Fox News broadcasts a live suicide

Yesterday, Fox News aired live footage of a man in Phoenix shooting himself in the head. According to the Times of India Fox got so excited about following a carjacking suspect in a high-speed chase that they forgot to cut the feed (which ran on a five-second delay) when he got out of his car, ran a short distance, pulled out a pistol, put it to his temple, and committed suicide.

"He's looking kind of erratic, isn't he?... It's always possible the guy could be on something," said Smith in a running commentary, unaware of what was about to happen.

Turning into some bushes, the suspect then pulled out a handgun, put it to his right temple and collapsed.

On air, Smith shouted "get off it! get off it!" in a plea to his studio colleagues to halt the live feed.

In the hours that followed, YouTube scrambled to delete the video almost as quickly as its users were posting it, saying it violated its terms of service.

US carjacking suspect shoots self in head... live on TV


  1. Brought to you by the same corporation that ascertained in court that news channels are not legally obligated to be honest, and which is not allowed to have “News” in its broadcast title in Canada…

    1. not allowed to have “News” in its broadcast title in Canada…

      Really? If so, that’s fantastic. Bravo Canada!

      Of course, the same should also be applied to CNN’s thoroughly corporatized broadcasts. Sometimes I think Fox mostly functions to make the basically conservative bias of other corporate media look objective by comparison.

      1. Conservative bias of other media? Do you mean conservative as opposed to liberal or as opposed to something else?

        1. I mean “conservative” in terms of preserving, and failing to ever seriously question and challenge, a fundamentally inequitable status quo. 

          Which is opposed to, well, I’ll let you name it — honest? progressive? TRULY “fair and balanced”?

  2. I don’t see the big deal… was it illegal to show it? Were people expecting a happy ending and then horrified to see it unfold differently? It’s (pretty much) live coverage of a violent crime in progress… what kind of footage did they think they would get? Maybe to calm people down afterwards they should show something nice and peaceful… like perhaps a loving couple having sex with each other! :)

    1. “We live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.”

      –John Lennon

    2. I feel the same way. Would people have been happy if they saw the cops shoot him instead? Well either way it will be on bestgore so why get sensitive now?

    3. Most news agencies have a self-imposed ban on showing suicides or talking about them in great detail because studies have shown that it can spur copycat suicides.

      1. Studies can show pretty much whatever you want them to show. It looks like this was clearly marked as potentially upsetting material to watch and it turned out to be “exactly what it said on the tin”.
        Aside from that, I must say that secrecy has a pretty terrible track record with preventing suicides thus far, and I can’t exactly see how open and honest reporting about such incidents could possibly be more harmful than covering them up.

        1. There is a difference between a written or spoken news item about a suicide, and a graphic visual portrayal of the same event. Most humans are influenced more strongly by visual media.

        2.  “Studies can show pretty much whatever you want them to show”

          This is a reductive and counterproductive attitude to studies. A well designed study will show what is as close as possible to the truth, and obviously a poorly designed one may not – but those are generally quite easy to tell. You just have to actually look at them, even if just the abstract. The journal published is also good to know, and is plainly available.

          So, as an example, putting copycat suicide into google scholar, I find an study that fits the bill perfectly. A meta-analysis, even better! This study is looking at other studies done in this field, and drawing conclusions accordingly.

          This study has been published under the BMJ. The BMJ is very reputable, they only let studies of a very high quality be published. The conclusion of the study states that there is in fact a relationship between incidence and exposure, so I think it is safe to say that copycat suicides are, in fact, a thing. More reporting did in fact lead to more suicides.

          There are a lot more studies than that one, if you want to look further.

          [I am not sure if you can access the full text, I can because I am using a university internet connection atm, but there should be plenty of studies with free full text if this one is not available.]

