Roger Ebert on how the press reports mass killings

Roger Ebert's review of the 2003 Van Sant movie "Elephant" contains some of the most coherent criticism of the way the media reports mass killings I've yet read:

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. "Wouldn't you say," she asked, "that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?" No, I said, I wouldn't say that. "But what about 'Basketball Diaries'?" she asked. "Doesn't that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?" The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it's unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. "Events like this," I said, "if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn't have messed with me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory."

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of "explaining" them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

Elephant (via Kottke)


  1. A psychiatrists (and Charlie Brooker’s) insightful perspective on news coverage’s perpetuation of mass shootings in schools:

    See the psychiatrist’s argument at 1:40

  2. Smart people have been saying this for many many years.  But there is money to be made.  Check and mate.

    1. Mate is that these stories appear now appear everywhere. Like here.

      Side note: The newspapers in the Bay Area do not print anything about people that jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. A baby step at least would be for the media to not print names or photo’s of people involved in mass shootings.

      1. The newspapers in the Bay Area do not print anything about people that jump off the Golden Gate Bridge

        Yeah its the same here in Melbourne with the westgate bridge and when suicides have been reported there has been a significant increase in the number of people dying there.

  3. I think you’re right to a point.  It does help explain massacres a little.  It doesn’t explain the boys who use guns to solve their problems on a daily basis in places like Chicago.  I do think the two things are related, and they’re connected by the easy availability of guns.  We should drop the war on drugs and launch a war on guns.  Make semis/ammo illegal.  Make regular guns/ammo harder to get than a Sudafed.

      1. No, in reality when you make guns and ammo harder to get, that reduces shootings. For example, after a horriffic school shooting in the UK in 1996 they put in place strict gun and ammunition controls, and there hasn’t been one since.

    1. I agree, but I wouldn’t equate urban gun violence with (almost exclusively white) mass shootings. There seems to be something about the American construction of white masculinity that contributes to a disproportionate amount of this kind of behavior from members of that group. 

      1. I’m not the best when it comes to the social sciences (And New Scientist tends to prefer talking about physics) but it seems there’s no sensible conversation about masculinity, let alone about white American masculinity. I know there are male rights activists, but it seems that it’s only a fringe element that’s concerned with something other than ‘revealing the crypto-gynocratic machinations of the fundamentally misandrist feminist movement’, and they need to do some fine footwork to begin to distinguish them from that morass of hate.

        There are, yes, other demographics and many of them are confronted with far more obvious and insidious problems, but identity politics shouldn’t be approached, as I tend stumble upon it, as a zero sum game. There are problems men are faced by, whether it’s falling standards of education in comparison to women (This will vary. In the UK, it’s oft reported that girls do better than the boys in many subjects; although some subject, like maths, remain depressingly male dominated), the peer pressure that only tolerates eccentricity if it’s matched by success, or the emphasis on exaggerated and rampant sexuality, both as a measure of worth and a vehicle for perpetuating the fear that every man is latently a rapist. It’d be nice if we could move away from that, or at least examine it properly, it seems to be damaging to more than just men and I’m not sure we know why. I don’t.

        (Mods, feel free to delete this. I can’t actually tell if it’s relevant, reasonable or likely to lead to a discussion that is, in of itself, reasonable.)

        1. While white American masculinity doesn’t have to be approached as a zero sum game, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be approached at all, and more to the point, considered (as it almost never is) as a significant factor in a ghastly and repetitious phenomenon in which the overwhelming majority of the perpetrators are — gee, coincidence? I think not! — white American men.

