Mass shooters crave media coverage and their place in the killer canon. As a deterrent against this behavior, the names and faces of mass shooters need to be forever removed from our media reporting. Committing acts of tremendous evil should not be rewarded with the eternal infamy these murderers seek.
Yesterday, the Broward County State Attorney’s Office released videos the Parkland shooter recorded on his cellphone prior to the massacre delineating his plans and motives for the shooting. Most major media outlets reported on the videos, with many posting the actual videos. The release of these videos is routine by a state’s attorney office as a matter of evidence in the ongoing judicial process. However, the media choosing to post the videos warrants serious discussion about the value of seeing the videos rather than reading the transcript of what the killer said.
Empirical evidence supports the conclusion that publicizing the names of mass shooters promotes more mass murders. A 2016 paper presented to the American Psychological Association concludes that a “cross-cutting trait among many profiles of mass shooters is desire for fame.” An Arizona State University study found that shootings occurred in “clusters,” meaning that there is evidence to suggest “mass shootings, publicized in the media, may have a contagious effect.” The combined weight of these studies merits serious consideration on the value of publishing the names and faces of mass shooters versus the potential danger of inspiring future killers.
We know this desire to be famous to be the motivation of many killers by their own words. The Parkland killer recorded his plans on his cellphone before the shooting, declaring, “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am.” The Sutherland Springs shooter was also “obsessed with mass murders,” calling them “cool” and wishing he had the “nerve” to commit one. The Virginia Tech shooter prior to his rampage in 2007 mailed a video manifesto to local news, a video that they played for their audience, solidifying his place in mass shooting infamy. Fame played a role in the minds of these mass shooters; it’s imperative to snuff out the sinister aspirations of potential mass shooters by refusing to give perpetrators the notoriety and fame they seek.
This is the reason that on February 19, 2018, The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro announced that his site would not longer publish the names or faces of mass shooters. Other media outlets should follow suit.
As much as it’s against our natural curiosity and outrage to see those that have harmed our communities, a media blackout on mass shooters serves our interests more than our desire to put a face to a crime. We must treat these narcissistic murderers like criminals, not spectacles.
Recently, there has been a positive change in reporting, with a heightened focus on victims and the heroes of mass tragedies. The entire world should know of the valor of Parkland’s Anthony Borges, who was shot five times in his effort to save at least 20 other students. And the selflessness of Coach Aaron Feis. And the resolve of Shanthi Viswanathan. And the bravery of Peter Wang. The list goes on, and to the fullest extent people are courageous in the face of evil, we should report of their courage.
Parkland classmates lay in the ground, but their names mean something. The names of those taken in other shootings hold eternal value. They perished in their innocence and in bravery. We must continue to work together to prevent this evil from ever happening again. Victims of these shootings give us the resolve to continue fighting to prevent further injustices.
The names and faces of mass shooters, on the other hand, should forever vanish from our discourse. Killers deserve to die anonymous and faceless.