A 2017 study shows that the American media give mass shooters $75 million in free publicity and that this works as a huge incentive even if the killer is never named.
And naturally, the promise of this publicity, the unspoken covenant between the media and wannabe mass murderers, serves as a major incentive to follow the deadly pattern that will earn all of this free publicity — if not for the killer personally, then certainly for his ideas, his manifesto, which is just as rewarding.
Criminology Professor Adam Lanford:
This study compared perpetrators of seven mass killings during 2013–2017 with more than 600 celebrities over the same time period. Findings indicate that the mass killers received approximately $75 million in media coverage value, and that for extended periods following their attacks they received more coverage than professional athletes and only slightly less than television and film stars. In addition, during their attack months, some mass killers received more highly valued coverage than some of the most famous American celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Jennifer Aniston. Finally, most mass killers received more coverage from newspapers and broadcast/cable news than the public interest they generated through online searches and Twitter seems to warrant. Unfortunately, this media attention constitutes free advertising for mass killers that may increase the likelihood of copycats.
Now, some media outlets, like the far-left CNN, pat themselves on the back by refusing to name the mass shooter, but as Kareem Shaya eloquently points out in a must-read piece about the causes of this contagion, naming the killer is not the point. He writes:
Similarly, a number of outlets (the New York Times, Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN, and others) have become much more judicious about publishing personal details of mass shooters. Professor Adam Lankford has published guidelines for media coverage. The group No Notoriety is doing good work to spread this idea.
But there’s a long way to go. CNN literally maintains a mass shooter scoreboard on their site. Even without giving shooters personal publicity, we still give their actions enormous attention ($75 million worth, per Lankford’s estimate above). These horrors are absolutely newsworthy, and it would be wrong not to discuss them. But there’s a wide spectrum of what “discuss” means. Report on facts? Tally up numbers? Show graphic on-the-scene details, or emotional interviews with distraught victims? Lurid, second-by-second breakdowns of everything the faceless shooter did? At that point, has the facelessness really hurt their notoriety much?
Does anyone think the El Paso murderer has not already received $75 million in free publicity from CNN and MSNBC alone?
Does anyone believe the El Paso murderer feels like a failure because Anderson Cooper refuses to speak his name?
We are now on day five of the media publicizing the El Paso murderer’s manifesto and ideas — not for information purposes, but for partisan political purposes. You see, the media are publicizing the El Paso terrorist’s manifesto 24/7 because they must in order to shape those ideas into a club to beat Trump and his supporters senseless with.
But. of course, the media are only using part of the El Paso killer’s message while they ignore his inconvenient left-wing beliefs about universal income, racial segregation, and the like.
And now, you need to ask yourself the most important question…
What message does this $75 million in free media publicity send to the next lonely, nerd-boy monster who is desperate for notoriety, desperate to make CNN’s scoreboard, desperate to see if he can shake up the political and cultural world with one evil and depraved act of violence that guarantees all of that?
As Shaya correctly notes, the media used to broadcast videos of ISIS executions until they figured out the broadcasting of those videos motivated the terrorist group to commit more atrocities.
So why not apply that logic to these mass shooters?
Well, because the media are not going to pass up a political opening, even if doing so would work as a disincentive to commit these mass shootings.
The sad truth is this… If a mass shooter’s actions and ideas offer the media the opportunity to slam Republicans, the political right, or Trump with a negative news cycle, CNN and the rest do not care that their $75 million incentive, that their 24/7 obsession with airing the shooter’s ideas and manifesto, is nothing less than a blueprint for the next guy.
An excerpt from Jennifer Johnston’s “Mass Shootings and the Media Contagion Effect”:
If the mass media and social media enthusiasts make a pact to no longer share, reproduce, or re-tweet the names, faces, detailed histories, or long-winded statements of killers, we could see a dramatic reduction in mass shootings in the span of one to two years. Even conservatively, if the calculations of contagion modelers are correct, we should see at least a one third reduction in shootings if the contagion is removed. Given the profile of mass shooters, we believe levels of mass murder could return to a pre-1970s rate, where it becomes a truly aberrant event that although not eradicated, is no longer a common option that goes through the mind of every bullied, depressed, isolated, somewhat narcissistic man.
So where are the “pro-science” media now?
They all know this, but they don’t care. They don’t care how many people die because raging against Trump, exploiting these murders as a means to weaponize them, as a means to dehumanize Trump and his supporters, it is all worth it to them.