      2. One link is the demonic rap music which comes from inner cities and has been spread to white suburban neighborhoods – infesting everywhere. The whole music busness is run by people into witchcraft who pray demons onto the masters of the records, since the 70-s.  THE MUSIC IS BEING USED TO MIND CONTROL AND GENOCIDE THE POPULATION, ALONG WITH WITH PSYCH DRUGS WHICH ARE DEADLY BY DESIGN.     see my article “Illuminati mind control in psych drugs, music and education” at

          1. I feel that it would have benefited from some reference to the Holy Spirit and personal hygiene.

      3.  Your point is valid, but I’m not sure what the numbers are. In the past few years I can think of three mass shootings perpetrated by minorities in the United States. Virginia Tech, The D.C. sniper, and the Fort Hood shooting were all shootings committed by minority men. I can’t think of a single one committed by a woman regardless of race. Gender is definitely playing a factor here, I’m not certain ethnicity is.
        We are in a time when “masculinity” is not a well defined term, and the things that are obviously masculine are often violent or at least very physical. Mind you, I like a violent video games and sports are a good way to keep in shape, but I worry that we live in a world that believes “girls are good at languages, boys are good at gym.” I have know idea what is going on in any criminal’s mind, but killing his own mother is not a sign of someone happy about his creation.

    2. But drugs are immoral!  And guns are manly!  What are you, some kind of atheist Muslim pinko fascist?

    3. There is massive street cred gained by being involved in gang shootings, which is only heightened by the crimes being covered on news channels.  Even if the individual shooter’s personal details aren’t revealed in the media, the locals *who matter to the gunman* will know.

    4. There is no law that will resolve “the boys who use guns to solve their problems on a daily basis in places like Chicago”, and you do realize that it’s already more difficult to buy a firearm than a Sudafed?   For a resident of Chicago to legally acquire a handgun adds several months and several hundred dollars to the cost.

      Chicago has lost multiple lawsuits, but still makes it VERY difficult for residents to *lawfully* possess firearms (handguns in particular are restricted.), as does the surrounding county (Cook has an AWB and magazine capacity law).  Even the state laws of Illinois are more restrictive than most proposed national laws, with waiting periods and a mandatory ID card that itself has a 3 month wait.  Additionally, carrying a loaded gun is a felony in Illinois, there is no carry permit.

      You might say “But buyers in Chicago can get firearms from another state”, however that is unlawful under Federal law.  Anyone with connections to illegally import a handgun from another US state into Chicago (skipping the delays and paperwork imposed on the law abiding) has the connections to purchase a handgun illegally imported from another country.  

      You are right on one point — ending the war on drugs will help.  Otherwise the cartels can just include pistols and loaded magazines with their next cocaine shipment, ensuring that any ban only impacts the law-abiding.

      1. The concealed carry permit law of Illinois will likely be changing soon.

        Anyone with connections to illegally import a handgun from another US state into Chicago (skipping the delays and paperwork imposed on the law abiding) has the connections to purchase a handgun illegally imported from another country.

        Absolute rubbish! Its a matter of going to a state or gun convention where guns are not hard to get and driving across a border without checks. That is far easier than having one smuggled in from Canada, where its still harder to get them than a lot of US states and you’ll have to pass the border crossing; or Mexico, where you’ll have to buy it illegally and you’ll have to cross the border facing very strict penalties. Other countries you’ll have to have them smuggled in via air or sea. 

        1. I live in California.  I am a law-abiding citizen.  I haven’t pulled a trigger since my Army discharge (Honorable, E-5) in 1968.

          If I had some money and needed a heavy-duty weapon of dubious origin and legality, I could have one in an hour.

          1. But you realise that’s due to the availability of guns in the US?

            The argument presented against gun control is often that making things illegal doesn’t stop criminals from owning them, but the simple fact is that due to the ease of access of guns in the US it’s easy to get one whether you acquire it legally or not.

            I live in a country where hand guns are illegal – could I get one in an hour? I’m not sure I’d manage if you gave me a month.

          2. As I’ve got a few mid-level drug dealer connections, I could probably, if I really wanted to, buy a pistol in Australia. However I’d have no say in what I purchased, it would almost certainly be a revolver and not an automatic. It would cost me a heck of a lot as the connection I’d be going through would want a premium, the next level up would want a premium, the level after that would want a premium, etc. I have no idea how many people would be in the supply chain. I’d guess that each connection in the supply chain would be likely to simply take the money and not supply the weapon, and I’d be the only one that lost out. I’m probably better connected than the average person due to a few of my school friends choosing illegal career paths which means they mingle frequently with numerous  people that choose morally questionable lifestyles.

