In the wake of the shootings in a Colorado theater last week, Sean D. sent in a BBC video clip commenting on media coverage of mass murders. It criticizes the typical response, which usually involves intense coverage dissecting every piece of the story, focusing closely on the killer and his motivations. This can go on for days.
The narrator argues that this is exploitative — the media is using gruesome events to drive ratings (often for days at a time) — and it feeds into the public’s tendency towards voyeurism. He also includes an interview with a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Park Dietz, who specializes in such cases; he says that this type of coverage is the exact opposite of what the media should do… if it is interested in saving lives. The attention, especially to the criminal himself, encourages other “anti-heros” to contemplate and execute mass murders themselves.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.