12.19.2012 08:26 AM

No name, no fame

A very interesting man wrote to me yesterday, passionately, about my column about Newtown.

Warren: I am standing on my chair, applauding as loudly and vociferously as I ever have after reading a column. 

I could not believe my eyes, when the SUN actually published your column this morning. I’ve been saying as much myself, for years now. Why is it that we devote column inches, and hours of glowing TV coverage, to these selfish, cowardly bastards? Of course gun control is an issue, but equally to blame is exactly what you laid out in your column – they do it to get their name, picture and story in the paper! It’s as plain as the nose on our face, yet no-one in the media ever steps forward to acknowledge this simple truth.


Warren, how do we go about raising support for a “No Name. No Face” policy ? Let’s deprive these celebrity seeking sociopaths of the fuel that’s truly driving them! Let’s not name them, nor show their faces in the Mass Media. If even one shooting is averted through our efforts, it will have been well worth it. Of course the “public has the right to now” hounds would bay in indignation. “They’ll just look it up on the Internet” – well, then, let them. If people choose to exercise their sick, perverted voyeuristic inclinations, then so be it. But, let’s not give the killers their 5 minutes of “glory”.

 Thank you for having the courage to speak out. I only wish there were more responsible individuals like you out there.

The man’s name is Claudio Rodrigues, and we have both agreed to reconnect after the holidays.  I like his idea; I want to pursue it.  I suspect a lot of citizens will, too.  Some commentators seem to be sympathetic.

The media – who, as I have written before many times, are just a special interest group like any other – will resist, because they feel it is against their corporate interests, and because they genuinely believe there is a “right to know.”  But I don’t believe that there is such a “right” (or, at least, if such a right exists, it is a qualified right) when we can demonstrate a causal link to violence.

What do you think?  I have long held the conviction that popular culture, and the media, indisputably affect the behaviour of human beings.  And that it is frankly absurd to assert (as media, Hollywood and others regularly do) that they are a powerful force for good things, but that they can never ever be a powerful force for bad things.  That’s unadulterated bullshit.

Am I wrong? Am I right?  Open thread.


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    Mulletaur says:

    Of course the act of observing changes the behavior of the subject. If you reject this in principle, you also reject the ability, some would say the duty, of the media to do good as well as harm. Long before mass media existed, people knew how to become notorious. As long as the media sticks to reporting the facts rather than glorifying terrible acts and gives at least equal prominence to the victims and their stories (CNN at least is doing this), it causes less harm than allowing false information and rumours to circulate. When people know the identity of somebody who has committed a crime like this, they come forward with information that can help the investigation, and perhaps help prevent things like this from happening. The media could do more to stigmatize both the actor and the acts in these cases. That might change public attitudes in a positive way.

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      Chris says:

      Mulletaur, that is an excellent angle – if the media wants to claim that publishing names of mass-murderers doesn’t make a difference, then they also no longer get to claim that anything that they do has a positive impact.

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    smelter rat says:

    I agree, and will help out any way I can when you guys start to pursue this in the new year.

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    heather says:

    This sums things up pretty well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PezlFNTGWv4&

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    frmr disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

    Based on the cartoon with your article, while were at it…..why dont we ban/severely restrict the ultra violent video games that maybe de-sensitizing youth to acts of extreme violence?

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      Jon Adams says:

      I will politely retort that it wasn’t “Doom” or Marilyn Manson that caused Columbine. You might as well ban “Titus Andronicus.”

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      Darren says:

