Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Tragedy

Unsurprisingly, within minutes of the news of the Virginia Tech shootings, proponents and opponents of gun control saw in this tragedy a confirmation of their respective world views. For example, the Violence Policy Center issued a statement deeming such shootings "the inevitable result of the ease with which the firepower necessary to slaughter dozens of innocents can be obtained." As of 7 am Eastern Time today, the National Rifle Association had only issued a statement expressing condolences pending full discovery of all the facts, but that didn't stop individual NRA members on blogs and comment boards from drawing the exact opposite inference from the VPC: If just one of the law-abiding students had been legally permitted to carry a concealed handgun, he or she could have taken out the gunman at an early stage in his rampage.

I don't kid myself that this debate will be settled with empirical evidence (which is how, I think, sensible policy should be made), but I wonder whether common cause can be found around a different objective: non-disclosure of the identity of the gunman. As I post, all that has been released is the fact that the gunman was an Asian man, but it appears to be only a matter of time before more is known and, inevitably, disseminated to the public. Consistent with reporting other newsworthy details, wouldn't it make more sense to deny the gunman posthumous recognition --- if for no other reason than to discourage copycats seeking similar recognition? I don't propose censorship, just some measure of self-restraint on the part of the news media. And no, I don't believe my suggestion will be followed.

8 comments:

egarber said...

I can see the point. But something tells me it cuts the other way as well. Who is to say copycats wouldn't be equally attracted to the mythical flavor that comes with NOT being identified? This is extreme, but I almost think characters like Jack the Ripper are legends at least partly because they weren't identified at the time (somebody correct me if J the R was identified).

Sobek said...

"I don't propose censorship, just some measure of self-restraint on the part of the news media."

When I read the words "self-restraint" and "media" in the same sentence, my brain blew a gasket.

I think there is value in the ability to deconstruct the killer's viewpoint. One conservative blog I read consistently notes when media and law enforcement outlets immediately rush to claim that "no, this guy named Sheikh Ahmed, who was shouting 'Allahu akbar!' when he shot up that Jewish community center, was certainly not motivated by his religion." If nothing else, identifying the killer forecloses improper jumping to conclusions re: the Religion of Peace.

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