Posted by
Robbie Dillon
• 12.26.12 09:00 am


Earlier this year in Montreal, a twisted little nonentity with a pathological craving for fame videotaped the murder and dismemberment of his lover and posted the results to the Internet.

When he was arrested in a Berlin café after a not-so-wild goose chase that lasted a little over a week, he was Googling through the plethora of articles that had been written about his exploits. The crush of photographers who mobbed the airport upon his return to face trial in Canada was worthy of an Academy Awards gala.

This week the Canadian Press Agency (similar to AP in the US) declared the chain of events set off by this nobody the Story of the Year, an “event” dutifully reported by Canada’s national TV network. This, in turn, set off a blizzard of Tweeting from outraged politicians and journalists that the press also reported on and which now spurs essays such as this one questioning the news value of “stories” that are little more than a gigantic media circle jerk.

A few weeks ago, yet another suicidal loser decided to take out his frustrations by shooting down a large number of defenseless people, mostly children. Again, the media went into overdrive, interviewing six-year-olds for their valuable insight into the massacre and “looking for answers” in the wake of this heart-wrenching tragedy. People all over the world now know not only the shooter’s name, but what he looked like, along with intimate details of his shitty life. TV specials and books featuring his picture on the cover will ensure that he lives in infamy for decades.

You can be sure that dozens, if not hundreds, of equally disturbed individuals have taken notice and are at this very moment figuring out some new horror to inflict on the rest of us. Feeling depressed? Why simply off yourself, the reasoning goes, when by taking others with you, you can leave your ugly little stain on the world?

And there’s the rub. For in all the demonizing of guns, drugs, the mentally ill, and the failed social safety net, the one group that passes relatively unscathed by the media is (gasp!) the media, the same media that keeps a running body count and announces the latest totals with more gusto than a new Olympic record, the media that clambers over itself to provide us with murderers’ yearbook photos and quotes from their neighbours who concede that, now that you mention it, the guy displayed an unusual preference for blue Gatorade.

It’s hard to believe that anyone outside of the deranged-asshole community really cares about any of this stuff. And yet the mere suggestion that some sort of moratorium—voluntary or otherwise—be placed on publishing the names and pictures of mass killers elicits a deafening wave of ululations defending the sanctity of a free press.

Censorship of any kind is a messy business, but let’s not kid ourselves. There are already all sorts of conventions agreed upon by mass media. Words such as fuck, cocksucker, and various racial epithets are bleeped or asterisked out of existence in order to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities of any small children who might stumble across them while watching CNN or reading The New York Times. The names of rape victims and juvenile offenders are banned from publication across North America, and until a few years ago, photo editors regularly blacked-out the eyes of suspects in criminal cases.

All of the above are accepted in the name of the public interest. In many large cities, subway suicides are not reported on because it is agreed that doing so would encourage copycats. We ban cigarette ads because of the threat to public health but show no qualms about handing over the front page to frustrated losers whose sole accomplishment in life is slaughtering innocent people.

Is it really so far-fetched to suggest that we could live without most of this? Does anyone really need to see a picture of the latest whackjob? Does knowing what he had for breakfast or that he was always a bit of a loner help us to make sense of tragedy?

Responsible journalism means stopping to think for a moment whether the consequences of publishing certain information outweigh the public’s need for it. Why is it that the decisions come quick and fast in cases where an especially vocal interest group might be offended, but far more hesitantly when it comes to discouraging mass murder?

When fighting monsters, Nietzsche wrote, be careful that you do not become a monster yourself. When writing about them, he might well have advised today’s journalists and editors, beware that you are not creating new ones.

 

—ROBBIE DILLON

 


Comments
  1. melonious says:

    Good read. Could it be, maybe, that incidents of black-on-white crime are usually ignored by media because they don’t want to encourage others?

  2. George Eliot says:

    You expressed this so well. I wish they’d let me write, too.

  3. billy says:

    Well said, far more coherent than any of my comments.

  4. hmm says:

    i dont’ mind. i don’t feel like i’m in much risk of dying in a mass shooting, so i don’t mind too much when the media covers it. it’s very interesting overall

  5. Lil lord cunt-y bunz says:

    You don’t feel an immediate threat, so it’s “ok” with you? It isn’t football scores…which have no potential bearing on your life and health (save for a nasty gambling debt) if that’s something you personally couldn’t give less of a shit about. This kind of coverage very likely actively ENCOURAGES other marginalized/unhinged characters to leave their mark in similar fashion. If you’re not at least moderately disturbed by that, you may be mildly retarded.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Well, the liberal media said the public had a right to know about Cho, so they showed his video tape.
    I guess they feel the publics need to see a methodical killers rants is more important than trying to prevent a copycat killing.
    I guess they “feel” a lot, and never get around to thinking.
    Just like the liberal media “feels” that the public does not have a right to know how often a citizen uses a gun to stop a criminal.
    They certainly feel the public needs to know how often a thug uses a gun.

    And somehow, the liberal media just can’t tell those two apart. Must have something to do with not thinking.

  7. Robbie Dillon says:

    Thanks to all of you for reading the article and for taking the time to comment on it. Much appreciated. — Robbie

  8. raymi says:

    Nietzsche knows it.

  9. JDelf says:

    Great article, Robbie, well said, and I agree, especially with the part about censoring swears. What a fucking load of shit; it’s not OK to “offend people” with “coarse language”, but it’s OK to torture them with a never-ending stream of violence and sorrow. I find story after story about violent crimes to be offensive.

  10. Archibald Beauregard says:

    Good point. I hate how the major media outlets sensationalize everything under the guise that they are making a difference but in reality alls they want is to increase their ratings so their advertising revenue increases. They do this by praying on how upset people are. I’m not for censorship in anyway but do we really need 50,000 dateline and follow up specials on gun control? Terrible things happen every day to innocent people – it’s called life, get over it and move on.

  11. McGirv says:

    Hear,hear! Very well said!

  12. moocow says:

    all i can think about is that this dude gave oodles of warnings to the world when he filmed himself torturing kittens but nobody did anything because who cares about kittens. well at some point, caring is caring and life is life.. he basically said to the world- i will torture, kill and eat someone unless someone takes immediate action – and he did.

  13. Django Unshackled says:

    “Oodles of warnings”? What are you, a midwestern grandma with thirty cats?


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