Remember the Victims, Not the Killer

After the recent reporting of the Christchurch massacre in which 49 Muslims were killed after a gunman attacked two mosques, I feel there must be something said for the attention we give to killers over the victims. After the crime itself makes the news, full-color front page coverage is handed to the shooter detailing their troubling life and every misstep and missed sign that brought them to commit the atrocities before us. While the killer is analyzed and reported on from every angle, who are the victims? The name and entire backstory of the Parkland shooter were slapped across every local and national newspaper in the country, but can you name more than one of the 17 victims? While I feel the immediacy and urgency of the 24-hour news cycle can inadvertently give attention to the killers, even fame in some cases, have we possibly furthered the problem? Has the public possibly given too much attention and interest to every detail of a murderer’s childhood and to his method of killing?

Courtesy: Whitsunday Times


In terms of media coverage, there is no peace for the families of the victims. In addition to publishing every known fact and thought of the killer, many times the way the killer committed his crimes is also published and analyzed. For example, in the Parkland shooting, it was publicly reported the path the killer took around the school and to which buildings. Publishing the exact manner in which a killer sought their victims is not only traumatic for the victims’ families but couldn’t it also present a “how-to” for those who are planning to commit a similar crime? More often than not, killers cite previous murderers or violent movements as inspirations for their actions. While it is important to know a killer’s motive for future prevention and protection, I believe intimate coverage of the killer sensationalizes the entire crime instead of properly grieving and respecting the victims

Beyond news coverage of real-time crimes are docuseries, documentaries and biopics intended to resurrect the details of murders past. With docuseries emerging on various serial killers and murderers of the past, we are redistributing attention to a person that has already been reported on and convicted. I’ve watched a couple, and I’ve found the formula doesn’t really change. The focus is always on the killer’s early life and relationships, then there’s the psychological fodder as to how they choose their victims and what their method of killing reveals about their motives. The victims are at least named, as they are the reason the killer is known at all, but they are treated as nothing more than a name and a face. It probably wouldn’t be entertaining to have a whole docuseries dedicated to the lives and ambitions of the victims before they met their fate, but the retelling of their deaths in these docuseries removes dignity in death. By constantly retelling how they gruesomely met their fate or how their bodies were found, we are continuously sensationalizing a tragedy for entertainment.

Courtesy: Salon


Learning about killers and their psychology is plenty interesting, but could there possibly be a limit? A cap on how many special editions of TIME and other notable publications feature serial killers as their monthly topic or a limit to how many biopics and documentaries can be made retelling the same murders? Maybe enough time has passed to retell murderous details from the 1970s in docuseries, but I believe the present shootings need to be handled with delicacy to respect the privacy of the victim and their family.