April 17, 2007

Don't make killers rock stars

OK, usually I don't comment on these things, but I can't help here.

Cho Seung-Hui's face doesn't deserve to be on the home page of Yahoo, the New York Times or next week's Time magazine. To put his picture there guarantees the creation of new school shooters. When you can get this famous by killing people, it creates inspiration to vent your depression/frustration/anger with violence.

There is ample research and examples to make this case. Check out The Copycat Effect.

I will collect some studies to prove this and add them to this post, I've read them over the last few years. Media organizations (and people talking at the water cooler) need to remember that giving someone attention and focus gives them value. Numerous studies in Europe prove that when you put a terrorist or a serial killer on the front page of a a newspaper, you create a new one.

Let's focus on the tragedy and what we can learn about it. I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to understand what was wrong with Cho Seung-Hui, or the warning signs that we should pay attention to. I mean that we shoudln't make him prominent, use his name or display his picture. He's not worth it. He accomplished nothing.

PS -- NBC did not do the socially responsible thing today (Tuesday). Now his video is being played million of times on laptops owned by future school shooters. He's getting more views than any YouTube video EVER released. Talk about inspiring other school shooters!!

The video proclaims that "I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people." And he gets airtime and webtime to spew this? I can't believe how irresponsible media sources like NBC and a host of online portals are being. Once let out of the bottle, this newly minted rock star will use the power of sight sound and motion to further his cause after death. If I were NBC I would have squashed it. Give it to the authorities and never show it. They won't show the footage when Steve Irwin was killed, too distrurbing. But the media and online publishers cannot resist this video. Do they think that they are generating incremental page views or eyeballs for ad revenue? Ridiculous! No advertiser (like Netflix on Yahoo) gets ANY value from this association. In my experience, ad buyers never want to associate with tragedy.

Do you remember when the media finally wised up and stopped showing planes flying into the towers????

Posted at 6:35 PM  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)  |  TrackBack (0)



I figured this morning when i walked through Manhattan that I would see the New York Post with Cho brandishing his weaponry. Probably the easiest front page image they ever had to decide on.

But for the New York Times to grant this cowardish animal his wish by giving him front page exposure is astonishing. Is there any point at which a publisher decides maybe we shouldnt try to profit off a mass murder by granting the murderer his deepest wish of national fame and the opportunity for greater massacres by the emotionally disturbed?


Yeah... this is bad. How many more people will die now because this was glamorized. Feels like we might be on the verge of some real bleak times.



I linked to you this morning, long before the NBC stuff hit the fan. It was appropriate then and even more appropriate now.

Tell the stories of the families and of the victims of the massacre. Not of the killer.

Thank you for being a voice of reason.



Hi Tim,
I concur. Personally I think that they sould focus on the victims and celebrate the heroic stories.
One study, although not exactly related, is relayed by Malcom Gladwell in the Tipping Point. The study looked at the rise in suicides after a story was published about someone committing suicide. I wish I could give you more details but I gave my copy away.


Great great thoughts! I thought it was important and so I added it to Digg. More people, especially in the media, need to read this.



Hear, hear, Tim! I couldn't agree more.

There was someone on TV the other night, I remember the title of his book, but I won't go look up his name because I don't want to further publicize him, who made exactly that point. The media frenzy following these things is part of the reason they keep happening.

The irony that he chose to be part of the media frenzy which perpetuates this problem is inescapable.


I've silently followed your blog for a few months now and feel I need to pipe in now. I TOTALLY agree...we need to know what happened, but he should NOT be immortalized for the abhorrent things that he did.

The focus should be on the the victims and their families and on how to prevent something like this happening again.

Thank you for posting about it like this.


Amen. I've debated hard about writing anything on my blog about this because I just don't want to give this terrifying act any more fuel.

On the other hand, I understand that many people would be outraged if media didn't make it a big story- for the lives of the victims and their families, who are now receiving a lot of positive energy and support as word spreads about their loss.

Do you think there's a way to honor the victims without glorifying the murder?


I hear ya man.

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