When I first moved out to Los Angeles in 1984, a lot of people offered me the following advice: "Be careful out there. Their values are twisted." What I came to realize very quickly is that everyday Southern Californians generally didn't have twisted values. What people were warning me about were Hollywood values, and the drive some people have to be famous and stay famous no matter the cost.
In the 20 years I lived in the L.A. area I learned that some people would do anything to be famous. Case in point, there's a bleached blonde poster girl for plastic surgery who drives around Hollywood Boulevard in a pink Corvette. She has become famous for wanting to be famous and she's spent a ton of money to do it. She even buys billboards on Sunset Boulevard where the movie studios, TV networks, and music companies tout their latest offerings. I have no idea what it costs to buy one of those ads, but probably some sugar daddy pays to help spread the fame of this pathetic woman who has no discernible talent except self-promotion.
Twenty years ago there were only two reliable ways to become famous: You had to have connections or you had to be ferociously talented and dedicated.
But over the last decade there's been a sea change in American culture. Today the great promise of America is not just the American dream of the past that anybody can be prosperous and pursue happiness; it's that anybody can be famous without talent and without connections.
This is not a dream; it's a nightmare. I've met so many kids in the last few years who have no interest in traditional careers and vocations and therefore no motivation to do well in school. All they want out of life is to be famous, and they really believe they will be one of the lucky/unlucky few to punch that one-in-a-million golden ticket. I think that’s dangerous for you and the public you serve.
These children believe fame awaits them because that's what they see on reality television. Shows as diverse as "American Idol" and "Swamp People" promise that the average person with very little talent or even none can be rich and famous. If Kim Kardashian can become a household name by making a porno video, then why can't everybody else?
This worries me. It worries me because I wonder what happens when this next generation matures and their dreams of fame wither. Will a small percentage of these frustrated "Idols" and "Stars" seek fame through its flipside: infamy?
We've given them plenty of examples of instant fame through mass murder. The Columbine killers, the Virginia Tech murderer, and the Aurora shooting suspect have all become household names. And I believe that the desire for stardom is at least part of the motivation for these massacres. I think these butchers want to be famous. That's why they seek such high body counts. They want to top the other guys, hold the record, be the champion killer of all time.
I think we need to take away that motivation. I've argued this point with my fellow journalists, to no avail. But I think it's time that we stop publicizing the names of these mass active shooter suspects.
There is precedent for such journalistic restraint. As a general rule, the media does not publish the names of rape victims or suicide subjects. There are of course exceptions to this rule. But generally, we mind our manners on these two points.
So I think it's time to add a third category of names to that proscription: mass active shooters who seek huge body counts. Of course, the name of the shooter will eventually leak, but there's a big difference between having your name and face splashed on every network, news site, newspaper, and magazine cover the day of the attack and having the name leak out days later.
We are becoming a society that aspires to fame over all other achievements. There's not much we can do about that, but we must find a way to prevent people from choosing mass slaughter as a path to getting their faces on TV. If we don't we will have a lot more mass killings in the future and you will have to charge in and risk your lives to stop the shooters and save innocents.