The Columbine effect
October 6, 2015 7:31 AM   Subscribe

 
Yeah, seriously. Every time I hear about one of these horrible incidents I wonder which previous horrible incident was portrayed in a way which made this newest incident happen.

Maybe if we stop fetishising this whole "what was in their mind?", bullshit. I always think the most recent shooters thought "wow, it would be so awesome if everyone understood what I wanted to do. And now they can know straight from cnn."

Gross.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:45 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Stop saying their names. Stop printing their names. Just STOP. Stop. Is it so hard?
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:46 AM on October 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Most of these seem like good ideas, but ultimately it's really not up to the media, it's up to readers. If every media outlet in the world except one refrained from posting photos/video/etc. of the killer, everyone would stampede over to the one that had the EXCLUSIVE SCOOP.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:46 AM on October 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think the real kicker comes at the very end:
The guiding question here may be: Is this evidence already easily accessible online? If so, is there a genuine reason to reproduce and spread it, other than to generate pageviews?
posted by muddgirl at 7:47 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


These seem like good guidelines and it baffles me that they're not being more widely followed.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:49 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Stop saying their names. Stop printing their names. Just STOP. Stop. Is it so hard?

The stories should just replace any spot where it would say their name with "Some Asshole."
posted by drezdn at 7:50 AM on October 6, 2015 [32 favorites]


I see drezdn has been reading Wonderella.
posted by fings at 7:51 AM on October 6, 2015 [14 favorites]


The NPR Ombudsman has a release up on their site about why they choose to continue to name shooters:
For me, that "why" is the key word. Despite the tragic similarities, not every shooting is exactly the same, and there is a heated political debate in this country over how gun laws and mental health screening play into what has sadly become a repeat story. Calling the killer a "26-year-old white male student" is not enough to help the rest of us understand what happened and why. Identifying the shooter by name is part of unraveling a story and helping place it in the larger context of many shootings. Does this one fit a pattern? Is it an aberration? Did authorities overlook something that could have stopped the attack? And perhaps most importantly, what can be done to help prevent yet another mass killing?
posted by codacorolla at 7:53 AM on October 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


ultimately it's really not up to the media, it's up to readers. If every media outlet in the world except one refrained from posting photos/video/etc. of the killer, everyone would stampede over to the one that had the EXCLUSIVE SCOOP.

I think it's wrong to assume that everyone would seek out that information. Some people, certainly, but there's a lot of room between 'everyone' and 'no one.' You may be overestimating the degree to which people en masse will go out of their way to track down the names of mass shooters.
posted by cjelli at 7:55 AM on October 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Calling the killer a "26-year-old white male student" is not enough to help the rest of us understand what happened and why. Identifying the shooter by name is part of unraveling a story and helping place it in the larger context of many shootings. Does this one fit a pattern? Is it an aberration? Did authorities overlook something that could have stopped the attack? And perhaps most importantly, what can be done to help prevent yet another mass killing?

Does everyone need to understand "why" if presenting this information is leading to more of the killings?
posted by drezdn at 7:56 AM on October 6, 2015 [18 favorites]


Identifying the shooter by name is part of unraveling a story and helping place it in the larger context of many shootings. Does this one fit a pattern? Is it an aberration?

Well, seeing as every goddamn time this happens (so what, once a week or so?), I yell at my radio, "Wait, let me guess, it was a young male shooter, probably white," I don't think we need names to figure this one out.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:59 AM on October 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


According to Robert Hare, one of the psychologists consulted by the FBI about Harris and Klebold, the media focused on the hatred exhibited by Harris' journal and web site, and interpreted this as an indication that the killings were motivated by revenge. Hare says, "Unlike psychotic individuals, psychopaths are rational and aware of what they are doing and why. Their behavior is the result of choice, freely exercised."
Is the media even equipped to tease out the question of "why" or determine the differences in the motivations of mass murderers?
posted by muddgirl at 8:02 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Everybody wants to know everything, but not everybody needs to know everything. There is probably a larger value to the public in keeping details of incidents like this minimized in the public view than making sure every mass killer is a household name.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:07 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


A somewhat dissenting view from Josh Marshall: The Great Evasion
I really got to thinking about this though this afternoon when I was listening to Fox News and the announcer said over and over again that Fox or her show had chosen to respect Hanlin's wishes and themselves not utter Mercer's name. So Fox is on board. It's their new version of "homicide bombers."

For the Fox Newses and Sheriff Hanlins this is simply bad faith, an effort to find a feel good cudgel and ignore the consequences of their overriding belief in guns. For many others it is clearly a sincere effort to find something, anything to do or say in response to the country's palpable impotence in the face of mass gun violence.

But for those acting in bad faith and those acting in misdirected good faith, the upshot is the same. The naming game is becoming a sign you're not just being passive or indifferent. You’re doing something. Because they want publicity (which is likely part of the motive for many of these men but by no means all of it) and by not naming them you’re denying them publicity. You're doing something. You’re taking a stand. It’s becoming an emblem of your seriousness about the issue. But of course this is all bullshit. The issue is that virtually anyone can buy any or as many guns as they want and we as a society are not willing to do anything about it.

[...]

It is a grand evasion because we need to make ourselves feel better by finding a way to think we are doing 'something' even though we're unwilling to do anything that actually matters. Except for those immediately affected or those in the tightly defined communities affected we also shouldn't give ourselves the solace of watching teary-eyed memorials or all the rest. Again, as a society we've made our decision. I would go so far as to say that it's good for us to know Mercer's name since we are in fact his accomplices. It's good that we know each other.
I think it's right to minimize use of the shooter's name, etc. but agree with Marshall that a lot of that impulse comes from our own desire to make ourselves feel better about a situation that has much more to do with the underlying problem of too many people with access to guns, and much less to do with some people who want their name and picture on television.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:07 AM on October 6, 2015 [38 favorites]


On the Media just had an interview with Tom Teves who started the NoNoteriety campaign. The interview starts at 10:26 in this Podcast Extra: After Oregon. Teves had an interesting point that the media already universally withholds names in some circumstances such as when children are involved with an event.
posted by pb at 8:09 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


> You may be overestimating the degree to which people en masse will go out of their way to track down the names of mass shooters.

I hope you're right. I am not known for my optimism regarding people doing things and their reasons for doing so.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:09 AM on October 6, 2015


Most of these seem like good ideas, but ultimately it's really not up to the media, it's up to readers. If every media outlet in the world except one refrained from posting photos/video/etc. of the killer, everyone would stampede over to the one that had the EXCLUSIVE SCOOP.

We do not publish the names of rape victims, or children involved in crime. We do not post graphic photographs of violence, which used to be quite common. We do not publish the race of the criminal or victim, unless it has a direct bearing on the story, which used to be standard practice.

