Are the Paris or California shootings inspired by the media? Does the international media have a moral obligation to not exaggerate or too frequently “inspire” other mass killers to perform their murders?
Some would argue yes:
The Phoenix New Times argues that the media’s definitions of mass shootings dramatically overstates how many shootings there actually are. By the media’s standard, there have been 15 mass shootings in Arizona since 2013. The government? They only count 3. Nationally in 2015 alone, Mass Shooting Tracker reported 355 mass shootings. Government data shows only 32.
So which is correct? It depends how a mass shooting is defined. The media tends to consider 3+ people getting injured as a mass shooting. The government counts 3+ people getting killed as a mass shooting.
So is the media making it seem like mass shootings are more popular than they actually are? Perhaps this “primes” murderers and civilians alike to perform or worry about mass shootings.
However, there are those who argue that the media really is not making things worse by their coverage. Fact checker argues:
“As media coverage has increased, mass shootings have held steady for decades and school homicides are decreasing. The perception that shootings are happening more often likely stems from this increased coverage. When rare events can be easily brought to mind, we tend to overestimate their likelihood — in psychology, this is called availability heuristic.
Some might make the case that the rate of shootings would’ve been even lower if not for media coverage. This could be, but it would need to be shown that these people would not have done what they did if not for media coverage of previous events. There doesn’t seem to be evidence of this.”
What do you think? Should there be less coverage of shootings? More coverage? How should the media be addressed on the international level as killings happen worldwide? What would be the consequences if your plan happened?