Saturday, October 03, 2015

"No Notoriety" movement in the media would have limited effect, is not a substitute for problems with guns, mental illness, and even inequality

“Refusing to name killers is just a placebo for our gun illness”, reads a print headline in the Style section of the Washington Post Saturday morning, for an essay by Philip Kennicott. Online, the title is “Refusing to say a killer’s name is no more than symbolic empowerment,” link here

This piece is about the “No Notoriety” movement (link ), which encourages media to refrain from naming perpetrators of mass events, because their motives seem to be to seek fame at death, after they’ve concluded they have nothing to live for. The Post has another front page story that goes into that.  (CNN will present the "No Notoriety" argument Sunday morning Oct. 4.)

I would tend to agree with Kennicott.  I think the effectiveness of the idea is limited.  I would agree with  President Obama, that voters need to communicate that they may want more thorough background checks for gun owners, to say the least.  But members of Congress and of legislators of many states don’t seem to believe it.  Some of the GOP candidates (Bush) say “stuff happen” and “people commit crimes, guns don’t”.  Even Trump talks about mental illness now. It is true that "No Notoriety" does attempt to reduce the likelihood of copycats. 
So sometimes perpetrators of events like this do have a “message”, however warped.  Ted  Kaczynski thought he was attacking depending on technology (and some of his “manifesto”, published by the Post and Times in 1995, actually gives cogent criticism of “socialization”.  More recently, it seems that Elliot Rodger  (I mention the name) wanted to convey the idea that other contemporaries of him were actually weaker than him and shouldn’t be able to find love or have children if he couldn’t.  If that idea took hold, it could become socially disruptive for some people.  It sounds like something out of Nazi Germany.  But hardly anyone will read “My Twisted World” even though it is easy to find (free) online.  No one who values a democratic society can take such thinking seriously.  (This thinking style was an issue when I was a patient at NIH in 1962.) In the latest incident in Oregon, Mercer (I’ll repeat the name) seemed to harbor a similar style of thinking, but it also seems that he identified with Flanagan in Virginia, as reported by CBS News here   (Salon gives some links to Mercer's 4chan exchange through a New York Times article, here.) There is an idea that a hypercompetitive world like ours gives some people no real chance. 
There is always talk about remembering and honoring victims.  For younger people, I get it; but I would have trouble with that idea (“honor”) for myself at age 72 if I was taken down by someone else disgruntled by my own apparent level of “privilege” in some sort of future incident. (The bringing in of the topic of religious persecution will seem relevant to some people.)  There would be a lesson from it, but it would not be honorable for me, given my own life narrative.  I would be paying for someone else's wrong (but disillusionment), whatever the idea of Grace. 
But the implications of “inequality”” can get very personal.

Update: Oct. 13

Ashton Kutcher's "A Plus" has an article "Cure the contagion: How different storytelling could save lives and stop mass shootings", link here.

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