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Choosing fear over information

Kate Jacobson

Gauntlet Editorial Board

Watching the University of Calgary’s new video on how to survive a campus shooting feels more like a military indoctrination than an educational video.

The U of C will include a safety video on school shootings during fall orientation this year. I watched the video, and it’s a waste of time that doesn’t address the roots of violence on campus or offer practical advice on what to do during a shooting.

Shock value isn’t always useless, but the video’s theatrics, such as screaming students and television-style music, are sensational and serve no purpose.

“Every second counts. If it sounds like it could be a gun, react as though it is,” a calm female voice intones over screaming university students. The style is reminiscent of 1950’s propaganda films that encouraged children to crouch under their desks during a nuclear-bomb raid. These videos play up unlikely and unpredictable situations, creating an atmosphere of fear.

Like drug education in high school, the presentation opts for scaring people over providing useful information. Gimmicky images and rhetoric doesn’t prepare people, it frightens them.

The video takes a bizarre turn when it discusses how to fight an active shooter. “Be ready to fight for your life. Commit to aggressive action.” The words are superimposed onto a dramatic scene of students fighting an armed intruder in a dimly-lit lecture-hall. The video offers no practical information about guns or physical defence. It does include catchy phrases like “choose action over fear,” but it’s a little fuzzy on the details.

Flight attendants will walk you through what to do if the plane crashes, but Air Canada’s safety video doesn’t include sobbing women outside a burning plane. We all know how to exit the building in case of a fire, but we aren’t shown videos of students screaming and running away from flames. Wilderness safety doesn’t start with choosing action over fear.

You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to be the target of an active shooter. This video goes beyond facts and into needless drama.

There’s no need to treat university students like children. We understand that someone shooting a gun on campus is dangerous. We don’t need to be scared into action.

Situations with an active shooter are unpredictable and the problems that cause school shootings won’t be solved by students that are intimidated. Living in perpetual fear is unhealthy and won’t make our campus safer. Students need level-headed, practical advice, not incendiary scare tactics shoved down their throats.



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