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Le Nouvel Observateur, France

Newtown: Between Emotion
and Media Circus

By Natacha Tatu

Translated By Daniel Pick

15 December 2012

Edited by Hana Livingston

France - Le Nouvel Observateur - Original Article (French)

It’s hard to imagine a more bucolic scene. Under a blue sky and frosty winter sun, with huge fir trees and lovely homes lit up by garlands and holly, Newtown looks like a Christmas card. It’s a peaceful little town where everything seems to center around children, their activities and their games, with ads for summer camp and kindergarten pre-enrollment, toy stores and children’s clothing stores decorated for the holiday season...

It is impossible not to yield to emotion before the memorials that litter the area, the bouquets, the white balloons and half-mast flags. It is also difficult not to feel uneasy in light of the media assault — the battalions of journalists and cameras and microphones which seem, at first glance, 10 times more numerous than the locals who come to pay their respects.

Armchairs, Thermoses, and Tweets

How many are there? It’s hard to say — certainly at least 2,000. The school street is closed to car traffic by police; reporters pace in an unending line in one direction, then the other. All the major television networks are there, accompanied by their usual circus. In front of the school, they set up chairs, editing tables and coffee thermoses. The anchors pace to and fro to stay warm before going on air. To occupy themselves, they tweet compulsively. “We hope that the families of the victims will come,” reads a passing photograph. The bodies are still inside the school. Many stores have closed and others have taped up signs indicating that they decline interviews. There is no aggressiveness anywhere, but instead restraint and dignity. Is it ethical to stretch the microphone toward this red-eyed teen or this mother who has just left a bouquet with her daughter? Many ask themselves this question in their search for the perfect witness.

“There Are No Words”

Japanese and Dutch journalists requested an interview with me — and vice versa. We felt foolish. As soon as a true local agrees to be interviewed, he is immediately circled by a host of cameras that jostle to get the best angle. And what do these locals say? Not much, actually — the same words over and over. “There are no words to describe how we feel,” and, “This is such a peaceful community. Everyone knows each other.” A waitress at a small deli, which looks like a dollhouse and has become media headquarters since yesterday, says, “The principal would often come here for coffee in the morning.” Before turning away, she adds, “We don’t know the names of the victims, but someone told me that my neighbors’ son, maybe...” We mutter a few words of comfort between hugs. What can be said in the face of the unspeakable? “All the same, why did a 50-something have such an arsenal in her home?” interjects a 60-something, referring to the weapons purchased legally by the murderer’s mother. “It’s time this country starts asking itself the real questions.”*

*Editor’s Note: The quotations in this article, while accurately translated, cannot be verified.



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