I've talked about this before, because I think it needs to be talked about.
We need to stop deifying and putting bad people on a pedestal.
As a society, we have a terrible knack for focusing too greatly on the bastards and sick fucks of the world. A perfect example that happened recently comes from the Boston Marathon tragedy.
When you read that sentence, did you think of the sick fuck responsible for the tragedy? Probably. I won't mention him/her because I refuse to out of contempt for his/her motives and subsequent actions. I won't say if he/she is a male/female, because I don't think he/she even deserves to be acknowledged in another form of media -- not even in reference to his/her gender. In fact, around the time of the tragedy, I made it my best effort to never learn the name of that individual (of course, sensationalist news media permeates every facet of our culture, so it was just a matter of time before I unwillingly learned it). But let me ask you something: can you name the people who were killed or injured during the attack? How about just one person? Unless you were directly affected by it, I'm banking on the fact that most of you will say "no."
The above links are two stories that are easy to find online. The first one is a Wikipedia article. The second is a slam poem. I know what you're thinking; "Jeffrey Dahmer? Didn't you JUST posit that no one should even bother to learn the names of bad people?" Yes, I did. But this point needs to be made. I chose Jeffrey Dahmer because his reputation is already (disgustingly) far-reaching and infamous; his presence is engrained in our culture permanently, so it is only out of necessity and the inconvenient convenience of his infamy that I will permit myself to talk about him.
As I said, the two links are stories. Wikipedia is statistical, factual, and non-sensationalist, which is why I am using it to illustrate this point. Wikipedia is essentially the least of all the inadvertent evils when it comes to contributing to the notoriety of terrible people. While it still gives you a name, and puts a face to that name, it doesn't sensationalize the person or give him celebrity attention and acknowledgement. News media today has that problem. Once a tragedy occurs, the first question media asks is "who?" And not "who are the victims?" but rather, "who is in charge of the tragedy?"
Why is that? Why is it that Wikipedia will not sensationalize something, but news media will? I'll tell you why: news media has become entertainment news media. In order for a news network to be successful, it needs to have viewers, because those viewers become subject to commercials aired on that channel, and that's how the news network makes its money. Essentially, they need to make the news as interesting as possible to the common viewer so that they will stick with that specific network. What is most interesting to the common viewer? Drama. You see it in our entertainment industry's success -- what are the most successful shows on TV? Breaking Bad. The Walking Dead. "Reality" TV.
News networks have caught onto that. Consequently, they now take a formulaic approach to reporting tragedy: find out what happened. Add drama. Screw the consequences.
Time and time again, when a mass tragedy occurs -- such as Columbine or Virginia Tech -- there is always a sensationalist report on the party/parties responsible. And time and time again, you know what happens? There are follow-up copycats who see the deification of the terrorists, and seek the same verification and attention for their own sick manifestos: someone, somewhere commits the same atrocity in a different location because they want to be seen, too.
What don't we see? Victims. At least not in focus. Victims are mentioned in passing, usually chocked up to a statistic: "72 people were injured today, and four are in critical condition."
Does that sound familiar? Wikipedia at least gives you cold, unbiased statistics on both ends. Rarely, if ever, will Wikipedia use sensational, connotative words. They will not identify Jeffrey Dahmer as "evil, malicious, monstrous," or any permutation of the word "bad." Wikipedia will give you the facts. It's interesting in its uninterestingness. If news media were more like that, maybe we'd have less copycats in the world, ipso facto less people dying.
So now I bring you to Sierra DeMulder's slam poem "Dahmer."
What makes her different? She is still talking about Jeffrey Dahmer, right? So that makes her bad? No. Because the point of her story is to make you think about one of Jeffrey Dahmer's victims: his mother.
"Did you put your own heart in the freezer next to the thought of me?"
Sierra DeMulder uses a story that focuses on Jeffrey Dahmer to remind us as a society that we focus on Jeffrey Dahmer. Not on his victims. You see, massive tragedy not only affects people directly involved with the tragedy, but fallout comes from all parts of a society. And we so easily forget that as we get caught up in the infamy of the guilty. What makes Sierra DeMulder's poem so interesting is that it uses a sensationalist platform (poetry) to illustrate the other side of the sensationalism that news media presents. And if there is ever a thing to make sensational, it's the uttermost sadness of those affected by tragedy, because it is they, not the bad guys, who need our support.
I'll leave you all with one last story. We've seen Wikipedia's data-centric approach to reporting a tragedy, and we've seen a poet's empathetic approach to making us feel for the victims.
Let's take a look at a news station reporting a tragedy in the only appropriate fashion. If the news media of our society was more like this, the world would be a much less scary place.