“Murder Made Me Famous”
By Jeff Knox
(May 3, 2018) Sitting in a fast food joint at DFW Airport, eating a breakfast bowl, waiting for my ride, and thinking about the NRA Annual Meeting I just flew in to attend, I happened to glance up at the TV. Of course it was playing CNN – they pay to be on every TV in every airport in the country – and I noticed a series of almost iconic photographs flashing across the screen. As each picture briefly appeared, I realized that I was treating it like a quiz, trying to name each person pictured, and I was getting most of them, no problem – and that’s a problem. The faces flashing across the screen were all murderers, and I not only recognized almost all of them, I could name them, and describe their crimes.
The photos were being shown as a promo for a series that plays on a cable channel called REELZ. The name of the series is Murder Made Me Famous, and it serves as proof positive that the media is thoroughly corrupt, callous, and driven by ratings above all else.
Here’s the description of the series from the REELZ website:
Murder Made Me Famous is a fact-based crime documentary series that examines killers who gained public notoriety when their crimes generated intense media coverage and made the killers household names. The unnerving psychology behind murder has long been source material for television, books and movies but why do certain killers capture the attention of millions?
Each one-hour episode presents dramatic recreations of the crimes using archival material and insightful commentary from those connected to the case to help unravel the twisted personalities that were thrust into the spotlight.
I was able to name so many of those murderers because I, like just about every other American, have been bombarded with their images and stories for most of my life. The attention given to these degenerates is so pervasive that it’s virtually impossible to get away from it. The saturation coverage, with its speculation and salacious details being rehashed every 15 minutes for weeks after an event, then regularly dredged back up for another look every few years for decades, makes these murderers some of the most recognizable and well-known people in the world. And that fame and notoriety is known to inspire others to seek similar fame by committing heinous crimes of their own.
The dominant media’s wall-to-wall coverage of mass murder events goes directly counter to guidelines published by research organizations including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and American Association of Suicidology. For at least two decades my father, my brother, and I have maintained a policy of avoiding mentioning the names of murderers in our writings, and we’ve called on other media to do the same. Ben Shapiro has now declared a similar policy for himself, and his The Daily Wire news outlet. We adopted our policy because the evidence of fame motivating deviants is very clear and well-established, and we don’t want to be part of the problem. If a murderer is killing people as a way of becoming famous, we don’t want to give him what he’s seeking. More importantly, we don’t want to provide any inspiration for the next loser to who wants to become a household name by shooting, bombing, burning, or crashing his way into the headlines and CNN’s perpetual repetition that they call “news.”
Polls say that fame and celebrity have replaced wealth, power, athletic achievement, even happiness, as the most desired life-goal of the post-Baby Boom generations. Simply “being famous” is now considered a great achievement, even if the fame is based on some negative, embarrassing, or criminal event. From sports fans acting the fool to get their picture on the jumbotron during a big game, to tourists waving through the windows of the NBC during the Today Show broadcasts, it seems that a large slice of today’s culture are willing to do almost anything to see their picture on TV or in a viral video. While the desire for fame is not a new phenomenon, it has never been as pervasive at it is today. That means the media’s obligation to be sensitive and responsible in their coverage of mass murder events has never been so great. It is a responsibility that they ignore.
All of the major news outlets are guilty of exploiting murder for ratings. This new show advertising on CNN, with its outrageous title, goes way beyond careless and callous, and demonstrates just how indifferent the talking head ‘journalists” and their programmers really are. Unfortunately the American public will lap it up, and clips and copies will be floating on YouTube for decades to come, inspiring God only knows what kinds of evil and destruction. But while media like CNN will gleefully continue to blame gun owners and the NRA for the actions of deranged degenerates, they refuse to take the simplest steps to mitigate their own culpability in these atrocities.
When suicide researchers saw a link between heavy media coverage of suicides, and a phenomenon they dubbed Suicide Contagion, where one suicide triggered a series of others, the Society of Professional Journalists, newspapers, TV networks, and other media developed and adopted a set of guidelines for reporting on suicides. Under these guidelines, focus was taken off of the suicide itself, and placed more on the people left behind, and the positive things in the person’s life. The result has been a marked decrease in the frequency and severity of Suicide Contagion.
At its core, a mass shooting event is almost always an elaborate suicide-by-cop. Few perpetrators have any exit plan other than a hail of bullets. It seems reasonable to apply the same rules to mass killings, especially given the evidence that some killers are doing their best to run up a gruesome “score.” Psychologists and psychiatrists, social scientists, and, to their credit, a few members of the media, have called on the Society of Professional Journalists, and all media to adopt the suicide guidelines in hopes of reducing the frequency and severity of mass murder copycat events. So far these calls have fallen on deaf ears, and every time there is a mass-killing that receives heavy press coverage, we know that there will be copycats striking within days or weeks.
It is past time for mass media to stop exploiting murder for ratings. It is time for them to stop naming suspected murderers and showing their photos – over and over and over again. Stop speculating on motives, assigning rankings, and comparing one atrocity to another. And time for them to adopt guidelines such as those petitioned to the Society of Professional Journalists in a petition called the “Don’t Inspire Evil” initiative.
Adopting a few reasonable, sensible changes in the way the media reports on murders would unquestionably save lives without interfering with anyone’s rights. But the media and politicians would rather blame gun owners, and demand we surrender our rights to schemes that have historically failed to protect anyone. That’s hypocritical and immoral.
Unfortunately, change is unlikely so long as the media can use sensational coverage to get eyeballs for their advertising.