For those of us who have never lost a child to a violent crime we cannot possibly know a grieving parent’s pain. But we know that out of pain can come a convoluted way of thinking.
It isn’t easy to question the motives of a heart-broken parent who decides they hold the key to stop future tragedies. It isn’t popular to ask them whether they are acting out of grief or common sense when they point the finger of blame and demand change. But that’s exactly what I’m doing.
There is a campaign called NoNoteriety – advanced most energetically by the devastated parents of Alex Teves, 24, one of a dozen people who lost their lives during the 2012 mass shooting inside an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. Another 70 were wounded.
NoNoteriety supporters believe — as their website states — that the individuals who carry out these murderous rampages are motivated by, “the quest for notoriety” and that such criminals should be deprived of, “the media celebrity they so crave.”
(And the proof of that is – where?)
The Teves’ have issued a challenge to the media to stop reporting the names of shooters like James Holmes who meticulously planned and carried out the theater shooting that took their son’s life. They also don’t want TV, newspapers or magazines to show his photograph.
No Name. No Photo. No Notoriety. That is the group’s motto. They believe the mere mention of a shooter’s name or a glance at their mugshot glorifies them and creates copycat killers.
Tom Teves takes it one step further saying the media has, “blood on its hands” for reporting such details in the past.
“You guys need to be responsible for what you do,” he told KUSA 9News on the year anniversary of the theater shooting. “You guys could change overnight. All you have to do is have the courage to stop.”
Now, it’s my turn.
No reputable reporter can cover a case — especially a criminal trial – without mentioning the defendant’s name. How can we fail to show the deranged looking red-haired photograph taken of Holmes just a few hours after that horrific mass shooting? His appearance and state of mind at the time goes directly to his current insanity defense.
Journalists are trained in the who-what-why-where-when of a story. Facts are our lifeblood. How are we supposed to do our jobs and still satisfy the demands of those who have embraced the NoNoteriety movement?
I have spent a career reporting on victims of murder, childhood sexual abuse, rape and domestic abuse. It never once dawned on me that I should leave the perpetrator’s identity out of my story.
What the NoNoteriety folks are asking creates a slippery slope. If the media agrees to keep mass shooter’s names and photos out of their stories for fear it could influence a future tragedy where does it stop? Do we keep secret the name of corrupt politicians on trial because it might give other crooked officials an idea? Shall we stop mentioning the name of bank robbers, domestic abusers or child molesters? Do we keep the name of all murderers out of our stories or just the ones who go on these random, mass killing sprees?
It is so easy to blame the messenger instead of focusing on the harder-to-change aspects of today’s society. My list: The ease in which a determined individual can buy guns and on-line ammunition, their mental health status and the widespread practice of prescribing too many mind-altering drugs to too many patients.
Investigative authors Stephen and Joyce Singular wrote The Spiral Notebook, a new book about the uptick of these acts of mass violence. They conducted years of research on the topic and engaged a forgotten segment in the conversation – millennials. They asked young people why so many of their generation turn to this kind of violence.
“They came of age when the future seemed quite limited,” the Singulars wrote. “Climate change, economic collapse, Y2K, global terrorism … there’s always another apocalypse around the corner.” And to add to this skewed upbringing, the authors noted, the movie industry kept churning out terrifying films.
“They were filled with superheroes who wielded power by killing as many others as they could.”
Seems there are a lot of possible stimuli that go into creating these monstrous mass killers. Blaming the news media is a cop out.