This is by no means an original idea, many have written about it extensively, but I want to add my own two cents.
When a couple of kids shoot up their high school in Columbine or another kid shoots up his college in Virginia or another guy shoots up a theater in Aurora or another guy shoots up a bunch of kindergartners in Connecticut it’s for one reason: to get notoriety. They choose to commit these unspeakable acts so that the media has to cover it and make them immortal. The irony is that their “immortality” is short lived. Most Americans will return to normal after after a few short weeks. But that doesn’t matter, they want their fame, even if it is the proverbial 15 minutes Andy Warhol told us about.
So what if the media, starting tomorrow, established a policy of not publicizing certain details about the perpetrators of such atrocities? What if instead of telling us the name and showing pictures of the perpetrators they reported the other details with a generic description (e.g. “a 20-year old male who is described as disturbed)?
The major mass media in this country have made a conscious choice to not disclose the names of rape victims, though it’s their right to do so:
The media, legal experts say, are free to print those names. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the press that right. Media outlets choose not to exercise it. And legal, psychological and journalism experts say the media have made the right choice.
Obviously, they do this to protect the victims. I’m proposing a similar restraint to protect potential future victims by denying perpetrators the notoriety they seek. Why shoot up a bunch of people if nobody is going to read your manifesto or watch your youtube rants or know your name or recognize your face?
I’m not asking for a law. I’m not asking the media to be muzzled. I’m asking them to be responsible. I’ve heard hundreds of times that there’s no reason to own an assault rifle (forget the fact that some people like collecting them, or shooting them at targets or having them for home defense) but there’s no reason that we need to have the face and orange hair of the Aurora shooter embedded in our collective memory. When we do so, we are allowing them to win.
Yes, there will be non-mainstream websites that will publish the photos and say the names of the killers but that’s a blip in the ocean compared to the major cable news networks and their wall-to-wall coverage. Legitimate news websites will want to play along because it will be seen as unacceptable to cater to the morbid curiosity of the audience.