Changing thoughts in media?

After the mass killing in Hanau, near Frankfurt this week, I found the way the RTL TV news handled it was very interesting.

A right wing, mentally disturbed person killed 9 people in a Shisha Bar and another café. They were all immigrants. He then went on to kill his mother and himself, his father survived.

The news report concentrated wholly on the victims, the killer wasn’t named, his agenda and video describing why he carried out the attack weren’t shown. Instead, the news concentrated wholly on the victims and their families, showing that they were normal people, generally useful and respected members of the community and interviews with family members.

It was all about the victims, the assailant was pushed totally out of the picture. Then the next day, in the follow up reports, he was again sidelined, he wasn’t really mentioned, his politics etc. only briefly mentioned - that he was right wing, a gun fanatic and mentally unstable - no word on why he carried out the attack, again his blog and the statement video weren’t shown, instead they concentrated on the politics(1) and the question of why he was allowed to have access to guns in the first place, if he was mentally unstable - they are talking about guns owners having to have regular mental health checkups signed off by a doctor, in order to continue to have access to a gun(2).

I find it very interesting that his agenda and himself were totally pushed aside, he doesn’t get his 5 minutes of fame, at least not on primetime news. Will this sort of reporting help to push these sorts of attacks into the background, if the assailant(s) don’t get their 5 minutes of fame? If they themselves are ignored and all the attention goes to the victim profiles? (“This unnamed sad-sack killed these named respectable members of society.”)

What are your thoughts?

(1) I’m guessing the politicians will still use this as a springboard to try and bring in more surveillance - CCTV cameras in public areas, monitoring communication etc. I feel sorry for the families here, but we shouldn’t give in to the panic and give up our rights to freedom. We should find other ways to fight this.
(2) Having access to a gun is a privilege, not a right and guns are dangerous. So I find it a good idea to have to have regular mental health checkups to have continued access to guns. If you lose your driving license for excess alcohol or certain forms of aggressive driving, you need to go through a psychological test to get your license back. Guns are more dangerous and the mental stability of the gun owner should be more carefully controlled.


I agree that some of the media are taking on a more careful and responsible behaviour with the reporting. In Germany it seems that some, e.g., tabloids like BILD, have improved less than others, e.g., TV. Maybe that is also driven by having state-run television stations (but not papers) that generally follow high standard of journalistic ethics. Not all is stellar, but most is going into a good direction. If RTL is doing a good enough job on this, it’s looking up.

Especially with regard to reporting violent crime or accidents, I would love to see either a code of conduct or even a regulation which would stipulate that you cannot report an incident of crime without also reporting a defined set of statistics or analysis on that type of crime or accident. E.g., if there was a shooting, give us a frame of reference on how often this type of crime happens and whether this type of crime has been going up or down. I think this might help de-sensationalise crime and at the same time help move the discussion to a more analytical level of “what’s the problem here and how could we support a solution”.


I really like the idea of giving no fame to the killers and concentrating on the victims. What I do wonder is, if mentally ill (how can they not be?) are they all looking for fame and their 5minutes of glory? Some may very well be but I don’t think all are.

In America, gun ownership IS a right, not a privilege and while a mental health pass sounds wonderful, how practical is it? Even in Germany, I assume there are thousands of legal gun owners…how many mental health professionals would be needed? In America, the numbers would be even more ridiculous. Plus, our issue is not the lega, responsible gun owners…but all the illegal owners who aren’t going to obey any legislation anyway. The horse has left the barn for us.

I wish I had answers, I don’t. I’m not a gun fanatic but I do own guns…I have for years as I used to hunt and competitively target shoot. I’m also willing to give up some of my rights if it can be shown to actually work…and there’s the rub.

I guess no matter what the reason was for someone to attempt or succeed at a mass shooting, I still prefer they get no 5 minutes of fame for it. At some point it helps to know what their reasons were but not during the initial investigations.

I know it’s a fierce debate, but I always marvel at how much foresight we ask of politicians at the end of the 18th century (in case of the US, in particular the 2nd amendment) if today, we can hardly muster the foresight beyond one single legislative term. It simply does not come intuitively to me that something that felt appropriate in 1791 still holds true in 2020. I wonder how the authors would have felt if someone told them that a quarter of a millennium later, most people had not come up with much news on the subject they outlined.

