Since we are talking gun control in the wake of Sandy Hook, how about we talk a little media control? The Sandy Hook murderer was a disturbed young man, but being disturbed doesn’t mean they are stupid or irrational – at least not irrational within the confines of their own mind. Few human actions, or series of actions are without a purpose. Even monstrous actions like those visited upon Newtown Connecticut. Many spree killers kill themselves. The Columbine High School murderers did, the killer in Clackamas Oregon did. Dead, they are unable to “enjoy” the results of their actions. So what’s their motivation? . . .
Consider a soldier that charges a machine gun nest or jumps on a grenade. For him, the payoff of his heroism lies in saving his friends’ lives. He intuits that he will be remembered as a hero, that if he dies he’ll live on in the hearts of those he saved as someone who was good. A soldier who acts above and beyond is recognized by a grateful nation, even posthumously. Bronze Star, Silver Star, the Congressional Medal of Honor – soldiers understand it is a great honor to be so remembered. Nobody tries to get a posthumous medal, but a soldier knows that if he is brave and good, he’ll be remembered that way should he lose his life.
I believe the inverse is true, too. Disturbed people who commit mass murder are seeking something. Revenge for wrongs; to be remembered as someone not to be messed with. They want to bring great sorrow and pain, and the media are complicit in delivering the goods. Some sick bastard is brooding, maybe mentally ill, or maybe he’s just an asshole. He sits watching the nation wallow in the aftermath of a spree murder. The reports plant a seed of evil – “Hey, that would show those bastards…”
Even though the freedom of the press is a constitutional right, perhaps we need to start restricting how the media reports mass shootings. We need a national conversation here. We may do well to make reporting them outside of the county where the action took place illegal, and confiscate any notes, equipment or recordings used to capture information about the crime.
By doing this, a potential copycats may only have one example in their lifetime to fixate upon, and then only if they happen to live in that county. Today a sick individual will see several mass shootings reported throughout their lifetime, providing heaven knows what awful spark. Maybe we’re giving too many bad ideas to people inclined to do bad things.
And while we’re at it, let’s also ban high-capacity reporting. Why do journalists need to do dozens of stories about a spree killer? I think one story told to inform the community is all any news outlet really needs. We are better than this. By enacting common sense press control, we can make a difference. If it saves just one person won’t it be worth it?