Nobody is racing to the lone site that has the picture of a mangled child under a car, except, I suppose, for a few online sickos. Things can change. This week's on the media produced a special episode on the Oregon shooting without ever once naming the killer, despite the fact that the shootings were the subject, and even the question of naming the killer was the subject, and it was barely noticeable.
posted by maxsparber at 8:10 AM on October 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


The Columbine shooter mythos is tough to beat: disaffected geeks coming to school to rain pain on the jocks and bullies that made life miserable, something that most unpopular kids can identify with. These guys took a common daydream of the bullied and made it a reality; no wonder kids who weren't even born have taken inspiration for their own acts from this.
posted by dr_dank at 8:10 AM on October 6, 2015


Stop saying their names. Stop printing their names. Just STOP. Stop. Is it so hard?

The stories should just replace any spot where it would say their name with "Some Asshole."

I see drezdn has been reading Wonderella.


Prior art.
posted by Etrigan at 8:11 AM on October 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


Most of these seem like good ideas, but ultimately it's really not up to the media, it's up to readers. If every media outlet in the world except one refrained from posting photos/video/etc. of the killer, everyone would stampede over to the one that had the EXCLUSIVE SCOOP.

From a game theory point of view, everyone has a strong incentive to defect (show the images, publish the name, publish the manifesto) in the hope that they are the one to 'break' the story. Even if it ultimately winds up in a race to the bottom competition between relatively indistinguishable news outlets. (Does anybody but news people care where the video/audio/text came from? I'd much prefer the raw source material myself - plain text, avi video, mp3 audio - rather than something surrounded by ads and links to other stories)

Additionally, when it becomes a race against time, strategic agents of misinformation (aka "trolls") can feed crafted fakery to major news outlets that are desperate to be first.
posted by theorique at 8:14 AM on October 6, 2015


The Columbine shooter mythos is tough to beat: disaffected geeks coming to school to rain pain on the jocks and bullies that made life miserable, something that most unpopular kids can identify with. These guys took a common daydream of the bullied and made it a reality; no wonder kids who weren't even born have taken inspiration for their own acts from this.

That mythos was pretty much a direct creation of law enforcement and the media. It didn't have to be this way.
posted by muddgirl at 8:17 AM on October 6, 2015 [18 favorites]


"Identifying the shooter by name is part of unraveling a story and helping place it in the larger context of many shootings. Does this one fit a pattern? Is it an aberration? Did authorities overlook something that could have stopped the attack? And perhaps most importantly, what can be done to help prevent yet another mass killing?"

This NPR thing is self-serving rationalization. As muddgirl says, all this mythos stuff is exactly what you get when you've got news organizations who think it's important to create a compelling backstory about why the killer did it. Let's get our top writers on it, creating a fascinating narrative maybe with some "unexpected" twists, that elevates the asshole's random message board postings into some kind of useful archetype (bullied loner, unlucky in love, secretly misunderstood, if only his mom had parented better, whatever garbage).
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2015 [24 favorites]


These guys took a common daydream of the bullied and made it a reality; no wonder kids who weren't even born have taken inspiration for their own acts from this.

Except that wasn't remotely true. Dave Cullen's book on the subject has been out for some time. There's no excuse for repeating myths as fact anymore.
posted by Xavier Xavier at 8:24 AM on October 6, 2015 [19 favorites]


Charlie Brooker noted about a similar mass shooting years ago, "this sort of coverage only serves to turn a murderous little twat into a sort of nihilistic pinup boy."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


I am much less interested in why a given individual person does something bad, compared to how we can prevent future occurrences.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Newspapers certainly didn't cover crimes in lurid detail in the 1800s or anything.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:28 AM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't know the origin of the meme that shooters kill to get their names in the papers. I don't see any reason to think it is true.

The problems with the news cycle go far beyond whether or not a name is given, and on the other hand, I think most shooters still would have killed if they'd never heard of CNN.

My personal opinion is that mass shootings are an act of gnosticism (probably wrong word) - the shooter is trying to make the people present understand the insider knowledge the shooter possesses about what the shooter/the victims/the world is really like using the most extreme measures possible. The audience isn't anyone outside of the immediate vicinity.
posted by michaelh at 8:31 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't see any reason to think it is true.

The Oregon shooter who posted to 4chan the night before the shooting certainly seemed excited about it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:34 AM on October 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


So, I might actually think the media, despite its issues, could be reducing school shootings if it can portray the survivors completely 'failing' to learn the lesson the shooter was attempting to teach.
posted by michaelh at 8:34 AM on October 6, 2015


Have the FCC regulate the coverage.

"Ah, but the first amendment!" I hear you say.

Which would be a totally valid point, if the FCC wasn't already regulating television programs for nudity, sex and violence.
posted by habeebtc at 8:35 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Ah, but the first amendment!" I hear you say.

The Constitution is one of those things Americans hold up as the best thing since sliced bread. It's interesting how the first and second amendments have so thoroughly corrupted the US, though it's probably more accurate to damn the corporate media and arms manufacturers that wreak havoc by hiding behind them.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:43 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here is an dissenting thought: Maybe there are not too many horrific massacres like these to create a meaningful change in American mindset & politics? Maybe it will only take many more such trgedies?
It is now patently obvious that Obama purposefully toned down his retorics at his recent, 'angry' presser, by saying that every few months there's another such shooting: Data shows that on the avarage, there's a mass shooting every day in America, not every few months. So - and obviously I am not calling for more mass shootings - in order to achieve the needed change that will ban all guns everywhere in the USA, what ought to happen is an escalation in such crazy violence - because 12,000 annual deads means nothing to the politics as usual movement....
Imagine living in Iraq, or Syria, or sub-Saharas Africa, where mass violence is really prevalent: Maybe the NRA supporters are actually anarchists who wish for complete breakdown of society, before they will change their stand?
posted by growabrain at 8:45 AM on October 6, 2015


From tonycpsu's link above, emphasis mine:

But for those acting in bad faith and those acting in misdirected good faith, the upshot is the same. The naming game is becoming a sign you're not just being passive or indifferent. You’re doing something. Because they want publicity (which is likely part of the motive for many of these men but by no means all of it) and by not naming them you’re denying them publicity. You're doing something. You’re taking a stand. It’s becoming an emblem of your seriousness about the issue. But of course this is all bullshit. The issue is that virtually anyone can buy any or as many guns as they want and we as a society are not willing to do anything about it.

I think the author makes a good point in saying that symbolic acts can't be sort of lazily assumed to have some empirical outcome, but at the same time, the suggestion that "we," i.e. the whole of American society, are equally morally culpable for the lack of meaningful gun control is bullshit, to put it very frankly.

I don't think the author has any bad intent, but it's important to recognize that there really are people actively working to control the nature of legislation. Let's make sure we identify where responsibility really lies, and avoid confusing the issue by making it seem like an inherently collective failure. It's not -- it's the work of a dedicated campaign.
posted by clockzero at 8:49 AM on October 6, 2015


I don't know the origin of the meme that shooters kill to get their names in the papers. I don't see any reason to think it is true.

Here's a partial list of killers who deliberately wrote letters to the media:

Jack the Ripper
Zodiac Killer
Hillside Strangler
Unabomber
Son of Sam


Here's a partial list of shooters who created manifestos specifically intended for the media:

The Virginia Tech shooter
The Oregon shooter
The Virginia shooter who killed his fellow reporters
The Charleston Killer
The former LAPD officer turned orange county killer

Many of them present themselves as aggrieved parties, and their forthcoming acts as revolutionary actions, or political gestures, intended to inspire similar acts. In fact, that was also the case with the Columbine Killers and, as a matter of fact, with the Helter Skelter murders.

