Important update: The real author of the “Morgan Freeman” quote has spoken with us at length. In a follow-up interview, Mark from Vancouver explains his words. (And I apologize to him.) You can read that interview here, and leave comments if you appreciated his viewpoint.
Commentary | Morgan Freeman’s supposed statement on the “real reasons” behind yesterday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has been getting a lot of posts and reposts on Facebook, but the very self-righteous, preachy and downright wrong in points missive is almost definitely a hoax and not the words of the actor. (Update: Screenshot below shows a possible source for the quote.)
The Morgan Freeman Newtown statement is, first and foremost, not traceable to any particular time, outlet or media source to whom the gravelly-voiced frequent narrator would have given the series of sanctimonious “thoughts” on the shooting. No interviewer claims credit for speaking to Morgan Freeman after the tragedy, and no single entry on the web for the lecture on the effects of media, publicity and journalism in general cites any reputable source in collecting the supposed remarks from the stately star.
But the missive penned almost definitely by someone other than Freeman who “borrowed” the actor’s voice to lend credibility to their own thoughts is striking a chord nonetheless — likely because it gives people not only a quick cause on which to blame the horrific events (that durn news industry!), but also a bit of assumed smugness in posting the comments back to friends on Facebook and Twitter after days of coverage.
The Morgan Freeman Connecticut shootings hoax begins:
“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why… It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine?”
The purported Morgan Freeman statement continues:
“Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody… CNN’s article says that if the body count ‘holds up,’ this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another.”
Firstly, let’s pretend that CNN definitely used the term “holds up” in comparing the Newtown massacre to the Virginia Tech casualty toll. It’s not inherently morbid to examine a tragedy’s scope in relation to other tragedies and it doesn’t magically becoming “ranking” the two to compare the number of victims killed.
No one is saying one shooting is “worse than another,” but the sheer number of gun massacres in the US prompts many Americans to wonder about the relative impact. This is human nature, as old as the first printing presses, and not in and of itself exploitative.
Fake Morgan Freeman continues:
“Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell.”
Which is utterly, provably false and anyone who has wept and watched the coverage of the Newtown tragedy saw this first hand.
Was there a big media frenzy yesterday when the killer was first identified as Ryan Lanza and then Adam Lanza? Of course. Because this event is newsworthy. It should be noted there was equally a frenzy when victims’ identities were confirmed, and while Adam Lanza has been less of a popular term today, victims names have been intermittently trending on both Facebook and Twitter.
Don’t let anyone tell you bearing witness or reporting is a sin, crime or glorification of the many senseless and horrible deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary. Journalism and media predate the internet, the television and the radio, and tragic events are tragic. But one of the few things hundreds of millions of Americans can do in the wake of the Newtown school shooting is to remember those who died and consider what we can do to prevent such deaths in the future.
As for the idea naming a killer in the news inspires more deaths? Hardly. America’s deadliest school massacre occurred the better part of a century ago, before fame was linked to murder. (And for the record, most fame-hound killers are too narcissistic to die with their crimes. Anyone wishing to obtain fame this way is going to stick around for the coverage.)
The root problem behind these shootings never was fame, and the idea it is is one way people can minimize the impact as well as avoid addressing real issues like access to mental health care and access to heavy combat weapons in the civilian population.
MT @olaasm “Write something insightful. Say Morgan Freeman said it. Win at internet.” -Morgan Freeman
— #HashishTag (@M4NH0) December 16, 2012
The Morgan Freeman Connecticut school shooting hoax quote concludes:
“So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next… You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”
And there we have it — the real thrust of this supposed Morgan Freeman rant on Newtown. Gun control. If you address the elephant in the room, you are part of the problem.
Hell, you might as well go buy Adam Lanza a beer and a crown, because clearly the media is at fault for the shootings in Newtown, and not a series of cumulatively dangerous policies in America that make treating severe mental illness more costly than buying up a shooting range and going on a spree.
tonight’s nightly facebook summary: “OMG Morgan Freeman is so right.” “No wait that is totally a rumor, he did not say it, but spot on”
— John Foley (@jfoley3) December 16, 2012
If you, like the people below, think Morgan Freeman is going to blame talking about gun control for the deaths, you should remember he also called the Tea Party “racist” back in 2011:
“It is a racist thing… [The rise of the Tea Party] shows the weak, dark underside of America. We’re supposed to be better than that. We really are. That’s why all those people were in tears when Obama was elected president. ‘Ah look at what we are–this is America.’ Then it just sort of started turning because these people surfaced–like stirring up muddy water.”
While Morgan Freeman likely didn’t make these silly and off-base remarks chiding the media and advocates for stricter gun control, it will also likely continue being pushed out across the internet as people look for plausible ways to deny we can actually do anything to prevent tragedies like the one yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut.
It’s totally fine if you think detailing the facts of a tragedy killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary. But please stop putting words in Morgan Freeman‘s mouth.
Morgan Freeman’s wisdom is beyond our years. Take a minute to read his take on the events that’ve taken place this week. #Enlightened
—Johnny Ragin III(@Glory_IIIERA) December 16, 2012
— Matt Otskey (@Ots23) December 16, 2012
just read on facebook an article written by morgan freeman about yesterdays atrocities and he is so true x
— tammy moss (@mrstmossy) December 16, 2012
EDIT: Much of the credence given this Morgan Freeman Newtown “quote” comes from a post on Examiner. However, please note the author does not cite a source and adds:
“This examiner happened to stumble across the words of Morgan Freeman and his thoughts on the event on Friday as well as other mass shootings.”
Examiner did not directly receive comment from Morgan Freeman on the Sandy Hook shooting, as many have suggested.
UPDATE: In a Reddit thread about the Morgan Freeman Newtown shooting quote hoax, Redditor Quintilian751 claims that the attribution to Freeman began as a joke among friends about finding a way to make the remarks a man named Mark from Vancouver made after the Sandy Hook tragedy go viral on the internet.
The commenter provides a screenshot of the original quote by the man, and subsequent joking about attributing it to “Morgan Freeman or Betty White.” While the screenshot is not definitive proof the quote stems from here, the timeline also precedes the quote’s popularity and may well be the source for the spurious remark.