No Fame. None At All

Every once in a while, there are a spate of seemingly inexplicable mass killings by troubled people.  It’s hard to understand what compels a human being to behave this way, but our lack of understanding doesn’t change the fact that they do. 

The victims of these sick people are truly, wholly innocent.  Men and women just walking around, minding their own business.  There is no relationship whatsoever between whatever is going on the troubled person’s mind and these poor victims.  They just have the great misfortune of being there at the wrong moment.

The mall killings in Omaha, however, gives me pause to think.  The killer left a note behind that said, I’m a piece of (deleted) and now I’m going to be famous.   My thought is that this fellow, whose name is irrelevant, might have committed suicide because of his feelings of worthlessness.  This would have been very sad, but far, far better than what he did by killing others.  The detail that drove him to go to the mall and kill people instead of hanging himself in the bathroom was the lure of fame.  He would be famous.  Sure, it’s a twisted perspective, but what other type of person goes around killing people?

So here’s my point:  Why do we need to make a poor, sad, twisted person famous?  There is absolutely no public benefit from learning the identity of such a person.  It is at best a tidbit of salacious news that adds nothing to public discourse or understanding.  While we can learn much from their histories that led them to take such horrific actions, the actual name means nothing.

So, I propose that the media, as a matter of journalistic responsibility and free choice, make the decision to never against disclose the name of a person who massacres others and then either commits suicide or is otherwise killed.  

There is precedent for such nondisclosure, as the media already generally refuses to publish the identities of rape “victims”,  notwithstanding the idea that they aren’t “victims” until after a crime has been proven to occur.  Indeed, the publication of the names of criminal defendants flies in the face of the constitutional presumption of innocence, and yet the media conceals this one class of alleged victim.  Having chosen that path, the notion that they never disclose the identity of a mall shooter is hardly a stretch.

Would this change have altered the deaths of innocent true victims in Omaha?  Or perhaps have avoided a Columbine?  It’s impossible to say.  But since there is no loss to society by the nondisclosure of the perpetrators names, and it seems that the “fame” that they believe comes from going out in a blaze of “glory” in their otherwise terribly sick and disturbed lives, the potential that it would dissuade someone from committing his own suicide by taking the lives of others seems worth the chance.

If only one massacre is stopped by such an inconsequential change in media approach, it would be worth it.  Think about it.

2 thoughts on “No Fame. None At All

  1. David

    You’re right. I went to this mall yesterday as my daughters wanted to leave some pictures at the impromptu memorial that sprung up on the doorstep. I had to leave quickly as it was an incredibly sad scene and event.

    And then my instincts kicked in a little bit and I worried about people who might try to get “famous” by coming to the scene not for memorials but as “copycat killers.” It seemed like a longshot, but, being there, you realized that’s what a lot of people thought.

    Then when I got home I heard about a suspected link between Arvada, CO and Omaha, much like the Omaha killer tried to supposedly outdo the VA tech killer. (who wanted to duplicate Columbine).

    The good news is people seem to unite, at least for a little while, after the calamity. My brother went through Hurricane Andrew and described how amazing it was to see people who’d never spoken work together like family. The only problem with his description was that the news mostly described $1000 chainsaws, with little mention of non-controversial things.

  2. Simple Justice

    Of Northern Illinois University and Death

    I avoid posting about things like the killings at NIU or Virginia Tech because I don’t believe I have anything to add other than my sympathies, which I

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