After last week’s mass shooting at a community college, an Oregon sheriff told the news media he wouldn’t be uttering the gunman’s name.
The sheriff isn’t the first person to raise the question of notoriety as a possible “contagion” in mass shootings. Tom and Caren Teves, whose son Alex was among those murdered in the Aurora movie theater shootings, have begun a campaign called “No Notoriety,” which aims to raise journalists’ awareness of the possible link between media coverage of the gunman (especially photos, manifestos, recordings, etc) and subsequent shootings.
There is some evidence that shooters are inspired by each other. The gunman in Oregon wrote about the guy who killed the two TV journalists in Roanoke — and what he had to say was somewhat admiring. Similarly, the Sandy Hook gunman who took the lives of 20 children and six adults was apparently inspired by the Columbine killers.
But what about our obligation to bear witness, to tell the truth as we know it? Can we meet that obligation without contributing to a cycle of violence (disturbed individual + guns + fame = more shootings)?
CNN has done a pretty good job in this piece of summing up the arguments on these difficult questions. It’s your ethics moment for tomorrow. Read the CNN piece. Think. And then comment here.