BOSTON (CBS) – I saw the brother of one of the Aurora, Colorado mass-murder victims being interviewed on TV, and something he said struck me.
He asked the media to do its best to avoid mention of the suspected killer’s name, so as to help deny him the notoriety that sociopaths of his ilk often crave.
Listen to Jon’s commentary:
That struck me as a very good idea.
His name is out there, of course, and some mention of it in news accounts of the case is journalistically necessary. But there’s no reason why it can’t be kept to a minimum, and every reason why it should be.
Northeastern University criminologist Jamie Fox explains why in a must-read column in yesterday’s Globe.
He says all the stories about the alleged murderer’s background in search of a warning signs are “an empty exercise that lacks any practical value. No matter how much we uncover about this man believed to have killed 12 innocent movie-goers and wounded scores more, we will never be able to use this intelligence to predict or identify like-minded individuals who potentially pose a threat to public safety.”
Professor Fox also says it’s “shameless, if not dangerous, to transform an obscure nobody into an infamous somebody who may be revered and admired by a few folks on the fringe.”
I agree with everything the professor is saying, and his suggestion that we deal in part with the accused here not only by punishing him, but also by ignoring him as much as possible, is strangely empowering.
In our fame-obsessed culture, where everyone feels entitled to not just 15 minutes, but at least a shot at their own reality show, it’s a powerful statement to ignore someone, or at least deny them the attention they crave.
TV producers don’t show fans who run on the field; if a vile comment on a website goes unread by all, does it truly exist? Attention must be paid to a lunatic’s crimes and victims.
But to the lunatic himself?
If a victim’s relative wants us to give it a try, that’s good enough for me.
We might find we’re onto something.
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