            The tl:dr version:
            I could possibly buy a gun for a heck of a lot of money, with considerable opportunity to lose the money and not get the product and it would take me at minimum a few weeks. Most Australian’s would find it harder and more expensive than I would.

            Buying an automatic, semi automatic or pump-action would be a lot harder.

            The reason, concealable guns and semi and fully automatic guns are highly restricted in Australia. As a result, for the most part the only criminals that have concealable or automatic weapons in Australia are organised criminals, these guys usually don’t use the weapons on anyone that isn’t also involved in organised crime (and cops, I suppose). 

            Since gun laws have become strict in Australia there haven’t been any mass shootings, there were however a number of these shootings before gun-laws were tightened.

    5. I don’t think you can draw conclusions on a culture from acts committed by less than one in a million of this cultures members.

      1. If some cultures produce people who do it, no matter how rare, and other cultures don’t, I think that you can.

        1.  Unless it’s not a question of how different cultures produce different kinds of people, because they’re not acting on identical sets of blank slate un-nurtured humans.

          Or, maybe different cultures acting on fairly similar distributions of un-nurtured humans produce different outcomes depending on how the fringe cases are handled, what they’re allowed to do, and what they can get their hands on.

          Putting a finer point on it… Maybe these horrific incidents of individual mass violence stand out because we are succeeding in making our society less and less violent, and back in our more uniformly brutal past there were far more outlets for people with homicidal urges than there are today.

    6. In terms of addressing violent crime, there already is a ‘war on guns’: A lot of law enforcement have started to focus a lot more on high risk criminals who are known to carry and use firearms.  So rather than just arresting indiscriminately, there is a very surgical focus on targeting the small percentage of criminals who commit a disproportionate amount of violent crimes, and use existing federal gun statutes to throw the book at them. This is working – (Google Bealefeld in Baltimore, or just look at violent crime drops nationwide.)  It falls under the “enforce current laws” mantra, often touted by the NRA-types.

      But it does little to solve the problem of access to semi-automatic weapons, and high-capacity magazines by disturbed individuals (with no prior records) intent on carrying out mass shootings.  For this, I think it is high time we realize as a society that the risks of such events have come to outweigh the benefits of access to such weapons by law-abiding citizens.  Ban ’em now.

      1.  Only NRA-types want the current laws enforced? Perhaps you should research the effect of fully-funding gun-trafficking laws, like they’ve done in Chicago in the past. They shut down dodgy gun dealers, made sure there were plenty of cops focusing on the problem, gun violence went way down. But the project ended, they didn’t keep funding the efforts, gun violence went back up again. If the number of cops focusing on a problem is static, making the laws more stringent won’t really change much.

        1.  No, lots of folks want current gun laws enforced, but there is a long-standing refrain from the gun lobby that enforcing current laws would be enough, and that no new regulations are needed.  I say do both.

      2.  We’re neurotically inconsistent in our “enforcement” of gun laws. On one hand, we have loonies advocating that the whole country arm up in “self-defense” and on the other we’re adding substantial jail time for having used a gun in the commission of anything deemed a crime, including self-defense. In trying to have it both ways, all we’re succeeding in doing is removing responsibility from the manufacturers of weapons and the people who profit the most from the distraction.

    7. The last time I purchased a firearm (a shotgun), the seller had to fill out a four-page form detailing my name, address, Social Security Number, whether I was mentally ill, a drug user, a US citizen, etc.  It’s called the Form 4473.

      The form itself (PDF):

      The seller also has to complete part of the form, and it’s run through the NICS (aka background check) to determine if I’m a felon, wanted on warrants, etc.   The process takes 30 minutes to an hour altogether.  *(I’m fine with that, incidentally.)The seller then has to retain that form in their files for 20 years, unless the NICS denies the purchase, in which case they have to keep it for only five years.

      Now…contrast that with the process to purchase pseudoephedrine: I show the clerk my ID, she keys in my driver’s license number, I pay and leave.  

      In short, your comparison is very badly-drawn.

    8. “It does help explain massacres a little.  It doesn’t explain the boys who use guns to solve their problems on a daily basis in places like Chicago.”

      Would there be any reason to suspect that the same causes would explain the (quite different) phenomena of spree killing and individual homicide?

