In the wake of the attacks on two Christchurch mosques, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that she would never mention the suspect’s name. “He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” she said after the two shootings that claimed 50 lives. It is a wise decision. The perpetrators of such atrocities want to cause mayhem and kill, but they also seek fame and notoriety. They must be denied that spotlight. They must know that their acts may live infamy, but their names and identities will not.
It is a disturbing fact that mass killings inspire other troubled human beings. The shooter who killed 33 people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2007 closely studied the two high school students who murdered 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. The killer who took five lives in 2008 at Northern Illinois University studied the Virginia and Colorado attacks, as did the perpetrator of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. While it is reassuring to think that such incidents are the product of specific cultures and unique to certain countries, that belief is false. Canadian mass shooters studied their predecessors in terror. The Christchurch assailant painted the names of other infamous killers on his weapons and equipment.