WSJ: What Mass Killers Want—And How to Stop Them
Rampage shooters crave the spotlight, and we should do everything possible to deprive them of it.
60 Minutes did a story recently about the impact of publicity on mass killers. Many of them have only one last wish – 15 minutes of fame / infamy… Massacre killers are typically marked by what are considered personality disorders: grandiosity, resentment, self-righteousness, a sense of entitlement. They become, says Dr. Knoll, ” ‘collectors of injustice’ who nurture their wounded narcissism.
How might journalists and police change their practices to discourage mass shootings? First – deprive the killer of an audience:
Never publish a shooter’s propaganda. Aside from the act itself, there is no greater aim for the mass killer than to see his own grievances broadcast far and wide. Many shooters directly cite the words of prior killers as inspiration.
Hide their names and faces. With the possible exception of an at-large shooter, concealing their identities will remove much of the motivation for infamy.
Don’t report on biography or speculate on motive. Even talking about motive may encourage the perception that these acts can be justified.
Police and the media also can contain the contagion of mass shootings by withholding or embargoing details:
Minimize specifics and gory details. Shooters are motivated by infamy for their actions as much as by infamy for themselves. There should be no play-by-play and no descriptions of the shooter’s clothes, words, mannerisms or weaponry.
No photos or videos of the event. Images, like the security camera photos of the armed Columbine shooters, can become iconic and even go viral. Just this year, the FBI foolishly released images of the Navy Yard shooter in action.
Talk about the victims but minimize images of grieving families. Reports should shift attention away from the shooters without magnifying the horrified reactions that perpetrators hope to achieve.