December 18, 2012

Why Do We Care So Much About The Killer?


From the moment I began seeing information about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, people were asking questions about who did this. What’s his name? Where is he from? How old is he? I use ‘he’ because those were the questions. The immediate assumption was that it was a male. Could it have been a woman? Sure, I guess. But we’ve come to think of these things being done by men. And, as the case is, it was a man, well, a 20 year old kid really, who did it. I won’t name him and give him any sense of humanity on my blog. Because I don’t care about him.

I truly feel sorry for the shooter’s brother who was named, in error. I can’t imagine that hell. Not only did he not do it but he had to deal with knowing his own sibling did. And with social media joining the traditional media, the dissemination of erroneous information is actually more the norm these day. It’s a game of who can be first. It’s not about accuracy. It’s about who can be the first one up so the google bot gives them the number one spot, they get the first re-tweets and they are seen as the authority. Never mind that you get to ruin someone’s life in the process. Is that just the price we pay now?

Long before we knew anything about the 26 people who were shot to death by someone who obviously wasn’t stable, we knew all kinds of sordid details about the killer. We knew things about his family, his parent’s divorce, that his father was a corporate executive, he had family members who would vouch for him, his mom, his dad, his brother. Before we even had a full death count, pictures of this creep were splashed across tv and computer screens. There were interviews with his former classmates and current neighbors. None of which shed any light on why he did this.

He was homeschooled. He has Aspergers. He was in the Technology Club in high school. Really? Who the heck cares? What relevance is any of that? None of those are explanations for his behavior. None of those define him. He went to school. He lived in an affluent, idyllic small town. He was a loner. The guy had problems and no one did anything about them. All this background is supposed to make sense of this? No, it doesn’t. What he did was selfish. Nothing about who he was can offer any justification for gunning down innocent children.

I don’t care if his family owned a gun shop. That doesn’t mean you get to go shoot up people because you have a problem. Killing children does not make whatever problem you have go away. You want to stand out and be somebody instead of just blending into the background? Then do something worthwhile. If you’re so smart then use it for good. Get your 15-minutes of fame for trying to cure cancer or creating a solution to make something quicker, easier, better. Heck, stay holed up in your bedroom in your pajamas and make an app worth downloading a bazillion times. Oh, right, we’d never know your name with those things.

It’s only by killing 20 children that he cemented his place in history. Where he’ll become a household name, get his own Wikipedia page and be the standard-bearer all future killers get to be judged against.

He killed innocent children in an attempt to be someone people will remember. Oh, we’ll remember him alright. But someone else will come along and try to outdo him, just like he tried to outdo some other guy who took the lives of innocent people. I don’t care how many media outlets talk about him and say his name and splash his yearbook photos across the screen. His 15-minutes are up.

I think back to the Oklahoma City bombing, to 9-11, to Columbine, Jonesboro. And more recently to Tucson and Aurora. I know a few names of those who perished. But I can still hear the news anchors saying the names of the killers exponentially more than the names of those who perished. We’re obsessed with knowing who these killers are, and everything about them. That’s the job of law enforcement. The media, of course, has to report the facts. Although, these days it’s more about reporting hearsay and filtering out the facts later.

A phenomenal principal and several teachers, all young women, lost their lives at the hands of a cold-blooded killer. We should know their names, their hobbies, what their colleagues and neighbors and friends thought of them. We should know what their high school teachers thought. We should know them. Instead, a killer became a household name.

Image Credit



esta December 18, 2012 at 7:14 am

Sara, I totally agree the focus should be on the victims, not the shooter. And, before reporting to the public, they should get their facts straight.

However, coming from a psychology perspective, I do think people want to understand who the shooter was as a way to put everything in order, a coping mechanism, and a way (however unlikely,) to protect themselves from the same fate.

With regards to the victims, I can speak for myself, that no words are necessary. The pain of the victims is obvious, and acute. I’ve cried many times. Above all, I respect the victims’ need to mourn, and not to be the subject of another news and money making story.

News venues are in business to report the news, and to make money. They are first, the same people who want to cope and understand, and, the conglomerates that want to profit from the peoples hungry desire to know.

Again, I do think the focus should be on the victims as a topic of serious discussion; the education on behavior awareness that could prevent such a crime. It also speaks to the issue of gun control, which should be addressed in the same breath.

Thank you for addressing such a poignant subject.


Sara December 18, 2012 at 10:46 am

Esta, thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts. That news reporting has come down to a money-first attitude is just so wrong, especially when dealing with tragedy. There are so many heroes and we should know who they are and leave all the sordid details of the shooter’s life to profilers and law enforcement. Labeling these killers as gifted, autistic, ADHD, loners, etc. only serves to have society profile and distrust our fellow humans. Knowing his favorite video games or that he was good in math isn’t relevant. What is relevant is that we know about the teachers, staff and students who were all making the world more beautiful.

Thank you, again, Esta.

~ Sara

Kristin @ What She Said December 18, 2012 at 8:08 am

Very well-said. And I don’t know about you, but this vicious cycle of people committing mass murders and then the media sensationalizing them, over and over again, each massacre and the fervor following it worst than the last… it all makes me feel so helpless. Like I’m on a runaway train destined to run straight off a cliff.

This is our world now. And I just don’t know what to think about that.

Sara December 18, 2012 at 10:48 am

Kristin, thank you for adding to the conversation. You’re so right that the media sensationalizes these mass murderers. I, too, feel so helpless. Hopefully we can stop this train before it plunges.

~ Sara

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