      Socially and psychologically, the two have almost nothing in common. If anything, I’d also tend to suspect that gun control would also have an overwhelmingly weaker effect on individual homicide cases (if somebody is planning to go somewhere crowded and just keep killing until the cops either kill them or they are encircled and kill themselves, the efficiency of available weapons makes a pretty significant difference in how well their plan will turn out. Individual score-settling, violent intimidation, or plain inebriated fighting, has a much lower upper bound to the perpetrator’s motivation, so lower efficiency isn’t as big a deal. In cases where medical assistance shows up promptly, the difference between stab wounds/blunt trauma and bullet wounds might still be relevant to individual survival; but they don’t shape the universe of possible plans nearly as much).

    9. There’s a significant difference between people who use guns for long term gain, and suicide massacre perps who don’t expect to get away. The motives of the shooter are quite different. We tend to lump them all together when we hear more news headlines, is all.

  4. Reddit guys also remembered Marilyn Manson’s opinion on Columbine, which, too, is still relevant:

  5. The way that they “brand” these things has made me ill at ease for years, but I had never seen that interview, so I didn’t know that Roger Ebert had made that point so well. Thanks for that.

  6. Further evidence that Roger Ebert is a national treasure.

    As well as an example of why the corporate media act like they’ve never heard of someone like Noam Chomsky. Actually, the shut-out of someone like him is so complete that most people working in the corporate media probably never have heard of him. (I remember that Amy Goodman popped up on CNN for a while after 9/11, probably because she’s based in NYC, but that didn’t last long of course.)

        1. It’s a false dilemma, which is indeed very popular among those who want to look clever but at the same time avoid any strenuous thinking.

          One would have to be pretty shallow to conclude that appearing in one instance on Larry King is mutually exclusive to having one’s perspective played down in mass media.

  7. I see that online at least, the Sun-Times hasn’t kept their vow about keeping school shootings off the front page.

  8. I have read articles that tally and keep score cards on these massacres.  I think that is dangerous. If you have read or watched any interviews with serial killers (yes, I know they are a different profile, but bear with me), they want to accomplish and exceed what murderers have done before them. It creates a cult following, fascination, and an enormous amount of awe from those who seek to do the same, but also from the public at large. I comprehend the need to have understanding and to try to find answers to stop this from happening again, but I think this is absolutely contributing to copy cats. As many of these people who perpetuate these types of crimes do not have other successes in their lives, they want to go out in a blaze of glory with a new record, or a new level of depravity, in terms of the people targeted so that they become famous, or infamous, but that doesn’t matter. They know their name will be known far and wide.

    Once we know more about these killers, perhaps we should focus on every embarrassing and humiliating tidbit of their lives. Highlight the loser status, expose everything that makes them ridiculous. Maybe if others in the contemplative mode see that it causes nothing but ridicule to perpetuate these acts, they’ll think less of them as accomplishments?

  9. Todays’ Chicago Sun Times cover story {at least, on the web} is the CT shooting. Why the change in policy?

  10. Johan Hari had an article in the Independent that was also run on HuffPo: “Did the media help to pull the trigger? Saturation-level coverage of mass murder causes, on average, one more mass murder in the next two weeks, says America’s leading forensic psychiatrist”

    It’s pretty clear that changes in reporting have made clusters of single suicides and package tampering rare. It is time the same thing happened for spree killings.
    What we should not do:
    – pass laws on how the press can report things like this. Press freedoms seem to be a very fragile thing. Bureaucratic efforts to censor the press (for the good of society!) have been a problem in Canada, and press independence is under direct threat in the UK. Freedom of the press is important, we mustn’t allow infringment, no matter how “common sense” it might seem in the wake of a tragedy.
    – in our grief rush to say “the media are responsible for this”. No, that guilt lies solely with the doofus who ran amok.

    1.  Laws, no. Treat such reportage with the contempt it deserves, boycott & agitate against the firms who advertise in the slots on such news shows and inform them of same, fucking yes.

