Levin Assails Media’s “Excessive Attention” To Mass Murders


Robert Hawkins of Omaha reportedly wrote “Now I’ll be famous” before he gunned down eight strangers with an AK-47 assault rifle last week in an Omaha shopping mall. Criminologist Jack Levin of Northeastern University told Newsweek that “celebrity magazines” put mass killers on their cover “where we used to put virtuous people. Now we put villains there. It’s not just that they’re newsworthy. It’s that they become antiheroes, celebrities because of the crimes that they commit. We send the wrong message to our youngsters, and it’s very simple: “You want to be famous, you want to get a lot of publicity, you want to feel important and powerful and dominant and in control of things? Fine, kill somebody, and while you’re at it kill a lot of people, because then you’ll definitely make the 11 o’clock news and you’ll be on every cable news program in existence.” Asked “if there were to be a media blackout on publishing these killers’ pictures and their writings, or videotapes of them, do you think there would be fewer of these types of killings?,” Levin said: “It would definitely help.”

A mass killing like the Omaha case is “an important story and it needs to be told, Levin said. But he criticized the “excessive attention” by the media, saying that, “we don’t want to make these villains into victims by delving into every detail of their biographies, showing how they suffered as children, how they were abused and abandoned and neglected and sexually stimulated by a parent or adopted under terrible circumstances.” He added tht it is “very dangerous to place them in positions where we put celebrities.” Levin attributed the relative lack of school shootings after September 11, 2001, to the fact that public attention was focused on the “war on terror, thereby robbing the copycat of its influence in providing publicity for young people who wanted to feel important and to get some attention from the media.”

Link: http://www.newsweek.com/id/74163

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