Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang suggested on Monday that the news media should consider a moratorium on disclosing the identities of mass shooters so as not to give them notoriety for their heinous acts.
“I know it would be difficult to implement and is contrary to human nature – but I think we ought to explore not publicizing the identities or motivations of mass shooters,” Yang wrote on Twitter. “[It] would discourage those seeking notoriety or to spread twisted beliefs.”
Yang’s remarks come in the wake of a mass shooting outside of Odessa, Texas that left seven people dead and injured nearly two dozen others. The murders were carried out after a gunman opened fire on random bystanders following a routine traffic stop.
In a rare move, Odessa’s Police Chief Michael Gerke also declined to publicly divulge the identity of the shooter during a press conference on the deadly event.
“I’m not going to give him any notoriety for what he did,” Gerke told reporters on Sunday. The police department later revealed the alleged gunman’s name and age on its social media account.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) expressed his support for Yang’s proposal, noting that the focus should be on honoring those whose lives were lost and the heroism of law enforcement officers, rather than the attention-seeking murderers.
“I agree. Of course, law enforcement must investigate. But public officials [and] media (to the extent possible) should NEVER SAY THEIR NAME,” Cruz replied to Yang. “These murderers crave notoriety, but they deserve to be forgotten.”
“Instead, we should celebrate the victims, the first responders [and] the heroes,” the senator added.
Accordingly, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a statement in early August following back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, which sounded the alarm on the likelihood that heavily publicized killings could inspire copycats.
“The FBI remains concerned that U.S.-based domestic violent extremists could be come inspired by these and previous high-profile attacks to engage in similar acts of violence,” the law enforcement agency wrote in a press release.
After a steady stream of mass shootings over the past few years, many have questioned whether the media has been inadvertently contributing to these attacks through its coverage.
For years, advocates of the “no notoriety” movement have been encouraging media outlets to change how they cover mass violence contending that perpetrators often model their own crimes on other high-profile attacks in a desire for recognition.
A 2015 study on mass shootings in America found evidence that backed up the theory of the “contagion effect,” which states that national media coverage does result in the increased frequency of horrific mass murders.
The calls to prevent murderers from gaining nationwide attention stems back as far as the 1999 shooting and bomb attack at Columbine High School outside of Denver. The gunmen became household names and even in death continue to be cited as motivation for a host of more recent shooting sprees.
While the FBI appears hesitant to refer to these individuals by name for fear of inspiring copycat killers, many in the legacy media continue to identify the names and motivations of these crimes.