As the story goes, if you drop a frog in boiling water it would immediately jump out, but if you let it sit in a pot and slowly start heating the water the frog will not feel the difference until it’s too late and it will boil to its death.
Beyond the unkindness of boiling a living creature to death, this is an old tale has been told in many different contexts. Today I think it perfectly illustrates how every time there is a new mass shooting the media response is getting milder and milder.
There was a new mass shooting over the weekend, this one leaving seven people dead and many more injured in Odessa.
This time, law enforcement officers made an active effort to keep the name of the suspect from the public on live TV.
Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke made it plain why he wouldn’t mention the name on TV: “I’m not going to give him any notoriety for what he did,” the Associated Press reported.
Gerke’s action, although uncommon, was far from being the first of its kind in the aftermath of a mass shooting.
In New Zealand, after a mass shooter killed 51 people at two mosques in March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to mention the perpetrator’s name.
Previously, the former director of the FBI, James Comey, in a briefing with reporters after the 2016 shooting rampage at the Pulse night club in Orlando, Fla., repeatedly referred to the shooter as “the killer,” the AP reported.
Even The Associated Press, one of the top news organizations in the U.S. and worldwide has its own standards when identifying suspects in major crimes. In cases in which the crime is carried out seeking publicity the AP strives to restrict the mention of the name to the minimum needed to inform the public.
While avoiding descriptions that might serve a criminal’s desire for publicity or self-glorification are worthy of admiration, there are other factors law enforcement officials should be looking into.
Although the release of the general details of a heinous act such as a mass murder may incite others to glorify the killer, there is also the right to know, the right to stay informed and to educate the public in order to prevent further similar events.
After all, wouldn’t you like to know if your neighbor, your child’s teacher, your employee or your boss has been involved in a mass shooting?
There’s a fine line between preventing some individuals with mental health issues from glorifying a criminal, and the right of the people to know what and who is around them.
Policymakers and law enforcement officials shouldn’t be looking into limiting or controlling the access of the public to information, their goal should be to keep and control the access of mentally unstable individuals to firearms designed for military purposes, such as the ones utilized in the most recent shootings.
At this point it seems surreal that some may feel the problem is going to go away by burying our heads in the sand.
We should focus on keeping individuals from committing crimes, instead of keeping the public from knowing a crime has been committed or keeping the name of the individual who committed such a heinous crime.
The name of the alleged offender was later released by the police department via a Facebook post.
His name is Seth Aaron Ator, 36, and he was killed by law enforcement officers. Local media reported he was living in a shack made up of corrugated steel and had been fired earlier that day from a job in the oil field.
While some mentally insane may find a way to glorify this or any other criminals, our community leadership should be looking at conducts, codes and measures benefiting law abiding citizens.
It is not about notoriety, it is about creating awareness of the world we are living in and who are the people we are dealing with. Don’t glorify them, but don’t try to hide them either.
Rubén Cantú has been a journalist since 1995. He is the managing editor of the Del Rio News-Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org