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"That just seems to be the wrong incentive structure"
May 31, 2014 10:38 AM   Subscribe

"I have seen the killer's face every day since that happened - multiple times - but I have not seen any of the victims..."
Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has four suggestions for removing the social incentives for copycat killers, in the wake of the recent murders in California. She wrote about this in The Atlantic a couple of years ago, and she talks about her ideas in a more recent interview on CBC's Day 6.
posted by sneebler (21 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
3- The name of the killer should not be revealed immediately.

This seems like a good idea. What if there were a standard practice of replacing the killer's name with a pseudonym? Potential killers may know people will talk about their crimes, but their names will not be famous.
posted by justkevin at 11:13 AM on May 31 [10 favorites]


See also.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:14 AM on May 31 [7 favorites]


Came here to post the Newswipe bit; as usual, Charlie Brooker was ahead of the curve.
posted by fifthrider at 11:18 AM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Every time one of these happens, Patton Oswalt reposts the Newswipe bit.

Not looking forward to seeing it again.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:27 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Without a law prohibiting news outlets from releasing the name of the killer, or other details, it seems like it would just be a race for which tabloid decided to pull the (in this case metaphorical, but arguably connected to a future) trigger and publish.

I wonder if a ban on publishing the details of mass shootings would pass First Amendment muster.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:57 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


It would not.
posted by Justinian at 11:58 AM on May 31 [5 favorites]


This has been my main gripe with the entertainment media we call the 'news' for a very long time.

A murder, or a mass-murder, is a horrible thing. We get that. But it's only news in the sense that a random celebrity's weight is news. If it's not something that happened in my street, if it doesn't materially affect me (any more than the death of any other stranger), then I'm not sure why it should be any business of mine, and I'd rather not have to channel-hop to avoid being made to feel like a voyeur just because I watch the TV news. I don't expect to see every single road accident reconstructed, discussed and rehashed over a period of weeks. That would be absurd.

Don't get me wrong - the deaths of large numbers of people in war or famine, or a major air disaster, are legitimately newsworthy, insofar as they affect more than just those directly involved; these kinds of events may ripple out to create broader effects, or may be part of a larger change in the world. But the way the media milk every ounce of drama from every single child-murder or multiple killing is to my mind really distasteful, and the people making the decisions to dramatise tragic events need to wake up to the fact that they are in part responsible for the way these awful events play out.

I understand the urge to rubberneck. But we've become a society where gossiping about the tragedies of strangers is considered perfectly acceptable, rather than something a bit squalid and shameful. I'm not suggesting that we legislate to prevent this sort of media activity... I'd just like to think that we're collectively better than this.
posted by pipeski at 12:17 PM on May 31 [11 favorites]


"I have seen the killer's face every day since that happened - multiple times."

I'M BATMAN!
posted by SPrintF at 12:31 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Newsflash: fiduciary duty always trumps civic duty.
Suicides are sad and tragic but don't they move people to binge watch repetive coverage. So Slaughters arent just a ratings bonanza for news outlets, they are veritable ratings 'crack' in ways suicides, even rockstar suicides can't comne close to competing with.
Getting the mediacorps to walk away from that is pretty much the same as asking RJ Reynolds to stop making cigarettes. Good luck with that.
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:34 PM on May 31


The only way this is getting traction is as another intriguing angle to extend the main story.
posted by michaelh at 12:42 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


Newsflash: fiduciary duty always trumps civic duty.

And that is the problem with the US brand of capitalism.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:46 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


A murder, or a mass-murder, is a horrible thing. We get that. But it's only news in the sense that a random celebrity's weight is news. If it's not something that happened in my street, if it doesn't materially affect me...

When women refuse. It's happening in your street.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:29 PM on May 31 [7 favorites]


i'm ok with not publishing their pictures. i don't need to know what eliot rodger looks like.

publishing the name might trigger a trove of useful information from a private citizen who recognizes it - perhaps enough to find a weapons cache/prevent more deaths.
posted by bruce at 1:32 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


3- The name of the killer should not be revealed immediately.

Not in a world with this stuff running wild.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:36 PM on May 31 [6 favorites]


> When women refuse. It's happening in your street.

Yes, but I don't think that can be used to justify the way that stories like this get covered. I mean, this is just the sort of angle the media will use to get a bit more mileage out of the events, rather than treating routine violence against women as any kind of story in its own right. It's pretty damning if it takes someone killing a bunch of people to make the issue briefly newsworthy.
posted by pipeski at 1:46 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


In an age of social media, the killers put out their manifestos and videos ahead of time, nullifying this advice that might have semi-worked about twenty years ago, which also goes to show you that in an age of surveillance and big data and the constant threat of Nanny State watching you, said nanny won't do a thing to intervene.

Censoring the press won't stop it; after all, there have been killers like this long before a mass media was ever created...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 4:50 PM on May 31


Yeah, I don't think failing to cover these things is either likely to be effective or a particularly good idea. We could certainly improve the way we cover them; those (multiple expletives deleted) people who thought it was a good idea to publish bikini photos of a woman who once knew this idiot a long time ago are a case-in-point. But reporting on it in a responsible fashion? Not a problem.
posted by Justinian at 5:49 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Makes sense to me. Clearly the news has to cover the story, but it doesn't have to be a sensationalized 24-hour-a-day mania -- that's just rewarding the killer. As the author said, we already have (informal) rules around reporting suicide.
posted by miyabo at 6:49 PM on May 31


Not in a world with this stuff running wild.

Yea, this is one of the worst internet related things to happen in the past few years.

And this is a real legitimate counterpoint. Either you're for the name being published, or your for the wrong name being published and someone getting trashed. There isn't really a middle ground.
posted by emptythought at 8:59 PM on May 31


John Doe seems like a pretty reasonable middle ground.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:14 AM on June 1


The UCSB murderer was tuned into some very up-and-coming hate groups based on very old misogyny and some very deeply ingrained male insecurities. I'm really afraid that there will be a copycat but I hope that there isn't.

Expecting the media to self-censor lurid details is a non-starter of an argument. You can't do it by law for a very good reason called the First Amendment. You can't expect it to be done voluntarily until media consumers themselves rise up and boycott "if it bleeds, it leads..." news.

This is a really distasteful idea that I'm not in favor of, but I would be interested to hear a criminal psychologist's take on doing the exact opposite thing. Ensure that the lead photo of every mass murderer is of the murderer's corpse. Make that the lead. Spree killers are fueling their sprees on impulsive emotions -- force them to face down the one ugly consequence that might actually matter to a solipsistic fool.
posted by Skwirl at 1:40 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


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