To the editor: It is unfortunate that columnist Virginia Heffernan has chosen to operate in an evidence-free zone on a topic about which there is plenty of research — and that is the significant contagion risk created by certain kinds of media coverage of mass shootings. (“Do people really need to be protected from the New Zealand shooter’s footage?” Opinion, March 16.)
Sharing video produced by the mass killer in New Zealand has the potential to inspire future mass killers and almost certainly does not inspire citizens to positive action. A month before his attack in 2015, the gunman who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon posted online about the excitement he felt after seeing a video of the recent slayings of a journalist and a cameraman in Roanoke, Va.
Heffernan’s analogy to the famous “napalm girl” photograph from Vietnam is a real head-scratcher. I appreciate powerful photojournalism, but live-action video from a murderer’s point of view is quite another thing. It perpetuates the problem that’s killing us: An isolated hater with a gun can propel himself to global fame, and we in the media play an unwitting role in that project.
Katherine Reed, Columbia, Mo.
The writer is an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
To the editor: During the Vietnam War, it wasn’t until actual footage from the conflict appeared that I realized how badly the U.S. was doing. Probably the most shocking image I was allowed to view in newsprint was the execution of a handcuffed Viet Cong prisoner or of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.
It was only by seeing the online videos of the Jordanian military pilot being burned to death or the beheading of detainees that I realized how evil Islamic State militants really were.
I am 74 years old and do not need mommy and daddy to control what I watch. Why do we need YouTube to remove video of the shootings in New Zealand?
Let the public see the faces of evil and hatred for itself.
Murray Levine, Encino
To the editor: So, just when can we draw the line? How much more inhumanity to fellow humans must we tolerate?
My gut tells me that any social media or news network or streaming device maker that allows a mass murder to be witnessed in real time is complicit in that crime.
Apparently, the online video the New Zealand massacre was available hours after the crime. And what about you, who tuned in and watched the same, unfiltered crime being broadcast in real time? Are you also complicit?
If civilized society does not find a way to stop corporations from this kind of unfettered broadcasting, we all know that we are doomed to experience these massacres again and again.
Ann Eittinger, San Gabriel