      It’s a complex problem, which means the solution will also be far more complex than a single contributing factor.
      It’s not just violent video games. As a society, we seem to be developing and strengthening a reward response to killing and lethal violence in general.
      If you’ve played video games you’ve likely experienced the “achivement” system, where you are rewarded with improved weapons or capabilities for killing more enemies. As a form of entertainment, you are also rewarded by an entertaining experience, you just had fun going on a video game killing spree. I’m a gamer, the achievement system is highly addictive.
      How many popular movies and TV shows use killing as not only an entertainment but as a way to mete out justice. The good guy kills the bad guy and we are rewarded with a positive sense of closure and justice, to the point of being almost cathardic. Used to be superheroes would capture the villain and take them to jail, now the hero kills the villain and we cheer. The new TV show, Arrow, is a perfect example of a hero where the entire modius operandi is to kill the bad guy.
      But it’s not just entertainment. When a particularly heinous crime is committed people call for that person to be killed. It’s cheaper to jail a person for their entire life than to put them to death but imprisonment doesn’t give us the sense of shared social reward that killing the criminal who committed a crime against a child, for example. Death is justice, a form of reward response. Both the death penalty and (hope this doesn’t open a tangent) abortion are examples of where terminating a human life is a viable, socially-acceptable solution to a problem. For some reason or another, we seem to live in a culture where we seem to be more comfortable about considering killing or lethal violence as a way to solve problems. That’s the question – why do we seem to turn so quickly to killing as a way to solve problems.
      Apologies if this has been said elsewhere here.

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      Doug says:

      Although I’m an avid video game player, I really don’t like military shooters anymore. They’ve become far too grim, realistic and sadistic in the past decade. Having said that, I don’t really think there’s much evidence that we are becoming desensitized to violence. In fact, I’d argue that as a society we are far more sensitized to violence than any previous generation. Rates of violent crime overall are at historic lows when compared to previous centuries. Most people just don’t see violence casually committed anymore. It used to be a fact of life.

      I really don’t think the problem is that people are more violent prone in general. I think the problem is that those few who are moved to acts of mass murder have much better tools than ever before to commit them.

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      S Stuart says:

      Define ultra violent. I’ve played a lot of shooting games over the years and never felt that the fact they involved shooting a lot in itself desensitized me to violent – it feels to me like a lot of people vastly overestimate the effect of the participatory aspect of games compared to more passive media.

      Now that said, I feel that glorification of revenge, extreme militarism, sadistic violence, etc. can have a much more profound negative impact on people’s mentality. All media can promote these including video games, and I agree with Doug that modern military shooters seem to be bad about this in a way they weren’t ten years ago. In a way, it feels like a reflection of the moods of a certain segment of the population after 9/11.

      I sometimes write stories that are a bit violent or action-y, but I always try and maintain a notable semblance of a more positive, humane outlook in them. Given the chance to work on a game, I’d probably take the same approach.

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    Chris says:

    This is fantastic.

    No names, no pictures, steep fines for those that break the rules.

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    Lawrence Stuart says:

    I honestly don’t know if people do mass murder simply for mass media notoriety. Perhaps it is part of the calculation in some cases. In many cases, I’d suspect there is no calculation at all: they simply pick up the narrative thread of violence that is part of the warp and woof of our culture.

    So I’d argue that violence, not notoriety, is the real issue. And while you can’t eliminate violence, you certainly can alter the way we perceive it. Let the media come down hard on those who sponsor the paranoid delusions that justify or validate, for example, the ‘need’ for assault weapons: why was it in this case that the shooter’s mother (and this is not meant as a personal critique of her ‘character,’ etc.) felt the need to possess such purpose designed people killing weapons at all? What stories did she tell herself? WHat is the cultural source of those stories? Why do such stories arise, who validates and promotes them, and why?

    Yes, by all means, media must not glorify the killers. But even more importantly you must savage the toxic atmosphere that is the ‘gun culture’ phenomenon.

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    bobfrombob says:

    I saw this a few days ago on Kottke.org – read down to about paragraph 3. Roger Ebert agrees:

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    Others Agree says:

    There’s a variety of US voices calling for a name ban (at least until the trial, if applicable) – or name *shunning* might be a better term.

    There was someone who was part of a press council, I think, mentioned on Twitter yesterday (forgot to look it up) and here’s a couple today:



    In fact, just news google that: stop naming mass murderers OR killers

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    Jack says:

    Of course the “fame” or notoriety is a factor in at least some of these horrific incidents. And the mass media IS to blame for giving them what they want.

    The fact that this urge for some imagined celebrity status is real is demonstrated daily. Each day there are suicides in Canada. In these tragedies, in most cases the individuals kill themselves only without wreaking havoc and carnage on others. Yet do we read their names? Ever hear about it on the news? Why not?

    I asked a police friend of mine years ago after he had relayed the story of having to go to a scene where a young woman had jumped from a high rise to her death. His answer?

    Because if they published people’s names and have them some publicity there would be more people doing the same.

    Apparently there is some unwritten rule between police and media about this though I can’t confirm that.

    But the media knows what can happen. They report on these killers anyway hoping to grab viewers and readers as they sensationalize the stories hiding this BS under the guise of trying to understand or learning lessons. What a load of crap.

    Just look at today. There is an actual story posing as journalism about how this killer sat in the barber chair when he got his hair cut. WTF!!!

    There is no defense here for the news media. They have become pathetic whores willing to write or say anything to titillate, sensationalize anything to “sell” a story.

    They disgust me.

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    Sean says:

    I agree with the sentiment completely, however for the sake of constructive critique:

    1. You’d be expecting dozens, maybe hundreds of victims and families (civilians) to effectively keep a state secret. Or maybe they don’t get to know who the killer is?

    2. I’m a strong believer in the msm covering trials. If an accused shooter or accomplice is apprehended and stands trial, we are getting into “secret trial” territory.

    3. My own view is that it is very important for citizens to know who committed these crimes and that this knowledge is part of the healing process. It is also vitally important for public accountability with the justice system.

    4. Public knowledge of the personalities involved is actually helpful for society as a whole to address root causes such as social isolation etc..

    Maybe you’ll address these issues further down the road. Maybe a solution might be to have the names available to legitimate / productive inquiries such as families, police and sociologists, but not allowed to be in the msm.

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    Jim Hanna says:

    Totally agree ( I rambled on this in a different thread); sign me up.

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    david says:

    all well and good but why can’t someone just invent a bloody remote controlled super door that no-one can get through. Whether on bedroom or classroom surely being unable to lock a door in time cost a room full of lives in Newtown. I know it’s simplistic but first stop the problem of easy access then maybe we can solve it over time with good ideas like no face, no fame.

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    billg says:

    I dont agree. The sick twisted people who do this will be “famous” regardless if its on CNN or not. If committing mass murder doesnt get your name and face in the news then what exactly is the point of having news? The human race has advanced itself because of communication, we read and we watch and we learn and we try to make ourselves better. We cure diseases only to find new ones, then, we work to cure them as well. Western culture is not without its faults and terrible dark points in its history, but, our technical, racial, gender, sexual and moral advances are mainly due to communication, warts and all. When I watched the news on Newtown I didnt see the glorification of a murderer, I saw news on a very sick young boy, a troubled mother, a broken family and a society fixated on guns and gun laws, and, now I’m watching and listening to society figure out a way to “cure” it. We will make it better, we always have.

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    Michael Bussiere says:

    I cancelled my television service in 1995 after I returned from a 4-month trip to the Middle East. The cable guy on the phone was dumbfounded as to why I was doing this. I wasn’t moving, nor had I given him any valid reason as to why I had chosen to live without TV. They called 3 times over the next few months to ask if I wanted to reinstate my service. I finally insisted they stop bothering me, because I could not longer stomach paying for vapid stupidity after seeing an apocalyptic Beirut, or a gigantic garbage dump from a bus in Syria that turned out to be a refugee camp.

    There is something much broader going on in our culture, and I began to notice it almost 20 years ago. I’m 53 years old, and I can remember a time when television humour was truly funny, and not based on insults and mean put-downs among the characters; when funny home videos were not all about laughing at people’s accidents and injuries; when it was entirely unacceptable to refer to a woman using the ‘b’ word; when mayors of great cities did not begin their term in office by inviting a hockey commentator to engage in juvenile name calling; when online anonymity, allowing for the most vile dialog, did not exist; when Parliament was actually civilized and opponents behaved honourably towards one another. There was a time when celebrities were celebrated for their accomplishments and contributions to the world, not because they release a sex tape and behave like exhibitionists.

    The media is not to blame. It is the mass medium itself that requires extremism to garner attention. The human brain constantly seeks fresh information, it is impossible not to dart ours eyes about the information landscape. Screens are gigantic HD worlds positioned in the centre of our homes, and it’s just going to get worse as we get more wired in. A few years ago a cousin used my house while I was travelling. She called me in a panic because she and her teenage son could not locate the TV. She had no idea how she was going to keep him amused, in a new city, centrally located, in June. I suggested bike rentals, neighbourhood walks, museums, a local movie house, etc. She ended up buying a miniDVD player.

    I fear we are doomed, as I fear I have just spotted some early evidence. There was another mass murder last night, men, women, and children. It was a news sidebar, because it took place in Syria. It was not centred on ‘us’. Meanwhile, the US press is interviewing Adam Lanza’s barber, who I’m sure has deep and significant psychological insights to share into the shooter’s troubled mind; or, at least into his fashion preferences.

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      Warren says:

      Thoughtful post. Thank you.

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        Michael Bussiere says:

        Thank you, Mr. Kinsella, for this forum. It’s been my work for years to assemble the team, the resources, the project to subvert television as it exists, to alter the media landscape by introducing a human media alternative to that which is so grossly poisoning us. Hopefully, a glimmer before I die.

        In the meantime, we enjoy our country home, we hope for the best, we enjoy our neighbours and horses and Mass at our little Irish parish here in rural Québec. We watch the birds at the feeder who remind us forever and every day that even Solomon in all his glory was not adorned as one of these. And we remember there is music to be heard, prose to be read, and a world to be loved no matter how much we may want to tell it to go fuck itself.

        Season’s Greetings and kind regards to everyone.

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    JamesHalifax says:


    Ever since Marc Lepine’s name was spalshed around after Montreal, I’ve been saying we shouldn’t be making these nuts famous. It doesn’t do a lot of good when the media fall over themselves to be the first with the “scoop”.

    I think it’s a great idea to not name them, but it will be hard to convince those trying to garner the ratings. The sight of “reporters” asking 6 year old traumatized kids “how they feel” after seeing their classmates murdered, made me want to throw something at my TV. Truly disgusting.

    Keep at it though, as I think if enough folks make a stink, we may actually convince the politicians to pass some type of law that the names of these creeps be banned.

    Report what losers they are/were….but that’s it. Right now, we have American media describing this child-killer as “highly intelligent” a tech nerd..etc..etc…

    They would do better by stating what a loser he was.

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      JamesHalifax says:

      Tim, the difference is that Marc Lepine is long dead, and frankly, given the frequency with with Americans have to deal with similar nut-cases, I doubt he would have had much influence on the nut-cases in the USA.

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    bza says:

    Agreed, it should be part of the multi-pronged approach of gun control and mental health. Its a complex problem requiring a complex solution. Where there is evidence of a link, policy reform on the media is clearly needed.

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    S Stuart says:

    I like the idea of a “no name, no face” policy. That said, I think beyond that some non-sensationalist reporting on the killer is necessary, because I think people need to think about and debate why these people did what they did in order to come up with effective policies to deal with it.

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    Joe says:

    Columbine was widely misreported and misunderstood as a goth revenge fantasy to shoot popular jocks, when in fact it was an indiscriminate plan to bomb everyone and shoot the survivors, driven by a more or less typical psychopath (Harris) with a subordinate sidekick (Klebold). It took a lot of serious journalism, a lot of light cast on darkness, to break that knee-jerk false impression. Why should we simply accept this early theory that Lanza wanted fame, and thus we ought to deny it to him? What if he did not read the papers, or watch the news, or care what anyone thought of him? What if he did this out of private rage, possibly against his newly divorced parents? What if mental illness played a role, as in delusional schizophrenia? Assuming he wanted fame is just an excuse to look away, which everyone is free to do already. But for those who want to know the truth, and especially for those who do not trust the media to find it within the first 24 hours, a mass campaign to promote silence on major crimes is wrongheaded. It would encourage everyone to just pick their favourite moral and move on, in self-satisfied ignorance. There is too much of that around as is.

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    patrick says:

    So what do you think of the paper you work for annointing a pathetic narcissist as newsmaker of the year. In a time where Ford couldn’t keep his ineptitude out of the headlines, fighter planes crash and burn (figuratively), a Trudeau rises from the ashes to build the hopes of a damaged political party and various other events that have shaped our times, the Sun considers the biggest news maker of the year is a psychopath.
    Truly a paper worthy of a bird cage.

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      Massimo Savino says:

      Miss the point much, or just now?

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    bluegreenblogger says:

    How ironic. A few days after you posted this, what do I see on newswatch:


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