We woke up Sunday morning to the news of an unspeakable tragedy. It was described both as an act of terrorism and a monstrous expression of hate. The footage outside the nightclub was surreal, as witnesses shared the horror of the event across all the television news networks. Social media was on fire.
That said, the coverage took an unfortunate turn when photos of the killer were splashed everywhere. You could even characterize some of these images as glam shots, with one of the photos showing this guy in a NYPD t-shirt. My question is: Why? He didn’t escape the scene. It’s not as if he were at-large. If that were the case, revealing his identity would have been helpful for apprehending the terrorist in the soonest possible time.
But because of the bravery of law enforcement on the scene, the guy was dead. All the media were doing by revealing his identity, and showing multiple images of him over and over again, was turning this guy into a celebrity – an outcome that is not only unworthy of the killer and its many victims, but also one that is known to “inspire similar acts of violence.” It’s why copycats do what they do. If you want to be famous and you don’t care what you have to do to make that possible, then the media are all too often willing accomplices. This has to stop. The last thing we want to do is incite more acts of terrorism.
The power of peers can be an incredible force for good, yet it also has a dark side. While being personally incensed at the coverage, I examined a number of articles that confirmed my suspicions that turning an unknown killer into a household name and, in effect, a permanent entry into the history books is not unfounded. Here are three articles that touch specifically on this topic:
- How the Media Inspires Mass Shooters, Mark Follman
- Publicity is Complicity: Don’t Grant Fame To Mass Killers, Peter Daou
- Turning Killers Into Superstars? Are We Feeding Crime?, Nicole Glass
The first television station that announces it will no longer post images of the terrorist and make him the story will get me as a viewer for life. If you join me, maybe this is how we can use the power of peers as an instrument of good.