          1. I don’t doubt that there are copycats out there or that sensationalized coverage of X will make copycats do X more frequently. I do doubt that those copycats would cause greater net harm to society than open, detailed and honest reporting of these sorts of incidents. Without data how is society to determine how best to run itself? If substantial numbers of people pursued by Law Enforcement choose death over capture then that, in itself, is something that quite urgently needs public discussion. The Modus Operandi of many Western justice systems for centuries has been to instill terror in the population through the use of “deterrent” punishments. Real or imagined, the public has been conditioned to believe that the government (especially the American Government) will brutalize you far out of proportion to the severity of your crime and so it can very much be considered a rational decision (given available information) to choose death over capture. If agents of the American Government were moments away from capturing me with the intent of incarcerating me in one of their Corporate “megaprisonfactories” I would very seriously consider suicide and given what’s known about the conditions I don’t consider that in any way irrational. Depending on various factors my guilt or innocence may not be a factor in this decision given my faith in the American Legal System. Make it an election issue, don’t take it off the airwaves.

          2. I agree that a more open approach to suicide may well do a lot of good – but I do not think broadcasting people’s last moments on TV is a good idea. Open, detailed, and honest reporting and discussion does not necessitate this.

            It is a conversation that could easily be had without brodacasting suicides on TV. There are countless pther things that can be done to decrease the suicide rate, and discuss the issue in the open. Such as more funding to the organisations  that fight against it, advertising campaigns raising awareness about depression etc. etc.

    1. BB was reporting that a suicide was broadcast over the public airwaves (ya know, that place where you can’t even say fuck, let alone show a nipple).  And most of us do not actually want to see that footage, making broadcasting it over public airwaves is newsworthy.

      Fortunately this is the Internet and I don’t have to click that link (unlike airwaves, where I’d already have consumed it before I knew what it was).  I’m sure those who wanted to see what you linked to could have googled it without your help but I guess you’re someone’s hero.

    2. Why bother linking to it if YouTube’s trying to take them down?  We’re all capable of using a search bar, aren’t we?

  3. I recall a similar event from my childhood in Southern California. The local news station cut into Batman the animated series to show a guy protesting on a freeway. They zoomed in on the cameras just as he rested his head against a shotgun and blew his brains out. Good call guys – I’m not sure I’ll ever forget what that looked like.

    1. I was working in an audio/video store back in the 80’s when Budd Dwyer did his press conference suicide.

      Unfortunately, my coworkers loved keying it up on every big screen in the store all at once, over and over. It took weeks for them to get bored of it.

      1. I was in a band with some guys who found out about Bud Dwyer just after my cousin blew his brains out. 

        I happened to see the footage once and it left me feeling completely fucked for a long time. They started another band called buddwyer, which frankly were much, much better than the band we were in together. Unfortunately even the thought of it made me just feel sick, so I was unable to watch any of their shows.

        1. That’s awful. I had no personal reasons for the images to stick the way they did, but 25 years later I can still see the terrible faucet of blood, and hear those dipshits giggling over it.

          1. Funny you would mention that. I have seen a lot of videos in my short life (for better or for worse) but that is the one video that still horrifies me. 

            What got me (as long as we’re doing an impromptu group therapy about Budd video trauma) was the “faucet” – and how the whole scene didn’t even remotely resemble all those 1000s of TV/Movie suicides.

        2. I watched the Dwyer suicide as part of a Media & Ethics class (Voluntarily. The teacher did give students the option of not watching). You’re right about how that video makes one feel. And it’s not just the suicide, it’s knowing that that’s what he intended to do when he called the press conference. It’s eerie, disturbing, and rattling.

    2. I can sympathize.  When I was six or seven, I turned on the TV, Radio Canada was showing an extract of ‘Un Chien Andalou’ – THAT scene.

      I still shudder.

    3.  I remember this and I was going to comment this very incident. This was the guy who parked his truck on the overpass and had some protest sign he hung over the side (was it because his insurance wouldn’t pay for his AIDS meds? Something like that). I was watching it live. This one was pretty intense though. He tried to set himself on fire inside his pickup truck with his dog inside. He got out of the truck with his clothes burning off him and grabbed the shotgun out of the back of the truck before he did what you described. I still have that incident imprinted on my brain when that shotgun went off. They wouldn’t show him shooting himself after the initial blast but they sure did repeatedly show him trying to light himself on fire inside the truck showing his dog right next to him.

