Free Speech & School Shootings.

First of all, go and watch this clip, wherein a compelling case is made that the wall-to-wall coverage afforded to mass murderers actively encourages copycats.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Dr. Dietz (who, incidentally, is (a) the founder and head of the Threat Assessment Group. (b) possessed of, according to his wikipedia profile, “unrivaled experience in cases involving multiple victim homicides - e.g., workplace, school, family, and stranger mass murders; sexual serial killings; and, serial killings with bombs or poisons.”, and (c) has more experience with mass murderers than you can shake a severed head at) is correct, can one make a sound case for legislating the way mainstream media outlets report such atrocities? For example, could one justify a law forbidding all but the merest coverage of any school shooting by any mass media outlet based further than 50 miles from the crime scene?

I think such legislation could be justified. Already, great pains are taken to purge the airwaves of any material salacious enough to pose a potential threat to our children’s mental health. Well, here we’re talking about material which could plausibly threaten their physical health. To me, it seems like a no-brainer. Rules should be introduced which place extremely strong restrictions on how school shootings are reported.

I’d rather live in a country with occasional school shootings and freedom of speech than one without school shootings or freedom of speech.

Not that I accept the link between them, but even if I did, its a trade off I am willing to make. I don’t have a great degree of trust in the government to limit itself to restrictions on the media regarding school shootings alone. I am sure there are plenty of other things they would like to restrict coverage of to protect the kids.

Are you kidding me? You would curtail freedom of speech in our country for some flimsy attempt to prevent the what, 1 school shooting every couple of years?

Ridiculous. School shootings will happen with or without the coverage.

Instead how about some education on the proper way to store guns and keep them away from kids. How about a legal age of 21+ to own and use a hand gun legally. How about training of counselors and teachers to spot possible problem kids and reach out to them to help before things get out of control?

Those things would probably do a hell of a lot more to prevent school shootings.

But I know, it’s always easier just to take our rights away, because god knows if history has shown us anything is that when people’s rights are taken away all problems disappear. :rolleyes:

Am I to take it that you would oppose regulation such as I propose on the grounds that it would lead to further regulation? Well, I can’t really fault that line of thinking, but I can’t commit to it either. On the one hand, government tends to prefer passing laws far more than repealing them. On the other hand, you can use the slippery slope argument to oppose absolutely everything under the sun. The threat that the government might use a piece of legislation, x, as the thin end of the wedge to better force through more extremist legislation, y, shouldn’t alone be enough to warrant opposition to x, as that threat is inherent to virtually all legislation.

Yes. You are correct. That is precisely what I am proposing and I am in no way ashamed to admit it. In fact, I proclaim it.

Actually, no. They won’t. That’s the whole point. The argument is that the coverage directly causes more school shootings. Without the coverage, there will be less school shootings. If this wasn’t a fact (or, rather, if we hadn’t agreed to treat it as fact for the sake of argument), I wouldn’t have started this thread.

Excellent idea. Maybe, if this bold educational campaign were to bear fruit, we could follow it up with campaigns against the dangers of smoking, driving without a seatbelt, and the importance of always using a condom. Oh, wait…

The bottom line, is that educational campaigns only really affect those who think the underlying message affects them. Since nobody think their kid is a potential mass murderer, there’s not going to be much incentive for any one parent to pay attention. They’ll probably leave the guns in the cabinet where they are now until it’s too late.

But even if they do heed your advice and lock the guns in some impenetrable fortress, that won’t do anything to stop their maladjusted offspring from getting other guns if he really wants them.

Great idea! We should apply that sort of canny thinking to the problem of underage alcohol abuse.

However, wouldn’t this infringe on the legal rights of a great many people currently allowed to possess firearms?

Erm, I’m pretty sure they already do that.

I really don’t think they would. The fact is that the first two items on your daring 3 point plan are entirely ineffectual and also infringe on the rights of certain individuals, while the third is already in practise to seemingly scant effect.

The only right I would be removing would be the right of mainstream media organisations to treat mass murders in an irresponsible manner which directly causes more such incidents. I can easily live without that.

But sometimes the slope is a lot steeper and a lot slipperier than other times, and the benefit to be gained from embarking on it very small. Given that there are very few school shootings, the number of extra shootings from press coverage must by definition be even smaller than very few. So we aren’t looking at a lot of benefit here. And we are cutting to the heart of freedom of the press, which is absolutely essential for a healthy functioning democracy.

