What we learned from analyzing thousands of stories on the Christchurch shooting

By Jason Baumgartner, Fernando Bermejo, Emily Ndulue, Ethan Zuckerman, and Joan Donovan

On March 15, 2019, a gunman opened fire on worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 and wounding dozens of others. In the wake of the worst terrorist attack in the country’s modern history, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared of the shooter, “He is a terrorist; he is a criminal; he is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.” Explaining her decision not to name the shooter, Ardern said, “He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety. And that is why you will never hear me mention his name.”

Prime Minister Ardern’s position is consistent with the advice of No Notoriety, a media advocacy organization founded by Tom and Caren Teves, whose 24-year-old son, Alex, was killed during a mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Their campaign urges the media to report on mass shootings without amplifying the ideology of the attacker. Research on mass violence shows that mass shooters often cite previous gunmen as inspiration for their acts of violence. The New Zealand shooter mentioned mass murderers who killed worshipers in a Charleston, South Carolina church, and a Norwegian murderer who killed 69 political activists and children at a summer camp.

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