Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I Quit doing Media Interviews on Individual Mass Murderers

by Pat Brown

When the most recent mass murder occurred, I got the usual calls from the media networks - television and radio - to come and talk about the mass murderer and why he did what he did. I gave my opinion on the causes including psychopathy, lack of empathy, anger toward society, attachment disorder in his early years, and a childhood likely influenced by ultraviolent movies, negative fantasy and role-playing games, and excessively violent video games. And I spoke of the media attention that also encourages mass murder as a way to express rage and become famous at the same time. I did television and radio from daybreak to bedtime for three days straight.

I got my usual hate mail from a number of video gamers who don't get that what I am talking about is young children growing up in a world with far too much time spent in activities which are not of the most positive and wholesome variety; they think I am claiming all gamers will become psychopaths and killers. Not what I am saying at all, but some tend to be very sensitive about anyone who postulates that violent video games just might not be the best past time for our children, especially those with psychological issues.

But, then, there were those who pointed out that as part of the media giving the mass murderer all that attention, I was part of the problem. I had to admit they had a point. I have always avoided using the killer's name and been careful to say nothing nice about him. I have attempted to educate the public about the psychology and development of mass murderers, hoping to effect change in parenting of the future. But, I have to say, I always kind of felt like I wanted to go home and take a shower after talking about the killer. I did think I was contributing to some extent to his fame and I didn't like the feeling.

I finally decided I should step up the plate and take a stand. I will no longer do media interviews that focus on a specific mass murderer and give him the glory he wants. If parents need to do a better job of parenting, I need to do a better job of commentating.

So when FOX News Channel called yesterday, I just said, "No."

This morning the show went on without me. And when more television and radio producers called me throughout the day, I told them, "No." There was a stunned silence; us media folks know that refusing to do a show does not inspire producers to call you back and can be a career killer. Some people have written me saying I should continue because I will just be replaced anyway with someone who will say the mass murderer's name and won't explain what needs to be done to prevent mass murder in the future. They are probably right, that someone else will simply take my place, but, along with sleeping better at night, I hope that another media commentator or show host will stand up and just say "NO!" as well. And then another. Maybe a few years from now, no mass murderer will get his photo or his name or any details of his crime or life history in any media forum at all.

I may be unrealistic about such change, but I can hope, can't I?

How to Save your Daughter's Life by Pat Brown will be out on August 15, 2012.

Pre-order from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.


KLGG said...

Pat - I watched your interview on MSNBC and learned alot from it. You explained very thoroughly how he had set it up to be famous. I really wonder who else saw that interview and thought as I did, that we should stop saying his name.

That happened. People would not say his name. It's been a wonderful change in the news arena.

I understand your position. I am boycotting InSession right now during the Drew Peterson case because he loves the attention. I cannot support that.

Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Maybe the shift is to being interviewed in reference to the books you are righting. We need your insight and information. So maybe books and articles are the way.

And interviews about crimes that don't involve psycopaths.

Karen (Olde Hippi on Twitter)

Pat Brown said...

It is difficult to decide, Karen, just how much the media should touch any story. It is hard to avoid talking about crimes that involved psychopaths because psychopaths are the one that commit them. However, mass murderers specifically DO their crime to get their name in the news while most of the others do not.

Pat Brown said...

I just told a radio show producer I would not come on his show due to the stand I have taken about giving media attention to individual mass murderers and he asked me if I knew someone who would.

James Graham said...

We need to dust off one old-fashioned word and use it extensively whenever one of these attentionistas demands notice.

That word is "coward."

Pat Brown said...

Actually, James many a commentator and host has used that description but it doesn't matter. Negative attention is just as good, if not better, for a mass murdering psychopath. He needs to be ignored. Mention the crime, talk about the victims, and just give mention that the perp has been arrested, taken to trial, and incarcerated or put to death. No more, no video in the courtroom, no photos.

Cozy in Texas said...

I applaud you for taking a stand for what you believe, but on the other hand if we understand this person's personality then it might help a relative or parent of another child to know when something is really seriously wrong.
I was married to a sociopath and although he wasn't violent, if I had understood that there are people out there who have no empathy then I may have got out sooner.

