December 16, 2012
Writing for Forbes, Joseph Grenny stated the following in the wake of today’s mass shooting in Connecticut where a man named Adam Lanza used his mother’s gun to kill her along with 26 people, including 20 children, which followed another mass shooting in Oregon earlier this week in which a man killed two people in a shopping mall:
This week, I watched in horror with most of America, as yet another person unleashed a furry of bullets in a busy Portland, Oregon, mall killing two and injuring others. But my horror was twofold. The first misery came as I heard the names and numbers of victims and thought about the pain they and their families will endure for the rest of their lives. The second dose came as I held my breath, hoping and praying the media wouldn’t amplify the violence.
But they did.
They did exactly what they needed to do to influence the next perpetrator to lock and load.
- They named the shooter.
- They described his characteristics.
- They detailed the crime.
- They numbered the victims.
- They ranked him against other “successful” attackers.
He goes on to say the following:
We need to discuss the merits and morality of a law. I don’t suggest a broad one – but one that matches responsibility with influence. It’s already illegal to use free speech to incite others to criminal acts. So if we know a particular kind of speech is inciting violence, how can we appropriately limit it? Is there a way to do so without creating a slippery slope that limits all speech that tenuously connects to some kind of mischief? And if a law is the wrong device, what can we do to make Stephen King’s response the norm rather than the exception?
For example, we know naming a shooter amplifies his or her influence. We know that when his or her race, gender and other personal characteristics are detailed, those who see themselves as similar are far more likely to feel a sense of permission to follow suit. We know details of the crime act as a virtual workshop for would-be acolytes. And for heaven’s sake, when body counts are not only reported but even compared to previous perpetrators, you incite a hideous competition.
It’s time our media leaders wake up to the fact that they are not just reporting these crimes. Depending on how they report them, they are accomplices in them.
It is also time our legislators consider taking up the task the media appears unwilling to assume. We need to match responsibility with influence.
Grenny has every right to express his views, which he obviously enjoys doing, but he doesn’t realize such a law would eventually creep upon his own right to free speech.
There are already limits to free speech under the time, place and manner restrictions, some that make sense, some that don’t make sense.
A restriction that forbids the media from identifying the shooter and numbering the victims in the belief that it would curtail copycat shootings would eventually lead to a media blackout on these incidents where they don’t even get reported.