Even if it didn’t lead to further restrictions, which I find unbelievably doubtful, I am still not sure I would support the ban. A temporary restrictionon airing the plans the SWAT team have laid out to enter the hostage filled building, when it is known the hostage takers have a TV inside… more possible, but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether to this. I’d also hope it would be something that a journalist would self censor.

Even without other restrictions, you have a very heavy chilling effect on free speech. You are announcing that the government will restrict the right of the media to inform the public regarding a major news story. For the public’s own good of course, but still without a doubt a restriction.

You’re also taking away my right to learn of such incidents. I may very well prefer to hear the news. The media is there because the government shouldn’t be responsible for letting us know what is important. Once you start saying that the government should decide what is important and what isn’t (or what is dangerous and what isn’t) you having broken one of the main purposes of having a free and independent media.

What’s responsible and what isn’t? Who decides? How does the public get input into this process? How would restrict this from being covered by blogs and other forms of non-mainstream media?

I’m not sure I trust someone called a Thread Assessment Group to produce an unbiased report on this, although I don’t dismiss them out of hand. There were school shootings in the days before mass media started publicizing them heavily, but we didn’t hear about them much for obvious reasons. Are you sure there’s been an increase in violent activity like this?

I think it is a perfectly reasonable idea…after all, who really NEEDS a completely free press? I mean if it saves JUST ONE LIFE isn’t it worth it?

After, say, 10 rounds of coverage, the networks are not allowed to mention the event…there is never a ligitimate need for more than 10 rounds of coverage.

And while we are at it, lets eliminate the grips from the news studios. Nobody really needs a grip, a gaffer works just as well.

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The media is there because the government shouldn’t be responsible for letting us know what is important.

As a reporter for Xinhua News Agency once told me back in the 1990s, the purpose of the media is to help the government communicate news and policies to the people, not to question them and “make trouble”. He was dead serious, and had no idea how ironic anyone in the West would find that statement coming from a “journalist”. Tragically he was one of the people who was sent down into Hong Kong in 1997 to help “guide” the very lively press there.

Executives at news organizations need to stop being such cowards and recognize that school shootings don’t need constant coverage.

Not ever speech issue is about governmental protection, sometimes there is an ethical consideration involved.


Coverage of school shootings - or anything else - should not be legislated. Terrible idea.

Maybe, but media coverage is absolutely a factor in what happens and news outlets should exercise a hell of a lot more sense than they do now in covering them. The Virginia Tech shooter mailed photos and a statement to NBC News after shooting two people, and before shooting 30 more. Would he have committed murder if he couldn’t count on the media coverage? Maybe- he was psychotic and I’m not going to predict what a psychotic person will or won’t do. But these people want to make a splash with the press, there’s zero room for doubt about it, and they know they can count on it. There are reasons people sometimes shoot up a school instead of simply killing themselves, and the attention is part of it.

You know what influences mass shootings more than covering them? People screaming “damn commie Demmycrats’re comin’ ta take yer guns!” all the fucking time.


When covering a sporting event, say a baseball game, if a spectator runs on the field, the first thing the TV coverage does is NOT show the idiot on the field. It doesn’t take an FCC mandate to do so. They know that it only encourages copycats at other events.

Glenn Beck, Marilyn Manson. Marilyn Manson, Glenn Beck. Maybe you’d both like to play some video games and get to know each other?

Nobody was saying “the Democrats are going to take your guns” in 1999, when Columbine happened, and in 2007, the Democrats were out of power and the assault weapons ban expired, and Cho at Virginia Tech still shot a lot of people.

If they’d stop coming for people’s guns I’d imagine they’d stop screaming about it.

I think you’re assuming facts not in evidence. Political hysteria is pretty constant, from one side or the other.

So taking a pol’s at their word isn’t good enough?

Obama 2007
Holder 2009
H.R. Clinton 2009John Kerry 2009
D. Feinstein 2009
Pelosi 4/2009

I’m disputing the “they’d stop screaming” part, not the fact that a new AWB has been discussed. Do you believe Glenn Beck would stop screaming if the Democrats lost interest in the gun issue? He wouldn’t. He gets paid to scream about fascism coming to our shores, so he has no reason to stop. That aside, I also think he’s crazy.

Name one single solitary thing anybody’s done to grab one person’s guns in the last six months. Beck (and everybody else at Fox) is whipping up hysteria over a lie.

Gotcha. I agree with what you have said above.