Should Media Publish the Names of Mass Killers? Radio Host Lars Larson says ‘Yes’

Send to Kindle

One of the debates that erupts following a mass shooting is whether the identity of the perpetrator should be revealed. Moreover, and as an extension of that debate, does publicizing the identity of the perpetrator inspire copycat crimes?

My friend, and the interviewer in the video above Jon Hodoway, believes that the media should refrain from releasing the name or identity of the killer as well as avoid posting photos of the individual on the nightly news, in newspapers, on the Internet, etc. Hodoway believes that the constant media attention only serves to glorify the A-hole (as he likes to label the killer) while encouraging other deranged persons to follow suit.

On the other side of the argument is nationally syndicated radio host Lars Larson, who we spoke to at SHOT Show 2016. Larson made several cogent points on why publicizing the name of the killer is the right thing to do.

For starters, Larson disputed the causal relationship between spree shooters and supposed copycats. Larson essentially argued that there is no way to prove a counter-factual. Next, he argued that there is a lot of useful information gathered by authorities when the public knows who the killer is, especially when the killer has not yet been caught. It stands to reason that a community on the lookout for a killer, is better than just a police department.

Lastly, Larson then said that even if the media wanted to keep the killer’s name a secret, it would be impossible to do because of social media. Everyone has access to the Internet, and thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, everyone has a platform to share information.

Jon and Lars also talked about the possibility of using public shaming, bringing back the stocks, to disincentive murderous and destructive behavior. Yet, to do that, it takes naming. As Lars said, “shaming takes naming.”

It’s an interesting discussion. No doubt about it. So, who’s right? Well, that’s just the thing. It’s really a matter of opinion.

Respected criminologist James Alan Fox, who studies spree killers, told The Washington Post in 2012, “How often must we see the alleged murderer’s name in print and his face shown in photographs from happier times? It is perfectly reasonable to shed light on the tragic event without a media spotlight on the alleged assailant. It is shameless, if not dangerous, to transform an obscure individual into an infamous somebody who may be revered and admired by a few folks on the fringe.”

Yet, he also cautioned that proving causation remains difficult.

“The empirical evidence isn’t strong,” said Fox. “It’s really all anecdotal.” It’s hard to know, for example, if a copycat would have simply committed a different crime to express his inner demons or no crime at all if he hadn’t heard of the first crime, Fox told the Post.

Where do you stand on this issue? Do you think we should publicize the name, identity of these spree killers?

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • 2B or not 2B 2A February 12, 2016, 6:42 am

    The problem is once the media gets the phsyco’s picture they show it over and over and over again. I can’t count how many times I saw Furgeson, MO. (Michael Brown) and Zimmerman pictures on the news, covering the entire 55″ TV screen. And the pictures of the thugs were from years prior, showing them in cap and gown from HS pictures, not depicting what they actually looked lked during the time of the infraction. So much so that their Facebook pages are shut down because they show the gangster thugs for what they truly are. If need be, show the pictures for a few days, if they must, then stop plastering them 20 times a day every day for months across our TV screens. There will always be one news outlet that has to outdo the other and get the pictures up first, so as not to be outdone. Even FOXNEWS is guilty of this, Michael Brown’s picture was of him not as he appeared during the shooting. I just don’t get it. It’s like someone with authority over ALL NEWS say’s “Ok people here is the picture you will use, and that’s that”.

  • gunflint February 6, 2016, 9:32 am

    The Radio should announce the Names of Government Officials who violate the Constitution of the United States. Any amendment 1st, 2nd, 3rd any Amendments./Bill of Rights !!

  • Robert Davis February 5, 2016, 10:34 pm

    A strategy for using public shaming to deal with mass killings is based on the premise that perpetrators of mass killings see media exposure of their misdeeds and flaws as a negative. There is a mountain of anecdotal evidence that this is not the case. The media exposure, including the “shaming” is exactly what these attention seeking mentally ill perpetrators are looking for, and every time the media does it, more of them receive positive reinforcement. It is a mistake to call these people copy-cats. They don’t want to be exactly like the last murderer, they have just been conditioned to believe that multiple fatalities will get them the attention that they desire, and we are letting that happen, again and again and again…

  • xt500max February 5, 2016, 2:17 pm

    The press is quick(er) to determine if the person is “white” but buries the image (if published at all) if a minority.
    Besides, if someone has info on ANYONE looking at their pix (like their previous crimes, activities, etc..) would
    assist the law enforcement on getting these animals.
    I would look at a mugshot and say; …”you got caught”……., now rot in your jail cell.

  • Fake Nicety Alcala Zamora y Torre February 5, 2016, 1:57 pm

    Someone should ask a question that, actually, has an answer. This is just noise.

    Like, “Why has our mental health system deteriorated to the point where almost no one can get decent care, unless they are wealthy?” Oh, that probably has no answer, either. At least no answer they’d like you to know.

  • Chief February 5, 2016, 12:27 pm

    I say give them no publicity and dump them in a hole in the ground without a marker if possible .These selfish, demented ,cowardly pieces of trash deserve nothing but a long painful death .The media is part of the problem because they sensationalize these evil people simply to increase their ratings or worse to move obama’s gun grabbing agenda as we have seen over the past years to what a degree the media is a tool for the left wing socialist cause .

  • Gary February 5, 2016, 11:26 am

    I personally believe that these scumbags CRAVE fame. They see how other scumbags get their pictures on TV and in print as well as on line, and they want their miserable non existent lives to finally mean something to THEM.
    It is sort of like the actors in the Jackass movies. Hitting golf balls into their chests, being kicked in the balls, etc. People WATCH it. It does not matter how stupid it is, or how disgusting, they still watch it. I would guess that the type of people that do these horrible things probably enjoy this type of entertainment a great deal as well.
    They see some creeps photo over and over again, and all they think of is FAME! They know nothing in their lives will ever give them the fame they CRAVE, so this is perhaps the next best way to achieve it.
    And it WORKS!! Then when it happens again, they compare the New killings to those of the past..which makes the past killers famous all over again!
    This is simply speculation, especially since the shooters are Usually killed at the site of their crimes. Either by the police, or even more often by their own hand.
    However, if showing photos of this scum on TV will help catch one that actually gets away then that’s fine. But as MOST of them are dead on the site, showing their photographs will do no good.
    Bottom line is, if showing their photos MAY induce other scumbags into doing the same thing, then WHY DO IT? If it doesn’t, then what is the loss?
    If simply refering to the creep as “the cowardly shooter” instead of by name makes even ONE potential shooter change his mind, then is it not worth trying?
    Or are they just going to keep banning guns and magazines, when they have PROVEN this has ZERO effect on the situation?
    Ever notice how when it MAY cause the MEDIA to lose some $, that it is not even considered as an option? They ALWAYS site the FIRST AMENDMENT!! However The SECOND one means nothing to them.
    I believe in the First Amendment as well. I also believe if the MEDIA wanted to help STOP this insanity, they would not have to be ASKED to do it! It would simply be the right thing to do! Let’s call it, “common sense media control.”

    • Al February 5, 2016, 9:15 pm

      Don’t publicize their casualties: Pay the families off. Have the killers crushed under the wheels of a truck while riding a pink moped dressing in a skirt trying to escape. The copycats will get the message that they’ll just die as a laughing stock with no notoriety. I guarantee you the mass shootings will stop.

  • Dave Hicks February 5, 2016, 9:07 am

    Interesting article. I however agree with Mr.Fox somewhat. If it is a known fact who the killer is,it is news .Idolizing a murderer is wrong,for any propose. Who can predict what goes thru a madman’s mind.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend