Within the last few decades, mass media has gone through a huge revolution. Every day we are surrounded by the various forms of mass communication, such as television, radio, the Internet, blogs, social media, and even newspapers. Along with this transformation, people became aware of the huge space for self-expression and unlimited possibilities.
Sadly, serial killers and murderers are also aware of it.
Within time, it became clear that the media itself often glorifies serial killers by giving them a memorable, even glamorized nicknames. While “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz and the “BTK Killer” Dennis Rader gave the nicknames themselves, many other killers, such as “The Lipstick Killer” William Heirens, “The Shoe-Fetish Slayer” Jerry Brudos and “The Gay Slayer” Colin Ireland have been dubbed so by the media. The instinct to label the killer in some colorful way is natural enough.
To capture the darker interests of their readers, newspapers often write as much as possible details about the crime and sear the killer in the public’s collective memory. Massive publicity and media attention may also play a role in encouraging the killer to fulfill the public’s expectations. Becoming a pop-culture celebrity is an important part of serial killer’s motivation and can be a strong inspiration for the killer to continue his criminal career. Once he becomes a superstar, his frequency of murder can drastically increase. When killers become no longer satisfied with obscurity, they may become compelled to prove that they deserve the superstar status they have been awarded.
For example, while assaulting one of his victims, the “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez said:
“You know who I am, don’t you? I’m the one they’re writing about in the newspapers and on TV.”
From the killer’s perspective, he’s being deified.
Despite the huge coverage, killers sometimes show their own effort to appear on the media and spread their fantasies all around the world. But why do they speak out?
The main reason is that they know everyone is watching. They are in the spotlight. Killers want to spin everything to their side in order to convince the public that they are innocent or at least sympathetic. And this behavior sometimes can attract supportive people who will believe that the killer hasn‘t done anything wrong. This one of the most dangerous abilities of the psychopath – to secure himself with supportive people – even professionals. Most serial killers are narcissists – successful liars who already got away with something small and now it looks like a larger achievement to them. Killers think they are smarter than anyone else – they will deny their guilt even if there is strong evidence that they have committed their crimes.
A good example is Ted Bundy, who, after getting arrested for the Chi Omega Sorority girls murders, made an impressive performance in front of the reporters. As Leon County Sherriff Ken Katsaris read him his indictment for the murders and many other crimes, Ted Bundy started to show-off his manipulating skills:
“Gentlemen, I’m not going to be paraded for Sherrif Katsaris’s benefit. What do we have here, Ken? Let’s see. It’s an indictment. Why don’t you read it to me? You’re up for election, aren’t you?” Bundy turned his back on Sherrif Katsaris, as he began to read the indictment. Bundy suddenly followed up with “Okay then, you got an indictment. That’s all you’re going to get.” Finally, Ted Bundy turned to the reporters and asked, “Is this my chance to talk to the press? I’ll plead not guilty right now. Can I talk to the reporters? We’ve had our chance. We’ve displayed the prisoner. Well, listen: I’ve been kept in isolation for six months. I’ve been kept from the press. I’ve been buried by you. You’ve been talking to the press for six months. I think it’s my turn now.”
It is a great example of how killers manipulate the investigation and do or say anything to reach their goal of freedom or notoriety or both. Even the authorities are diminished, in a killer‘s eyes, for their shabby or incompetent work.
By doing the things written above, individuals accused of the murder can try to really prove their innocence. Sadly, as I mentioned before, most of the time, this isn‘t the case. The only thing killers prove to the public is their arrogance.