We can’t stop the killings until we stop making killers famous

Steve ChampionWe have to make a decision as a culture and as a collection of human beings. With our fancy phones, the world media and Internet, we have developed a means of disseminating information with immediacy only imagined before. We have created a platform where very real monsters, warped people who would murder school children in the very places where we should have them feel the most appreciated and the most loved, can become immediately infamous. The innocent lives of 20 children sacrificed to gain instant fame in less than two hours.

Before the bodies of the victims can be properly identified and their families properly notified, these heinous acts have been documented, reported and discussed, the news media providers race one another to launch into full Special Programming Mode. They clamor to be the first to generate the Special Report, to create the brand-able graphic image and the shooter’s gruesome acts are, nearly immediately, immortalized on a shiny new Wikipedia page.

While we cannot imagine how the mind of any human being can conceive such an act solely to live in infamy, we can well conclude that, in fact, these monsters are doing exactly this, and for exactly these reasons. And we help. In fact, it cannot be done without our collective help, our role is the most vital link. They are served by our grotesque appetite for carnage.

We hang on every word. Tune into each report, begging for the same story to be told… over and over and over. For years and years after each more horrific event. The names of the shooters are immortalized in infamy, and the victims are forgotten, more quickly than they are buried.

If the names of the victims can be buried with such callous and immediate disregard, can we not find if worth burying and disregarding the names and faces of the heinous cowards who murder them just to imagine they will be famous? But, is this fame imagined? No, it is not. The shooters all, quite literally, become icons and are certainly revered to the next generations of shooters. This has been well documented. Each of us can name a half dozen or more right now. Please don’t.

We give this to them freely. We, and the Media, willingly and as quickly as humanly and technologically possible. So, are we responsible? No, we are not, not for the killing, not for pulling the trigger and not for the acts themselves.

What we are responsible for is, understanding why these monsters do these things. How, as warped as it is to imagine, they would kill children to get famous, but, this understanding also comes with a tremendous responsibility.

Once understood, we must acknowledge that when we accept the manner in which the media delivers this sort of news, we endorse the way they have chosen to deliver it. The media, who responds entirely to these twisted desires, attempts to sate our unbridled and shameful craving for all the grisly details.

So, we are not responsible for the latest school murders. We are only responsible for the next ones.

A new standard must be demanded of our news providers and of ourselves. They must be convinced to use the free press we grant them to choose to scrub the names and faces of the shooters from any and all reports of their heinous crimes. And we must deny our shameful desire to acknowledge them for entertainment.

We should insist that, under the threat of losing their broadcast/business licenses if necessary, any and all commercial media sources must never use the names and images of the shooters. Their Facebook pages and websites should be overrun by millions of viewers objecting to the use of shooter’s names. In the marketplace we should let advertising clients know that they will not tolerate advertising on media outlets that use the shooter’s names and images. Legislation could be enacted to make this the law of the land.

Because we can be 100% certain that these shooters freely choose to kill our children, just so we can then make them infamous, we have to decide to deny that fame. This, or accept our role in the next shooting.

This is within our power. We can insist on decency and not infringe on our rights to free speech. Insisting on refusing to speak these monster’s names is how we should express our right to communicate. Write your Congressman, bomb the Facebook pages of your radio, TV and Internet news providers. Send them the same message with the same frequency that they would feed us the names and images of the worst of humanity.

We may not be able to prevent mass killings, but we can remove instantaneous infamy as a motivation. So, what can we do? Cut and paste this and send it out. Be creative about who you send it to.

Stopping senseless “infamy” killings is more important than the Media’s view of the “Free Press.”

Dear ________________, I must respectfully insist that you refuse to use the names and display the images of those who commit mass murders. Report the news, remember the victims, but deny the perpetrators of these crimes any hint of fame or recognition. Do this in the memory of their victims and to take personal and professional responsibility for trying to prevent the next “infamy” killings.

We intend to respond to your advertising clients in the same fashion. We recognize that these cowardly murderers commit their crimes to gain exactly the infamy what you are so willing to give them. We cannot tolerate this as part of a “Free Press” and refuse to endorse or tolerate such disregard for the victims of these crimes.

Further, immediately remove their names and images from current and all past reports in your archives. Let these shooters be unnamed and forgotten as soon as possible. This is not a “freedom of the press” issue, this is an issue about protecting our children. Before you present an argument otherwise, let us be very clear at the outset. We will choose OUR OPINION of the safety of our children over YOUR OPINION of what freedoms the press should enjoy. We are also fully prepared to argue this point with your advertisers and NOT in the courtroom.

Thank you,

Please forward, cut and paste the message above to every media provider and advertiser you can find. If their advertising revenues dry up, we’ll never hear the names of the monsters again.

Lastly, before you shrug your shoulders and cast this off as wishful thinking or an idea too grand or improbable to implement, consider what you would want had these been your children. We should be prepared and willing to do whatever they would like for us to do. Is our pathetic desire for grisly news worth allowing this to continue?

Steve Champion is the father of three precious children and publisher of a Kentucky newspaper, the Green Gazette.

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