It is a very sad day for this country when one could name a recent public or mass murder without thinking twice about it. With many people age tied to an electronic device, the news on these tragedies is constantly streamed to us and constantly at the forefront of our minds.
The trend with the people who are mentally disturbed enough to commit these unspeakable acts seems to be that they have become completely aware of how ravenously today’s society feeds on the bloody headlines. The most recent tragedy, the slaying of the Virginia news reporters, exemplifies how a sick person played the media and society like a violin to get his twisted last revenge.
In a 2006 Pew Research Center study about “Generation Next” – people 18-25 at the time of the study for analysis purposes – it was discovered that one-in-ten Nexters say their generation’s most important goal is to be famous. Although the Virginia shooter, whose name doesn’t deserve the honor of repeating, lies outside of the Generation Next age limits, he reflects this new hunger for fame in society.
By giving these maniacs the publicity they are quite literally prepared to die for, we are fueling the fire of future massacres. For every unspeakable act that is pasted all over newsfeeds and front pages, the idea of murder creating notoriety is pushed deeper and deeper into the psyche of those “human powder kegs,” as the Virginia shooter described himself in his manifesto.
Since Columbine, every future mass murderer has cited the high school shooters and any killer that preceded themselves as motivation for their actions. So by putting their names and faces everywhere we turn, the idea is solidified for them that murder will make them unforgettable.
Publicity is not always the only motive in the minds of these killers. Most have lived lives of social seclusion, festering hate in their hearts for all mankind rather than just those they saw treating them unjustly. Often it seems they feel unheard or unnoticed and this life-long invisibility drives them to make sure their voices will finally be heard. Despite their torrid pasts, it does not take away the horror of their actions or the lengths they went through to make their names branded into the minds of Americans.
The Virginia shooter obviously felt frustration over his inability to make a name for himself in his career at WDBJ – the station he formerly worked at with his future victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. He claimed to harbor hatred towards his past colleagues for racist comments that further pushed him to the sidelines of society in his eyes. With or without the claims of racist comments, what pushed this murderer was the thought of finally achieving the notoriety he longed for.
Because the Virginia shooter worked in the news business, he knew exactly how to enact his last revenge, but also how to make every detail of his plan so wince-worthy and so thought out that news stations everywhere would have no choice but to broadcast it in depth.
In the journalism world it has been said, and made famous by the movie “Nightcrawler,” that “if it bleeds, it leads.” As a past journalist, the Virginia shooter knew that an on-air slaying would be so horrible the whole world couldn’t look away. We have to find it in ourselves as a society to untrain that instinctual draw to all things morbid. For every story we click or share, the depth of these killers’ impact grows deeper and the fame to their name grows bigger.
So erase your memory of the name of Dylann Roof, forget all about Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, refrain yourself from sharing another link about the ex-news reporter who snapped. Instead, remember the names of those that have fallen at the hands of these inhumane creatures. Remember Cynthia Hurd, who lost her life in the Charleston shooting; remember Alison Parker, who was publicly murdered by the Virginia shooter; remember Lauren Townsend, who died at the hands of the Columbine killers.
It is impossible to forget these heinous crimes, and it would be wrong to, but for every time you go to speak the name of someone who died for the want of their name on your lips, speak instead of those who lost their lives to these crimes which should be considered unimaginable.