Monday, February 18, 2008

The Media On Mass Killings

I couldn't sleep last night, thinking about all those families now trying to hold grief from totally destroying their lives, all those parents whose young adult children will never come home again, all because some mentally ill and severely selfish person decided to take a retinue with him or her to the land of the dead. And I also couldn't sleep because of the way these mass killings are covered in the media.

It's beginning to look pretty clear to me that some would-be killers commit these disgusting acts in the very hope of getting their posthumous fifteen minutes of fame and glory. Just think about the usual coverage of these massacres: After many descriptions of the panic and the horror of the actual slaughtering the stories always settle down to giving us several "up close and personal" glimpses of the butchers. And more and more stories, asking friends or relatives about the killer, wondering what the motives could possibly have been (hint: the person is mentally ill), publishing pictures of the killer at various ages, hunting for past girlfriends. For someone who wants attention and doesn't care how that is obtained or is willing to ignore the uncomfortable fact that the dead don't watch television , well, what's there not to like?

If I sound angry here, I am. In many countries the media doesn't report on suicides because such reporting always results in lots of copycat suicides. I understand that the media can't NOT report on mass killings. But surely it would be possible to focus the story on the victims, to make their lives seem real and valuable to us, and to leave the killers to the shadow-land they belong.