  4. I think the whole let’s broadcast a car chase, cause people will watch it thing is a bad idea in the first, place, as these are unpredictable, etc. But I have to say, Shep Smith’s reaction when they came back from the commercial was pretty admirable.  I think Smith is the last guy at Fox with a soul…  Gawker has the link to the video right after the live broadcast:

    Lots of fox programming (not just the news network, but all of Fox) is contradictory and confusing.  Fox brings us the Simpsons and Glee and used to bring us the X-Files, and Futurama, but it also brings us Cops and, well, all of fox news – both of which is pandering at it’s best.  Although the news channel is obviously right wing and pandering, I think that at the bottom of it all, they care about money and making money. I think they would lean left if they thought there was money in it…  Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems about the bottom line to me. They were quite happy to drop Glenn Beck when he became a liability, financially speaking after all.

    1. So you’re to the point where one person making one apology for something that actually fits perfectly with the editorial policy of the network becomes that network’s saving grace? Vomitous.

      1. I didn’t say it was the network’s saving grace, I think I said it was Smith’s saving grace, as he is the last man there with a soul.  Sorry if you think that recognizing that he’s still a human being, despite working for Fox is “vomitous” in your view.  If you’ll notice I said that Fox’s entire purpose for being is making money.

        To be perfectly honest, I am sick to death of this whole “right wing”, “left wing” wank fest that is the mainstream of our political discourse. It infects every aspect of American life. We no longer have conversations, we have mud slinging, accusations, distortions, and temper-tantrums. Fox news is part and parcel of that. But then again, to a less extent, MSNBC does their share of accusations and finger-pointing, even if it’s in a much more decorous manner.  But people on both sides are being hoodwinked and riled up and freightened so a few people can make bank. That, in my opinion in vomitous. 

        I don’t know, EH, I think you missed my point.  I’m sorry that you did.  We get nowhere by ignoring the humanity of “the other side”. When we reduce them to caricatures, we just buy into the dichotomous narrative.  This has personally affected me lately, and it’s not fun.  I’d hope the BB community could possibly be much more thoughtful about these things.

        1. Hitching your star to a vomitous shit-bucket is not a matter of left-right politics, sorry. NewsCorp is a bad company, and Shep’s presence there is fruit of the poisoned tree. And yeah, MSNBC sucks too.

          The TV Show “COPS” originated and remains on Fox. You soft-pedal by calling Fox News “pandering at its best,” as they are, by your admission, a money-making machine, which ironically is incompatible with the humanity you demand. Football doesn’t have home-runs.

          1.  Just because someone hitches their star to the shit-bucket doesn’t mean they are any less human. And for the record, I agree it’s not a matter of left-right politics – but it facilitates that perception by their “news” coverage.  That being said, I think you are calling Smith to account for his connections, and fair enough there, I think. He was in many ways just performing damage control in this situation. While he is often seen as a person with a moderate view on fox, that does have the effect of reinforcing the narrative that fox tries to promote of itself as “fair and balanced”. In doing so, I tried to be “fair and balanced” and you accuse me of being a fox shill, which is pretty much the furthest thing from the truth… I really didn’t think I was “soft-peddling” fox, but pointing out their goal of money making. And is it not “pandering” at it’s best? Am I wrong there? I was trying to clarify that I do not think that Fox is really a right wing ideological machine, except how that fattens the bottom line.

            Overall, I do not see where I was anywhere defending fox and their practices, as much as I was just trying to point out that Smith admitted wrong doing on the air, and apologized (on behalf of his program and the network). I saw that as a sign of his humanity, you saw that as another corporate drone just working in defense of his corporate overlord.

      2. I think there’s more to it than that. Sure, they sit there and present half-truths or direct lies with a straight face most of the time, but every now and then, there are cracks in the otherwise slick surface of FOX presenters. Shep Smith is one. He sometimes seems genuinely upset or even disgusted with what he is prompted to say.Mika Brzezinski is another. They are reprehensible talking heads, void of journalistic integrity, but every now and then, they seem to become aware of it.
        Sooner or later, I hope they will rebel against their rich overlords (or maybe we will witness their own live suicide in despair over their lost humanity).