Queen Mary said...

I think there is another reason for responsible professionals to go on media outlets to discuss shocking event such as mass murders. It is very close to Ann's comment. I believe that responsible professionals can help the general public regain a sense of control over their lives. These events are frequently random - wrong place at the wrong time kinds of situations, which means that any one of us could end up on the floor of a movie theatre or running out a door. If someone tells us that this is, in fact, aberrant behavior, that in fact several factors had to come together for this event to occur, "regular people" (like me) can feel that these are truly rare occurrences that receive attention because they are so rare and aberrant. And, as Ann said, family members and friends may actually recognize danger signs in relatives, colleagues, associates and acquaintances in time to maybe change the course of events. Maybe you could agree to comment (I think you are a responsible professional) if the media outlet agrees to provide equal time to a story on one or more of the innocent people impacted by the event. Today's Washington Post has a huge piece on two of the people in the movie theatre who had stopped briefly on a cross country bike ride. Both had been to foreign countries, which helped them realize they really didn't know all that much about their own country so they took off on bikes to discover America. The gentleman interviewed made it abundantly clear that on their bike ride they met tons of strangers who were willing to provide a kindness to them and he said one bad person was not going to affect his perception of America as a place where strangers on bikes are welcomed into small towns, where random strangers might buy them lunch or dinner or a coffee. Just like the NYT ran a biography of ever life lost as a result of the events on September 11, 2001, the Post ran an upbeat article about something good that was before the event and remained after the event. That would be a reason to say yes to a producer. It was media attention that helped the brother of the "Unabomber" - good old what's-his-name recognize his brother and call the authorities. There are good outcomes. Please don't leave us in the hands of more crack pots!

Pat Brown said...

Cozy, I will STILL be doing interviews on psychopathy and murder. I just won't do any more on specific mass murderers in the days following their crimes during all the hype. I have to say that I have gotten a huge amount of publicity during such times like the Virginia Tech shootings and I really think it was wrong to speak at that time. IF we were trying to catch someone, that might be different, but the guy is already caught, so all we need to say is an evil psychopath committed a horrible crime and is dead or in custody,

We DO need to understand psychopathy and the making of mass murderers but we don't need to play into each specific mass murderer's hand with massive media exposure. We can discuss the topic without glorifying the killers.

CanadianGirl said...

Thanks for clarifying your stance with your last comment. I thought you were not going to do interviews about psychopathology at all.
I hope you don't feel guilty for the interviews you've done in the past. As a psychology major I learned a lot more from your interviews than I did from any class lecture.

Anonymous said...

By turning down the requests, they might stop calling you, possibly for everything. Hopefully that won't happen, but as long as you might be on your way out, why not make your point heard:

Accept the interview offer, then lead with 'the main reason psychopaths plan elaborate mass-murders is because they crave media-buzz, then thank the media for tempting future murderous-psychopaths'. Then refuse on-air to discuss SPECIFIC DETAILS, instead educating public and media about what we need to know.

You still might end up black-balled, but more people will hear why than by reading a blog post.

Pat Brown said...

Anonymous, I do not think it is honorable to blindside show hosts and I won't do it. I simply tell the producer I won't do the show if they are using the killer's picture and name and, if they are, I decline. I am sure they will call me for other television interviews about mass murder in general or other crimes. If they don't, they don't.

I am choosing not to do these interviews because that is the way I feel about it. I hope others in the media start to feel that way, too, but I have no control over that.

Sofia said...

Pat, I fully support your stance and I would like to congratulate you for doing what you believe in, even if it comes at a cost (and it probably will). Not everyone can afford the luxury - because nowadays, unfortunately, it seems to be a luxury - of doing what they believe in.
I remember seeing some news articles about the Norwegian mass murderer's trial, and I know that I simply did not read them because I thought it was disgraceful that he got so much publicity, because publicity is what it was, and for free.
Ignoring these creatures is the worst that the public can do to them, and ignore them we should.
Thank you.