Blood on the Feathers of the Peacock

Yesterday NBC News aired portions of the video sent them by the muderous scum who killed so many innocent people at Virginia Tech. This is a horrible breach of journalistic ethics...and an incredibly stupid decision. But hey, they ratings were up last night, so I doubt they care.

There are two reasons this is tragically misguided. The lesser reason is that publicity is exactly what the killer wanted. By airing his rant, NBC accorded him the attention and notice that he craved. Maybe you want get the same ratings by focusing on the victims, but at least you could sleep at night--well, since they apparently don't have moral qualms about anything, they probably slept fine. That evil young man does not deserve this fulfillment of his desires.

But far more important, the airing of this video has the potential to spark copycats and threatens the lives of thousands of other innocents. In his classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini (If you haven't read it, get it today and read it. I guarantee its one you'll refer to and use over and over again, regardless of what you do for a living.) describes his frightening research into the effect of the news media coverage of tragic events. Every time there is a widely publicized suicide for example, there is a statistically significant increase in car wrecks and plane crashes! People who have been thinking about killing themselves are moved over the line into action by the knowledge that someone else has done it. They may not use a gun or take pills, but they arrange an "accidental" death on purpose. In fact, Cialdini said his research was so persuasive on this topic that if there is a publicized suicide, he cancels his travel plans for the next couple of weeks!

This copycat effect is what NBC has facilitated in their thoughtless quest for ratings. Shame on them. The next killer will be responsible for his own evil deeds...but some of the blood will also be found on the feathers of the Peacock.


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