Responsible journalism should include knowing what not to tell the public. So many of our problems seem to stem from society knowing far more than it needs to about the wrong things. Information spreads like a virus, bad ideas can easily infect bad people's minds. The grand media pontification and fear reportage that follows isolated horrors begets other horrors in distant locations. The worldwide commiserating about a mass school shooting by disenfranchised youth lets other disenfranchised youth know what additional options they have for their futures. I've heard people invoke George Santayana's famous, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But that is no defense, it is the very broadcast of the information which invites the repetition. If there was no Columbine there may have been no Virginia Tech shooting. If terrorists (and those who support them) did not see their acts so clearly successful in creating the terror they wanted, they would be disinclined to repeat their tactics. The press gives these murderers what they want, notoriety and a grand platform. But it's not just about murderers, it's about all manner of things. To combat teenage drug use news articles spread the word about synthetic drugs, just this week I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about just how easy it is to buy and use legal synthetic drugs (brands, costs, type of high created, usage, and side effects), all wrapped up in an article decrying the problem. But the article is not part of the solution. Which is more likely, that the article will stop the problem or that it will embolden another kid or adult willing to experiment, since now they know where to buy it and that it's legal? Lawmakers are already working on legislation to ban these legal drugs, this article won't help that cause. But capping it all off for me this week was an article in the New York Times which gave helpful tips for getting away with murder and other heinous crimes. The suspect in the Long Island serial killer case is getting away with it because, according to the article, he has followed these rules:
- Use disposable cell phones
- Keep calls under three minutes
- Make calls from densely populated areas so no police wouldn't be able to easily identity you on security camera footage once they determine your cell phone location.
- Target women advertising their services on Craigslist
I truly hope no one is listening, to them or to me. What is the value of reporting these details except to titillate a public hungry for news of the macabre? It won't help the police find the killer, and it merely informs others that the police have no defense against these techniques. But, I suppose if they can do it with their 876k daily readers, I can rebroadcast it to prove a point with my 50 daily readers.
I am not arguing for censorship, but instead for sensibility. Every day editors and writers make decisions about what matters to readers. And every day to sell more papers these editors and writers choose which information to include and how to emotionally connect it to their readers. Many of their decisions are bad for us all.
As part of my year of mischief, perhaps soon to become an age of mischievousness, I've adopted a policy of engaging in quasi-statistical serial murder.
If second hand smoking kills, then the first hand smoker must be the killer. To be fair it'd be more accurate to say the smoker is an attempted murderer. It's entirely possible their smoke has killed someone, but proving it was their particular puff that pushed another specific person into cancer or heart failure would be nigh impossible. One could extend the argument to say that since smokers indulge around more than one person on more than one occasion, and they are aware of the risk they are pushing onto others, smokers qualify as serial killers, albeit again of an attempted variety. A mortality statistician might be able to accurately guesstimate a lifetime average death toll, perhaps it'd be on the order of 0.04 victims per smoker, with any individual smoker perhaps being responsible for no deaths or dozens.
It has widely been suggested that cell phones may be the hidden health crisis looming in the future, the equivalent crisis for the next generation as cigarettes were for the last. The as yet unconfirmed but suspected carcinogenic nature of radio waves we all routinely ignore because the benefits they bring are just too delicious to deny. Smokers believed the doctors and the cigarette companies well through the first half of the last century, perhaps we'll do the same through this one with cell phones.
I don't smoke. But I like to play god with the best of them. I've decided that I will seek to expose others to second hand cell phone radiation, and the murdering that may or may not statistically follow. I won't do so freakishly, needlessly creating signals just to expose people, but if I'm tethering my computer to my cell phone or making a call, maybe I'll choose to be 3 feet away rather than 10 feet away from my potential victims. And come what may, I am apparently free to do it.
Now obviously I'm kidding, mostly, but I think it makes an important point. We all impact each other in potentially grave ways, ways we don't even completely understand. So as horribly odd as it might sound to intentionally gravitate towards others in an effort to expose them to greater levels of arguably statistically significant electromagnetic radiation, and therein attempt their murder, we're all doing the same thing in some form or other. It may be you driving a hybrid car which requires lithium dragged from the earth by inadequately protected miners under the boot of a corrupt government. It may be you tossing out coffee cups that leach chemicals into the Earth that end up in people's drinking water. We're all killing some part of somebody, and collectively it adds up to a grand conspiracy of serial murder. As long as we're doing it, we should at least be honest about it. I am.