After July 16, tragedy became politics

Hindsight is 20/20, but experts say heading off mass murder is harder than it seems

People react to events in this combination picture.
photo People react to events in this combination picture.

Even before the dead servicemen were buried, there was a cognitive rush for reason.

The brains of the survivors and families and bystanders and public onlookers both in Chattanooga and abroad were filing the details and accounts of July 16, trying to make sense of the attack, condensing and folding information to complement personal bias, experts say.

The pioneering British psychologist Frederic Bartlett once called the phenomenon, which is so much more obvious in the era of social media, an "effort after meaning," the unconscious work the mind does to fit recollections neatly into how an individual understands the world.