Massacre, defined by the Oxford dictionary as “an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of many people,” is a word with a powerful, inflammatory connotation.
This definition of massacre references an ambiguous requirement for an event to be considered a massacre: “many” people must be killed. So, because of its ambiguous definition, whether or not an event is deemed a massacre is contingent on a subjective interpretation in the moment of a historical event. Because of this, horrific incidents in the modern age are often defined through an inconsistent lens and thus are perceived differently by the labels which are placed upon them.
To further bolster this concept of inconsistent labelling of horrific events, I will use the example of the Boston Massacre of 1770, which resulted in five deaths. Before proceeding, it must be said that in writing this I aim not to downplay the tragedy of the Boston Massacre but instead to note a discrepancy in history in the recording of certain tragic events.
The Boston Massacre has been labeled as a massacre by historians and yet currently, incidents with higher death tolls and injuries transpire nearly daily and are not labeled by so strong a word as “massacre,” most recently, the Las Vegas shooting.
By comparison, it seems that the tragic Las Vegas shooting which led to the deaths of at least 58 and the injury of at least 515 people is far more heinous than the Boston Massacre of 1770, especially considering the resources and security available in the U.S. to prevent such incidents which could not be mobilized in this instance.
Yet the labeling of the Las Vegas incident as a “shooting” in the news, even if it is being labeled as the “most deadly shooting in U.S. history,” rather than as a massacre, downplays the incident to a major extent. The word “shooting,” even when precursored by the term “most deadly” seems to pale in comparison to the word “massacre”; the word “shooting” simply does not evoke the same emotions that the word “massacre” does.
We are now in an age where it seems that every week or two a new horrific event occurs. The normalization of violence is eminent, if not already completely consolidated in modern society.
In order to prevent further normalization of violence in society, media platforms must serve as a constant channel through which horrific incidents can be labeled exactly as horrifically as they are. It seems often that the increasing violence of modern incidents defies our known means of verbally communicating tragedies; in other words, the increasing violence of events is outpacing even the strongest rhetoric that we can use to relate tragedies. Therefore it is the challenge of, and by default must be the priority of, media platforms to effectively label and then communicate atrocious occurrences in such a way that these events cannot be branded as normal and unassailable facts of everyday life.