Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A Copycat Is Born

In Las Vegas and Bailey, Colorado and also Quarryville, Pennsylvania the madness of irrational murder of the innocent was played out in dramas that bombarded our consciousness in horrifying repetition.

We wrote about sadness. Who would not feel this sadness? Those who are raising or have raised children feel it keenly. We wrote about our outrage. We talked in disparaging terms about the madmen. We flashed their images, their history and their methods from coast to coast on network and cable news programs and news web sites. As a nation we asked why.

My fear today is for those that did not feel the sadness or outrage. Across our world lie many shattered souls, individuals holding with shaking hands to a glimmer of sanity. Waking in the morning they see visions of killing and revenge. They reflect on their lives spent in pain and humiliation. Maybe the humiliation is self generated and maybe it is exogenous in its origin. Whatever its source it is an adumbrant presence in their consciousness. Our friend Enemy of the Republic wrote recently about our love affair with the sociopath. I encourage you to read her thoughts and the thoughts of her readers. If we did not ask ourselves how to protect our children it would be both ignorant and slovenly. Some wish the police were better equipped to deal with the emergencies. Some hope for total school security. Many, as they always do, entertain notions of banning guns, as though it were as simple as buttering toast in the morning. Those that see the folly of banning guns as an impossible process wish for an armed community that guns down the madmen before they kill us, raising the specter of role reversal in the tick of a clock.

For my part this morning I am focused on the communication aspect of this problem, though I freely admit to its being akin to studying water molecules at the ocean’s surface. Still, when I read the cable news network web sites I was met time after time with the photo of the killers. Below the photo was the story of the crime, complete with mental history or lack thereof, the modus of operation for the crime, the speculation of the experts, the count of the dead and all of the other details with which we are emotionally broadsided. Predominant in all the stories is the outline of the killer and his life. It is a virtual news celebration of the sociopath.

Somewhere in our world the individuals I described above, the ones that cling with tenacity to their sanity while simultaneously staying in touch with their anger read also. They read and internalize it with their own struggle. A copy cat is born.

Have we glamorized these madmen to the point that those that walk the edge make the mistake of confusing ill-gained notoriety with self importance? The question poised at the edge of the frontal lobe of the disturbed turned crisply into the answer, “I can do it better than that, and I will prove it.”

I have no idea if this is correct or blind wandering. I am an architect by training, not a brain examiner with skills. However, I am normally rational to the point of hoping that some solutions do not require certified brain sleuths. Is it not simple enough to understand that it just might be irresponsible to paste the madman’s photo and life story across every broadcast and news web page in America? Would it would not be more helpful to use the communications to point toward sources that can help the shadowy insane find help? Watching everywhere in America and even around the world are the shadow killers. The mind of man that awakes in the morning and packs the tools they read about the day before, uncertain if they will use them that day.

Could we spend more communication resources more responsibly on preventing the madman from walking into the trap of ill-gained notoriety? I believe that if they were not celebrated, we might make a start. I know the opposing argument already. It goes something like this, “We are only reporting the news, it was someone else that did these horrible things, and we are only reporting the news.” It’s a decent argument.

It falls short for me however. The fact is that FOX, CNN, MSNBC, ABC and all the other acronyms are competing for our dollars and viewer ratings.

We reward them by pulling our chair up closer to learn all about the mystery madman that killed innocent children, falsely believing that this is the only injured and angry human with this capability and thank goodness now they are gone. Perhaps we should pull our chairs back in an act of defiance, bringing the power of the dollar to bear on the corner executive that silently hopes for yet another killing on this day because the news is slow?

I am not tardy in taking my own limited action. I have written letters and emails to the broadcasters asking them to please quit glorifying madmen for a national audience. I encourage the same of all Americans. Let’s use our communication resources to reach out to the shadowy figures of mayhem, the sociopath that is confused about personal glory and how to best achieve it. Can we help the sociopaths that express their anger and harbor a desire to kill become less confused about the concept of personal honor and glory? They walk among us all and they listen to the news. They surface on some of the blogs we read, expressing statements of death and murder. They are asking for help. Can we give help in both a personal and national way? I believe we can, but we must first begin to purge from our society the brewing confusion between what honor and glory mean and what murder of the innocent and insanity mean. It is too fine a distinction for the many that struggle with their madness. Is it because we have moved the ends of the yardstick of definitions too close together?


patti_cake said...

I agree with you 100% Rick, stop giving them the recognition/celebrity they seem to crave. Oh I just don't know what else to say about this anymore. I have thought and thought and thought about it and read so many different opinions and my brain is just buzzing.... but you summed it up brilliantly as usual.

Enemy of the Republic said...

