Friday, April 16, 2021

Still Stop Making Them Famous

      It happened in Indianapolis: there was a mass shooting overnight at a FedEx Ground facility near the airport.  Nine people are dead and five more were injured.  The dead include the alleged shooter, who took his own life, apparently after an encounter with police in or near the building.  At least one occupied car was shot at in the parking lot.  The driver seems to have been uninjured and drove to another nearby lot; local TV news has shown enlarged images of three apparent bullet holes in the sheet metal.

      And that's all anyone other than the police know right now.  That's all there is.  It hasn't kept news organizations from speculating.  When the local station Tam and I watch elected to stay local rather than go to their network feed, we turned to the ABC affiliate, where a Good Morning America reporter assured us the weapon used "...was almost certainly an assault rifle." 

      Well...maybe?  At least one witness has reported seeing a rifle in the hands of the shooter.  The AR-15 is the most commonly-owned rifle in the U.S., and one of the most affordable.  But it's guesswork.  The reporter didn't show the bullet holes; Tam and I agreed that from the images, we were confident the weapon used wasn't any kind of .22LR and was unlikely to be a shotgun, but that's as much as the evidence supports.

      By the end of the day, we will know the murderous fool's middle name* and if he left some kind of screed or manifesto; pundits will be speculating on his motivation and reporters will be scrambling to interview family members, schoolteachers and the person in charge of whatever religious assembly the killer attended, if any.

      He will be made famous.

      You may have noticed this kind of multiple murder -- unexpected, not known to be linked to any kind of gang activity or robbery -- tends to run in clusters, in a way that looks similar to the phenomenon of "suicide clusters" seen in some populations (especially teens).

      You may have read that some mass shooters appear to have kept track of previous killers, almost as a sports fan might amass statistics of player performance.

      Whatever else their motives -- mental imbalance, loathing some person or group, wanting to begin war between sexes, races or religions, and so on -- all of these shooters give a credible impression of seeking attention.  Of desiring posthumous fame.  One strikes and is a three-day sensation in the news online and over the air, and others follow, time and again.

     We've got to stop making these horrible losers famous.  Whatever else we do -- and there's a long list of suggestions, from "ban all the guns" to "arm everyone," with stops at "put a policeman on every corner" and various sorts of profiling -- we have got to stop making them famous.
* You won't read it here.  It has long been the policy of my blog that I don't share the names of mass killers in the news.  Yes, it's a tiny gesture, any search engine will reveal the name as soon as it is known, but it's what I can do and so I do it.


RandyGC said...

The only times their names should be mentioned is in the (relatively rare) case of them being taken alive and put on trial.

I agree the dead ones don't deserve any publicity, (bury them face down in an unmarked grave) but I'm not comfortable with judicial proceedings being basically kept secret. IMHO due process takes priority over the need to keep the copy-cat population to a minimum.

Of course that doesn't mean we need a media circus 24/7 discussion of the current "Trial of the Century" either. A paragraph in the local media of Guilty/Not Guilty by reason of insanity etc." is all that is needed, with court transcripts available on request.

Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger said...

I generally refer to these scumbags as "Some Asshole."

Roberta X said...

I'm not saying the information should be suppressed. I am saying the kind of deep, deep dive into their biography, background and claimed or possible motive -- often instead of covering the victims -- often seen in news coverage is counterproductive at best, and I think it inspires similar twisted losers to commit similar crimes. And that's what we should stop expecting and news organizations should stop doing.

A local TV station used to do a "Crimewatch" segment, in which police looked for help on unsolved crimes, often with still images or video of the suspect in the act. The reporter used an amazing number of disparaging-but-not-actionable terms to refer to the perpetrator. With mass killers, give the name once and then use terms like that. Don't give their stats like an MLB player on a home run streak. Don't make them famous.

Pigpen51 said...

Roberta X,
I know it really doesn't mean a lot, but I want to thank you for the way that you choose to report on this kind of mass shooting, in regards to the identity of the shooter. Obviously there is no intention on your part to hide information from people, but rather an attempt by you to not allow yourself to be a part of the seeming movement to make these very awful people into folk heroes to others of the same mindset.
And without getting into any political discussion about the weapon used, it does seem likely that an AR 15 would be the weapon used, based on the fact that they are the most popular rifle sold in America, over the past number of years.

Sabre22 said...

I am in full agreement do not mention the Shooter's name at all. The shooter wants their 15 minutes of fame. STOP GIVING IT TO THEM. There is a book out by The father of one of the parkland Victims and except for the chapter in the book about the shooter. For the rest of the book the shooter is referred to as by his prison number. If you want to read about the failure of the system in this incident Get the book why Meadow died.

Tam said...

It's pretty twisted that more people know all three names of the assassin than know what the "F" in JFK stands for.

jdunmyer said...

I couldn't find it on a quick search, but one of the well-known RKBA authors has a book out about preventing mass murders. One point he emphasized was to withhold the killer's name in news stories because of exactly what you said. He had some other ideas, but I unfortunately cannot remember details anymore.

ScribblersDad said...

Don't suppress the news, but instead of the breathless deep dive into all things about the shooter, how 'bout we lead with "Yet another pathetic brainless loser of a eunuch has committed suicide by cop. In other news,..."

staghounds said...

I have been pounding this drum for years too.

We pretend that the media are innocent in this, that they are just reporting facts.

That's nonsense. The current business model of media is GETTING PEOPLE TO DO THINGS- it's their product. Coke and Pepsi and Ford and Chevrolet hire the experts to influence behaviour, and there is an immense infrastructure of very clever and well paid people figuring out the very best ways to do it. Read their pages directed toward advertising customers.

The news tycoons know exactly how to discourage and minimise horrible crimes. They have, for as long as mass media have existed, chosen not to.