In the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling, there's one character so evil that no one will speak his name.
I think we should adopt the same approach, as a society, to those who would become famous on the backs of hideous deeds — not out of fear of the individual, which was the motive in the Potter books, but as a sign of contempt and disrespect for evil acts.
In the coming weeks and months, we'll likely hear a lot about the man accused of killing a dozen movie patrons and injuring others in Aurora, Colo. My own profession will pick the alleged shooter's life apart in great detail and then serve it up to a public that genuinely wants to understand how such a horrific act can occur.
I get that. I wish we could figure it out to prevent such acts. Since there's also no question that being accused is not always the same as being guilty, I make no presumption beyond these facts: Someone viciously murdered movie patrons. A specific person has been accused, with trial to follow. I certainly support a fair trial.
But if I had a say in the matter in cases like this, I'd identify the person, then refer to him as "the accused" or "the alleged shooter" in every story going forward. And should he be convicted of the crime, I'd change my reference to reflect that fact.
I would deny the possibility of name-recognition infamy if it were in my power to do so.
Here's why: On the one hand, if one craved attention and fame, that individual would have to accomplish something worthwhile, because there'd be no personal fame to be gained from despicable acts. Forget the idea that everyone will know and fear me or remember what I did. Such acts would be a ticket to obscurity.
It would also spare the innocents associated with an individual from living in the glare that bounces off purported villainy. No parents, children, siblings or others would be tainted by acts over which they had no say, carried out by hands that are not their own.
Besides that, I would not spend a teaspoon of ink on the perpetrator in comparison to telling the stories of those that were taken from the world. Forget photos of the accused playing on the front page of every newspaper or headlining every TV news broadcast.
Why do we all know who Ted Bundy was, but unless we knew them personally, most of us don't know the names of his victims? Arthur Gary Bishop stole futures and dreams and preyed on the most innocent among us, young boys. Their names are largely lost to history, but his lingers. Why?
I refer to those two now by name only because they're gone, unable to look around to see if people still talk about them or recount the horrors that they wrought.
In the hours after the rampage in Colorado, some who were running movie theaters elsewhere worried about copy cats and asked for extra security. People talked about whether others might be "inspired" to do the same thing.6 comments on this story
We've given the upper hand for too long to the wrong things, fascinated by havoc. As I get older, I find I'm much more interested in simple acts of decency, in second chances and tales of personal redemption.
These are the names I hope to keep from the Colorado stories: Jonathan Blunk, Alexander J. Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alexander C. Teves and Rebecca Wingo.
That other name? Who cares.
Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at loisco.