To Name or Not to Name?

Hello All, I am using one of my blog posts to start a discussion on an issue that Dr. Silver briefly touched on during our last live class session during his presentation. The topic that I am going to explore revolves around feelings and rationales for/against using the names of mass murderers when discussing their crimes. Dr. Silver, for example, made a conscious effort not to mention the names of the killers he discussed unless it was necessary to identify a particular event. As a research assistant during my time as an undergrad, we primarily used the initials of the domestic terrorists central to our research. In preparing to write this blog post, I sent a text message to the professor with whom I performed research and asked him the thought behind using an offender’s initials. His reply: “…I guess for me, it started after Columbine upon learning the shooters wanted to be famous” (Pete Simi). While I understand the thought behind Dr. Simi’s rationale, in the context of academic research, I still feel it most appropriate to refer to offenders initially using their first and last names. In contrast to my undergrad experience, now working with individuals on death row, I better understand the settings in which it is undoubtedly most appropriate to forego mentioning their names. In my interactions with offenders, I use their names. Typically, offenders ask that I use their first names instead of “Mr.” However, on and leading up to execution dates, I often interact with the families of the victims of the offender’s crimes. I have come to learn that, collectively, victims’ families would prefer not to hear the names of the offenders. I do find it somewhat puzzling that victims’ families want to avoid hearing the offenders’ names, but they often elect to witness their executions. Frequently, during an execution, offenders will speak– either informally or formally by way of their final statements. I am curious to her your thoughts on this. Are you surprised that victims’ families report not being able to stomach hearing the names of offenders but still elect to watch them die? I fall on what I assume is the less common side of the argument– I see no issue with researchers, speakers, and news reports using the names of offenders, so long as the actual context of their message does not glamourize or praise the offender’s actions.

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