Media Should Treat Killers Like Ancient Greece Did

It's time to deny mass murderers their infamy, Vicki Leon argues

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 11, 2013 10:58 AM CST

(Newser) – You know the name of the Sandy Hook shooter. And the Aurora shooter. And likely many more. "It's appalling, but one way to achieve fame in America is through acts of infamy," observes author Vicki Leon in the LA Times. "What if that weren't so?" What if the media instead took a page from the ancient Greeks? In 365 BC, an arsonist burned down the temple to Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. His stated motive? To make his name immortal.

The Ephesians executed the man, but not before passing a law making it a crime, punishable by death, to utter his name. And for centuries historians have mostly refrained from naming him. Nor are the Greeks alone; the Egyptians and Romans instituted similar penalties. Such bans probably wouldn't work in the modern world, "but infamy should not be rewarded with headlines," Leon argues. "We have surrendered to shabbier motives, such as selling newspapers or winning TV ratings." Click for her full column, or to read the latest on the unnamed California school shooter.

The Ephesians eventually rebuilt their famous temple, as imagined by 16th-century painter Maarten van Heemskerck in this engraving. Heemskerck had almost certainly never seen the actual temple.   (Wikimedia)
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