It’s the same over here: we are operating with kind of a placeholder constitution (“fundamental law”, not “constitution”) written in 1949. Even “only” seventy years later, the document reads outdated, in-cohesive, and mute about many of the critical questions of today and tomorrow. At the same time, the highest court of the country sees the slightly amended but not thoroughly revised perspective of 70 years ago as the most critical foundation.

Not that I don’t agree with most parts of the Grundgesetz and its general spirit or the 2nd, the 1st or any other part of any constitution - it just appears as a sad sight that we don’t allow our learnings to flow into and inform our most fundamental codes. It’s like a tree that grew majestically, but stopped developing its most critical root network - and instead developed a gigantic growth of administrative regulations.

However, I suppose that most political systems appear not to have the capabilities to revise and develop their constitutions in a meaningful way and that there is value in stability.

Sorry, went off on a tangent, there. Interesting topic, though. :slight_smile:


I think that is part of the problem. The constitution was written at a time when the frontiers were still being pushed, when attacks were common. The right to bear arms (and the right to arm bears - RIP Robin Williams) made sense back then.

Today, it is driven into the population that you have a right to bear arms. But today, it isn’t external forces attacking society, it is society turning in on itself. But many people are too fiercly into guns to give them up.

If you go hunting? Fine, a bolt action is fine, or shotgun, depending on what you are hunting. If you go target shooting, fine. Single action guns are great and you can keep them safely locked away at the gun club. But do you really need a semi-automatic at home?

Yes, there are thousands of legal gun owners here, but you have to belong to a gun club or a hunting club. And, AFAIK, you need to be physchologically evaluated, before you can get a permit to purchase a gun. I think, up until that point, you can borrow a gun at the club(?). The problem is, that is a one-off evaluation.

If something happens in your life, you might need re-evalutating, but even if you have mental health problems, that usually doesn’t get registered against your gun ownership license - there are exceptions, drink-driving and violent behaviour will automatically get your license suspended, for instance.

I’ve shot guns in the past, and was fairly good. I usually hit the bullseye and never missed the target. But it never really interested me, that I joined a gun club. I did some longbow archery as well and, again, seemed to have a natural talent, but never followed it up. Weapons just don’t interest me. There is no need for them in day-to-day life, so I never wanted one.

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While I still own my guns, I’m not dedicated to them like some Americans are! :joy: Another point about our constitutional right to bare arms is that when it was written, only the wealthy class could afford them. Most owners, if not wealthy, had their guns handed down to them from family. We didn’t have a military complex like we have now…militias were a necessary part of defense. But it doesn’t matter now. It has become a basic right and guns are very affordable.

I’m one of those gun owners that is more than willing to obey any restrictions as long as it is proven to actually reduce the problems…and there’s the rub. What is actually shown to reduce gun violence usually has little to do with gun legislation and much more to do with good practices of police and increased mental health programs…and that’s not what many want to hear. I usually stay away from gun debates as I seem to be an outlier. It is interesting how some European countries also allow gun ownership…even if more restricted…and still have far lower gun violence. Are they just better able to keep guns out of the hands of criminals?


I’d be surprised if we could conclusively say what the reason for that is - except for gun proliferation. The US appear to have more than 120 guns per 100 capita, Germany has less than 20. The Netherlands have less than 3 (lowest in Europe) and Finland has over 32 (highest in Europe). The difference in numbers is impressive.

It may be that it’s merely a matter of good (bad) marketing by the gun industry which never really caught on in Europe. One part of it might be that in such a densely populated area, there might be much less appeal to hunting. There is only little wilderness left in Central Europe, so it becomes difficult not to shoot out of one privately held property onto another, which equals problems. There is no “final frontier” vibe here, no need for self-preservation by force against … well anything beyond Covid 19, it seems. That would at least explain why the Finns have more guns: large country, few people, much wildlife, final frontier. The opposite goes for the Netherlands - shoot a round and try not hitting your neighbour. Furthermore, guns might simply have less cachet for criminals here as they might be considered inviting more hassle than help.

One thing we are great at, though, is building, selling, and shipping weapons - so yeah, there’s once more that weird hypocrisy. Just like building incredible amounts of formerly excellent cars and fiercely protesting man-made climate change. And people say there is no perpetuum mobile. How did the saying go - there is no beauty without strangeness.