        1.  I think this is right on the money.  He’s shown signs of humanity and independent thought before.  But, I guess in some way, Fox News benefits from that.  In the same way “giving voice” to liberals at times benefits them as well.  they get to say they have an open forum, when they generally don’t. It gives something of a figleaf of “newsiness” to the network. 

          I do think it’s all about money at the end of the day.

          1.  somebody has to take one for the team… I think it’s kind of important that we understand what is happening there. It does inform at least a vocal minority of our electorate after all.

          2. I find it worrying that so many people have formed their opinions without watching a second of it, or at least admitting to it.

            I only wonder what other groups those people would hate because they were told to do so.

          3. nathan — I guess I misunderstood your comment to mean you’ve never watched any, since you’re worried that someone’s watched enough to form a nuanced opinion.  There’s plenty of people out there who have an opinion on [$NEWS_NETWORK] despite never having seen a minute of it.

          4.  Pretty hard to *not* see Fox News even if you didn’t want to, considering it’s often broadcast in so many public places, airports, waiting rooms etc.

        2. Is this some new torturous form of intermittent reward? Now we get to value Shep based on his occasional lapses of professionalism? I can’t say I lament how standards have fallen, because I’m not sure they were ever really that high to begin with, but I do wish they were raised from time to time without a pledge-drive associated with them.

          1. It’s only a form of torture if you keep watching fox in the hope of seeing it happen. From my point of view, fox is a lost cause, and not worthy of using the term news, or in any way being associated with the term, but my inner naïvist for some reason refuses to give up hope that its “news” reporters aren’t better than the system they are caught in.
            I only watch american news media occasionally, to be honest (though by norwegian standards that still is daily (we consume a LOT of news)), but I know a higher standard is possible. You are after all the nation that once upon a time gave us Edward Murrow and a generation of news reporters that actually believed in reporting.
            Well. A brief disclosure: after one too many single malts, I am starting to be biased.
            Here, I give you this link instead, that goes to the core of what news should (and still can) be:

          2. Now-a-days, Murrow would be accused of left-wing bias for not offering a “balance” of opinions on all issues. Because of course, he was just being a reactionary leftist for his take down of McCarthyism, for example…  I think such thinking has infected supposedly “objective” news outlets like NPR, too. There has been pressure for them to offer a “balanced” view in their news coverage, with some congresscritters threatening to take away the pittance of their funding that comes from the federal government.

            I do wonder if we fetishize objectivity too much. Can people be fully objective about anything? Really and truly hovering above their own ideals and beliefs to reveal the truth? Doesn’t our world view fundamentally color all that we do in this world? This is a very enlightenment view of philosophy and the world and it too has fundamentally under attack by postmodernist thinkers since the 60s and 70s. I don’t know – are they right? Or can we reach some sort of objectivity in the soft sciences via enlightenment methodology? I don’t have an answer to this, although I have my own opinions on the matter… I kind of like Howard Zinn’s approach to bias (in his case, in historical scholarship) – to fully acknowledge and embrace your biases instead of trying to suppress or hide them within your argument. If it’s out in the open, you can finally start dealing with the meat of arguments…

  5. Newsflash: Fox broadcasts a tragic event without politicizing it. And then apologizes.

    They can run it again tomorrow, as long as they blame Obama.

  6. I don’t see the problem. News in the US has been about watching the “cool” chase and crime live, which has pushed that to become almost a national pastime. It at least seems like quite a few US criminals think it’s cool to get on the news, and sometimes they’re not even hardened criminals. Yeah, really cool to be followed by cops and do “cool” things on the freeway.

    Why not ALWAYS show the consequences?

    Show the high speed chase that ended in the guy driving into a lamppost and ended with the “cool” criminal in a bloody and paralyzed mess.
    Show the remains of the unsuspecting family that got hit head on in one of these “cool” chases.

    This is GREAT. For once the consequences of bad decisions are shown live. Scarring, sure, but this one case then ends up not glorifying idiocy.

  7. I’ll go further. News shows should do follow ups. Show li’l Jimmy as he’s serving time, and show Abe in his physiotherapy while he’s trying to regain the use of his legs.

