Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Remaining Nameless

As Doug Saunders ("Lone Wolf" - The Globe and Mail, Oct. 25) and various others have pointed out, sensational acts of violence such as the killing of a soldier in Ottawa last week are often in large part motivated by a hope on the part of a mentally deranged person that the violent act will make him (it is almost always a him) famous. And we play right along: from the assassinations of a long line of politicians, to the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, to the Columbine High School killings, to the Utøya island mass murder in Norway in 2011, and through to the events in Ottawa last week, we keep splashing the names and photos of the killers across our front pages and our television screens. Why can we not simply say, “The killer, whose name cannot be revealed, was a 32-year old Caucasian, an Ottawa native with a history of instability and drug abuse, who had converted to Islam.” No name, no photo, and no chance of becoming famous through committing deranged acts of violence.

Our laws already recognize one important circumstance (youthful offenders) that we regard as providing sufficient justification to trump freedom-of-speech principles when it comes to revealing names. It’s time to add another.

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