This is a blog about responsible media policy.
I’ve read some bizarre ideas floating around since a crazy person shot and killed people at a midnight première of the new Batman movie. A lot of people are asking if the Batman film is to blame. (It was the première. The guy hadn’t even seen the movie, so it couldn’t have been as important to him as some may imagine.) Yes, the shooter called himself The Joker, but what was probably more important to him was that he hurt and kill as many people as possible. He found a place where the most people would gather in a confined space so he could attack more effectively.
We’ve seen this before. The attack in Aurora happened just twelve miles from Columbine. Despite that experience, the media is jumping to the same mistakes. We were told the Columbine shooters were inspired by The Matrix. That was later proved false. Heavy metal has also been blamed, but for every expert who claims there’s a connection between violence in media and violence in real life, there are a bunch more psychologists who will tell you violence in media, video games and porn actually decrease violence.
Worse, many of those complaining of the connection aren’t experts at all. Instead, they are people playing a political game in the media for their own ends and axe-grinding. For intense, with the so-called cannibal attack of several weeks ago, some in law enforcement announced that a new drug was to blame: bath salts. The media dutifully reported the new danger threatening us all: Bath salt druggies turn into zombies. That guy was crazy, no doubt, but he wasn’t on bath salts. Worse still, there was no way for anyone to say what he was on. They made the announcement immediately, but the actually drug test would take much longer. (Eventually, only marijuana was found in the attacker’s system.) There were no bath salts and those who said it was bath salts couldn’t have known what it was. That was just somebody ginning up a story for their own ends. The decriers fade away after they’re disproved, but the media will listen to them again next time with equal credulity. Meanwhile, lots of people still think it was bath salts that turned a mentally disturbed person into a homeless zombie who ate another homeless man’s face. Media: Wise up. You’re being used. Or are you doing the using for ratings?
As for the eager censors, ready to make a connection between entertainment and the actions of the lowest common mental denominator, I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s quip. He said that a censor is a person who would prohibit us all from eating steak because a baby would choke on it. There are arguments to be made about keeping guns out of the hands of disturbed people and helping to identify the signs of crazy. As time progresses, we’ll have the gun control debate again, probably with no change.
The only thing I see that could be acted upon immediately is this: Media. Stop naming the shooter. He wanted attention and there may be another disturbed person thinking of copycat actions. Focus more on the victims and the heroes of this tragedy. Those are the names and actions I want to know. I don’t need to know more about this particular insane and violent perpetrator. Journalists, in general, have refrained from reporting suicides for decades to decrease celebrating suicidal people. Please exercise some restraint, take responsibility, and downplay the identity of the shooter. I’m not worried at all about fictional violence that happens in books and on film. I write crime fiction, the operative word being: Fiction. When it shows up on the news in a celebratory frenzy, it might be a trigger that reporters help to pull.