New Chrome Extension Blocks Out Shooters' Names

The aftermath of a mass shooting is extremely painful, but for the victims and victims' families, this pain is often aggravated by mass shooters' names and photos being plastered across news sites and social media. Rather than paying lip service to mass shooters, we should honor the victims they have taken from us. In this vein, the nonprofit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has launched a Google Chrome extension that blocks out mass shooters' names on web pages. The extension, "Zero Minutes of Fame," also removes any photos of mass shooters that you might come across, often replacing them with photos of shooting victims.

According to the Brady Campaign, "30% of mass killings and 22% of school shootings are inspired by previous gun-related events." The group subsequently argues that if the media continues to cover these shootings by posting the names and photos of mass shooters, then more people will be inspired to commit acts of mass violence. "Zero Minutes of Fame" therefore alludes to the Brady Campaign's goal to turn shooters' 15 minutes of media-created fame into zero.

The goal of the extension is to challenge the current culture of fascination with the perpetrators of mass violence, not to promote censorship. After all, as Aaron Sankin wrote for the Daily Dot, people need to voluntarily opt in, which makes this a protest of the ways in which media organizations cover shootings. It's also not completely effective; for now, the extension is only equipped to block out full names, but shooters' last names still appear as they are in news stories.

Nevertheless, this extension is largely a symbolic effort to challenge a media landscape that often unintentionally glorifies mass violence, and there are always discrepancies between which mass shooters are humanized (the white shooters) and which ones are lumped together as "radical terrorists" (the shooters of color). Some journalists argue that deliberately not naming mass shooters is a public disservice and an unethical path to take, but this ignores the collective power of media organizations to shift the culture away from exploiting interest in mass shooters' personal histories.

It can be incredibly triggering for folks to see the face of the person who killed their loved ones everywhere they turn, and even when journalists want to focus on telling the stories of the victims, they run the risk of prioritizing questions like, "Why did the killer do it?" and "What aspect of the shooter's past can explain what happened?" over the victims' lives and narratives. In any case, this extension is just one small component of the Brady Campaign's efforts to challenge a culture of gun violence. The nonprofit also has a petition up on its website urging media outlets to give killers "Zero Minutes of Fame."