Thank you for the plug for my blog. That particular entry was upsetting to me, because I was not only dealing with a radical aspect of mental illness, but I could see from some of the comments that people proved my point--we love the sociopath, because he does what we want to do. I even had a problem with my students (not over the post) who objected to my term "sociopath", thinking that "psychopath" was preferable. One sent an anonymous email to all the students in one of my classes. Another proof to my point: my students got hung up on the term, not the lesson. I said: I don't care if you see sociopathic tendencies in these characters or their actions or not. I want you to recognize one thing: what they did was WRONG, and there is no two ways about it. Later on you can make the excuses of fate, God, bad home...but I want you to see in this play that there is right and wrong, and the characters chose wrong. I don't care why. I care about the result. They were shocked and asked if I were a preacher. Geez. So I get you...big time.

Jenn said...

Seven - fantastic point. And definitely something to work towards as a society.

I hate the media...I really do. If only they would use the power at their fingertips for good rather than ratings. So much could be different.

And you make a good point - they only provide what is demanded and boosts ratings. Even if we don't realize we're demanding it. If we become more aware and guide what boosts the ratings....that's where the change may happen.

Hmm. Pondering...pondering....

Ilias- said...

I wish there were a segment in broadcasts for positive news... loving and benevolent things that are going on in the world. In fact, why not make that the only news? I realize it may be a way off, but maybe it could be a goal. Thanks Seven.

Reach said...

I am so happy to see you involved with this topic. As you did read in my "Is it still sensative" post, I am very familiar with this topic- for it will manufacture in many forms. In my post, I too called for our fellow citizens force the networks into responsibility for their reports.

I also see the violent attitudes increasing- take for an example car chases on every channel. Then, if that was not enough, some networks have dedicated complete hours on shows "glorifying" such behavior. With honesty I admit to my occasional viewing of such "We interrupt the currently scheduled program for this breaking news"; however, sensationalism is not the ticket for the networks to increase their revenue. I believe the network executives require a better sense of their viewing audience.


Seven said...

I share your confusion and I appreciate your support. I can always count on you for positive support, even if we are all pushing through the darkness sometimes.

Yours was a post that definitely caused me to think. I know the line between right and wrong can grow blurred when the mental illnesses creep in.

I was motivated by our recent exchange and your sadness about the topic. I think the 3rd sentence of your comment is moving into line with where we all need to go.

I would watch! I don't actually have blinders on my face and in police work I have seen very horrible things; perhaps enough for a lifetime. It is odd (and sad) that the ratings come from abhorent tragedy.

Yes I remeber your post and your early demise. I also think one reason people go on irrational car chases is because they think they might get on TV. We had one in DFW recently where the driver literally said it was the reason he did this! I say no more room for morons. Shoot them on the spot with animal tranquilizers. (After we get the public out of the way) I'm actually kidding about that, but I wish a very good mech engineer would event a way to fire something into the engine to shut the vehicle down.

Reach said...

Actually they all ready can, disable the engine through the LoJack system; however, the authorities are afraid of premature disabling. Currently, the authorities are researching a system to completely control the vehicle while the "suspect" is still as an occupant.


Angie said...

"They surface on some of the blogs we read, expressing statements of death and murder." Whose blog are YOU reading? :)

The problem is, as a society, we place too much emphasis on sensationalism and extremely little time educating Joe Public on how to identify mental illness. How many of us would know how to identify a sociopath in our presence? How many times have we heard the family, friends, coworkers and neighbors describe these people as quiet but friendly? How can we fix the problem if we can't identify the source?

Seven said...

I had read the military was working on a specific technology. I think it is the tech that scrambles electronic signals, knocking down enemy communications and computers?

Excellent point. I think the overview of this is that we need to focus the remarkable resorce of communication on the problem rather than the abhorent results of the problem. In fact, its my opinion, (not shared by all) that the news communicators exacerbate the problem. This morning in Fort Worth we have a copy cay hostage taker. He took a 4 year old hostage and came prepared with plastic ties for binding victims, just like he has been reading about.
Still, I see your point and concede to it as far as how in the world do we ID these people. In reality I think the process would be that they ID themselves to us. A reverse process. As in, "Hello, I'm thinking a lot about killing children, can you help me?" If the resources were in place, maybe we could help them. Of course, there is the very real possibility that we cannot.
I ask myself this question though, "If these had been the children or grandchildren of a major executive at one of the acronyms, would it be reported the same? Would the killer of their own child be plastered across their network as the bad boy de-jeur to secure ratings?" Probably not.
Therein I believe, lies much of the problem. It is always someone else being hurt or killed, someone we don't actually know. So it matters less. Sad, but true.
Good points.