Why We Shouldn't Obsess Over the Charleston Shooter

June 18th 2015

Laura Donovan

Much of the U.S. is in mourning following Wednesday's mass shooting at the historically Black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine dead, including South Carolina state Sen. Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Thursday morning to show sympathy and condemn the "senseless murders" at the church:

President Obama and many others are heartbroken by the tragedy, which unfortunately is all too familiar in America's history of violence. In December 2012, 20 children and six adults were fatally shot in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Four years ago, six people were killed at a Tucson, Ariz., constituent meeting led by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a gunshot wound to her head. Last year, multiple shootings occurred at the National War Memorial and Parliament building in Ottawa, Canada and one soldier was killed.

As we noted in the fall, Canadian newscaster Rex Murphy made a bold move when he refused to name the shooter in the Ottawa tragedy. Instead, he noted the incredible life of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who perished in the shooting. He also commended Canadian House of Commons' sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, who killed the shooter.

"The killer was a hateful brute; let us not name him," Murphy said. "But today was not the damn killer's, it produced a master counterexample: the sergeant-at-arms, Mr. Kevin Vickers. Mr. Vickers, the whole country is unanimous on all the matters that count: bravery, duty, selflessness, you are as good as they get. The office of sergeant-at-arms can never have been better filled. So as we mourn the soldier, Corporal Cirillo, let us honor the sergeant, Mr. Vickers. They encompass between them so much of what we Canadians choose to admire and love."

After a major tragedy, it's common for media outlets to delve deep into the lives and possible motives of the people who carry out mass shootings, but as ATTN: pointed out less than a year ago in the wake of the Ottawa tragedy, "the news allocates significantly more time to covering a shooter and his or her grisly antics than focusing on the more important question of how to solve or prevent such massacres. The fixation on the killer makes them an anti-hero celebrity of sorts, which only signifies to other unstable people that they can achieve fame and validation for mass-murder."

Just a few months after the horrendous 2013 Boston marathon bombings, Rolling Stone came under fire for putting one of the bombers on the cover of its August issue, a gesture some argued seemed to put the surviving bomber in the same category as a celebrity:

"I didn't even like the title 'The Bomber,' it almost makes him sound cool," Cenk Uygur of "The Young Turks" said two years ago. "I don't want to glorify these guys at all. In fact, on this show, we have a policy of not mentioning the name of the Newtown shooter. That's when we started that policy. You see it in their writings, oftentimes they say, 'I saw all the attention those other guys got and I want to go out with a bang. They're dreaming of covers like this."

As we previously noted, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz suggests heavier reporting on the communities impacted by these mass tragedies and not on the shooters.

“Every time we have intense saturation of coverage of a mass-murder we expect to see one or two more within a week," Dietz said. "If you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don't start the story with sirens blaring, don't have photographs of the killer, don't make this 24/7 coverage."

These are the names of the victims of Charleston's church shooting:



In memoriam of the Charleston, South Carolina victims. #IamAME

Posted by ATTN: on Thursday, June 18, 2015