Saturday, August 29, 2015

Virginia Journalist Shooting: The Media needs to clean the blood off its own hands



Before the bodies were buried, the old media and other proponents of ever more restrictions on the Second Amendment were using the deaths to promote their political agenda.  They piously fail to mention their own responsibility.

The "Copycat Effect" is a well known and researched phenomena.  Endless promotion of these tragic events and the publicity given to the perpetrators is far more of a causal factor than the Second Amendment.

We have known for decades that it is media attention that is the driving motivation for most of these public mass shooters.

The copycat effect has been demonstrated and documented over and over again.  Clayton Cramer wrote a paper on this in 1993.   It was published in a the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 9:1 [Winter 1993-94].  It won First Place, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Ethics Prize, 1993, Undergraduate Division.

It has been widely written about in other publications, such as the Wall Street Journal.   A book, The Copycat Effect, by Loren Coleman, was written in 2004.

It detailed simple strategies for mitigating the effect and reducing the number of these mass public killings.   They could be implemented without any significant chilling effect on the First Amendment.    The AP could simply include these requirements in its writers guidelines.   From the book:


(1) The media must be more aware of the power of their words. Using language like "successful" sniper attacks, suicides, and bridge jumpers, and "failed" murder-suicides, for example, clearly suggest to viewers and readers that someone should keep trying again until they "succeed." We may wish to "succeed" in relationships, sports, and jobs, but we do not want rampage or serial killers, architects of murder-suicide, and suicide bombers to make further attempts after "failing." Words are important. Even the use of "suicide" or "rampage" in headlines, news alerts, and breaking bulletins should be reconsidered.

(2) The media must drop their clich├ęd stories about the "nice boy next door" or the "lone nut." The copycat violent individual is neither mysterious nor healthy, or usually an overachiever. They are often a fatal combination of despondency, depression, and mental illness. School shooters are suicidal youth that slipped through the cracks, but it is a complex issue, nevertheless. People are not simple. The formulaic stories are too often too simplistic.


(3) The media must cease its graphic and sensationalized wall-to-wall commentary and coverage of violent acts and the details of the actual methods and places where they occur. Photographs of murder victims, tapes of people jumping off bridges, and live shots of things like car chases ending in deadly crashes, for example, merely glamorize these deaths, and create models for others ­ down to the method, the place, the timing, and the type of individual involved. Even fictional entertainment, such as the screening of
The Deer Hunter, provides vivid copycatting stimuli for vulnerable, unstable, angry, and depressed individuals. 

(4) The media should show more details about the grief of the survivors and victims (without glorifying the death), highlight the alternatives to the violent acts, and mention the relevant background traits that may have brought this event to this deathly end. They should also avoid setting up the incident as a logical or reasonable way to solve a problem.


(5) The media must avoid ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural stereotypes in portraying the victims or the perpetrators. Why set up situations that like-minded individuals (e.g. neo-Nazis) can use as a roadmap for a future rampages against similar victims?


(6) The media should never publish a report on suicide or murder-suicide without adding the protective factors, such as the contact information for hot lines, help lines, soft lines, and other available community resources, including email addresses, websites, and phone numbers. To run a story on suicide or a gangland murder without thinking about the damage the story can do is simply not responsible. It¹s like giving a child a loaded gun. The media should try to balance such stories with some concern and consideration for those who may use it to imitate the act described.


(7) And finally, the media should reflect more on their role in creating our increasingly violent society. Honest reporting on the positive nature of being alive in the twenty-first century might actually decrease the negative outcomes of the copycat effect, and create a wave of self-awareness that this life is rather good after all. Most of our lives are mundane, safe, and uneventful. This is something that an alien watching television news from outer space, as they say, would never know. The media should "get real," and try to use their influence and the copycat effect to spread a little peace, rather than mayhem.

The Cramer article has been around for 20 years, and won a prize for ethics.  The book by Coleman has been available for over a decade.  Any thoughtful person can see the obvious connection between making anti-heros of public shooters and the potential to tip unbalanced people over the edge, into an act that they see as immortalizing their otherwise miserable lives.

It is clear that the media would rather keep their power to use these events to push for more restrictive gun laws than prevent innocents from being murdered.  As Cramer noted, the coverage of school shooting is at least 8 times as large at that of similar mass homicides that do not involve guns.

In a strange twist, the old media actually benefit financially from these shootings:  Newtown Media Buys.

When media personalities try to pressure candidates to push for more restrictive gun laws, as happened recently with Dr. Carson, candidates should push back by asking why the media continues to promote public shootings for their own benefit. 


©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.  Link to Gun Watch

4 comments:

Johhn lake said...

Right on

Wireless.Phil said...

Same thing this morning, "a dark skinned man" shot and killed a Texas Sheriff’s dupty in Houston while hevwas filling his gas tank.

They think the caught the man.
abcnews.go.com/US/texas-sheriffs-deputy-shot-death-gas-station/story?id=33398192

There are more under the video for a Michigan trooper who was hit and dragged.

www.cnn.com/2015/08/28/us/michigan-police-trooper-dies/index.html

Anonymous said...

I was sickened watching the woman's father on Fox news - I just about puked when he said "What the hell do you need a machine gun for to go hunting?" This man was literally doing a blood dance on his own daughters grave, except she wasn't even in it yet (because she wasn't even autopsied yet).

I agree that the media is playing a pathetic game here, that is true. This woman's father is too - seeking to have his daughter's murder propel him into elected office when running prior on his own pathetic lack of merit couldn't get him there. Shame on media for giving him that platform.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking exactly the same thing. Carolyn McCarthy, version 2.0r Mark Kelly,when he thought he'd use his disabled wife to ride the wave.