    2.  You say there is a problem, but we shouldn’t do anything about it, because other people have screwed things up.

  11. So media has no relevance… just tv media… oh ok, that makes sense ; ) Those who argue that violent media has NO impact are usually working in the entertainment industry, and their arguments are pretty weak! Sure not everyone goes out and gets a gun to slaughter a whole kindergarten, that takes extra special levels of lunacy. And i often say the problem is mostly on the shoulders of the weapons industry and gun laws.

    But imagine a kid who gets bullied in a playground, who then draws on all sorts of the hyper-rich visual media inputs feeding into his/her own fantasy reactions. Now try to imagine an aboriginal kid in the outback, who never watched tv, or played a shooter game, trying to come up with a plan like yesterday’s attack. It just won’t happen ! 

    I’m not for censorship, but if a council of elders told Eli Roth he had to go live on an island by himself until he either learned how to make constructive media, or find a new career, i might not be opposed. 

    Btw, the XLterrestrials media analysis project recently did some research on Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and the director’s own decision to pull it from the UK market… it’s a fascinating example… and hard to come to any final conclusion. It’s complex !

    1. So let me get this straight. A white, suburban kid goes on a shooting spree, and an aboriginal child doesn’t, and your conclusion is that violence on tv, movies, and video games is the cause of that. Wow, I’m not even sure where to begin tearing that argument apart.

      1. try absorbing the argument, before u go tearing things apart. obviously, i don’t have time to elaborate all the differences between a white surbuban kid and the aborigine… that could take a lifetime of anthropological studies… but to say the media doesn’t have the power to feed the brain with bad ideas, is LUDICROUS! Ask ANYONE working in advertising, they’ll tell ya a 1001 tricks of the trade. I followed Cory’s logic on this for awhile and it strikes me as very inaccurate, if not disingenuous.

        1. obviously, i don’t have time to elaborate

          This appears to be the crux of your “argument”.

      1.  Ugh, in a centre-justified narrow column down one side of the page? And in those colours? Why would anyone do that?

  12. A 42 year old quote:

    “American legislators have been inordinately responsive to the tremendous lobby maintained by the National Rifle Association, in tandem with gunmakers and importers, military sympathizers, and far-right organizations.

    A nation that could not devise a system of gun control after its experiences of the logo’s, and at a moment of profound popular revulsion against guns, is not likely to get such a system in the calculable future. 

    One must wonder how grave a domestic gun catastrophe would have to be in order to persuade us. How far must things go?”

    – Richard Hofstadter (1970). America As A Gun Culture. In: American Heritage 21(6)

  13. Well, I’m doing my part today by totally ignoring corporate media.

    Though I pretty much do that all the time anyway.

  14. Wow! What a great analysis by Roger Ebert. I think the most abominable aspect of the media’s focus on this particular killing spree is the reprehensible practice of them interviewing children in order to satisfy their audience’s need for death porn. Just despicable!

  15. I imagine the Nielsen ratings for cable news channels look like a meth addict’s PET scan would during a massive binge.

    Ebert’s right, but there’s so little hope that those moths will forsake the bloody flame.

    Personally, though, he inspires me to take this as a good time for a media fast… unplugging the cable, unplugging the router, and taking a few days away from the information firehose until the pollution of this is somewhat purged from the system.

    I’m sure my will won’t last long. The spectacle of the Mayan Disappointment will be too great to resist.

    1.  You would have to find a way to force the media to internalise the externalities, somehow make it a cost to them if there was a copycat shooting

  16. Perhaps a partial solution: Total anonymity in the press for any perp of a mass murder — do not release their name(s), no photos, no back story, speculations on motive only mention the pitiful nature of their existence, the senselessness of the crime. Use a gray silhouette on white as their photo. No dramatic theme music. No photos of the murder weapons or diagrams of where the victims were killed. Keep it dull.

    But this is a fantasy, of course. As stated earlier: too much money to be made.

    1. Even the local all news radio station here in the Bay Area – the mostly sober KCBS – already had the dramatic theme music going on by about 2pm, even with the top-of-the-hour news update.  It was also mixed very low, nearly subliminal, but it was there trying to make the news product more dramatic.

