The news media has long been accused of turning mass shooters into celebrities.
Now the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wants to wipe the killers off the internet.
On Wednesday, the group launched a browser plug-in that replaces the names and pictures of mass shooters in news stories with the names and pictures of their victims.
The browser plug-in, available in Chrome, is the centerpiece of “Zero Minutes of Fame,” a Brady Campaign effort to get the media to stop glamorizing mass shooters. It echoes the “Don’t Name Them” campaign by Texas State University’s ALERRT Center and the ” No Notoriety” movement started by the parents of a mass shooting victim.
“The fact is, notoriety serves as a reward for these killers and as a call-to-action for others who would seek to do similar harm in the name of infamy,” said Brady Campaign president Dan Gross.
Researchers studying the phenomenon of mass shootings are increasingly convinced that these events can be explained through the metaphor of viruses — someone sneezes, the germs spread, others get infected, and so on.
Mass shooters intensely study their forbears. They often reference each other in their online ramblings and attempt to honor — or surpass — them in their own rampages. In this metaphor, social media and news organizations are spreading the germs.
The browser plug-in, while innovative, seems like a mostly symbolic effort that will be adopted by people who have no interest shooting a bunch of people.
Until the news media agrees to stop naming mass shooters, their notoriety will continue to spread, particularly to disturbed people susceptible to those images.
“The media also has a role to refrain from memorializing monsters by splashing the names and faces of shooters all over television, newspapers, and the Internet,” Gross said.
While CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly have expressed support, there’s been no widespread embrace of the idea.
After a mass shooting at an Oregon community college last year, Post managing editor Cameron Barr — then national editor — said, “We believe that comprehensive information about those responsible for mass shootings and other horrendous events informs the public debate.”