On Blotting Out Names

Posted by WiredSisters on May 26th, 2014 filed in Guest Blogger, Law, Moral Philosophy, News and Commentary


I’m tired of reading the news. Two more shootings in two days—one in Belgium, certifiably anti-semitic (2 women, 1 man, all Jewish), the other in California, just miscellaneously violent (7 people variously assorted, probably all university-affiliated.) The other night I had a long conversation with a house guest who has studied this stuff more assiduously than I have. He says that after every mass shooting these days, the number of gun purchases and gun licenses applied for goes up, at least briefly. The experts figure this is because when Americans feel unsafe (e.g.,when they feel vulnerable to getting shot), they want to be armed. So even when the friends and families of the victims try to launch an effective campaign against gun violence (giving a whole new meaning to Mother Jones’ “Don’t mourn, organize”), the perpetrator has already pre-emptively counteracted them.

So, probably like a lot of other people tired of reading about this stuff, I am trying to come up with some wild and crazy alternatives that might reduce the number of shootings in the US and elsewhere in the world. Here in Chicago, there has been a serious spike in shootings, mostly involving young people of color. For a few years, the numbers seemed to be going down. Not this year. The awful winter we have just left reduced the numbers for a while, but every day of decent weather has brought the shooters out again. To some extent they shoot each other, but they have also taken a notable toll among cheerleaders, three-year-olds, and other bystanders, many whom were doing their bystanding on their own front porches or even behind the supposed safety of their own walls. So, I figure, how about getting the NRA (of all people!) to come to the city to give a series of classes to young men on the South and West sides, on How to Hit What You Think You’re Aiming At! This may not reduce the total numbers of shooting victims, and may even increase the numbers of those killed rather than merely wounded, but at least it should reduce the toll of cheerleaders and three-year-olds.

And then, somewhat more seriously, how about implementing that old Jewish curse, “may his [her, their, its] name be blotted out”? Some of these crazies really do it at least partly for the publicity. Why not a voluntary compact (it would have to be voluntary, to stay on the right side of the First Amendment) among media producers, not to print/broadcast/communicate the names of shooters (as many now conceal the identities of rape victims, and murder or accident victims whose next of kin have not yet been notified)? There could be some cumbersome but not impossible workaround for bona fide researchers, that would still keep the information out of The Media in general. Or maybe just not releasing their names until some period guaranteed to outlast the news-consuming public’s interest by a week or two? (I’m sure there is good data on how long this would take, at some school of journalism.) So okay, the names of the perpetrators would still show up in historical true crime books years later, but that seems an unlikely motivation for mass shootings.

And on that bright note, a Happy Memorial Day to you all.

Red Emma



3 Responses to “On Blotting Out Names”

  1. Sappho Says:

    I hadn’t checked the news yet and read about the shooting when I wrote my post Saturday marveling that romantic rejection would be a reason for homicidal fantasies. Ugh.

    Yes, may all their names be blotted out.

  2. Kai Jones Says:

    The common element is white male rage over their fear of loss of privilege, and therefore the solution is feminism, not taking away guns or telling women to go out with men (yes, I’ve seen that advocated online).

  3. Sappho Says:

    “or telling women to go out with men (yes, I’ve seen that advocated online)”

    Because it’s totally within women’s power to ensure that every man is above average at attracting female desire.