The most recent shooting causing mass casualties (nine innocent people dead and others wounded) at Umpqua Community College in Oregon is another example of the media getting it wrong. By publicizing the name, image, and life story of the shooter, it continues to be complicit in these horrific crimes that plague our nation.
There are people who understand – they realize that these killers are crazed lunatics seeking gratification and fame through violence. Witness Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, who, when speaking to reporters about the incident said, “I will not name the shooter. I will not give him the credit he probably sought.” How refreshing to see this man take a stand and not fall into the trap that this calculating fiend prepared before embarking on his murderous rampage.
If you need convincing, please consider the words of the gunman himself, posted online to let the whole world know how he felt about another gunman, the one who took the lives of two reporters in Virginia:
I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.
And I have to say, anyone who knew him could have seen this coming. People like him have nothing left to live for, and the only thing left to do is lash out at a society that has abandoned them.
These chilling words present a salient argument for the media to stop this kind of coverage. Every person responsible for broadcasting or reporting news should be compelled to read this message over and over again until it sinks in. The killer couldn’t make it any clearer if he put these words on a billboard and posted them in Times Square.
Unfortunately, besides the seemingly witless media, President Barack Obama played right into the hands of the killer. By speaking out about the shootings almost immediately afterwards, Mr. Obama justified every word of the killer’s blog post – he had the President of the United States talking about him and his despicable deed. It is frightening to think about how many other wackos were out there watching this and thinking, “Hey, he’s got the POTUS talking about what he did!” How much more dubious glory could an unhinged mind hope to achieve?
Mr. Obama’s visible anger about these mass killings aside, the fact that he used the moment to promote gun control seems in poor taste and offensive. If I were one of those victim’s family members, the last thing I would want to hear is someone with a political agenda going on with no comforting words. Someone should tell Mr. Obama that thoughts and prayers are exactly what grieving people need to hear at such a painful time.
The stories after an incident such as this should focus on the victims and their families. It is absolutely essential that victims’ friends and loved ones speak about those lost, express their anger, and talk about the lives these people lived. The holding of candlelight vigils and any other associated activity that highlights these tragic losses are necessary and compelling events to broadcast and report.
The problem with publicizing what a killer has done comes down to a responsibility and sacred trust that both the media and the president have forgotten. By highlighting the exploits of this mass murderer you only beget more of them – just read the Oregon shooter’s words again to make it clear.
Some people will say it is about guns and others will say it is about mental health, and those issues should be dealt with by experts in both those areas; however, it is abundantly clear that most psychopathic killers seek one thing more than anything else – they want notoriety, a legacy – and the media is handing that to them again and again on a silver platter.
Besides highlighting the lives of the victims, why not focus on a great story of heroism to come out of such a horrific occurrence? Chris Mintz, an Army veteran and student, who got shot seven times while attempting to stop the killer (probably saving many other lives), should have his picture on the front page of the newspapers, not the killer. Mintz’s heroism should be celebrated as much as possible, because this is the kind of person whom we can look up to as a role model for kids who have understandable fears after such an event. The lunatics can also see his story and worry a little bit that their plans may be thwarted if more people get the idea to fight back like Mintz. Fortunately, Mintz is recovering in a local hospital and lives to tell his story – hopefully again and again.
At this point there seems to be no hope that the media will ever get it right. The vast coverage of the killer’s story on broadcast TV, in print, and online is completely discouraging. Everyone who works in these arenas should be ashamed that they are complicit in forging the next assault. By making each killer famous after an incident like the one in Oregon, they are making certain that these mass shootings will happen again and again.
People need to speak out about this despicable celebration of killers in order to facilitate change. Complain to editors, to station managers, and to the reporters themselves who keep regurgitating the same kind of coverage each time that a tragedy like this happens. Let them hear your outrage and let them know that this has to stop. If it does not, there will always be another killer ready to emerge and get his moment in the spotlight that the media is only all too willing to provide.
Photo credits: nydailynews, pressherald, 10tv.com, libetarianrepublic.com
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