There's actually a ton of information on this if you're interested in pursuing it, but the fact that many shooters are attention-seeking is so well-documented -- and admitted by the killers themselves -- as to be an entirely uncontroversial statement.
posted by maxsparber at 8:51 AM on October 6, 2015 [31 favorites]


The Constitution is one of those things Americans hold up as the best thing since sliced bread.

For its time, it was incredibly forward thinking. Even self-aware that changes would need to be made as society evolved. But, one of the issues with it is that we may not be interpreting it as the founders wrote it because our language itself has changed.

though it's probably more accurate to damn the corporate media and arms manufacturers that wreak havoc by hiding behind them

Oh don't worry, there's plenty of blame to go around. I probably don't have enough fingers for all the pointing needed.
posted by habeebtc at 8:52 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


the suggestion that "we," i.e. the whole of American society, are equally morally culpable for the lack of meaningful gun control is bullshit, to put it very frankly.

That's not what he said. He said: "The issue is that virtually anyone can buy any or as many guns as they want and we as a society are not willing to do anything about it." This is true. Yes, there are people working hard to change it, but as a society, with our political process being what it is, we aren't willing to do anything about it. He's not saying we're equally morally culpable, he's saying that the end result is a society that won't change gun laws.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:53 AM on October 6, 2015


You've linked that piece several times and as much as I also feel the frustration, it seems like a conversational dead end to me. There's nothing we can say that isn't counterable by "yes but we as a society haven't changed the gun laws, so we shouldn't talk about this other thing"... I mean, I know we haven't changed them? I would like us to change them? But we can also do this other thing, of getting the media to stop spinning "fascinating character" legends and giving these dudes attention, in the meantime.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


These guys took a common daydream of the bullied and made it a reality; no wonder kids who weren't even born have taken inspiration for their own acts from this.

Except that wasn't remotely true. Dave Cullen's book on the subject has been out for some time. There's no excuse for repeating myths as fact anymore.


Cullen's book is often cited as a 'gotcha' that the popular Columbine narrative is false, but personally I did not find it at all convincing.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:05 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


You've linked that piece several times

Twice, but okay.

and as much as I also feel the frustration, it seems like a conversational dead end to me. There's nothing we can say that isn't counterable by "yes but we as a society haven't changed the gun laws, so we shouldn't talk about this other thing"

I didn't say or mean to imply that we shouldn't talk about the other thing. We should! I even said "I think it's right to minimize use of the shooter's name." My only concern is that I'm seeing so much talk about that aspect as if it's going to make a meaningful dent in the problem that it's starting to sound a lot like the mental health dodge.

I take your point that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, but there is to some extent a zero-sum tension between what people focus their attention on, and I hope people don't lose sight of the underlying issue while focusing so much on the media coverage of these higher profile events.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:07 AM on October 6, 2015


That's not what he said. He said: "The issue is that virtually anyone can buy any or as many guns as they want and we as a society are not willing to do anything about it." This is true. Yes, there are people working hard to change it, but as a society, with our political process being what it is, we aren't willing to do anything about it. He's not saying we're equally morally culpable, he's saying that the end result is a society that won't change gun laws.

Well, let me put it this way: to make the suggestion that "we" are all responsible equally for the current state of affairs vis-a-vis gun control laws and the barriers to their passage would be bullshit, but perhaps that's not exactly what the author intended, although it can be read that way.

I think we agree on the basic point, so perhaps it's just semantic; still, I think it's important to be very clear about who "we" refers to, how much agency those of us without an army of lobbyists actually have in the political process, and who is actually, demonstrably responsible for specific empirical outcomes.
posted by clockzero at 9:08 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Part of the problem is that shooting up a school is a guaranteed way to trade in one's (self-deemedly worthless) life for eternal infamy, guaranteed by the media mentioning the killer's name, and dissecting and speculating on their motivations (had a girl rejected him? was he a goth/metalhead/atheist/satanist/gay? Had he been reading Atlas Shrugged/the Koran/Origin Of Species before going on his killing spree?) Or what the ancients called herostratic fame.

Perhaps the solution is a voluntary ban on mentioning the names of spree killers, let alone their now irrelevant motivations, in the way that media guidelines on suicide reporting attempt to avoid the Werther Effect. Let those who take lives for infamy be condemned to eternal obscurity.
posted by acb at 9:08 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Many of them present themselves as aggrieved parties, and their forthcoming acts as revolutionary actions, or political gestures, intended to inspire similar acts.

The "Injustice Collectors"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:13 AM on October 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


Cullen's book is often cited as a 'gotcha' that the popular Columbine narrative is false, but personally I did not find it at all convincing.

Why didn't you find it convincing? (I personally haven't read it.)
posted by drezdn at 9:18 AM on October 6, 2015


I don't doubt that some of the shooters are looking for attention. But I also don't think that if the media collectively decides to stop naming shooters tomorrow (which I don't think will happen), that mass shootings will cease to happen or even decline. I kind of think that a person who kills a bunch of other people and likely himself as well is solely motivated by the notoriety. I think it's a good idea for the media to do this but I just don't see it making a huge difference. We see horrific mass and/or public murders in other countries, but as far as I know we don't see a rash of copycat crimes and the difference probably isn't because people don't want to, but because they don't have the (easily accessible) means to do so. It makes perfect sense that the NRA would be opposed to the media not naming names - because it makes it harder for them to deflect blame.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:38 AM on October 6, 2015


But I also don't think that if the media collectively decides to stop naming shooters tomorrow (which I don't think will happen), that mass shootings will cease to happen or even decline.

Well, there's really only one way to test this.
posted by maxsparber at 9:44 AM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't really care if mass murderers do it to get their name in the papers. I don't want newspapers to publish stuff like the manifestos of mass murderers because it leads to knee-jerk conclusions, like "mass murderers are mentally ill, so if we just keep mentally ill people from getting guns, we'll be OK" or "so-and-so was an atheist and hated Christians. That's why he did it!" I wish we lived in a society that could practice patience instead of needing to immediately contextualize and compartmentalize tragedy.

I don't see this position as being at all incompatible with a desire for stricter gun control and a disgust with the NRA who continues to use these tragedies to advocate for gun manufacturers.
posted by muddgirl at 9:46 AM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Since these school shootings seem to happen with such frequency, it seems a useless effort to stop saying their names. The week after a shooting, there is a new name and who can remember the names of those that went before.The Columbine shooter was named.....?
posted by Postroad at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Constitution is one of those things Americans hold up as the best thing since sliced bread.

The weirdest thing about the extreme reverence for the Constitution and the original views of the framers is that the framers included a method for making changes. Even the dudes who signed the constitution didn't expect it to be a flawless model for eternity. Anyone who says the founders' vision must be followed forever is already disagreeing with the founders. People say the word "amendment" as though it means "timeless truth" when it means "a thing we changed and may need to change again." Maybe "edit" would work better for modern readers. If we talked about balancing the rights enumerated in the first edit and rights enumerated in the second edit, it might be easier to believe we can edit it again.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:49 AM on October 6, 2015 [14 favorites]


Cullen's book is often cited as a 'gotcha' that the popular Columbine narrative is false, but personally I did not find it at all convincing.

