I thought I'd do a very uncharacteristic musing today, since the heaviest weight on my mind and heart right now is the horrible killings in Aurora, Colorado. May the victims and their families and friends find peace.
I know everyone has seen the renewed efforts to pass gun control legislation, and I'm not going to comment on that. Everyone has their beliefs and emotions regarding the issue, and it has become too politicized even to be able to have a rational discussion. This is not a political commentary, but more of a social/psychological one.
The most frightening thing to me about the killer is his intelligence and the detailed way he planned his assault. And I, along with everyone else can't help but wonder why? Well, what if it's something as simple as wanting to see himself on the television, in papers, on Twitter, and in every single media outlet? Here's a super intelligent young man in a PhD program, but no one is really impressed by that. He'll probably never be famous unless he wins the Nobel prize at 80. He couldn't even get a job. No one is interested in him because he's quiet and always does the right thing. So he stews on it and twists it around, and one day - maybe because he gets refused by some pretty young woman for the 100th time - he snaps. And he wonders "how can I can become famous over night?" because he is tired of waiting and living a life without distinction. And he twists it around some more and he becomes angrier and angrier. And there's one way he can think of to be taken seriously and have everyone know who he is, so he starts planning it all. And then, it goes perfectly. He is famous. He has shown everyone. He will live forever in the history books. And bonus! It only took a few months to plan.
But what if the media refused to publish his name? What if, instead of splashing his name and picture all across the world, he was simply known as "Perpetrator 1" or something equally vague? Complete anonymity. The details could be discussed and no doubt people close to him would know all about who it was. But if the media were required not to disclose his name for perhaps ten years, it would no longer be instant gratification. Would he still have carried out his attack if he knew he wouldn't have his immediate glory? Of course, no one will ever know, but it makes you wonder, doesn't it? And why aren't more people talking about the media's power? Most likely, because the media would have to cover their role, and they don't want to do that.
And if you think further about it, the media play a HUGE part in society. It's that old paradox: by covering events in the way they do, the media become part of history and effect history and popular culture, which they then cover. And the circle continues. My master's thesis in broadcast journalism dealt with the kidnapping of Polly Klaas, and the subsequent panic in California culminating in the Three Strikes law. Although Californians in large part were sure - through the media - that the crime rate was rising sharply, actual crime statistics showed a steady drop in crime rate leading up to the passage of Three Strikes. The media changed California enormously in this particular instance, and all so they could sell more with less work. They listened to each other's broadcasts, read each other's papers, tried to find similar crimes to fuel people's interest, and repeated it over and over. This is standard operating procedure: low effort, maximum profit.
I'm sure there are many of you who disagree, and my intent is not to start any type of war here. All of us have different opinions. I merely wish to present some food for thought: a Monday Musing.
note: the word "media" is used in the above commentary as a plural word