More than a week after James Holmes allegedly murdered 12 people and injured 58 others in a crowded Colorado movie theatre, a myriad questions have been raised about how and why someone could do this — and what can be said and done to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again. Some suggest that limiting the news coverage and screen time that the alleged killer has received may take away some of the impact of his actions and deter potential copycats. But limiting coverage will do nothing to stop anyone from following this example.
In the intense media circus following the shootings, videos and pictures of Holmes’ face and bright red hair have been fixtures on a variety of newscasts and articles, making James Holmes an unfortunate household name. This raises the question of whether so much publicity should be given not only to Holmes but all perpetrators in situations like these. It’s argued that not only does it give them a kind of twisted celebrity status, but it can inspire admirers and copycats to try their own hand at murder. Some people like Tom Teves, father of one of the Aurora murder victims have gone so far as to say that Holmes’ name and photo should not be mentioned or shown during newscasts.
Unless you’ve been personally affected by a tragedy like this, there’s no way to understand what these victims and their families are going through. And there’s no doubt that seeing pictures and videos of the person who allegedly murdered your family member or friend stirs up strong emotions. People like Tom Teves and others related to the shooting victims believe that by giving publicity to the killer, it could make the whole thing seem to the perpetrator like it was worth it.
Although there’s absolutely no debate that the main focus should be on the victims and their families during this time, and they should never be forgotten, completely ignoring a killer and who that person was will change nothing, and only serves to ignore something that is not going away. Whether you show his picture or not, if he is convicted, James Holmes will be forever remembered for the Colorado shooting. Instead of pretending he doesn’t exist, it’s important to understand who this person was and why he did what he did. He’s at the center of all this and it’s a news agency’s job to report all sides of a story, regardless of how morbid it may be.
By giving Holmes all this infamy, some believe that other “copycat” killers will be inspired to make their own news. But if there are copycats out there, they’re going to kill whether or not Holmes’ face is on the news. If someone is at a point where they are willing to kill based on the fame it might bring them, they have deep problems. When it comes down to it, unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to predict when or if someone will transition from “deep problems” to murderer.
The Aurora shooting and similar tragedies like Columbine, Virginia Tech and even the recent shooting at HUB Mall are events that affect entire communities and for this reason are worth discussing — regardless of whether or not giving the shooter fame is what he wanted. Confronting a tragedy is never easy, but trying to avoid something uncomfortable like photos or videos of a killer will not help anything.
These killers don’t deserve the infamy they get, but it’s an unfortunate side effect that comes from reporting on the story. And given that, instead of trying to hide something that someone finds offensive, it’s better to confront it head on — to show that one person’s horrible actions will not destroy an entire community.
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