Well, everyone else who's done an in-depth piece about the shooting has come to the same conclusion, so I'd say it's more than just one author's theory.
posted by lumpenprole at 9:52 AM on October 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fame should not be their reward. Anyone who clicks a link to a piece of journalism granting fame to a perpetrator of mass murder is enabling that reward.

Society must collectively agree to aggressively forget the names and faces of these depraved fucks. Society is you and me, so let's start by turning our backs on irresponsible journalism.

It's all about pageviews to the media companies. They control the pages, but we control the views.
posted by Construction Concern at 10:07 AM on October 6, 2015


The problem isn't the media stating the shooters' names or giving them "fame" per se. The problem is the media giving airtime to trying to understand and rationalize the shooters' headspace in a way that sensationalizes the narrative of "quiet suburban kid suddenly commits extreme violence" and validates the shooters' view of using the media to "tell their story." This is very different from the way that the media treats similarly attention-seeking international terrorists, even though they are routinely named.
posted by AndrewInDC at 10:12 AM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Much "don't name the shooter" stuff reads to me as code for "please let's not examine the shooter or his motivations too closely, because who knows where that will go. Better to just mourn the dead, laud the heroes, sweep the shooter under the rug, and move on."
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:12 AM on October 6, 2015 [11 favorites]


Much "don't name the shooter" stuff reads to me as code for "please let's not examine the shooter or his motivations too closely, because who knows where that will go. Better to just mourn the dead, laud the heroes, sweep the shooter under the rug, and move on."

I strongly disagree. Not naming the shooter is not giving them spotlight to "shine" in.
posted by drezdn at 10:20 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Much "don't name the shooter" stuff reads to me as code for "please let's not examine the shooter or his motivations too closely, because who knows where that will go. Better to just mourn the dead, laud the heroes, sweep the shooter under the rug, and move on."

That doesn't seem to have worked with not naming rape victims. There's still plenty of examining them and their actions, even when they're anonymous.
posted by Etrigan at 10:22 AM on October 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


please let's not examine the shooter or his motivations too closely, because who knows where that will go.

I'm curious where you're seeing that, because that's a new one to me. There are plenty of people who want to sweep a shooter's actions under the rug, but they typically do it not by saying "don't name the shooter", but instead, "it's mental illness, there's nothing we could have done, let's not talk about gun laws". Which, in the case of the latest shooting in Oregon, was precisely the line trotted out in the aftermath.

Avoiding naming shooters (and avoiding giving their manifestos a spotlight) is about avoiding the unavoidable valorization that comes with that attention, which inevitably plays into the motivations behind future violence.
posted by tocts at 10:22 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is an awful and probably unpopular opinion but you know what I would like to see published?

The aftermath.

The abstract concept of a mass shooting doesn't seem to upset people. Perhaps a good close view would.

Want lax gun control laws? Put the video of Alison Parker and Adam Ward being gunned down on the nightly news. Watching that is the price for your "freedom".
Want a gun for every man, woman and child in the country? Put up the bodies of children gunned down in their classrooms, in primetime and in HD. This is the price of the 2nd Amendment. Watch it and tell me it's worth the cost.

Yes, it's disturbing. And painful. But it's a disturbing and painful problem that isn't getting fixed, and US society needs a punch in the fucking face to shock it into action.
posted by HighLife at 10:24 AM on October 6, 2015 [16 favorites]


The week after a shooting, there is a new name and who can remember the names of those that went before.The Columbine shooter was named.....?

Harris and Klebold. One of their first names was Dylan. And I was out of the country when that happened and have never spent any energy reading up on it. This stuff does seep into the zeitgeist.
posted by Etrigan at 10:25 AM on October 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


I have a bad gut feeling that toxic internet culture will turn the attempt at not using names into a jokey-trolley "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" Voldemort-thing or meme-like nicknames will be given out. History is filled with infamous people more known for pseudonymns than real names. And it's also possible that not using names could play up the "everyman" aspect of the killings. US culture also loves the masked outlaw, superheroes, and "Anonymous".
posted by FJT at 10:40 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I kind of think that a person who kills a bunch of other people and likely himself as well is solely motivated by the notoriety.
Which is an argument against letting that notoriety spread to the rest of the nation and the world. I want no names and no pictures. I am so sick of the mug shots and high school photos of these murderers. "I don't think it will work," is not a good reason that we shouldn't try. Roger Ebert explains it best.
posted by soelo at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]



I am much less interested in why a given individual person does something bad, compared to how we can prevent future occurrences.

I think we know exactly -how- to prevent future occurrences, but as a society we've decided -not- to. I agree with Josh Marshall on this, not naming the killers who use guns to carry out spree murders is a way of making us feel like we're doing "something", even though it will have little, if any, impact in limiting future events.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:51 AM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's actually a ton of information on this if you're interested in pursuing it, but the fact that many shooters are attention-seeking is so well-documented -- and admitted by the killers themselves -- as to be an entirely uncontroversial statement.

I think there's a difference here between attention-seeking for its own sake and attempting to control the attention that is a byproduct of committing mass murder. The one requires news media attention; the other only happens if there's news media but the shooting proceeds regardless.

Students (sort of) similar to shooters who want attention for its own sake want to be around to enjoy it and escalate it, so they do things like post people's nude photos online, property destruction, fake bomb scares, swatting, etc.
posted by michaelh at 10:51 AM on October 6, 2015


I have a bad gut feeling that toxic internet culture will turn the attempt at not using names into a jokey-trolley "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" Voldemort-thing or meme-like nicknames will be given out.

The Internet has already been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt.
posted by Talez at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know the origin of the meme that shooters kill to get their names in the papers. I don't see any reason to think it is true.

My understanding has always been that the suicide notes and manifestos of mass killers are typically lousy with variations on "Someday you'll all know my name and be sorry."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:56 AM on October 6, 2015


Charlie Brooker noted about a similar mass shooting years ago, "this sort of coverage only serves to turn a murderous little twat into a sort of nihilistic pinup boy."

Pretty much every time something like this happens nowadays, I don't pay much attention to the news coverage but do watch that video again. It's useful to me to remind myself that my urge to pore over the details of something that happened hundreds or thousands of miles away from me that didn't involve anyone I know (and probably not anyone who knows anyone I know) is a little too much rubbernecking for someone else's tragedy for my comfort. Instead I try to reflect a bit on the little things I can do to not glamorize this stuff and to keep the affected community more in mind than the perpetrator. It's not much, but, then, neither was what I was doing before.
posted by Copronymus at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yes, it's disturbing. And painful. But it's a disturbing and painful problem that isn't getting fixed, and US society needs a punch in the fucking face to shock it into action.

If we are desensitized enough to turn away and move on when 20 elementary school kids are shot to death -- executed -- in a classroom, I'm not aware of any evidence that showing gory visuals of the execution will make us less desensitized.
posted by blucevalo at 11:23 AM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Actually the shooter being described as a "26 year old white student" PERFECTLY illustrates a key unifying concept behind these mass shootings.