    “Hi viewer, remember this high speed chase? Well, here is the driver, Johnny, who got shot twice by the police while exiting the vehicle brandishing his 12 gauge. As you may notice, he can no longer walk unassisted, and that is because one bullet severed his spine. See how cool Johnny is now!”

    If that isn’t a deterrent then I don’t know what is. Leaving out the mess and showing the action, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to work well as a deterrent. Makes good money for the channels, though..

    1. Don’t they kind of do that already?  There are plenty of shows on like TLC and Discovery, etc which deals with “doing time for the crime” (or they used to do so – shows on prison life?). There are also plenty of cop procedurals that show the cops always getting their man – painting a very specific picture of a black and white world, where criminals are always psychotic bad guys, and cops are unambiguous heroes.  The popular Law and Order Franchise, for example (thought they often deal with dirty cops, these guys are always shown as being brought down by the good cop, when in real life, the thin blue line often holds).

      I’d like to see shows which deal with crime itself in a much more realistic and complicated way.  Life is messy, to be sure.  Why not show that at the end of the day, the “bad guys” are not always bad and the “good guys” aren’t always good.  But complicated rarely sells.

      1. Sure, but we know that the black and white world presented in the cop shows is a lie and we instinctively ignore that sort of stuff. It’s just like lying about the effects of drugs really hasn’t helped to minimise drug use!
        While the “do the crime, do the time” type of show is a good thing, IMO, the direct link between action and consequence of the crazy news helicopter attitude and showing the dead people on tv a few seconds later, then showing all the consequences later with the live footage should be somewhat stronger.

        The thing is, we humans aren’t very good at that whole action/consequence thing if there’s any sort of break between them. Cutting the live feed just before the suicide, then reporting “and a guy blew his brains out after a high speed chase” does nothing to link the action and the consequence together for the viewer. Seeing bits of skull flying live does.

        Also, tv seems to be fine with showing a car run off the road by police, so long as the only thing shown is the outside of bent metal. The aversion to showing the actual consequences, the guy mangled on the steering wheel,  is quite likely to be one of the reasons for the prevalence of high speed chases in the US. This form of attention seeking is quite rare over here in Europe. One possible cause that must be considered is the national TV glory of live news..

        1. Hm… let’s see here.  For cop shows, I think they can help to reinforce compliance to authority in all cases, even when we recognize that these shows are fantasy on some level.  Sure, in theory cops are there to keep the peace, but cops are human too, and completely subject to the same forces we all are. Going through the police academy doesn’t magically erase human falliability and make a super-cop who is always a law enforcer in an equal and equitable way.  Many of them are indeed trying to do their best and protect citizens – bless ’em, cause they have a tough job.  Even then they can act in corrupt ways. Road to hell and all that. And knowing that these shows are lying to some extent (or at least showing a much less complex picture of reality) doesn’t erase the complexity of police-citizens interactions, which are in part informed by these actions. I think it might make us much more likely to speak out on various police abuses, because we’ve internalized the notion that cops have authority over us, reinforced by the “cop show” discourse… if I may get all foucauldian on this topic…

          I take your point about human beings often not being subject to fully understanding cause and effect, but I doubt seeing others die on TV is going to do much to change that. For some people, it’s still just “some other guy” dying on TV.  I think on some level maybe it just makes us desensitized to such things rather than make us realize that our actions have consequences. These are still mediated images, a step removed from reality. I think many people still think – “that is some other guy, it’s not going to happen to me.”

          I think I’m struggling with this issue…I do notice that Al-Jazeera arabic, for example, is far more likely to show some of the bloodier videos from Syria, and even Al-Jazeera English (which is probably more likely to show the consequences of such things than say CNN or Fox or whatever) will pull those punches for a western audience a bit more.  I feel like we are so disconnected from the realities of death in this country…

  8. I’m not seeing the news here other than it was a screw up by Fox News. Don’t get me wrong, I hate Fox News with a passion, but worse has been shown on very many other news channels and shows. Remember the North Hollywood shootout? How many times did we see Larry Phillips Jr. shoot himself in the head at the same moment a police officer shot him in the neck? I seem to recall that being in heavy rotation on the news. 

