The Case for No Notoriety

It’s no secret that mass shootings in the United States of America are a problem, to say the least. Since the year began, there have been 255 mass shootings in the country, resulting in 275 deaths and 1065 injuries. The trend is on the rise, according to the BBC, and with large-scale gun control seeming unlikely, other precautions outside of the government are being proposed to deter mass shooters instead.

No Notoriety is a campaign asking the media to refrain from making the perpetrator of such attacks the main object of attention when reporting on the incident. The rules are simple: publications can refer to the assailant once, in the matter of public interest, though withhold from going into detail regarding their name or likeness unless the individual is still at large. Motivations and mindset can be published in order for the public to understand the events that transpired, though anything that the perpetrator did to attract attention or fame, such as the publication of manifestos, statements, or photos and videos, should not be published, as that would be giving the killer what they wanted: infamy. 

The biggest case for No Notoriety is the fact that fame could be what attracts prospective mass shooters to taking action. Take the recent Christchurch Mosque Shootings for example – the perpetrator of this attack live-streamed the murders, gaining 200 viewers during the streaming, and, when Facebook took the footage down, the clip was re-uploaded 1.5 million times in less than 24 hours. In this instance, the killer got what they wanted: mass attention on a world-wide stage.

Another instance of this is the Columbine High School shooters, who, prior to the attacks, said that they were aiming for “the most deaths in US history…we’re hoping”. The gunman behind the 2012 Aurora shooting, known for occurring at a midnight screening of the Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, chose the venue because they “thought a movie theatre would lead to higher fatalities”, the University of Alabama’s Adam Lankford said. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the perpetrator of another attack, this time the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015, wrote in a blog post

“A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”

The incentive of fame, despite it being largely negative, obviously plays a role in the increase of mass shootings taking place.

Another motivation for No Notoriety? The fact that the victims of such atrocities are often barely acknowledged in comparison to the amount of spotlight perpetrators of these attacks often get. In fact, the founders of No Notoriety, Tom and Caren Teves, started the campaign after losing their 24-year-old son, Alex, in the aforementioned Aurora shooting. The assailant got what they wanted – copious press coverage – but the victims, including Alex, did not receive the same treatment. The Teves believe that victims’ lives are “more important than their killer’s actions”, and that the victims deserve to be celebrated and remembered more than their attackers do. 

The same belief is championed by survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the ninth most deadly mass shooting in the US since 1949. Teenage survivors of the attack formed a political action committee named named ‘Never Again MSD’, advocating for tighter gun control within the country. One of the founders, 19-year-old David Hogg, is also a vocal advocate of No Notoriety, tweeting:

It’s obvious that some sort of drastic change is needed to prevent more tragedies from occurring. Half of the ten most deadly shootings in the US have occurred in the last three years. Perhaps if those with power in government cannot necessitate change, the media can attempt to instead. No matter what, if things keep occurring at the same rate that they are now, the world is going to be a much darker place.