I’ve said all I care to say about the shooting in Connecticut…well, not quite all.
One of the memes floating around Facebook and Twitter is that the media should either refrain from mentioning the name of the killer at all, or give the killer a collectively decided humiliating nickname. Like most social media memes, it’s a cute idea that’s not really thought through.
A mass shooting typically ends with the arrest or death of the suspect. The suspect’s death, like the deaths of the victims, is a matter of public record. The name will get out regardless of major media behavior, and there are advantages to that. Witnesses with valuable information about the killer’s activities or state of mind, who otherwise might not know that they have useful information, will know to come forward. Like deaths, arrests are matters of public record, and they mark the beginning of a public legal process, in which the suspect potentially becomes the defendant. Assigning that defendant a cutesy nickname may be emotionally satisfying, but it also may so poison the jury pool that a trial and conviction become less likely. Beyond that, the threat to our liberties that arises when we allow the police to conceal the names of the people they arrest should be obvious.
Would it be a good idea to reduce mentions of the killer’s name to a minimum? People can certainly choose to do that in their conversations and politicians can do so in their public statements. Still, that’s not what the media is for. The media’s purpose is to present accurate information about events and the activities of public officials and newsworthy persons. Since those events and activities will surely include both the murder investigation and any subsequent inquests or trials, the media has to tell us who killed whom, who arrested whom, who convicted whom.
We have a problem with people who kill other people out of a need to feel important. But the solution isn’t to restrict the media’s ability to report facts. It’s to identify and attend to the psychological needs of people at risk of succumbing to this line of thinking, and to prevent people already enthralled by their own rage from acquiring weaponry that allows them to give their fantasies a high body count.
On to other stuff:
The Top Book Picks on the Top 10 and 25 lists of 2012. Say that three times fast.
Among the many attractive features of Saturn’s moon, Titan, is the availability of river and lakefront property. (It should be noted though that it’s not on the busline and the commute can be a bitch.)
Greg Knapp believes in his Oakland Raiders offense. Has anyone broken Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to him?
Are we living in a computer-generated dream world? Physicists at the University of Washington think they can test to figure it out, but if you’re tempted to…say…leap off a building to find out, remember, everyone falls the first time. I prefer a safer testing method, and so I’m off to the silverware drawer.
There is no spoon.