It's almost always a white guy, and the media will fall all over themselves to find a way to exonerate, er I mean explain why the shooter did what he did.

Not so if the shooter's a brown dude.
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:25 AM on October 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


Since these school shootings seem to happen with such frequency, it seems a useless effort to stop saying their names. The week after a shooting, there is a new name and who can remember the names of those that went before.The Columbine shooter was named.....?

I know a lot about who did Columbine and how it went down - it was right before I was starting middle school and reverberated throughout my secondary school experience. When I was a little bit older I read the books and stuff because it seemed like an astonishing and fascinating tragedy still. Now though, you're right - my mind cannot contain all the shooting stories.
posted by atoxyl at 11:29 AM on October 6, 2015


I've commented this before and I still can't find the quotation, but one study showed that many nurses in Denmark during the first part of the 19th century killed the children in their care because they wanted to be known, and also they wanted to be sentenced to death.
When the death sentence for child homicide was ended, the murders ceased almost right away.
posted by mumimor at 11:29 AM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a bad gut feeling that toxic internet culture will turn the attempt at not using names into a jokey-trolley "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" Voldemort-thing or meme-like nicknames will be given out.

In the books Harry Potter and his friends are quick to point out that refusing to say "Voldemort" just infuses his persona with more power, since it makes him sound like some insurmountable evil instead of a human being who can be defeated and held accountable.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:35 AM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, it's disturbing. And painful. But it's a disturbing and painful problem that isn't getting fixed, and US society needs a punch in the fucking face to shock it into action.

Sadly, that punch in the face would hit the families of the victims the hardest. But yeah, the way these things get reported really sanitizes and downplays the actual horror of what these events look like in real life.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:36 AM on October 6, 2015


Here's a partial list of shooters who created manifestos specifically intended for the media

Breivik also did a rather copious manifesto, while he wasn't in the USA. Actually, the fact that he was in a foreign country probably strengthens the point - it's cross-cultural, not merely an "American thing".
posted by theorique at 12:08 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe the NRA supporters are actually anarchists who wish for complete breakdown of society, before they will change their stand?

The breakdown of society reinforces their stand by giving them more fear to play off. Why else are they hastening it?

Actually, the fact that he was in a foreign country probably strengthens the point - it's cross-cultural, not merely an "American thing".

As with the other form of mass murder, serial killing, it is not a uniquely American thing, but it is a disproportionately American thing. And a major part of the reason there are fewer school shootings in Canada/UK/Australia/NZ/Europe is we place much greater restrictions on guns. There is a direct link there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:25 PM on October 6, 2015


Names:

Lucero Alcaraz of Roseburg, 19
Quinn Glen Cooper of Roseburg, 18
Kim Saltmarsh Dietz of Roseburg, 59
Lucas Eibel of Roseburg, 18
Jason Dale Johnson of Winston, 34
Lawrence Levine of Glide, 67
Sarena Dawn Moore of Myrtle Creek, 44
Treven Taylor Anspach of Sutherlin, 20
Rebecka Ann Carnes of Myrtle Creek, 18.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


As with the other form of mass murder, serial killing, it is not a uniquely American thing, but it is a disproportionately American thing.

Sorry I was unclear - I meant the manifesto specifically. Mass shootings are indeed disproportionately American.
posted by theorique at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2015


> This is the price of the 2nd Amendment. Watch it and tell me it's worth the cost.

It won't work, because no law-abiding 2A-supporting gun owner is going to see himself or herself in those killers, and he or she knows that gun control measures prevent him/her from getting and enjoying guns legally, but won't hinder the acts of someone who is willing to break the law, once or habitually, by stealing guns and/or passing guns around, and they are unlikely to experience any consequences from the cops or courts.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:05 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it should be noted that the man who was responsible for the murders in Oregon was a gun enthusiast, though, as was his mother, and so maybe gun enthusiasts WOULD see themselves in that man. Although my 2A friends mostly believe that there should have been more students armed who could have taken him down.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:08 PM on October 6, 2015


Although my 2A friends mostly believe that there should have been more students armed who could have taken him down.

There were, if memory serves, armed people in the theatre in Aurora.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:11 PM on October 6, 2015


Yeah, I mean, my friends are wrong.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:12 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mass shootings are indeed disproportionately American.

And murders by gun in general.

Gun homicides and gun ownership listed by country:
With less than 5% of the world's population, the United States is home to roughly 35–50 per cent of the world's civilian-owned guns, heavily skewing the global geography of firearms and any relative comparison.
Countries compared: Murders with firearms
United States ranked first for murders with firearms amongst High income OECD countries in 2002.
US Gun Homicide Rate Higher Than Other Developed Countries: 3.2 per 100,000, versus 0.5 in Canada, 0.1 in the UK...

And of course there's Australia, which effectively ended mass shootings with gun laws. We could try that in addition to looking at mental illness.
posted by fraula at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


> There were, if memory serves, armed people in the theatre in Aurora.

This is the first time I've heard that suggested. I respectfully suggest that you are misremembering. Does anyone have a source on this?
posted by Sunburnt at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2015


And a quick reminder that funding was killed to firearms research in the States, which is why US numbers are consistently old.
posted by fraula at 1:15 PM on October 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


> And of course there's Australia, which effectively ended mass shootings with gun laws.

Gun laws...and confiscation.

> And a quick reminder that funding was killed to firearms research in the States, which is why US numbers are consistently old.

Er, gun research funding for one particular public agency. There's plenty of private research, state research, FBI research going on. Just not for the Centers for Disease Control, which has taken on all possible forms of public health research, apparently.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:17 PM on October 6, 2015


> It won't work, because no law-abiding 2A-supporting gun owner is going to see himself or herself in those killers

The point isn't to somehow convince NRA hardliners that see any and all gun control as unconstitutional. The point is to move the 90% of Americans that want to see gun ownership loopholes closed to action. Those people need to say they've seen enough, and won't be bullied anymore. That's what needs to happen, and I have no idea how to do it.
posted by HighLife at 1:18 PM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's a precedent of sorts, in that suicides generally aren't reported, even when they distrupt transit or create disturbing spectacles. This seems like a very easy thing for everybody to get behind, including the NRA. Then again, I suppose the ongoing threat of mass murder will in itself spur futher gun sales, so it makes sense to sensationalize them.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:23 PM on October 6, 2015


The Simple Truth About Gun Control, By Adam Gopnik
posted by growabrain at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


> There were, if memory serves, armed people in the theatre in Aurora.

This is the first time I've heard that suggested. I respectfully suggest that you are misremembering. Does anyone have a source on this?


There were no guns in the theater in Aurora.

You know, we actually do have an example of armed citizens responding to a mass shooting, and it's a pretty famous one: When Charles Whitman opened fire at the University of Texas Tower, armed civilians returned fire, along with police, effectively preventing Whitman from continuing to gun people down.

By that time, Whitman had already killed his wife and mother at home, killed 14 people at the campus, and wounded 32 others.

