Skip links

A Call For Change

by Anthony Beattie

As the US deals with another tragedy, and one hard to understand as the victims are primarily elementary school children, we search for answers. There isn’t enough that can be done, there aren’t condolences to fit, in this time. And all those in recovery, like those in Oxford, Michigan, are forced to relive their own tragedy, the memories of horror refreshed.

There will be finger pointing, as we Americans love to have scapegoats, someone to blame, rather than acknowledge we all play a part in shaping these events. There will be calls for change: more target hardening, more gun control, more security at schools, more mental health resources; most create more debate than agreement. However, the purpose of this writing is to call for a change that can be widely supported.

As psychologists and mental health workers examine those who have committed such attacks, one common thread amongst them is the recognition that is received in creating the terror. Whether the notoriety is a primary motivation or simply a consideration depends on the individual attacker; yet it is a consideration for them all. 

Worse, the attention that is given to the attacker becomes fuel for those plotting their own attacks, each adding to the notion in the next killer’s head that these attacks are not only accepted but glorified; name recognition makes them famous, compounding the idea that these monsters are worthy of recognition. Their names get mentioned repeatedly, in every article, news story, document related to the terrible day, while those who were lost get listed only as a number. 

Preventing these attacks is complicated, an issue decades in the making that will take many years to resolve. Yet one aspect of motivation can be easily removed if we simply stand together – omit the name of the killer from publication. We are a news-hungry society; we don’t have to not report the murders, the series of events can be shared and discussed: we simply eliminate the killer’s name. 

Media is most accountable for this, so legislation can – and should – be enacted in every state against name usage.  Responsible media outlets can self-censor these incidents, as M-Live did yesterday.  Legislation could specify that in mass homicides the name of the accused shall not be published, with significant fines (say $25,000 per victim) distributed to the families of the victims every time the name is listed. Next action against individuals can be included. Finally, the courts and criminal justice system can help, giving a pseudonym or number to the attacker, removing them from historical records entirely. 

There is time to discuss the changes that need to be made, even the implementation of legislation or other aspects of name elimination. There isn’t time to delve into the statistics of these incidents, or debate the worthiness of the measure, as news, articles, vlogs and comments increase. Let’s join together in honoring those killed by refusing to mention the name of their murderer.

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your web experience.