  17. I work in the town where the tragedy occurred. Two good friends lost their little boy. I am beside myself with grief, I can’t imagine to what soul reaching depth their grief must extend. As I struggle with the fact that, despite being so close, I am in the same state as most – I want to do something, and I can’t. Through all of this the thought that comes to mind is this…we should be closer. I am referring to society in general. I know that’s not possible, but it’s a great direction to travel.

    If you are looking for a way to help and can’t think of one try this: Make it your New Year’s resolution to get to know 28 people – maybe you see them at work, on your street, but have never gone beyond “hi.” Get to know them and let them know who you are.

    Better than any gun control would be if someone knew the murderer and his mother and could have been in a position to offer direction for counseling or another possible solution. The Oregon’s, Colorado’s, Connecticut’s, will continue until we realize that the “quiet” “disassociated” “damaged” need help. No, it’s not a solution…but it’s a start.

    I’m calling it “The Pledge of 28”
    (Roger Ebert is a treasure.)

    1. Thanks Greg, that idea is a winner. 

      And hey, I hope you take care of yourself, too. It can’t be easy to be so close to such tragedy.

  18. As much as I detest the NRA and the merchants of death that give it money, I think Ebert is absolutely wrong and that Hollywood (and video game producers) are even more responsible. Just scroll away from the news coverage in Connecticut and it won’t take long to find a film where the glory and glamor of  “gun play” is a central theme.

    1. I think you’re absolutely wrong. Hollywood films and video games are viewed and played worldwide by hundreds of millions of people. Yet these mass shootings occur primarily in the US, and have been perpetrated by a very small number of people. There’s no simple cause and effect here.

    2. Many ‘westernized’ countries have the exact same movies and games (or everybit as violent anyway) in theaters and on the shelves but not as much gun violence and random massacres as the US. Sure, troubled people with feelings of rage will often seek out violent entertainment, but so do millions of normal, wholesome people.

      Not saying that media violence has absolutely no hand in this, but I think it’s safe to say that there are factors in US society specifically that seem to make rage and violence more likely to bubble up to the surface. The danger with simply pointing at the obvious violent-guy-in-films is skimming over more insidious issues.

    3. Like how murders 200 years ago were the fault of books?

      Bonzo, I could shoot people 20hrs a day in a video game, it would have absolutely no impact on how I perceive real violence, because it’s not real.

      1.  Some people have problems dealing with fantasy/reality, but that’s something that should be treated on an individual level, not by restricting society at large.

    4.  How about novels and poems with guns and killing in them? Just as responsible as games and movies right? How about photographs of guns, too?

  19. it appears the sun-times has changed its policy or does not apply it to its website.  the only article you see on its website (without scrolling down) right now is a huge picture of the scene and no less than 14 links to various articles about the shooting.

  20. [Setting: a room full of unaware people. News-teams stand on the side ready to deliver every grisly detail including a breathless review of body count numbers, harrowing incidents recounted by survivors, and computer generated simulations of the massacre to stimulate audience debate over the shooter’s tactics and police response.]

    [News-show host gives a promise of stardom and a fully loaded semi-automatic weapon to a sad, angry young man.]

    [The young man begins shooting. Due to readily available information from many sources including previous news programs about mass murderers he knows to aim for the head and chest to increase mortality rates. He saves a final bullet for himself.]

    [The audience erupts. Loud arguing is heard as targets for blame are settled upon. Sentimentality is an undercurrent and public figures crowd the podium shouting prayers and condemnation of the evil that has befallen the audience today. A short-list of potential heroes is paraded in front of the audience until ratings decide whom is the most valiant and well-loved.]

    [The slain, the weapons, and the killer are shown repeatedly, each time to a weaker crowd response. The hours of hate turn to minutes to seconds to the barest blip of recognition. News segments begin featuring house fires and discussion of forthcoming holiday sales events again.]

    [News-show host gives a promise of stardom and a fully loaded semi-automatic weapon to a sad, angry young man.]

    [Repeat ad Nauseum]

  21. We need spree shooter laws just like we have rape shield laws. 

    The identity of the killers of these needs to be classified for 50 years so they are still nobodies after doing this monstrous deed.