So: Hero with a gun -- perhaps helpful, but, you know, not super helpful.
posted by maxsparber at 1:36 PM on October 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


> The point isn't to somehow convince NRA hardliners that see any and all gun control as unconstitutional.

Okay, that's about 10% of all gun owners, if you're counting 100% of NRA members. The other 90% also won't see themselves as monsters.

Additionally, if it's the goal to make TV news accusatory and horrible, that's two more reasons for regular people, including regular gun owners, to turn off the TV, to get news from friendlier sources that don't try to associate their legal recreational and protective acts with the acts of child-killers.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:39 PM on October 6, 2015


So: Hero with a gun -- perhaps helpful, but, you know, not super helpful.

Frankly, most of the "heroes with guns" I have met I would not want to be around if things went south. Mostly a bunch of tough-guy manly-men with stuff to prove, who don't really have any military training, let alone combat experience.
posted by habeebtc at 1:39 PM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


I must have been conflating with another event; my apologies.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:44 PM on October 6, 2015


And right on queue, Ben Carson everybody!

"I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away".

This man is a doctor. WTF.
posted by HighLife at 1:59 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


This man is a doctor. WTF.

A doctor who never worked in the ER. His quote checks out, but not for the reasons his constituents think.
posted by habeebtc at 2:10 PM on October 6, 2015


[One comment deleted. When you're disgusted by something you think is wrong, and want to express that in strong terms, it doesn't help to suggest a more disgusting/wrong thing.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:41 PM on October 6, 2015


"Identifying the shooter by name is part of unraveling a story and helping place it in the larger context of many shootings. Does this one fit a pattern?

The pattern seems to be a larger context of the media identifying the shooter by name.
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:20 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of people who want to sweep a shooter's actions under the rug, but they typically do it not by saying "don't name the shooter", but instead, "it's mental illness, there's nothing we could have done, let's not talk about gun laws"

This drives me insane because these are certainly NOT the people who are advocating more public money be spent to treat mental illness. So it's essentially saying "No, the obvious cause of hundreds and hundreds of murders is not the thing I refuse to do. It's the other thing I ALSO REFUSE to do. Because, apparently, I DON'T CARE ABOUT AMERICANS DYING"

Sorry about the caps. This makes me want to punch people.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:21 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The idea that if everyone were armed, we'd all be safer appears quite frequently in the USA.
Here in Canada it is generally seen as insane.
I believe this idea has been greatly legitimized, if not entirely created, by movies and television.
The next time you watch a movie or TV show with guns in it (shouldn't take long to find one), take note of how frequently the people with guns hit what they're aiming at. Pretty much all the time.
Last year, I participated in a classic American scene in northern Vermont in which I and half my family took pot shots at a target with my father's 9mm handgun. Here's what I learned.
Standing about 30 feet from the target, with zero stress and unlimited time to position myself and aim, I was somewhat able to hit the paper but never came near the bullseye. It is very, very difficult to hit things accurately with a handgun unless you're within, like, three feet.
I wonder how I would have done if I were facing an armed maniac who was shooting people, in what would be the most stressful event of my life by many orders of magnitude, with basically zero time to prepare myself or aim.
I think there's a very high likelihood that I, and most other people, would merely add to the carnage.
posted by crazylegs at 4:38 PM on October 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Gabrielle Giffords and the perils of guns: How an armed hero nearly shot the wrong man.
"I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready," he explained on Fox and Friends. "I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this." Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. "And that's who I at first thought was the shooter," Zamudio recalled. "I told him to 'Drop it, drop it!' "

But the man with the gun wasn't the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. "Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess," the interviewer pointed out.


also

one reason why Zamudio didn't pull out his own weapon was that "he didn't want to be confused as a second gunman."

At Oregon there was also an armed civilian who didn't respond because

He was concerned that police would view him as a “bad guy” and target him, so he quickly retreated into the classroom. (link)
posted by phoque at 5:56 PM on October 6, 2015 [7 favorites]


And right on queue, Ben Carson everybody!

"I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away".


Let's Talk About Ben Carson's Oregon Shooting Superhero Delusion: It's just one more sign he's lost his marbles.
posted by homunculus at 6:20 PM on October 6, 2015


Standing about 30 feet from the target, with zero stress and unlimited time to position myself and aim, I was somewhat able to hit the paper but never came near the bullseye. It is very, very difficult to hit things accurately with a handgun unless you're within, like, three feet.

The two movie conventions that irk me are this, with the hero aiming precisely at long distances while being missed by every shot from the bad guys, and that people are forever firing guns in enclosed spaces without causing their eardrums to bleed.

But back to the original FPP topic, it is a different fantasy that drives these killers. It's not a John Woo fantasy of jumping through windows while shooting with both hands, it is a fantasy about glory and fame, American Idol without the singing.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:24 PM on October 6, 2015


The cultural effect of all these laws is to encourage a kind of hypervigilance that's simultaneously paranoid and arrogant. It encourages armed citizens to seek confrontations and escalate them, confident that they can end them definitively. That hypervigilance looks at my questions and scenarios and doubts and says, like a drill instructor in a true army of one: "Then don't carry a gun, you equivocating pussy. Leave the defending to us real men."

Fine. I leave it to you, the hypervigilant. Even though the statistics show mass shootings are on the rise, and not one has been stopped by armed good guys—armed civilian good guys. In fact, they've been shot more often than they've shot the baddies. Which is natural, since assault weapons are on the rise, and it's hard to conceal a weapon that can outshoot someone with a Bushmaster. I leave it to you, because I still puzzle in my mind over all the tactical difficulties posed by someone in civilian clothes carrying a gun during a shooting.
It's Really Hard to Be a Good Guy With a Gun
As many commentators noted, it was particularly callous of the NRA to double down on its long-standing proposal to fight gun violence with more guns while parents in Newtown were burying their first graders. But more importantly, the NRA's argument is bereft of supporting evidence. A closer look reveals that their case for arming Americans against mass shooters is nothing more than a cynical ideological talking point—one dressed up in appeals to heroism and the defense of constitutional freedom, and wholly reliant on misdirection and half truths. If only Sandy Hook's principal had been packing heat, the argument goes, she could've stopped the mass killer. There's just one little problem with this: Not a single one of the 62 mass shootings we studied in our investigation has been stopped this way—even as the nation has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of recent laws has made it easier than ever for ordinary citizens to carry them in public places, including bars, parks, and schools.
The NRA Myth of Arming the Good Guys
posted by churl at 7:48 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought it was interesting when I was going through "How To Get Shot At At Work" training that at one point during the slideshow, the police showed photos of known school shooters. All of them were young dudes. ALL dudes. Mostly white, a few brown dudes. This was followed by them saying, "what is a typical school shooter like? There is no typical school shooter! It could be anyone! ANYONE!"

Righto, then, I'm pretty sure that at the very least I haven't heard of any women of any age shooting up a school. Or any 60-year-old men shooting up a school. I know we can't profile every young angry male and there's way too many of them to narrow down which ones are likely to kill (at least without not knowing how many guns are in the family home, I guess), but it sure seems like there's at least a basic type at this point that we're all sorta kinda aware of.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:52 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


To anyone interested in the article, I recommend Adam Lankford's book The Myth of Martyrdom. Lankford found these similarities between rampage shooters and suicide terrorists (NYT op-ed):

1) they are clinically suicidal;
2) they have a deep sense of victimization and believe someone to be at fault;
3) they want to acquire fame and glory through killing.

