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We Can All Stop Making Killers Famous

Roseburg last Thursday, an hour south of where I live. Charlotte, Aurora, Lafayette, Newtown, and on it goes. As a society, we go on and on, bemoaning these mass shootings. But we don’t do anything about it. Congress does nothing. Local legislatures do very little. So we just hate that it happens, and go on, bracing ourselves for the next one.

But wait – there is something we can do to make these things less likely. It doesn’t take laws, just agreement. And our society has done the exact same thing before, related to rape victims and minors. So why the hell not? What’s wrong with us?

The rest of this post is exactly the same as one I wrote almost three years ago. Yes almost three years ago. Why can’t we do this?

Let’s not publish killers’ names or pictures.

Let’s all agree. Sign petitions. Make demands. Tell the New York Times and Huffington Post and Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and all the newspapers, all the new channels, all the online news, all the bloggers:

Let’s not publish killers’ names or pictures. 

This could happen. There is precedent for it: Media don’t publish names or pictures of rape victims. Thank God for that. And it was done by general agreement, and there is no downside; everybody wins. Free press isn’t compromised when it’s a voluntary restraint. So too, media could agree not to publish the names or pictures of these killers. We don’t have to pass a law about it (although we ought to). We just have to make it the ethical norm.

man with face blurred and crossed out

Let me be clear: I am no way suggesting that this idea replace the need for better laws on guns, or that this is instead of better laws on guns. I don’t want to be guilty of suggesting we outlaw costumes in theaters instead of guns. This would be in addition to that. And this, unlike gun laws, is something concrete that we can do. We could be effective.,

All we really have to do is agree, enough of us, vocally enough, on this simple rule:

Let’s not publish killers’ names or pictures. 

What we’d get from that is a reasonable chance to change the equation the next time some sick person gets the impulse. Obviously nobody knows what strange combination of factors converge as a person commits these horrific acts; but there’s an obvious possibility that one of the influencers is getting worldwide attention, being famous, being a celebrity.

We all know the strange power and attraction of celebrity. And we can all guess how that influences the killers.

With some of these killers, it’s not just 15 minutes of fame; it’s forever. There are serial killers who are better known in our society than some great leaders.

And the attention on serial killers. Think of some huge box office moves focusing on serial killers. Think of the network television series focusing on serial killers. Now think of what’s in the mind of the next person who might be capable of committing a monstrosity like last week. What’s the chance that the attention, the celebrity, the “everybody knows my name” factor mixes into the concoction of self pity, rage, and revenge that has them grab a gun.

We could change that part of the equation, all of us, by getting together and insisting:

Let’s not publish killers’ names or pictures. 

So what do we do? We join up. We start saying it. I’ve never been a movement kind of a person, so I don’t know how we get going; but maybe you do. Where to we start the petition? How do we organize it? If you think it’s a good idea, then help me get going on this.

And what about a hashtag? #nofame4killers is the best I can come up with. Can we do better?


  • Gerald Richards says:

    Stupid American gun laws don’t help. Even the NRA can’t get their slogan right i.e. “Guns don’t kill, people do” Hello, it’s the bullet that kills. And we all know that bullets are the conversation of the weak.

  • Guy Francis Dennis says:

    Look how famous the theatre shooter here in Denver got. One channel devoted all of its programming to live trial coverage every day for months giving the guy a daily ego trip.

  • Guy Francis Dennis says:

    I had the same idea a long time ago. If I were president of the world, I’d make these people so unknown that even they wouldn’t know what they did. You can absolutely bet it is the famous factor that causes them to go this route.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Guy, yes, I think when I first posted in 2012 you had already suggested it. I wish we could find the leverage to get it past just a few of us, into the mindspace of editors, media owners, advertisers, and general public.

    • Gerald Richards says:

      Sorry Guy. For you to be President/ Prime Minister of the World you would have to change America’s gun laws to fit in with the rest of civilised society

  • Sean Serrels says:

    Well said Tim.. Let us remember the Heros and forget the villains..

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