James Holmes: The arguments for and against naming him

Thumbnail image for james holmes eyes closed.jpg
James Holmes.
Accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes has been a public figure for two weeks now, due to the worst possible reason -- the murder of a dozen people, and injuries to scores more.

Since then, there's been a rising call for news organizations like this one to stop using his moniker -- a completely understandable reaction epitomized by the following tweet, sent to us yesterday.

This message neatly encapsulates the blackout rationale. Presumably, anyone who would commit such a desperate act is doing so to gain attention -- and by making Holmes simultaneously famous and infamous, the press is not only rewarding his actions but reassuring future sociopaths that they, too, will get their moment in the spotlight if their act is appalling enough.

The philosophy against? For one thing, it's not a journalist's job to make value judgments on the news, but to report it, no matter how unpleasant. To reject this duty is to tiptoe into Orwellian territory, in which large institutions have the power to rewrite history. And where do we draw the line? It's okay to refer to Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler, but not James Holmes? If so, why?

Just as persuasive for yours truly is what I'll call the Harry Potter theory. As anyone familiar with the book and film series (a.k.a., pretty much everyone) knows, young Harry's nemesis is typically referred to as He Who Cannot Be Named. But over the course of the action, our hero comes to realize that not referring to him by his handle actually gives him more power, not less. His decision to call him Voldemort is a symbol of his resolve, his defiance and his bravery -- and in the end, even those who think he's mad for uttering the "V" word come to agree with him.

There will be no such universal epiphany when it comes to James Holmes. After all, this is the all-too-real world, not a fantasy version of it. But in the end, I feel that using the name is the lesser of two evils. And given that there's already too much evil in this situation, less is more.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Lynne Fenton, James Holmes's doctor: Her ex-husband on minor discipline made to look major."

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15 comments
cynthia.negron
cynthia.negron

When reading Harry Potter, I remember thinking "wow, this is really a pretty political book," but no one else seemed to agree with me. Except now, I hear people say things like "well, when this happened in Harry Potter… " So I guess it was pretty influential. And a good thing too, as I happen to agree with most of the philosophies the books put out :) 

Ben Beeby
Ben Beeby

Id rather you use his name than make me look at that repugnant vile picture on my FB feed all day. Call him the alleged and stop making us look at something that vile 5 times a day, or Im blocking your feed.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Makes about as much sense as Jews refusing to use the name of/for their "god" --  יהוה  - YHWH

 

 

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

They must have mistaken you for either Joe Murphy,

or Daniel Petty at the Post.

The Denver KINGS OF CENSORSHIP !!!!

Stacey Cummins
Stacey Cummins

The news is to inform, yes, but I think that respect should been given to the victims in this tragedy. If you were there, would you really want to see/hear this guy's name plastered all over the place?? I would think not...heck, I wasn't there and I'm sick of seeing his name all over.

Josh Bradley
Josh Bradley

How about the media, including Westword, quit giving him constant attention. It is getting old, especially when 3/4 of the posts I now see from you are regarding him. Im close to unliking. Do you seriously have nothing better to report on or are you just enjoying being part of the media circus?

Jamie Folsom
Jamie Folsom

Does it really matter what Holmes wants or not? Better his ordinary and factual name than some snappy nickname.

Natasha Schwertley
Natasha Schwertley

The more you hide words you don't like, the more power you give those words.

Jen Symank
Jen Symank

The news is to inform, basically it answers the 5 W's. So I feel it is valid to use his name. Holmes didn't want attention, he is an extremely disturbed individual, who wanted to hurt others!

Liz Donnell
Liz Donnell

yes, name and shame him...but legal i dont think they can

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @BackOffImStarving -- Shalom! ... Mazel tov! ... 

 

... Schlemiel ...Schlimazel ...Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

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