I dislike the press as much as the next person, especially when I see them behaving like vultures around the survivors of a terrible tragedy such as occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, this week. Personally, I'd rather they weren't allowed to go anywhere near anybody directly involved, from parents of those who were lost to the children to the first responders. As a general rule, the only people who need to know all the gory details would be the investigative teams.
Still, I also recognize that, without the ghouls of the media, we would be even less informed about our own vulnerability than we are about the deaths of four good Americans abandoned to their fates in Benghazi, Libya. They are, after all, doing their jobs.
If, by some chance, some insane person gloms onto a segment of something they have written and uses it as a launching point for his own horrendous criminal act, it is not the fault of the journalist, or of the media by which the news was published, but, indeed, the fault of the actual criminal.
Do we blame the Beatles for Charles Manson's use of "Helter Skelter" in his cult followers' murder of innocents? Do we blame the newspapers for Richard Speck having killed those nurses in Chicago? Probably a few do, but they're in the absurd minority. We can't even blame a media source or subject for the 2009 Binghamton, NY shootings.
Which is why Joseph Grenny can safely be labeled a nitwit for suggesting in Forbes that, in the name of "calling fire in a crowded theater," the government should consider ignoring the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He cites Stephen King's response to a mad young man's quotation from one of his novels amid a real-life bloodbath, (and subsequent adolescent copying), by which King, feeling guilty, pulled his novel off the shelf & stopped its further publication. This, he says, is the ideal response: starve the crazies of material for inspiration by refusing to print anything related to it. Let's pass a law to that effect, he suggests.
He does backtrack a bit, suggesting that, as any rational individual might agree, the press must take some responsibility for what they publish. We might not need laws censoring the press, he indicates, if only the editors could do the right thing. But how much is enough, in this man's mind? And, if the media are incapable of meeting his expectations for self-censorship for the sake of creating his perfectly safe environment, it's up to the legislators to seize power and shut down the press when it reports too much detail regarding a disturbing event, in case some other nutcase decides to become a copycat killer.
Because, you see, it's all about the press with the crazy people and their guns and their slaughter. There's no other motive or method or source of evil inspiration they could come up with. Primary responsibility ALWAYS rests with somebody other than the criminal, and therefore, everybody else must surrender rights and freedoms.
It's high time people like Grenny learn a few basic realities.
First, the violently insane will find any excuse to act on their impulses, and there is no way to predict – let alone censor from afar – their triggers.
Second, full and accurate press coverage is precisely what the Founding Fathers believed allowed us to remain sufficiently informed to govern ourselves, to prevent tyrants from gaining control of this great country.
Third – and most important – no matter how hard you try, no matter how heavily you legislate, there is no way to create an absolutely, perfectly safe world in which to live. Anybody who believes otherwise has a heap of growing up to do.