The Corner

Politics & Policy

America’s First Social Media Murder

If ever there were an example of the role that fame, narcissism, and notoriety play in the motivation of public killers, we are seeing it today. Not only did the shooter commit his crime on live television, but he has subsequently posted a first-person video of the attacks to his Twitter and Facebook accounts. He is, in real-time, documenting his villainy.

I have long argued that the best thing that Americans can do in such circumstances is to decline to indulge these people. Don’t name them. Don’t watch or read their output. Unless there is an active search ongoing, don’t show their picture. Mass murderers tend to plan ahead. Usually, they think in detail about how their acts will be perceived. Watching as other killers are plastered all over the news — often for weeks on end — only encourages them further.

We now live in a world in which it is possible to kill a person and then to post a high-definition film of the murder a few moments later. Because Twitter and Facebook are effectively “on demand,” anybody who wishes to can implicate themselves in the game. Good people have some responsibility to refuse to do so. We are now in the age of social media. Walter Cronkite isn’t deciding for you any more. You are.