Those of us who have given the matter of mass shootings serious consideration beyond offering “thoughts and prayers to the victims” know that the elixir to remedy this sickness is a complex cocktail made by mixing many, many ingredients. The components are cultural, technological, psychological, mechanical, political, educational, economic and maybe even spiritual. And until we find the right ingredient for each of these components in the right amount and mix them all together in the right order at the right temperature in exactly the right way we are unlikely to unburden ourselves of these tragedies that are truly our national shame.
But don’t tell me we can’t do it. We put a man on the moon and have satellites orbiting Mars so I know damned well that we can stop kids from getting murdered while they are in the school cafeteria signing each others’ yearbooks. Anybody who thinks we can’t do it needs a thorough ass-kicking and I am formally volunteering my services. At the very least a non-believer has absolutely NO business being in a leadership capacity for our country. This post amplifies just one of the dozens of components we will surely need but its a starting point. And we need a starting point because right now, we are nowhere with this problem.
After the Houston-area shooting that left ten people dead in a high school at the hand of a student, I heard an idea buzzing around that really ought to gain traction. Psychologists have pointed out that one of the many motivations for these dramatic mass-murders is the desire for notoriety. These crazy assholes have lived in torturous obscurity in many cases and have decided to go out with a bang. And since they usually take their own lives, that is exactly what they do. But those that survive their attacks and emerge unscathed, they are riding a blaze of glory for sure. Keep in mind these fools are crazy so they have obviously placed a warped sense of value on making themselves important in the lives of others regardless of what it is for.
So why don’t we take that away from them? What if we could remove that one element of victory and power for them to be attracted to? If the news could do its duty and report the event – which they have to do – but make absolutely no mention of the killer whatsoever on camera? If these killers identities could only appear in newspaper or magazine print they would be a lot less famous for doing what they did. I recognize that it would take some time before we could quantify the value of this move but what I can quantify is the acceleration of these mass shootings in relation to the explosion of social media. It certainly appears that the more we report on the shootings the more shootings occur. So if we just blacked out the identity entirely in all electronic media it may help. It is certainly worth a try. After all, we have elected officials in Texas that are willing to reduce the number of doors in schools as a deterrent to school shootings, so this idea certainly makes more sense than that one.
We value our First Amendment right in this country a great deal – so much so that we often abuse it just to express it. People say all variety of foul and harmful things in public settings for little justification beyond the fact that they have a right to do so. Not to mention that those who amplify offense clearly love the attention it draws.
Similarly, when it comes to our news outlets, we have all come to understand that sex and violence sell and the pressure to make ratings is real. So what happens is that our news outlets give the ghouls everything they ever wanted and more with coverage of THEM and other ghouls see it happening and replicate. But if somebody had to go and buy a newspaper (what’s a newspaper?) to find out the identity of the shooter the dynamic is radically changed. Turn the anonymous guy who became a shooter into an anonymous murder too. Maybe it will help. Maybe the suggestion itself will advance the discussion. Or maybe people who hear this idea will give a thousand reasons why it can’t be done – and then offer their thoughts and prayers after the NEXT mass shooting.