Before the Olympics started, when the nation’s focus was steadfastly on the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I was directed to a YouTube video about how the media should and should not cover these types of tragic events. In the video, a segment from the BBC program “Newswipe with Charlie Brooker,” Brooker tells the audience, “Repeatedly showing us a killer’s face isn’t news, it’s just rubbernecking.” Brooker says that in the quest to understand what motivates those who kill, we end up creating “pin-up boys” for other disturbed souls and inspiring future mass shootings fueled by a potential killer’s desire to gain attention.
In the “Newswipe” clip, Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz says, “We’ve had 20 years of mass murders throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media, if you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. Do localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.”
And so it is potentially that the Dark Knight massacre perhaps led to the terrible shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin yesterday. And yet there are all sorts of news articles all over the web right now that identify the Wisconsin shooting suspect by name alongside several of his photographs, just as there were when the Dark Knight shooter was identified just over two weeks ago. Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, the nephew of the temple president Satwant Kaleka who died in the Wisconsin shooting, told NBC affiliate WPTV he was “horrified to have such violence occur at his place of worship, especially just two weeks after the 12 killings” in Aurora. “You’re talking about Aurora one minute, and the next minute it’s you and your family,” he added.
Just last week, Yahoo! News published a piece about how the media covers mass killings, and they too quote Dietz extensively. In the Yahoo! piece, Dietz says:
I see no problem with factual information, so people who seek to understand [a murder] can read about it, but the incomplete, instantaneous, often incorrect scramble for biographic material does more harm than good …. There’s no need to add hysteria to the voice of the announcer or commentator or other journalists. There’s no need to add sounds of commotion like sirens or wailings [in broadcast]. There’s no need to stick microphones in the face of victims and those who have lost loved ones.
Yahoo! notes that “Criminologists don’t hesitate to use terms like “loser,” “fraud,” “pretender,” or “failure” in describing a mass murderer. While objective reporting would likely stay away from such language, the press could depict the behavior as contemptible rather than create a charismatic figure.” So rather than name the Sikh temple killer here and glorify him in any way, I will leave you to Googling if you feel the need to learn more about him and his motives. What I will do instead is list the names of the victims below and suggest that if you are so inclined you say a prayer for them and their families, and for all of the lonely hurt souls who might be attracted to committing such a horrific crime in the future.
Rest in peace:
Twitter photo via Twitchy