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Fame-seeking mass shooters get more media coverage, study finds
Is it time media outlets stop publishing the names and photographs of mass shooters?
- The study examined mass shootings from 1966 to 2018, finding that shootings have become more common and more deadly since 2000.
- The results showed that fame-seeking mass shooters received significantly higher media coverage than their counterparts, with 97 percent of fame-seeking mass shooters getting a mention from the New York Times.
- Recent research shows connections between the amount of media coverage on mass shootings and their likelihood to occur shortly after.
Mass shooters who seek fame tend to receive more media coverage than other shooters, according to new research that sheds light on an ongoing debate over how journalists should cover mass shootings.
The study, published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior, examined mass shootings in the U.S. from 1966 to 2018 and did not include police shootings, gang- and drug-related shootings, or those involving domestic violence. The researchers defined "fame-seeking" shooters by looking at the shooters' own manifestos, online profiles, police documents, suicide notes, and videos.
In addition to highlighting the fact that mass shootings have become more common and more deadly since 2000, the results showed that fame-seeking shooters received a disproportionate amount of media attention, with about 96 percent of them receiving at least one mention in the New York Times, compared to 74 percent of shooters who apparently weren't seeking fame.
"Fame-seeking shooters incur high victim counts, and receive disproportionately higher levels of media coverage. As such, the media is reinforcing their initial motivations, and potentially contributing to copycat criminality," study author Jason R. Silva, an assistant professor at William Paterson University, told PsyPost.
"While the 'No Notoriety' campaign and 'Don't Name Them' movement have been vital for reducing attention to perpetrators — and focusing on victims — there is still a need for further understanding of responsible reporting of mass shootings."
"When you see me on the news you'll know who I am"
These are words spoken by the person who killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.
Journalists, media critics, and the public have for years debated over how to cover mass shootings: Should shooter's be named? Their photographs revealed? How much coverage is too much? These are ethical questions that weigh several broad interests. First, beyond morbid curiosity, there's the public's interest in learning about what kind of person could be capable of carrying out such violence. But against that are valid concerns about the fact that covering mass shootings might lead to more people to commit them, as recent research has suggested. And finally, of course, there's a profit motive: People will reliably consume media about mass shooters, which makes money for media outlets.
In weighing these interests (or, more cynically, considering only the third), the majority of news outlets have decided to name shooters and display their photographs.
"Many of these at-risk individuals recognize that murdering large numbers of men, women, or children will guarantee them fame," wrote Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama who has studied the contagion effect of mass shootings. "They believe their names and faces will adorn newspapers, television, magazines, and the internet — and unfortunately, they are right."
But even if journalists choose not to name mass shooters — as, for example, Anderson Cooper chooses not to do — that won't prevent others on the internet from spreading the personal information of fame-seeking shooters. For example, the men behind this year's mass shootings in New Zealand and El Paso, Texas, for example, both posted manifestos online shortly before the attacks, and their names were widely circulated around websites like Reddit and 8chan — as was a live-streamed video of one of the shootings.
With the internet, mass shooters will always have an avenue for achieving notoriety. But by choosing to limit coverage of mass shootings and the people who commit them, mainstream media can help make the stars of mass shooters shine a bit less brightly. If nothing else, news outlets could simply stop showing photos of mass shooters.
"I've never heard anyone offer a cogent argument as to why seeing the face of a mass shooter is somehow helpful information for understanding how to prevent the next one," Lankford told the Los Angeles Times.
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.