By Alanna Anderson
A recurring fact of life is that when you see a disaster or crime occurring it is hard to look away. The suspense surrounding the situation seems to capture our attention there and keep it due to morbid curiosity. But while looking at the crime itself, we don’t see the victim(s). We don’t see who has been affected and injured by the event. Of course there are victims, but we don’t know their names, we don’t know who in their life will be affected by the event, and we don’t know their stories. All we’re usually told is an estimate of their age, a brief mention that they are leaving children or a spouse behind, and facts on why the attacker would’ve attacked them: like gender, race or other characteristics and actions to provide motive.
This is the same case in a lot of mass killings. While we receive detailed observations of the attacker through the news (their name, age, reassurance of their “calm” personality, and how exactly they had planned and executed the crime) the information about the victim(s) is left in the dark. They become lost as a number. A countless one, two, and three on a list of the people dead or injured. In the meantime, the attacker receives multiple detailed profiles.
Even when reading some novels on serial killers, the killers are almost idolized because of the attention that they receive, but usually just one or two of the victims are mentioned, usually to evoke sympathy, and the rest is just statistics. Otherwise, the lives of the victim(s) are lost to us and they become the unwilling catalyst for propelling the killer’s fame and popularity.
To add on to the idea of idolization, you have to think about this from the point of view of the shooter. In their profiles, they are often depicted as attention seekers that feel wronged somehow by a perceived injustice that has been dealt against them. They then turn that strong feeling of betrayal into an ideology that includes the pain of others for retribution. Part of that retribution could be public humiliation. Though many killers say that the act was for themselves and not the public, there is a harsh kind of empathy in forcing others to feel the pain that you are feeling or have felt.
By paying so much attention to the killer we are giving them attention that they may need to further their agenda. This attention is given to them in place of reaching out to give sympathy to the victim who has been violated and exploited.
“We need to pay more attention to helping the victim instead of making killers into movie stars.”
People tend to dehumanize shooters and make them into pop culture icons instead of the actual human beings that they are. But it does help to keep in mind that they are people. They are our neighbors, the people standing behind us in line at the grocery store, and driving in the car in front of us. In the words of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird: “A mob’s made up of people, no matter what.” Behind every violent action is a human emotion that drove them to that path.
While these people shouldn’t be idolized and given so much attention to the point of ignoring the victim(s), we need to make sure that we keep this person as human as possible without glazing over their horrible actions. By seeing the attacker as human, it helps to keep in mind that they have to be held accountable for what they have done since we are all (for the most part) accountable for our actions.
Sometimes people may not even be aware of the fact that they are promoting what this person has done. This, however, can’t be helped. The idea of the unknown and different just attracts us. We can’t help but be curious about the people who have deviated from the morals and paths laid coded into different cultures and societies. We collect their facts like trading cards and we memorize every facet of their treacherous executions. The issue is not the morbid curiosity itself, it’s how it becomes presented when dealing with the situation. Writers and publishers are getting paid to provide what will be relevant and what will sell. When they see that what people are more interested in the killer than the victim, they feed off of that in a cycle of buy and demand.
When media and people’s personal interests give so much attention we are feeding into the attention that they crave. We are giving into that motive that they had and proving that through this terrible action they are getting closer to reaching their ulterior motive. What makes this even worse is when a person who allegedly knew the attacker says things about them that seem to erase the fact that they have murdered or injured a person/people. Things like: “they are usually so nice,” “I’ve never known them to be violent or rude to anybody,” and, “this isn’t like them at all.”
There’s also the trouble behind the news displaying certain attackers as distinguished and polished people and focusing on all of the reasons why they couldn’t have done this instead of all of the things that they did.
Remember that whenever you think about the actions of a killer, you must always remember those directly affected by them too. While the killer should be considered in a situation, you must always acknowledge the victim and their suffering. Pay attention to the victim in a car crash instead of the sight of the cars after they’ve crashed. And, besides, why would you want to romanticize a person who’s done nothing romantic or heroic?
In order to make the victim feel like what they have gone through has not been ignored in the face of the person who has hurt them, we need to make sure that we have our priorities straight as far as who we’re going to reach out to. We need to pay more attention to helping the victim instead of making killers into movie stars.
Alanna Anderson is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram