Friday, October 9, 2015
Uncopying the CopyCat Killings on Campuses
What should we do?
Suspect Is Held After 4 Are Shot at Arizona University
Shooting at Texas Southern University Kills One
We are in the middle of a series of copycat killings on college campuses. There have been three this week. One was near me here in Oregon, now another in Arizona, and one in Texas.
The timing of these indicates copycats. We also know from the writings left by their predecessors, young males all, that being some kind of imagined hero or celebrity is a lot of the motivation for these killings. Repeatedly these young men have actually said they are shooting people because they want "to be somebody". So said the young killer of nine in the Charleston, South Carolina church. Yes, he was racially motivated, but the principle appeal of being a killer of black people was that it would, he believed, elevate him to hero status. "Some white person has to be hero enough to do it," he wrote. "I guess it has to be me." They see all the publicity the other killers have had and they confuse that with fame or heroism.
Let's go back to the prototypical killer of the modern era: Lee Harvey Oswald, killer of President John Kennedy. Before the assassination, when he came back from having briefly disaffected to Russia, he was crushed that he was not met at the plane by a clutch of reporters. He made sure, therefore, that fame/infamy would not continue to pass him by. He desperately wanted to be somebody, be known. Killing a president would be just the ticket.
We create these people.
We go nuts over "celebrities" who have absolutely no real claim to fame. They aren't great scientists or humanitarians or artists. They are just celebrities. Right now we have been celebrating celebrity in the person of Donald Trump. He has been all over the media ad nausea. But he is a nothing. Just a nothing who took some money from his father and made more money. Big deal. He has one small ability, i.e. to be a smart ass. Nevertheless, for years NBC has had him on screen all the time on the MSNBC show "Morning Joe". This made him a somebody. He was on TV.
This is what we teach the lop-sided young men who kill to be on TV. You gotta be somebody. "I coulda been a contender, Charlie," Marlon Brando whimpered in "On The Waterfront". "I coulda been somebody." At least the boxer character Brando played was willing to take some punches to be somebody. Of course, I'm not suggesting that today's monstrous killers are Brando copycats. They have no idea of anything as arcane as "On the Waterfront", more's the pity. Perhaps there is just something perpetual in America's young men, a yearning to be more than a face in the crowd.
We feed this. We play up celebrity generally to a ridiculous level. We then reward these killers with exactly what they wanted. They get played up enormously in all the media. Their names and faces are everywhere. They are pseudo-psychoanalyzed on TV and in the press. They are more famous than God.
We have to stop this. We have to stop publicizing the names and faces of these monsters. We must not reward their inhuman, maniac killing. We can certainly report on the killing. We can say the killer was a male of such and such age. But never a picture of the scum nor his name on TV or in print.
This will be hard to achieve, but not as hard as keeping weapons out of their hands. There are an estimated 238 million guns in the USA, which is enough for every two out of three Americans. Anybody can get a gun. Further, we have no apparatus for identifying these potential killers, denying them guns, and providing them effective psychological care. Worst of all, we have no prospects of ever getting "gun control" or good psychological care.
But we can prohibit publicizing the identities of the killers. We already do this in other types of crime. The media are prohibited from identifying rape victims in many jurisdictions and are prohibited almost everywhere from identifying juvenile offenders.
Stop rewarding these killers. It is a solid principle of law that criminals are not allowed to profit from their crimes. Why let the worst of criminals profit in exactly the way they wanted? More to the point, why continue to hold out to wannabe killers the prospect that they can reap the reward they want for their killing.
We have to do something. They are killing our children. Our elderly. Our beloved.
We have to do something.