Hitler. Idi Amin. Osama Bin Laden, Anders Behring Breivik, Jared Lougher, Wade Michael Page.
The names of the damned have a power of their own.
Just saying them aloud sets up a vibration, a vulnerability, the kind of infamy that could tilt the head of an unbalanced Soul…and make him pause at the local gun show or weapons store, smack-dab in front of a semi-automatic weapons display. He might picture his face on Fox, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or on the newswires of AP, Reuters, and of course, the hometown newspaper…complete with a signature expression or unusual hairdo.
A rogue sicko looks in the mirror and imagines being dead and infamous. Alive and anonymous does not create the kind of notoriety these killers feel they deserve.
If a madman makes a horrible choice, I’d rather not hear his name, over and over again, against my will. I’d rather not see him in article after article, along with the details of the senseless act and the plodding due process that we have a right to cherish.
I’m not advocating that we erase Hitler, Idi Amin, or Bin Laden from the history books. We need to guard ourselves against demonic, magnetic individuals who managed to attract followers, profiteers and soldiers. We need not only to remember their names, but we need to repeat them, despite our discomfort, to keep ourselves vigilant of their ilk.
Lone assassins, crazed gunmen, they are a different story. The media should use their names when it’s necessary, not bandy these gruesome monikers about, granting lone killers, alive or dead, the opportunity to inspire more of their kind.
While most of us could point to Wade Michael Page or Jared Loughner in a lineup, we can’t name a single victim of a recent mass shooting, unless it’s Gabrielle Giffords, and that’s because she had the temerity to survive. And she had some fame to begin with. And she’s pretty. And white. And she had a hell of a backstory.
Dear Print Media:
How about naming the assailant ONCE in every story, and not in the first three paragraphs. If the reader wants to know the *******’s name, (s)he’ll have to read below the fold.
Dear Broadcast Media:
Instead of creating a mantra for madmen, how about showing some restraint: limit the mention of the shooter’s name to say, once an hour during the first day, and only when there’s a reason, thereafter.
It’s not just the name: Loughner’s one deeper set eye, Holmes’ blood-orange dyed hair, Page’s round-faced mug shot. Today, the dead Texas A&M cop shooter, is primed for a pirouette and posthumous bow in the media spotlight.
I don’t want to recognize the features of a new shooter’s face. Instead, I want to hear intelligent talk about the underlying causes of mental and emotional illness, to debate access to semi-automatic weapons. I want the names of the victims along with a restrained respect for their families. Explore the factors that shooters have in common without granting them the gift of infamy. Show us the protocols and priorities we can create, as individuals, and as a society, to curb senseless bloodshed.
My friends in the media need to act like grownups with a big, powerful, double-edged power tool. I don’t care if it is a slow news day and a juicy multiple homicide has the potential to entertain millions.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary, He-Who-Should-Not-be-Named doesn’t deserve the coverage.