    I hate defending Fox, but I honestly don’t believe they wanted to show this any more than they want the bad press they’re getting now. Yes, this being on a delay means someone messed up pretty bad. That person, or persons, probably should update the ol’ resume. I guess I don’t think we should get all mouth-frothy just because it happened on Fox. Fox does enough screwed up stuff on purpose that we can be pissed about.

  9. I wonder what the guy’s name was. I’m sure he was loved by somebody, but easy to forget that likelihood. Too bad it’s not more obvious to commenters that it’s probably all the more devastating (not to mention disrespectful) to have a friend/son/brother/husband’s death boradcasted, then paraded around the internet, then judged, and probably mocked. Since when do sensational youtube videos educate instead of breed indifference? This sort of behavior brings out the worst in humans. “I don’t see what the problem is.” Exactly.

    1.  This gets to my point about humanity and acknowledging people’s humanity.  This must have been heart wrenching for the family of the guy to see, then to have it as part of a national broadcast, and then splashed across the internet to boot.  It’s all a very sad commentary on the state of the world… 

      1. …and watch as it’s being used as an excuse to attack Fox News when they clearly didn’t mean to show it and apologized profusely after the fact. Shit happens, everywhere. This should be about the guy and the practice of broadcasting sensationalist news live, not Fox News itself. Just out of respect for the victim if for no other reason.

        card-carrying Fox News hater

          1. I did and fully agree. My comment was meant as an extension of your “This must have been heart wrenching” sentence, hence the “…”.

      2. Truly horrible. But that’s what comes along with the fetish for using live newshounds in helicopters and covering any stupid decision made in a fit. That human pain is a side effect.

        Not cool, not funny, not nice or good in any way. But the problem is then the attitude that news must be instant, and all these sad episodes must be broadcast live

    2. Same thoughts. Somewhere likely is the person thinking “Oh god he’s stopped taking his meds” or “Oh god he’s still using” and so on…

      And the lover who was so upset about things… and all the other social relationships that people have no matter how “pathetic” the person is.

      Fuck life is depressing.

    1. Y’know, when I first saw that, in its opening week, I never imagined it would become such a lasting icon.  If only more people *wouldn’t* take it any more.  “… let’s forsake you, better still.”

  10. Isn’t this what the viewers were here to see anyhow? Why are you watching a live high speed chase unless you’re hoping for something horribly (thrillingly) awful to happen?

    Though I guess if you’re hoping for him to plow into a family of four and he just shoots himself in the head that’s a real bummer.

  11. How does broadcasting a horrible and tragic event make it more horrible and tragic? Is it that if we did not see it, it would be easier for us to pretend that it did not happen or to believe that it was not as horrible and tragic as it was?

    Granted, it was not newsworthy, but the whole car chase was not newsworthy. The furore over the broadcast seems to me to be more exploitative of the unfortunate events than the (unintentional) broadcast itself.

    1. “How does broadcasting a horrible and tragic event make it more horrible and tragic?”

      I’m sure his family and friends think it’s just wonderful that their loved one committed suicide on live TV!

      If it hadn’t been broadcaster live, it certainly WOULD be less horrible and tragic for them.

      IS NO ONE THINKING OF THIS? Why is it that only like, 3 other people have even *considered* this? Wow. That’s pretty distressing, if you ask me. You need to check your empathy and humanity.

      At the same time, I agree with your last hypocritical comment.  Mine’s hypocritical, too.  We’re both adding to it.  You’re no better than the rest of us.

      1. In all compassion, if the family and friends thinks “it’s tragic he suicided on live TV” as opposed to “it’s tragic he suicided,” then I’m not sure the people who aren’t thinking of are really all that much at fault.

        What, are you worried that they might be embarrassed about it?  I’m not sure “empathy” or “humanity” are the right words to describe people whose “last straw” at a friend or family member’s suicide is their personal shame about everyone else knowing.  I’d even go so far as to say that someone that deeply ashamed of another person might have not been a very good friend or family member and might be in some way responsible for that dead person’s pursuit of a life of crime.

