Overwhelming evidence shows that the worldwide publicizing and outright glorification mass media does on behalf of mass murderers, perpetuates and guarantees more mass murders. Like the willful spreading of a lethal contagion, mass media continues to uphold their end of the pact with the killers. Mass media will continue to do this because broadcasting mass murder is very profitable. Also, mass media currently bears no responsibility or liability for the mass murders they cause. The question is not, “Why do people commit mass murder?” The question is not, “Why does mass media willingly cause mass murder?” The questions are, “Why does the public allow the media to get away with murder?” and, “What will stop them?” Mass media has had years to do the right thing and has failed miserably. Clearly mass media’s profits are more important to them than the loss of life and sorrow they willingly and knowingly help create. To reduce mass murders the killers reward, massive free publicity for themselves and their message, needs to be removed. To stop mass media from helping mass murderers with free publicity, the media’s reward, profit, needs to be removed. Mass media’s profit needs to be removed in a way that is just as sensational as the horrible and tragic events they crave.
Mass media really has a great thing going. The more they broadcast and sensationalize the mass murderers and the killer’s message, the more mass murders occur. The more mass murders occur, the more they get to broadcast, and the more they profit, and the vicious cycle or profit from tragedy continues. Like a perpetual money machine that runs on public sorrow. In a riot, the mob mentality rules, individuals are emboldened by the anonymity of being “lost in a crowd”. The same goes for the media companies and reporters for their part in mass murders. Once a few members of the media are singled out and held accountable and liable in the legal sense for their actions, the others will fall in line. A few mass media outlets need to be held accountable for their willful participation in mass murders and a new precedent set. There is an anonymous saying, “With great power goes great responsibility”. It should say, “With great power should go great responsibility, or wicked things will follow.” Without question, mass media has “great power” to influence the public, but they currently have no responsibility. Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” With regards to mass media’s participation in mass murders, this saying was never truer. The media and their sword has killed hundreds of people by proxy and produced millions in profit.
Is the public really aware of the connection mass media has with mass murders? Does the public know most mass murderers put together what could be called a mass murderer’s “press release package” well in advance of the massacres? Some press release packages contain written manifestos, pictures and often self-videos. According to (Powell, Self, 2011, p.1) One killer spent weeks before the killings making his press release pack of 27 QuickTime videos, a 1,800-word manifesto, and 43 photographs. On that fateful day, this killer warmed up by killing two people, then went back to his room and finished his press release package. Next, he took his mass murderers press release package to the post office and mailed it overnight to NBC News in New York. Finally, he went back to the school and killed 30 more people. “The mass media plays a large role in perpetuating the image of the mass murderer as a pseudo-celebrity. This glorifies and glamorizes mass murder for those disempowered individuals who feel angry and vengeful, and could even provide potential mass murderers with tips on how to carry out a ‘successful’ mass murder (as is evident in copycat killings)” (Aitken, Oosthuizen, Emsley, Seedat, 2008). Another researcher believes the national broadcast of a mass murder not only “helped the murderer achieve his goals of broadcasting his views, possibly achieving ‘martyrdom’, and it may inadvertently encourage copycat murderers, as if a race were on to increase the body count” (Lee, Lee 2007 p.36). One killer compared himself to the two Columbine High student killers, calling them martyrs, apparently hoping others would describe him similarly. That image became his reward (Powell, Self, 2011 p. 29). “Part of this calculus of evil is competition. Dr. Mullen spoke to a perpetrator who “gleefully admitted that he was “going for the record.” “Investigators found that the Newtown shooter kept a “score sheet” of previous mass shootings. He may have deliberately calculated how to maximize the grotesqueness of his act” (Schulman 2013). I believe if the general public truly understood the cause and effect mass media has on mass murders, action would be taken.
Many believe that nothing can be done about mass murder except ban all guns. This is false; the public had easier access to guns in the past, and mass murders did not happen like they do today. More importantly, merely banning guns will not address the root of the problem. It is the people that have changed. People are becoming more narcissistic to the point some have called it, “The narcissism epidemic” (Twenge, Miller, Campbell 2014). In 2012, a study at the University of California, Los Angeles found that a desire for fame solely for the sake of being famous was the most popular future goal among a group of 10-12-year-olds, overshadowing hopes for financial success, achievement, and a sense of community (Uhls, Greenfield, 2012). Guns are the current tool to achieve the needed body count to satisfy mass media. Mass media is also anti-gun so the use of a firearms in mass murders seems to offer bonus points in the amount of coverage given as well.
None of these mass murders happened because the killer just “snapped” one day. Many killers put months of planning into their project. These killers were narcissistic, felt entitled, very patient, not stupid, very creative and they knew they had to kill a large number of people to get their message into the mass media. Removing one form of killing from an individual with this level of determination will not stop them. In fact, the new form of killing they would find, would probably increase the number of causalities dramatically.
The media knows all the above information and has chosen to ignore it completely. The media is completely unwilling to act responsibly or self-regulate. They hide behind statements like, “It’s the public’s right to know,” and “freedom of the press,” “free speech” and so on. In reality, none of that really protects them. Only our apathy and inaction protects them. Nobody can say whatever they want; there are limits. If someone yelled fire in a crowded theater when there was no fire and people died, that person would go to prison. People can not print stories calling for the killing of a known individual or the President. If it is true that the public has a right to know, then they also have a right not to know. What will stop mass media from helping cause mass murder and get them to act responsibly? The answer to; what will reduce mass murderer’s motivation to kill is the same, remove their rewards. For mass media, that would be profits. If the entire cigarette industry, asbestos industry and others as a whole can be taken to court, so can mass media. A class action lawsuit involving all the victim’s families, survivors and other traumatized individuals from every mass murder in recent history would prevail. Especially if the jury heard a quote like this from one mass murderer talking about another mass murderer that was in the media, “On an interesting note, I have noticed that so many people like him (the other killer) are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are,” the post reads. “A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.” Mass media willingly causes mass murders and should be held accountable.
Aitken, L., Oosthuizen, P., Emsley, R., & Seedat, S. (2008). Mass murders: Implications for mental health professionals. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 38(3), 261-269
Iyengar, R., & Luckerson, V. (2015, October 2). What We Know So Far About the Oregon Shooter. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from http://time.com/4059136/oregon-shooter-ucc-chris-harper-mercer
Lee J, Lee TS, Ng BY. Reflections on a mass homicide. Annals of the Academy of Medicine 2007;36 (6): 444-447.
Powell, L., Self, W. R. (2011). The rhetoric of sacrifice in the “Rantings” of the Virginia Tech killer. Journal of Communication & Religion, 34(1), 24-36.
Schulman, A. N. (2013, November 8). What Mass Killers Wan And How to Stop Them. Retrieved November 28, 2015, from The Wall Street Journal website: http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303309504579181702252120052
Twenge, J. M., Miller, J. D., & Campbell, W. K. (2014). The narcissism epidemic: Commentary on Modernity and narcissistic personality disorder. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, And Treatment, 5(2), 227-229.
Uhls, Y. T., & Greenfield, P. M. (2012). The value of fame: Preadolescent perceptions of popular media and their relationship to future aspirations. Developmental Psychology, 48(2), 315-326. doi:10.1037/a0026369