Commentary | Nancy Lanza was the first victim of the Newtown tragedy, mother to the man who authorities believe killed 20 first-graders and six Sandy Hook Elementary employees before taking his own life as cops and troopers stormed the building.
Nancy Lanza was originally reported to be by some accounts found dead in her home and, by others, a slain teacher herself. The former turned out to be true, and, in the horror surrounding the event, Nancy has become sort of a footnote.
In the absence of information, speculation takes hold — one blog post went nearly immediately viral, reprinted in full on many prominent blogs and titled “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mom,” a rumination on having a mentally ill child. (Since Liza Long’s post gained massive exposure, other bloggers have questioned her framing of the subject in the wake of the tragedy.)
“The media,” a less-definable problem in and of itself, also came into play when a viral hoax attributed to Morgan Freeman began circulating, urging Americans to not watch the news and stop talking about gun control after the tragedy in Newtown. The quote was later denied by Freeman, but the meme resonated nonetheless as many struggled to find a platitude to explain away the multi-layered rot that led to a young man gunning down an elementary school on a December morning.
In my earlier post on the Morgan Freeman hoax, I (in the words of some commenters) “defended” the media in as much as there is no way around telling the story in a factual matter. If you believe that the press can suppress the name of the gunman in a killing this large, or that by simply ignoring these killers they will go away, that is a delusion outside the scope of this post.
However, delusion is the eventual thrust of this post — more accurately, the delusion Nancy Lanza may have infected her son Adam with before his horrible actions.
A free society cannot exist without a free and open press, and, with social media all around us, information cannot be suppressed in this manner. But there is something that can be said for responsibility and not the sort that revolves around glory or notoriety.
Nancy Lanza, it is now reported, may have been a “doomsday prepper.” Many segments of the media have espoused a fear-based narrative to achieve their political goals, and an alarming number of Americans feel the end of times will come during their lifetime.
Even now, ahead of the Newtown school shootings, we had a spate of Americans calling for all out war, for secession, for an event that the last time it occurred, tore our country apart and decimated our population, killing three percent of all US citizens.
And the idea that we are on the brink, that tomorrow may never come, that America is a heartbeat away from murderous destruction is a common theme in scaremongering cable news. As we sit here talking about whether the killer should be named in press, Glenn Beck is still hawking a year’s worth of “food insurance” for families that fear the coming gunmaggedon.
According to sister-in-law Marsha Lanza, her brother’s wife had been taken in by the doom and gloom preaching on cable TV. When Marsha remembers her last conversation with Nancy, it was not a matter of “if” the world ends, but “when,” she recalls:
“She prepared for the worst … Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping – are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?”
Like much of the story, we don’t know that Nancy Lanza was one of these types. We know Mrs. Lanza stockpiled weapons, weapons that later were used to murder 27 people, herself included. We know that, far from making the home of Nancy Lanza safer, the gun led not only to her death, but the death of several innocents in a tragedy that has broken the hearts of America.
And again, like many aspects, not one single fix would have saved Sandy Hook Elementary School from the horror that visited it. Media has been blamed. Mental illness blamed. Gun control. God in schools.
But if the report Nancy Lanza was one of the people who believed the world would imminently fall into chaos — and, bear in mind, then likely steeped her already mentally unbalanced son in the fears she had — we can also have a conversation about inflammatory, fear-based rhetoric as a precipitate, too.
One post on The Daily Beast questions why Nancy Lanza — a blonde first wife in a Connecticut suburb — had that sort of arsenal in a home that appeared to house just her and Adam. But the question seems readily answered if it is confirmed that the constant suggestion the destruction of America is mere weeks away was in any way influencing morale and mental health in the Lanza household.
No, Glenn Beck and his ilk are not to blame for the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, but maybe it’s time to shelve fear as a political persuasion tactic lest fuel is thrown on the fire in an already volatile situation.
Nancy Lanza didn’t kill those people, but she may have been an unwitting conduit for factors that spurred on Adam Lanza’s break in sanity. And that’s worth considering.