The Horror of Las Vegas: Trying to Make Sense Out of Nonsense

The Horror of Las Vegas: Trying to Make Sense Out of Nonsense

There is light and darkness in the world. On October 1st, in one senseless act of terrorism, darkness descended upon Las Vegas. Hours later Tom Petty, a rock and roll troubadour for the past 40 years, died when his heart gave out. One of his most famous refrains comes from his hit I Won’t Back Down; You can stand me up at the gates of hell/But I won’t back down. We should not back down either.

Events, like the one in Vegas, that expose the dark underbelly of human nature often become fodder for discussions that aim to push political views. Let’s be clear, there’s no room for politics here. We all know the gun statistics, and while we can each take our stance on the right to bear arms, we cannot regulate human nature. We’re involved in a different kind of warfare now. It’s not one fought on the traditional battlefield. We don’t have a common enemy. The enemy is anyone with a grudge, a gun and a plan. It’s our modern day maelstrom. We can cringe. We can blink. But, we can’t back down.

Spiritualists of all denominations tell us that good always defeats evil; that light illuminates darkness and that right wins out against wrong. While all this may be true, it doesn’t happen in a straight line. Like the stock market that moves in fits and starts but always ends up going higher, our battle against evil will progress even when it doesn’t appear to do so. Although it is hideous and distasteful to bear witness to, the mass murder in Las Vegas commands us not to back down.

I’m always touched by how much good can be found in the midst of terror and others forms of disasters. It brings out the humanity in all of us and helps us to triumph over the negative forces that inhabit the same world we do. I’m unhappy, however, at how little air time our acts of heroism get in light of all the daily negative press coverage. It’s a low watermark of our culture that negative news sells more than anything else in the news cycle. It’s a well-known fact that ratings go up when there’s strife and dissension and go down with feel good stories. Recent studies conclude that negative stories are 30% more likely to get your attention than positive ones. The average click rate on sensationalized headlines is a stunning 63% higher than that of non-sensationalized headlines. That’s content marketing in action. As the media delivers the news that is most likely to be clicked and watched we continue to click and watch the news perpetuating an unhealthy, although seemingly satisfying, negativity.

The takeaway is that news coverage changes and molds our interest, in essence by feeding off of it. Tension and discomfort sells. Positive psychology does a good job of trying to balance out our penchant for negative news, but frankly, it’s boring. And that’s the problem. We’re drawn to negative news like rubber neckers who can’t look away from an accident. For sensitive people, who get flooded and become anxious by the constant spate of negativity, turning off the news becomes the only option. This anti-anxiety remedy may also account for the rise in memes and the wasting of endless hours looking at picture of cats on the internet. But for most of us, while we don’t approve of the negative news cycle, it excites us in some perverse way. Ultimately, what we end up doing is monitoring our exposure to the news in order to keep our sanity. To be over-exposed is to risk anxiety and depression. To be under-exposed is to risk ignorance. Consequently, we try to maintain our balance while we blindly grasp for some middle ground in spite of our intractable desire to give into today’s headlines.

In light of the tragedy in Las Vegas, moral outrage is not enough. Neither are prayer and/or good thoughts. There’s never enough we can do to address violence on any level. We have to act better to get better. It’s like the Hundredth Monkey Effect. If enough people act with consciousness society will move far enough forward to make a difference. Much like how the ripples of a stone dropped in the middle of a still lake can effect change at its outer edges, our small impulses of consciousness are enough to effect large scale change. If enough people work through local influence, it becomes global. I think Tom Petty’s second verse of I Won’t Back Down should be our new anthem. It’s an appropriate choice to honor his genius, and the memory of those fallen, while serving as a call to arms for those of us remaining:

No, I’ll stand my ground/Won’t be turned around

And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down/Gonna stand my ground

And I won’t back down.



Five Minute Articles For Your Consideration17 comments

  1. Carol Elias says:

    Genius. I really needed to hear about balancing news versus ignorance. I tend toward ignorance.

    Also, taking the “I won’t back down” mantra, to be defiant against violence with perseverance towards saneness.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks, Carol! I think we all tend to tune out after a while. But, there’s nothing we can do from a distance so we just have to regulate how tone deaf we become.

  2. Amy Stout says:

    Well put.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks, Amy! Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my posting. It’s not easy navigating the world right now.

  3. karen conde says:

    Great perspective and insight as usual Larry. Ironic that Tom Petty left this world on the day LV changed the world once again with his lyrics “I won’t back down”… words to live by in this new world we live in.

  4. meljankolovits says:

    if i thought prayers would help,i would pray, i find it hard to send condolences, i instead send apologies to the families affected.Apologies for our country’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the gun issue. I miss you,my friend

  5. Ann Golumbuk says:

    Hi Larry,

    Thank you so much for this piece! I have been with so many people in the past few days that want to stay inside, they want to hide from what’s going on! As I told one of them yesterday, they’re going to have to kill me to keep me down!! I like what you said about the news, I know I need to be informed but at what cost to my happiness? I was so touched by the stories I heard on the radio about people coming together to help each other, there was no color, religion and discrimination, just pure care for each other as humans. **I feel a painting coming on!!** Thanks again for your wisdom, I’ll make sure Jeff reads this!

    • Larry says:

      You’re welcome, Ann. No one is going to keep you down. No doubt about it. Would love to see you put into a painting your viewpoint on what civilized people look like. I’m sure it would not only be beautiful and inspiring but also speak to those who cannot hear otherwise.

  6. carole says:

    Good advice Larry, as always. Trying not to be a news junkie such a sad situation, but as you said many heroes emerged from this awful event and we need to focus on the positive.
    I forwarded your email to Matt, Paul Jr and Paul Sr.
    On a personal note, I have never been happier, I am a volunteer for the Assistance League of Laguna Beach and have found a great deal of satisfaction working in the Thrift Shop and serving on several committees. We are the second largest retailer in the city and our money from the shop goes to fund our philanthropies. We moved to Laguna Woods a retirement community and we are fifteen minutes from Laguna Beach, which is one of my favorite cities in the world, Life is good!

    • Larry says:

      Hi Carole, So glad to hear that life is good for you. No matter the circumstances that surround us, we can always find a direction and purpose that gives us personal fulfillment within the restriction we all try to manage. You seem to have found yours. I’m sure many others benefit from it as well. That’s a good way to live!

  7. Susan says:

    What soothing words to read at such a difficult time in all of our lives. Your wise words and gentle guidance has re-inforced what is right in the world and as a result, I feel a bit more safe and hopeful. Thank you so very much for sharing your light.
    All the best.

    • Larry says:

      Hi Susan, so happy to hear that what I wrote struck a chord with you. It’s a terrible state to feel the world is a hostile place. Although it motivates us to make the world a better place it’s also so important to have our own sanctuary where we feel safe and hopeful. Thanks so much for your comment!

  8. Jenay Fairchild says:

    Hi Larry, Wow!!! Awesome article. Almost immediately I got excited reading your article and was filled with joy and enthusiasm.

    You are all over it, Larry. Life is good with people like you in it.


    • Larry says:

      Thanks so much, Jenay! Good to hear from you. I know you’re out there adding your special touch to everything you come in contact with. Our job is to make as many things right as we can.

  9. Jenay Fairchild says:


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