Refer to the Aurora shooter' by his real name - 'Movie Theater Coward' - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Refer to the Aurora shooter’ by his real name – ‘Movie Theater Coward’

As I awoke this morning to the horrifying news of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado,  my heart sank. I paused to pray for the families whose loved ones were killed or wounded.

Then my anger flared.

Another coward has permanently altered the lives of hundreds of innocent folks (thousands really, when you count all the extended family and friends impacted).  Many of the shooting victims will have years of painful medical procedures and the psychological wounds may heal even more slowly.  All will be overwhelmed with consuming grief, as will their families and friends.

Part of my anger is directed at the inadvertent “glorification” of the shooter.  I first heard about the tragedy when I turned on the morning news at 6:30a.m.  At that point, the identity of the shooter was not known.  By 8:30 a.m. the shooter had been identified, and news teams were quickly descending on his parents, neighbors and others who knew him. His name was being spoken, written and tweeted across the globe. I knew his infamy was just beginning.   The thought of him hearing his own name on the national news made me sick.  Those who perpetuate evil by cowardly assaulting innocent, defenseless people should not be allowed to receive the “glory” they seek.

I know news teams want to be faithful in reporting stories completely and accurately.  I want them to do this too, as a press that is free to report fully is necessary for maintaining a thriving democracy.  However, the press has many ethical standards by which they do business, and I want to encourage them (and everyone else) to adopt one more.  This standard may not prevent future incidents, but at least it will keep deranged individuals such as the Aurora shooter from achieving the notoriety they seek.

So here is the new standard that I would propose for the press and general public alike. When reporting this current story and future similar incidents, never, ever, ever, under any circumstance say, write, text or tweet the name of the murderer.  Only refer to the person as a “coward” and distinguish him or her by the date or place of the crime.  When you write your stories, tweet your thoughts, blog your opinions, speak on camera or microphone, only refer to the person as a coward.  So, the Aurora shooter, whose name has just been released, from here on out will be referred to as  “Movie theater coward.”

I believe shame, and especially public shame, can influence our culture in a positive way.  We want to send a message that we find this type of “notorious fame” reprehensible and unacceptable to the point that we will not allow the name of the person who perpetrates it to receive even a hint of fame.

I am aware that the people who perpetrate this kind of massacre are often found to be suffering from severe mental illnesses.  When someone is “out of their mind” by a disease, is it right to label or shame them with the name, coward?  Unequivocally, I believe the answer must be “Yes.”  We as a society must send the message, only cowards kill the innocent.

We need to encourage folks who are ravaged by these diseases to do the courageous rather than the diabolical.    Collectively, we can help them to seek medical  treatment and find supportive communities to live in.  Let us choose to live courageously and compassionately as communities, caring diligently for those who are weakened by disease, rather than letting them devolve down to committing acts of horrific cowardice.

If you like this idea, I encourage you to call, write, tweet or blog your local news stations and papers and encourage them to adopt this standard.  I encourage you to send it to your friends on your various social media sites too.   Let us agree together, across the global community, that we no longer will give credence to such horrifying acts of cowardice.  Let’s call a coward a coward.


About the author

Ann McGhee

Ann McGhee lives and works in Laurel, Maryland. She serves as Community Life Minister at Bethany Community Church. She has worked in ministry for 30 years; ministering in three churches and teaching as an Adjunct Professor at Capitol Bible Seminary. She holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Talbot Seminary. She is married to her lifelong love, Kevin, and has two wonderful daughters, Bryden and Kelsey. She is an avid skier, enjoys outdoor photography, and loves sitting on the porch and watching the birds. Contact the author.
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