Does Our Media Glamorize Mass Murderers?

Fatimah Mazhar
June 10, 2014: The media cannot, certainly, stop or prevent mass shootings. However, it can help murderers from becoming celebrities – and consequently an inspiration for copycats.


In case of a mass shooting in the age of the Internet, it’s not just the name of the murderer that is revealed.

In fact, sometimes it so happens that his entire life history; his likes, dislikes, hobbies, and fetishes reach the masses well before law enforcement agencies start looking into the case.

Something similar happened in the case of the 2014 Isla Vista massacre, in which a 22-year-old student slaughtered six people and left 13 others injured in a crazed shooting spree near University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), last month.

Only after a day into the incident, the disturbing details of his views about society and its people on his social media accounts were made public.

Somehow, judging by the video he made before the incident, and his written manifesto, it was evident that Rodgers knew his life story would become national news.

He was right. It did.

News outlets, if not intentionally, rewarded the mass murderer with notoriety.

He became a household name with his face being plastered across television screens 24/7 and his vile aspirations repeatedly being recited in serious voice-overs by reporters.

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The argument that mass murderers seek such infamy is not uncommon. It emerges each time a massacre takes place.

Two years ago, in the wake of Sandy Hook shooting, Zeynep Tufekci, a contributor forThe Atlantic, wrote, "I am increasingly concerned that the tornado of media coverage that swirls around each such mass killing and the acute interest in the identity and characteristics of the shooter...may be creating a vicious cycle of copycat effects..."

Renowned journalist, blogger, and columnist Ezra Klein reiterated the same concern in a Vox article last month.

"Mass murderers want glory and fame," he wrote. “Somehow, we need to stop giving it to them."

Richard Martinez, the father of one of the victims of the Isla Vista shooting, also pointed a finger at the media coverage of such ill-fated events.

 “These kids who do these things know they’re going to die, because they want the attention they know the tragedy will generate. And when we name them, show their picture and put it out there, you’ve just completed the plan,” he told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), adding that there might be some other person looking at all the coverage that the shooter is getting and is probably “getting ideas.”

In order to prevent this “copy-cat effect” of serial/mass killers, a Canadian news and opinion channel decided to withhold the name of a 24-year-old murderer who shot five officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) last week (June 4), killing three and severely injuring two others.

Surely, this step might not be able to prevent or stop such murders at any rate. This could, however, avert such characters from becoming an inspiration to potential killers.