The German response to Winnenden

I’ve spent the past few days watching German television coverage of the school shooting (Amoklauf) in Winnenden. The Germans have the dubious honor of being second only to the US in the frequency of these types of acts, a fact not lost on the commentators and reporters covering the shooting, and having lived in Germany, I suspect it has something to do with the level of societal repression found in both countries. Availability of firearms may also be a factor, although I don’t really have any solid evidence to support this with respect to German law (it’s worth noting that the perpetrator’s father is a gun freak, and the weapons and ammunition used in the shooting came from his stockpile).

On the other hand, the sober, serious coverage of this incident in the German media stands in stark contrast to the hysteria and “slow down to gawk at an accident” style that we’ve become accustomed to in this country. Whereas the sensationalistic circus goes on here for weeks afterward, when I listened to my daily Deutsche Welle podcast on the way home from work today, I was surprised and rather gratified to find that there wasn’t a single mention of the incident. This is not to say that there isn’t continuing discussion of the shooting as the country tries to come to grips with the horror of Wednesday (there is); however, it’s somehow reassuring to see that the grownups in the German media recognize that this event, horrific as it is, is not something that will have a long-lasting and fundamental impact on German society. It’s an aberration.

Ironically, in this essay, a Deutsche Welle commentator bemoans the media frenzy that occurred in the hours directly after the incident, complete with unsubstantiated rumors and claims; he should only spend a couple days in this country after some Middle-American bride gets cold feet and runs away for a few days.

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