    1. Two words: Streisand Effect. You can’t keep it secret. This guy killed his mother. The locals would know that. They would tweet it. His identity would be completely public in 24 hours. Any law or strategy relying on secrecy is now impossible.

  22. Point blank, it is not the media that needs to stop sensationalizing the news they are reporting. Maybe parents shouldnt be allowing their children to watch it. Just a thought.

    1.  Right, because people don’t have personal computer, laptops, phones, all devices that can play streaming video of the news. Hiding things from children doesn’t work for long, at some point you have to teach them how painful the world can be, and how to deal with that without becoming numb or flipping out themselves. That(!) is parenting, not putting your kids in a bubble.

  23. I don’t know if that’s true. I just read on an AP news article that the amount of mass shootings in America peaked right before the Great Depression started, which was before all the 24 hour news coverage, and they actually decreased in the decade after Columbine. I think that there are 300 million people in the US, add hundreds of millions of guns, and you are going to get a suicidal depressed person going “postal” every so often.

  24. Well, however many years ago he made those comments, the Sun Times has since changed their policy because it’s all over page 1.  I don’t see how a news organization doing it’s job can get away with not making 20 children shot dead at school front page news.

    It’s not like a streaker at a sporting event where you don’t show it on TV so as not to encourage the behavior. You can’t treat it as a non event. It’s important, you have to treat it as such. Putting it on page 3 isn’t gonna fly.

    1.  Is reporting about this sort of thing /really/ that important? Really for real? Is reporting in the way it gets reported that important? How are you defining important here. Because in my mind, “not encouraging future killers to kill people because we’ll give them what they want when they do” seems a hella lot more important than stroking our collective tragedy fascination.

  25. I think Ebert has an excellent point.  
    We have two huge monitors on the wall near our cubes – in advance queuing up info from our infrastructure monitoring tools – but right now they are tuned ALL DAY to CNN (with the sound off, thankfully) and it’s really over the top. 
    Do they really need to halt all programming and hammer this one story for days on end?  Why?  I think reporting it and updating periodically is more than enough.

    1. My previous doctor worked in a clinic that had a television in the waiting room, always tuned to the Existential Horror Channel. I’m pretty sure that every patient showed high blood pressure when they were checked.

  26. I don’t agree with ROGER EBERT…when you bombard people with violent movies, tv shows, news coverage and especially violent video games then they get desensitized…They are programed to see that violence is a normal thing…and so if someone goes nuts and starts shooting people out of the blue then it MUST be because part of the media bombardment whatever its source…

    1. All of us are bombarded with violent movies, tv shows, and news coverage as well as video games.  I’m desensitized to such things and have been since the early 80s.  Big deal.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not a grown man and can’t make my own decisions.  Also, I have no experience in killing a man, and there is a huge difference between being desensitized to violence and being desensitized to your own ability to kill someone.  Before we were a civil race and were more barbaric, people cut each others heads off left and right for food, women, property, you name it.  They didn’t have all of this exposure.  So what changed?  We have all of this exposure and we’re less violent?  I’m sorry, but I fail to see the logic in your argument.

  27. I think that he really nailed what’s going on.
    Also, it seems to me that with each shooting the mainstream media gives more attention to the new “bad guy” than they did to the last one.
    I’m not suggesting that we ignore them, but if we stop giving 5 of the top 8 news slots to a pathetic thug who did kill, but killed no more than the drone strike last week, well- I think maybe they’d just do themselves intead of trying for a blaze of glory.

  28. I have no idea whether Ebert is right or wrong, but I do wonder how else events like this should be covered. Its hard for me to imagine such big events not being given tremendous media coverage, because this is what people want to read/hear about right now. I’m not sure I see the alternative. 

    1. There might not be an alternative, but if it is the case and the media really is one of the main factors here, you will never actually hear about it from the media. All you will hear about is all of their other scapegoats i.e. movies, video games, mental illness, guns. If you’re a young kid who is angry at the world and you’ve decided to kill yourself, what is more glamourous; going out in a whimper that won’t even be reported in your local newspaper or going out in a blaze of glory that will have Cee Lo and Taylor Swift singing songs about your carnage?

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