23 July 2012

monday's musing

First - thank you all so much for your stories, comments, and private emails. I loved hearing from everyone and the stories were great. :) I am feeling kind of human again today, though my body still hurts. I think I must have been stressing a lot more than I thought. I haven't been this sick in forever.

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


Blogger norabrown said...

Good thoughts. I appreciate you making me think about such things.

We can't know, but it does seem to make sense.

But we have become so used to being able to find out information especially in this day and age with the internet. How do we step back and put a cap on these sort of things?

Thanks again for making me pause and wonder.

I'm glad you are beginning to feel better.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous deidra said...

Shun them. You have put my thoughts into words. I don't think the sensation-obsessed media will go along though.

The only problem is that they're shunned socially before they act out. I could see how refusing to name or give them power by not publicising their acts would give them cause to re-think such horrible acts. But I also think we need to do some much more serious resolving of the problems that created the monster to begin with. The VT shooter was a product of the mental health system failing here in VA. We need care more about each other as human beings and not just about our day-to-day fight for survival. Once I spoke to strangers, anticipating a pleasurable moment in meeting a new person. Now I fear those I don't know. However did we get to this place in our society?

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree and applaud the radio stations here in Colorado that are refusing to say his name on the air, I wish television stations would do the same.

Sally at Rivendale Farms

4:35 PM  
Blogger woodnsoul said...

But then where would the media focus their feeding frenzy? How would they sell more advertising? How incredibly short sided. Ok, not reallly.

I like the idea - it worked with the Penn State victims and with rape victims across the country - why not mass murderers?

Way too simple...

4:53 PM  
Blogger Anita Figueras said...

Very insightful, Romi.

I have been most struck by the words of Dave Cullen, who wrote the book "Columbine". His message is simple: everything we think we know about the shooter and his motives is probably wrong, and it will take a long time to discover the truth, to discover what drove him.

Such a waste - of the lives of those slain, of the health and finances of those injured. Such a wasteful way to use intelligence, even that seemingly in the grips of deep illness.

5:10 PM  
Blogger daffynpooh said...


7:08 PM  
Anonymous twinsetellen said...

Your thoughts are certainly worth consideration. They lead me to consider the market demand for this sort of approach. The consumer bears some responsibility - we need to demand, or at least be willing to pay, for solid, serious news instead of news as entertainment.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting thought about leaving the killer's identity a blank. That is exactly what they do in Israel with suicide bombers and terrorists, they just refer to the criminal as the killer, don't even give them the class of terrorist.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Jo said...

Your idea has much to recommend it, but would obviously be very difficult to implement. Something you did not mention is that police and law enforcement are looking for anyone with information and to get that information, they need to use the name.

That said, I remember watching the Wimbledon finals and hearing that the town where Murray grew up characterized as being " forever changed" and "put on the map" because of the horrific school shooting. I remember thinking that they are giving a criminal way too much influence and leverage.

Final note--I live in Aurora, CO a few miles from the theaters, but resolved not to watch nonstop media coverage asnI did as a high school teacher at the time of the Columbine shootings. I watched enough to knowmwhat was going on and did not watch more until some sensitive programs focused on the victims were finally aired.


9:46 PM  
Blogger eboston said...

I agree wholeheartedly that all the media coverage about the perpetrator is not a good thing. The sensational "15 minutes of fame" is an incentive for twisted people to do similar acts. All the sensationalism is also good for the "gun" sellers as evidenced by the increase in gun sales after the killings. The gun dealers are smiling all the way to the "corrupt" banks. The Press is a part of the corporate power elite which is strangling our country in my opinion.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting but I just can't see that .. I think it is mental illness .. schizophrenia, perhaps. My wish is that we'd all be much more aware of the warning signs of such people to avoid them putting their plans in place. I feel horrible for all the victims and the perpetrator and his family. Hauntingly sad event.


9:37 PM  
Anonymous Gretchen said...

I used to live in Kansas, and one thoughtful pundit opined that if everyone ignored the Westboro "church" people, that they might disappear. He then announced that he would never write about them again and challenged other media outlets to do the same.
I'm sure that there is a bit more to the Aurora story than wanting attention, but in my opinion, what you say has much value.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous honeybee33 said...

Schizophrenia typically strikes young men once they reach their late-teens/early-20s - right in the age-range for bright college students full of potential. It has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence or rejection or any motivation of any kind, really. It's an almost complete breakdown of reasoning, decision-making, and ability to recognize reality. It's only dangerous if it goes undiagnosed and untreated.

The only thing we can do to protect ourselves and society is to talk about mental illness more, destigmatize it, learn more about it, treat it better, treat its victims better. In my opinion, not saying the name of the perpetrator actually only makes the situation worse, as it simply perpetuates our collective ignorance about what REALLY brought about these and other similar acts of violence.

11:01 AM  

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