone thought the sweatshirts were the crime against humanity they were being portrayed as. "Perhaps if the clothes weren't created to make a profit but to raise awareness," mused one commenter.

"The designer should design all the countries that America have [sic] bombed. And let's see if there's a backlash," commented another. 

Is there really such a difference between the fashion show and the Sandy Hook Promise ad? Both are, in their own way, raising awareness about school shootings, upsetting most people who see them, and triggering difficult conversations – and if a donation, or a purchase, comes out of it, so much the better for both groups. If one is in poor taste, the other likely is, as well – and both have clearly accomplished their mission of attracting maximum public attention.

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