        1. “What, are you worried that they might be embarrassed about it?”

          Check the local obituaries. See how many folks have no cause of death listed, but a lot of verbiage about a general love of life.

          Guess what. Suicide is often considered shameful. Our business, it is not.

          1. “Our business, it is not.”

            And yet … here we are.

            I’m still going to maintain that it is not particularly compelling to most people to argue that the most important reason that suicide not be shown on TV is the shame of the victim’s friends and family.  

          2. Please tell me where I said it was the “most important”.  It’s very important, but it doesn’t have to be “most” — why does there need to be a “most”, anyway?

            And the fact that you seem to think it’s not really a big deal if someone’s loved one’s suicide was broadcast for all the world to see, without anyone’s real consent (the guy was clearly not in his right mind to consider that sort of consequence).
            Now it’ll be all over YouTube.  For anyone and everyone to see.  Including them.

            This isn’t just about “embarrassment”.
            You are coming off like a sociopath.

        2. It’s also tragic that he committed suicide, and I was thinking of that, even if I didn’t make that comment.  Apparently he had a troubled life.

          No, I’m not worried that they’ll be “embarrassed” about it. O_o  It’s much deeper than “embarrassment”.  You do understand that, right? 

          My grandfather committed suicide, but he was very close to death already (very old and very sick) and I am proud of his decision.  I STILL wouldn’t want someone to broadcast it all over the damn TV news.

      2. I’m sure his family and friends think it’s just wonderful that their loved one committed suicide on live TV!

        My question was a genuine one. Why does the broadcast make it worse? Why do many people view death as something very private? It’s perfectly clear to me from observation that many people do have these views, but I do not understand why. This is, of course, not to suggest that people who see things in a way I do not are stupid or evil. Likewise, why is it distressing and indicative of a lack of humanity for people (such as myself) not to intuitively share these views?

        You’re no better than the rest of us.

        Absolutely. Actually, probably a little worse. I do not see how my post implied anything to the contrary. Though I am not so sure that either of our comments are hypocritical – “how dare they…” seems to me to be not quite the same thing as “why do we…”. Then again, I may be wrong.

    2. Marilove has a good point. Additionally, copycat suicides happen, avoiding broadcasting this kind of thing is a measure to stop that.

      1. The guy who writes over at The Last Pyschiatrist has a bunch of columns about suicidality and his conclusion is that at worst, media influences *the type of suicide* but does not influence the binary choice of *whether or not to suicide.*  

        Besides … really, if we’re going to have copycat carjacker-suicides, I think I’d rather have carjack-suicide than carjacker-suicide-by-cop, which was all the rage a few years back

        1. I linked to a BMJ study above that says differently, there may be some division of opinion here. I think it is best to err on the side of safety.

          1. That study addresses several specific things that the article I linked refutes.

            The 1774 novel, _The Sorrow of Young Man Werther_, for example, received no coverage by mainstream media; the suicides were all fans of the book who were in similar circumstances as the protagonist.  The next example of “copycat suicides” the article mentions are the 303 “additional” suicides in August of 1962 that accompanied the news of Marilyn Monroe’s death … which is hardly a conclusive suicide.  I mean, I know it was ruled a “probable suicide,” and I’m not a conspiracy theory nut, but it was suspicious at the time and it took almost two weeks for the final report to come out.  So 303 suicides from the 17th to the 31st?  Or 303 from the 5th to the 31st, before it was known to be a suicide, but still all counted as copycat suicide because Monroe *might* have committed suicide?  Isn’t it possible that some of those people killed themselves because they were clinically depressed and had an irrational emotional connection to the woman who was only the most famous actress in the world?  Doesn’t just blanketing them all with the label “copycat suicide” kind of … rob agency from the dead?  

            It’s worth noting that when Dr. Stack cites this “fact” about Monroe copycat suicides, he cites a previous work of his own, “Media impacts on suicide: a quantitative review of 293
            findings,” and not anything like a first-hand account from attempted suicides or friends/families of the victims.

