The Fame Monster


Dennis Sanders

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    There is a difference between the murderers name being burned into everyone’s mind through constant media repetition, and just having the name be public information.

    We can discuss and dissect all the relevant information in various media reports all day long, and still just refer to the perpetrator as “the gunman” or similar anonymous terms. And maybe, down at the bottom, in a footnote, put the name.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I have to disagree, Dennis. This sort of mass shooter, like the one who killed all the children in Norway, wants to be a hero to his tribe. As Oscar says, there’s no reason not to let his name be available via search, but let’s not call him anything more notable than “the suspect”.Report

  3. Avatar Pinky says:

    This is your second column claiming that the people who disagree with you aren’t doing so in good faith. And again you didn’t really present any evidence to support that.Report

  4. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Think of the college entry scandal we’ve been talking about lately. Something like 50 parents are named in the indictment, but only one (Lori Loughlin), maybe two (Felicity Huffman), are in the public consciousness, because the media ALWAYS names them in the headline or first few paragraphs. They are now famous (infamous) and the public face of the whole case, because of that.

    The other 48 parents? Public information, we can all search for them, but most of us couldn’t pull their name out of our memory.Report

  5. Avatar Aaron David says:

    @Oscar Gordon and @Mike Schilling have it right here. It isn’t that we don’t need to have the information available, its that we don’t want the killer to get the glory. And in getting that glory, passing on that particular aspect of this horror. Because if the notoriety, the living in infamy, is part of the motivating factor here, eliminating it is an easy part of the cure. We will all disagree on other parts of that cure, but we might as well pick the low hanging fruit.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      I agree. To the extent that mass killers do it for fame, we should make a point of forgetting their names. Also, though, a lot of them are trying to bring attention to their thoughts. And when that’s the case, we should go out of our way to disrespect their manifestos. We should make it clear: this is the modern information age, and if your ideas are such garbage that the only way you can bring attention to them is by committing an atrocity, that speaks volumes. These people who write rambling tirades are idiots. By their fruits you shall know them, and if your line of thinking leads you to mass murder, that’s a demonstration that your thinking is worthless. So, nothing but scorn. Criminal profilers can read their writings, but only as evidence, not for its meaning. The rest of us should ignore them.Report

  6. Avatar JoeSal says:

    What were the names of the suspects that killed more than a hundred christians over the last few weeks? What were their motives?Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I’m sort of on the fence here. Mike and Oscar have good points but this guy seems somewhat unique in that he dida very extremely online “manifesto” that was filled with shitposting, memes, etc. I think this stuff needs to be analyzed and studied.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      Sure, it does, but not by every Tom, Dick, and Sally with an internet connection and enough brain cells to follow a search engine link.

      Again, obscuring the guys name in media reports, if only by footnoting it at the bottom, rather than splashing across the headlines or otherwise above the fold, does not cause the event, nor anything else about it, to disappear or become unknowable. It merely helps to diffuse the guilty person(s) infamy.

      Honestly, there are three very good reasons for this. One being the potential reduction in copycats. Another is for the families of the guilty, who probably don’t deserve the damnation by association that comes with such things. The last is for those who are truly sick, who might be redeemable and able to rehabilitate, don’t they deserve a chance to someday walk about in public without being known to one and all?Report

      • Avatar Dennis Sanders says:

        So should we apply this to terrorist attacks where we know of the terrorist?Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          If we assume the terrorist performs or plans the act in order to gain some degree of attention to their cause, then yes.

          Aside from Osama bin Laden, how many terrorists who have committed acts of terror can you name off the top of your head (no Google or Bing!)?

          I can think of maybe two others, Richard Reid and Timothy McVeigh, and that’s because they were blasted in the news. But I have to ask, aside from those names being trivia, what value does knowing those names add to my life? I know the events, I know we caught the guys responsible, I know at least one of them is very much dead.

          Again, because people need to hear this, I am not saying we make their names Top Secret, compartmentalized, need to know information. Just put the name well below the fold, as a footnote.Report

        • Avatar Philip H says:

          So this is where your argument (and the argument of most pundits weighing in from the Right) fall apart. This was a terrorist attack. It was meant to create a climate of fear and oppression to further a pernicious political agenda. Classic terrorism.

          Yet like so many terrorist attacked in the US (Dylan Roof anyone), we want different rules for reporting this stuff because the shooter doesn’t look like a terrorist or belong to a terrorist group – at least not as we have chosen to define them.

          And I think thats a big reason we are so unsuccessful politically and legally dealing with events like this. We don’t want to call them what they are nor do we want o call these folks what they are.

          Which is terrorists.Report

          • Avatar Dennis Sanders says:

            This is kinda what I am getting at in my article and what a few tweeters have said. We want these rules covering up the names of the mass shooters and what I’ve noticed is more often than not these people are white. If there is a terrorist attack, we don’t hold back naming names. I never hear “don’t give them their wish” when it comes to these crimes and the thing that most (foreign) terrorists have in common is that they are not white. THIS is what makes the desire to withold the names pointless, because it is done on some people who have the same pigment while others with a different pigment don’t get that treatment.Report

          • Avatar Dark Matter says:

            And I think thats a big reason we are so unsuccessful politically and legally dealing with events like this.

            I’m comfortable calling this a terror attack and this guy a terrorist.

            However the typical group size for these sorts of things is one, Pulse, Vegas, Sandy Hook, the bulk of the school shooters, etc. Two shooters is exceptionally rare, Derik+Eric, maybe McVay+Nickles. After that we have ISIS, that Husband+Wife ISIS team in California, 911, and if we lump ISIS in as “state sponsored” then we don’t even have that. The police have released this guy’s co-conspirators as bystanders, so New Zealand was also “one”.

            So… what do we do after admitting this was terrorism? We still have the lone wolf loser problem. This still looks a lot more like a mental health issue than a political issue, i.e. violent losers looking for reasons to be violent.

            With Tim McVay the “political” solution was to stop the FBI from running around murdering innocents. That’s at least something we were willing to do. However the Pulse shooter was a violent antisocial nut starting in the 3rd grade, I’m not sure what political solution we have to prevent him shooting up that bar. Surrender to ISIS perhaps?

            Or better yet, what is the political/legal solution to Sandy Hook? Vegas?

            The real question is whether or not this guy was on law enforcement’s radar before this and if not, why not.Report

            • Avatar Philip H says:

              Based on what little we know so far, my guess is not – just like the Coast Guard Officer arrested here in the states last month plotting a murder a significant number of Democratic politicians. Both law Enforcement and Intelligence agencies have finite resources, and since they seem to be mostly focused (in the terrorism space) on Muslim perpetrators, they will likely continue to miss folks like this.Report

              • Avatar Dark Matter says:

                Folks like this?

                Big picture is we’ve seen guys like this fall into one of two different camps.

                1) This was their first criminal act, and they weren’t on anyone’s radar before.

                2) They were on (or should have been on) law enforcement’s radar to the point of absurdity but LE didn’t view it as their job to do anything.

                3) In theory there would be a third group where they became radical hanging out with a radical group, but we haven’t seen that since… 911? McVay would have fit into this group too.

                My guess is the 3rd group is so rare because of some combo of FBI infiltration of these groups and even “radical” groups dropping a dime on their crazy members.

                Where it gets iffy is when you have people radicalize online, which may have been the case here.Report