The first two are harder to address, but it seems to me that we have a moral obligation to stop participating in #3.
posted by thetortoise at 9:46 PM on October 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a former newspaper editor, I disagree with not using the name of a criminal or a suspect in a crime.

I’m not advocating the approach the New York Daily News and the New York Post took, as recounted in TFA. That is simply sensationalist.

Those of you in favor of news media withholding the names, does this include when a shooting suspect is taken alive or just when he’s dead (whether by his own hand or that of law enforcement)? How do you feel about news media providing the name and photo of a suspect that officers are looking for after a crime has been committed? Does that also merely give someone notoriety?

Naming someone suspected of a crime who is in the hands of the law is not meant to prejudice the community against that person. It’s a safeguard for that person so that the public knows who is being held or (increasingly) who is dead at the hands of law officers. It’s the journalist’s belief that no one should be held or killed in secret. In the case of a shooter who kills himself at the scene, it’s still knowledge the public should have. It is pertinent to the life of a community, and pertinent to the deaths in it.

Juveniles’ names are withheld on the theory that they have long lives ahead of them, and their adult selves should not be judged by what their younger selves did. Rape victims are not named to spare them the scorn of a society that does not yet understand the scorn is being grotesquely misplaced, as well as not adding any additional humiliation above what they may already feel.

"Stop using the term 'lone wolf' and stop using 'school shooter,'"

This is perfectly reasonable, if only to prevent cliched and sloppy coverage.

In light of the Umpqua attacker's quest for notoriety .... We will focus attention on him or other killers only when we see clear journalistic value in doing so.

This, also, is perfectly reasonable. Why discuss anyone in particular if there’s no need to do so? Space and time are limited (except online). But I left part of the sentence out: we've chosen not to publish his image or put his name in any headlines. News organizations may experiment, but I can’t see how this will be of any great value. And I can see how it will defeat important purposes of the journalistic effort.
posted by bryon at 10:02 PM on October 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


revolutionary actions, or political gestures, intended to inspire similar acts.

Mark Ames' Going Postal suggests that American mass shootings are essentially modern-day slave revolts. The book is kind of poorly edited and not convincing on every point, but there is a lot to think about in there.
posted by BinGregory at 11:14 PM on October 6, 2015


I predict that if school shooters aren't all named and identified, very soon the public narrative will be that all shootings are perpetrated by Muslims / black people / christian hating atheists. Whenever there's an event like this we always get initial rumours that the person carrying out the attack hated White Christian America, which are dispelled as time goes on. I absolutely believe Fox News and their ilk would fan these rumours whilst in possession of contrary evidence (which they'd refuse to release or comment on "out of respect for the victims"). If an attack was actually carried out by someone vaguely Arabic or whatever, then of course it would be a terrorist attack rather than a school shooting, so the perpetrators would be named and their lives examined. Repeat this for a few cycles, and the narrative is set.
posted by Ned G at 3:12 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Righto, then, I'm pretty sure that at the very least I haven't heard of any women of any age shooting up a school.

There's one I can think of, but it happened 36 years ago... The Cleveland Elementary School Shooter.
posted by drezdn at 4:40 AM on October 7, 2015


I think there's a lot of room between not releasing the killer's name at all and what we have now, where for the past few days I can't look at a TV news station or open Facebook without seeing this person's face.
posted by thetortoise at 4:47 AM on October 7, 2015


Haven't read all the way through the comments, and I probably should before I come in with a comment like this, and I will be reading the whole thread and post a correction if I feel it necessary.

But here's a thing I feel like saying, even just a few comments in - the First Amendment exists, in part, to prevent movements like this from becoming law, and I'm glad it does. Why do I say that? I live in China, where press regulations literally change by the day, and China's response to the copycat problem (a spate of knife attacks in schools by frustrated middle-age men) was "ban all reporting of anything that could be copycatted". Their "opinion guidance" and "information management", as they call it in the propaganda I translate, is something they're very adamant about, and something the CCP considers a fundamental part of their governance mission. It goes as deep in the CCP system as the First Amendment goes in the US system.

I've seen the results - take away the freedom of press from legal interference, and all you get is sensationalist law plus VERY sensationalist reporting until the law has to step in to shut it down plus all kinds of arbitrary barriers to real information because people forget to cancel or revise irrelevant regulations (you are not allowed to link to a foreign news source in your online news story unless you've been approved by the "relevant authorities", which have changed a few times, and which leads to all kinds of aberrant attributions. Several times a year I, a translator, have to explain to my clients that that quote they're looking for in Time Magazine or the NYT was a lie, BTW your nation's news media blatantly lies to you please pay me I spent 3 days verifying this).

What we need is the approach we're taking right now - examine the consequences of types of reporting, adjust practices, talk about the ethical path and the underlying problems (guns), and find ways, through consensus and voluntary change, to report more responsibly.
posted by saysthis at 5:05 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are already widely followed guidelines on reporting suicide, and yet the U.S. is not China.
posted by thetortoise at 5:19 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


But here's a thing I feel like saying, even just a few comments in - the First Amendment exists, in part, to prevent movements like this from becoming law, and I'm glad it does.

Had you read the thread, you would have known that nobody is suggesting this become law.
posted by maxsparber at 6:30 AM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Those of you in favor of news media withholding the names, does this include when a shooting suspect is taken alive or just when he’s dead (whether by his own hand or that of law enforcement)?

Either.

How do you feel about news media providing the name and photo of a suspect that officers are looking for after a crime has been committed? Does that also merely give someone notoriety?

No, there's a legitimate public interest in knowing that a believed killer is on the loose and to report any sighting of him to the authorities.

And then, as soon as he's arrested, he can be referred to as That Asshole from that point on.
posted by Etrigan at 6:38 AM on October 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


As a former newspaper editor, I disagree with not using the name of a criminal or a suspect in a crime.

In the age of google, "that's going on your permanent record" is no longer a joke--it's true. Publishing names of suspects can, if innocent, ruin their entire lives.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:32 AM on October 7, 2015


Just as a counterpoint to some above links on the value of arming citizens: Eugene Volokh offers 9 examples of shootings stopped by armed citizens that one could reasonably infer were going to be mass killings. You may also want to read his linked material on the 10th case, the Clackamas Mall shooting, which doesn't fit your criteria but might fight yours.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:34 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just as a counterpoint to some above links on the value of arming citizens:

And as a counter-counterpoint: Customer with CPL shoots at shoplifting suspect at Home Depot

I suspect we're looking at a future in which a lot more heroes with guns execute people they find suspicious than hamper mass shootings. I mean, supposedly trained police shoot children to death for holding toy guns and shoot men looking to buy toy guns at Wall Mart. I'm supposed to trust that armed civilians are going to make intelligent snap judgements?