            The only relevant information I can find in that previous work of his about Marilyn Monroe is then, itself, based on a secondary reference to the study “The Influence of Suggestion on Suicide: Substantive and Theoretical Implications of the Werther Effect,” by D. Phillips, 1974, which, in turn, I cannot find available online in its entirety without paying a subscription fee so not gonna do it, but, again, the Werther Effect should probably not be considered as evidence towards increased suicide due to “media coverage” since it’s a fictional account of a person who, himself, didn’t exist.

            I’m now frustrated at checking the work of this BMJ study that already seems incredibly flawed and entirely the kind of thing my article refutes, but I’ll assume you tracked down the references and read the studies, so please tell me:

            How many of the copy-cat suicides had previously attempted suicide or expressed suicidality?  I want to know how many had already tried but couldn’t find a way that worked, versus how many had thought about it but never even tried, versus how many had never even demonstrably thought about it.

            Believe it or not, a previous suicide attempt, or stated desire to commit suicide, is a very strong indicator for “a risk factor in suicide.” Any research that attempts to study another risk factor without isolating the big ones seems … flawed, to me.

            Also, the study you linked includes this precious gem: “the meta analysis found that studies based on completed suicides as the dependent variables were 94% less likely to find a copycat effect than studies based on suicide attempts as the dependent variable. This unanticipated finding deserves more research. Possibly those persons most susceptible to copycat effects are those who are less determined to die.”

            So, aside from the fact that it makes no attempt to rule out those with demonstrable suicidality, the study also just tosses out the notion that “real” suicide is 94% less likely than “cry for attention” suicides in the copycat-suicide spectrum.

            I’m not sure any of this convinces you – in my experience, it never does – but … no, it’s not better to err on the side of caution here.  There’s no actual science that shows publicizing suicides causes real harm, and the other side is having an open society where we don’t bury things under stigma and shame.

          2.  I would really like to dedicate a part of my afternoon to looking at this more, following citations and doing more research on this, seeing if I my position is reasonable or not – but I do not have the time, unfortunately. The following is not intended as a full blown rebuttal, just some thoughts in defence.

            The Philips study (I flicked through it) mentions Werther, saying that the conneciton between the book and suicides was never conclusively demonstrated. Stack states that the suicides were only perceived as well.

            As for Marilyn, again, a hard link is not claimed. He calls it ‘possible’. In the Philips study, Monroe is mentioned in a long list of other suicides and seen increases in rate, and then publicity is looked at.

            The Werther effect is just the name used for copycat suicides, as that is whenthey were first considered. It is not about suicides directly related to the piece.

            The 94% more likely… statistic looks to me like he is looking at those two risk factors mentioned by you, previous attempts and expressed suicidality, which both relate to determination. His explanation is relatively unfounded, yes, but he does say that this is unexpected, and could be looked into more.

            Regardless, if expressed suicidality/attempted suicides is/are reasonably constant over the period of time of the study (not an unreasonable assumption, and there is nothing to suggest this is not the case), then this factor is effectively controlled for anyway. It is there, but it is controlled.

            The increase in suicide deaths around periods of publicised suicide (and increases in areas where there is more publicity) is enough to posit some kind of explanation, the copycat effect is what has been come up with.

            As said, if I had more time I could have a better look at what is out there, and I may well agree with you (I was inclined to when I read your comment, but passing over the studies again raised some issues). I obviously can’t say whether or not the copycat is absolutely true or not, however, it looks much, much more likely than you make it out to be.

            You closing paragraph is a false dichotomy. We can avoid reporting the details of individual suicides live on TV, or on the front pages of the press, but still have productive and open discussions about suicide. Eg. governmental anti suicide programs oftne do good work through TV ads raising awareness (and bringing hte issue out into the open) here, and they could always do with more funding.

  12. You tube scrambled to delete it. LiveLeak scrambled to make sure there was only one copy on the front page.

  13. People , stay calm. It was just a suicide. It’s not like he exposed his female partner’s nipple.  This kids are still safe.

  14. If another network showed a nipple accidentally, there would be millions of their own viewers for a fine.  They showed a man killing themselves, and I bet there will be zero fines from the FCC for it.

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