Friday, March 15, 2019


In the wake of the New Zealand mosque massacre, there seems to be one thing on which nearly everyone agrees, across the political spectrum:

Whatever we do, we should draw as little attention as possible to the culprit and the content he's posted to announce his crime. Attention is what he wants, we're told. Don't give it to him.

But what if we're living in a new world in which it doesn't matter how much attention we give the shooter? What if the specific form of attention he and other mass murderers want is not ours to withhold?

It's widely believed that saturation media coverage of a mass murderer makes it likely that he'll become a model for the next wannabe. There's obviously some truth in that. But look at the people this shooter names as inspirations in his manifesto:

Anders Breivik, a white separatist who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011 and published a lengthy manifesto, is globally famous. Dylann Roof, the 2015 Charleston church shooter, is notorious in America. The other names are little known outside their own countries: Traini shot and wounded six African migrants in Italy last year. Pettersson killed a student and a teaching assistant in Sweden in 2015, in a racially motivated attack. Osborne drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians in London in 2017, killing one and injuring at least nine; his motive was anti-Muslim bigotry.

The New Zealand shooter also dug deep into history for inspiration:

... the shooter repeatedly references Oswald Mosley [in his manifesto]. Mosley was the founder of the British Union of Fascists, a political party in the 1930s that sought to return England to a state of “autarchy”, or complete financial and cultural independence from the rest of the world.... Mosley is not an entirely obscure figure, but he is also not a particularly prominent thinker in the 21st century right wing.
Multiple murderers don't need inspiration from mass media anymore. They can live in an online subculture where even obscure monsters are considered superstars.

And, of course, there's a similar subculture for angry incels/"men's rights" advocates/"men going their own way," with a pantheon of heroes some of whom were only briefly in the mainstream news.

If we don't name the shooters and we try to suppress the manifestos and the videos, they'll still get out, and they'll circulate among the aficionados. For the aficionados, a mass-murder video that lived on mainstream social media sites for only a few hours will remain world-famous.

Young mass killers know that their fame will live on in their subculture. They don't need to have their names in our headlines.

No comments: