Rampage shooters cast themselves as the stars of the public spectacle. They crave the media spotlight which is why we should do everything possible to deprive them of it.”
Those words were in a story in The Wall Street Journal by Ari N. Schulman, who is executive editor of the New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society.
He explained that we again will witness on television reports about a mass shooting, seeing the same images and words that occur after such a terrible crime. He added: “A weary speech from the president. Debates about guns and mental health.” Yes, that will come again, along with radio and newspaper coverage of what is becoming nearly a common occurence in this country.
The shooters do crave attention even if it costs them their lives. In fact, almost all the mass shooters are prepared to die, either by their own hands or from law enforcement officers, or other security people. They don’t have a plan of escape.
The writer argues that the mass killings are not “senseless” because the perpetrators want all the world to see their anger and resentment. That’s one way to put it. You can’t get away from senseless.
The experts say usually it is not that a mass killer “snaps” mentally. Rather they plan their actions meticulously and are highly organized, according to research reported by Schulman. That appears to be the case from all the reports we’ve read about shootings.
The perpetrators often model themselves in military-type clothing, or black clothes, and have had a lifelong fascination with weapons, warfare, and military and survivalist culture. They usually do not have a serious mental illness but have personality disorders, “grandiosity, resentment, self-righteousness, and a sense of entitlement . . . they develop violent fantasies of heroic revenge against an uncaring world,” according to the article. The shooters are out to tell a story through their actions.
Journalists and the media in general need to change their practices to discourage mass killings, according to Schulman. The suggestions given are not practical because it won’t happen in mediaworld. The suggestions include: Don’t publish a shooter’s propaganda; hide their names and faces; don’t report on biography or speculate on motive; minimize specifics and gory details; no photos or videos of the event; talk about the victims, but minimize images of grieving families; decrease the saturation; tell a different story, such as stories about would-be mass killers who reconsidered.
With all the media that surrounds us, with instant communication, improved methods of reporting, the public’s right to know, those suggestions just are not practical. To conceal facts in the crime will lead to wild speculation and suspicions. The more we learn about mass shootings and the perpetrators, the more we may be able to offer protection. It may, in some cases, help to identify a would-be killer.