No, I think they are just as likely to shoot the victim of a carjacking as they are to shoot the carjacker.
posted by maxsparber at 9:55 AM on October 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


So with 900 some mass shootings so far in a single year 9 being stopped would be 1% better, unfortunately the list goes back to 1997 so the success rate is basically nonexistent. The NRA has lead the charge in claiming that every mass shooting (talking 100%) could have been countered with a gun ... I see a bit of a disparity there. The wrong people being shot or people not engaging for fear they will be shot themselves is the reality. How many gunmen have been stopped by a tackle? I did a quick Google search (looked at 5 or 6 pages of results and counted 4 different events) for this year alone ... so I submit being armed for hugging appear to be far more effective than armed for shooting.

Here is one (and while this is the least mass shooting prevention in my rapid query, I feel it is at least equal to some of the 'no idea if he would have killed or continued' the counter point article provides);

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — It was a frightening and dangerous scene: A Louisiana state trooper lay bleeding on the ground as a man rifled through his pockets and tried to take the immobile officer’s handgun from his holster.

Some distant bystanders had waved Robert LeDoux over to the side of the road before he reached the scene and told him he shouldn’t get any closer; it was too dangerous, they said, and the man had a gun of his own. LeDoux ignored them.

As he approached, the suspect told him, “’Everything’s all right. Mind your own business. You need to go,’” LeDoux told The Associated Press a day later in an exclusive interview. “All I could see was pure evil in his eyes.”

LeDoux ignored the suspect’s warning as well: “I took off running,” he said. “I tackled him. We hit the ground. I was on top of him and I called 911.”


Now once again we have an armed civilian on scene who has chosen to stay back and warn others rather than go put the dog down (so to speak). While I have no idea what his thinking was, the good guy with a gun idea ... is really not reliably replicable.

Tiny aside, LeDoux is also a common French name and translated it would be 'the gentle one' or 'the soft one'.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre there was a group who theorized that if they had been present things would have been different. They set up an office and conducted the experiment, running 12 trials to gather data.

A Texas pro-gun group organized a re-enactment of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in a bizarre bid to test what would have happened if one of the murdered scribes was armed.

But the experiment set up by the group The Truth About Guns backfired — in no scenario was the “armed civilian” able to take out both “terrorists.”

Perhaps even more disappointing for the pro-gun activists, only one of the volunteers playing the role of the armed civilian even managed to survive — by fleeing the scene.

posted by phoque at 5:21 PM on October 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


Just as a counterpoint to some above links on the value of arming citizens: Eugene Volokh offers 9 examples of shootings stopped by armed citizens that one could reasonably infer were going to be mass killings.

I have a much longer list of mass killings that never even happened in countries that banned guns because, you know, the would-be killer couldn't get a gun. It's right next to the list of killings by eleven-year-olds that didn't happen because the eleven-year-olds were in countries that didn't have guns.

This includes a few million eleven-year-olds in Switzerland, where the ammo is locked up at the shooting ranges and what-have-you. And, you know, Australia?

I imagine that, given enough time and American gun enthusiasts, we'll read of an eleven-year-old with access to a gun that was prevented from shooting people by another eleven-year-old with a gun. At which time we will grant you the counterpoint.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:05 AM on October 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


And right on queue, Ben Carson everybody!

"I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away".

Let's Talk About Ben Carson's Oregon Shooting Superhero Delusion: It's just one more sign he's lost his marbles.


Sounds like when shit actually did hit the fan, brave Sir Carson ran away told a gunman to go after some poor, defenseless minimum wage worker:
“I have had a gun held on me when I was in a Popeye’s,” Carson said, reportedly referring to a Baltimore location of the fast food chain.

“Guy comes in, puts the gun in my ribs,” he added. “And I just said, ‘I believe that you want the guy behind the counter.’”

"He said, 'Oh, OK.'"
And now he's apparently on CNN saying that, if Germans had guns, the effects of the Holocaust "would have been greatly diminished." Second in the polls, folks.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:35 AM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's the Nazi gun control theory, popular in NRa circles. Wikipedia is on it. Choice quote from anthropologist Abigail Kohn:

Such counterfactual arguments are problematic because they reinvent the past to imagine a possible future. In fact, Jews were not well-armed and were not able to adequately defend themselves against Nazi aggression. Thus, reimagining a past in which they were and did does not provide a legitimate basis for arguments about what might have followed.

posted by maxsparber at 10:46 AM on October 8, 2015


Another view from Poynter

Why it’s important to name the shooter

For what it's worth, while I think there's merit to tamping down the notoriety around mass killers, I'm not convinced that it's the best way to proceed or even practically possible.
posted by Maugrim at 3:15 PM on October 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Carson has decided to goysplain the Holocaust to the ADL over gun control.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:33 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Goy vey.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:36 AM on October 9, 2015


You Really Didn't Notice Until Now that Conservatives Blame Nazism on Gun Control?
So if you think Carson is saying something uniquely crazy, you simply haven't been paying attention -- or the news sources to which you regularly turn have been trying to persuade you that conservatism isn't as crazy as it actually is.
The Hitler gun control lie — Gun rights activists who cite the dictator as a reason against gun control have their history dangerously wrong
Unfortunately for LaPierre et al., the notion that Hitler confiscated everyone’s guns is mostly bogus. And the ancillary claim that Jews could have stopped the Holocaust with more guns doesn’t make any sense at all if you think about it for more than a minute.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:36 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've definitely seen that one infographic where it explains that Hitler was able to implement his Endlösung der Judenfrage because he first seized the guns and therefore we need the Second Amendment. I think the last time it crossed my facebook feed was ... ... this morning.
posted by theorique at 10:44 AM on October 9, 2015


> A somewhat dissenting view from Josh Marshall: The Great Evasion

More from Marshall: The Expanding Politics of Denial

Thinking Beyond the Moment
posted by homunculus at 6:47 PM on October 10, 2015


Saturday Night Live's response to the gun issue: Guns - SNL
posted by homunculus at 1:55 PM on October 11, 2015


Mark Follman: Did Colorado's Open Carry Law Delay Police Response to a Mass Shooter? (emphasis in original)
Details are continuing to emerge about a gun rampage that took place in the streets of Colorado Springs on Saturday morning, in which 33-year-old Noah Harpham shot three people to death before police killed him in a shootout. On Monday, a troubling detail came to light in a Denver Post report suggesting that police may have had a chance to intervene before the slaughter began—but that a police dispatcher may have reacted without urgency to a 911 call about Harpham because of Colorado's open carry law:
Witnesses watched in horror as Harpham picked his victims off. One of them, the bicyclist, pleaded for his life before being killed.

"I heard the (young man) say, 'Don't shoot me! Don't shoot me!' " Naomi Bettis, a neighbor who witnessed the killing, said Monday.

Bettis said she recognized the gunman as her neighbor—whom she didn't know by name—and that before the initial slaying she saw him roaming outside with a rifle. She called 911 to report the man, but a dispatcher explained that Colorado has an open carry law that allows public handling of firearms.

"He did have a distraught look on his face," Bettis said. "It looked like he had a rough couple days or so."
It makes this cartoon depressingly prescient.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:05 AM on November 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


« Older Good women seldom make history.   |   CJEU Strikes Down Safe Harbour Data Sharing Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments