A few weeks ago some major French newspapers decided to stop publishing the photos and names of terrorists. It was days after dozens of people were killed in a brutal attack in the coastal town of Nice, and the global community was scrambling to find out more about the violent man behind the wheel.
By Ankita Rao | MOTHERBOARD
Publications including Le Monde and La Croix were making a big statement by refusing to participate in what they called a “strategy of hate.” Terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram thrive on media attention, claiming attacks and terrorists as their own and pushing their message through social media and YouTube. Headlines can feed their pride.
But the French media’s decision struck me as more than a reaction to the horror—these narratives of killing can have a profound effect on our brains and minds. As a consumer and producer of media, I think what the publishers in France are trying to do by withholding these clickable details could be a poignant experiment in fighting violence. And there’s plenty of science to support it.
In the 1980s an Italian neuroscientist named Giacomo Rizzolatti at the University of Parma identified specific brain cells called mirror neurons for the first time. These are the neurons that fuel mimicry, imitation, and sometimes empathy when you see another person’s actions. And they fire immediately.