"I don't care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right."
-- attributed to many
There's a story, perhaps apochryphal, of someone who appeared on the Jerry Springer Show only to be humiliated by his wife with news that she was having an affair with his best friend.
After the show aired, the hapless victim was approached by one of his friends. He expected the friend to make fun of him or perhaps commiserate with him, but he was surprised by his friend's actual question:
"How do you go about getting on a show like that?"
Good news or bad news, triumph or humiliation.
It didn't matter.
He had been on TV, so he was famous.
I was reminded of this story when I heard the news about the psychopath in Colorado who went into a theater Thursday night and just started shooting people. At last count, I believe he had killed 12 and wounded about 70 others.
Of course, the 24-hour echo chamber of television, radio, Internet and print has been telling the world everything there is to know about the "alleged" killer.
I'm not going to add to your knowledge about him. I'm not going to try and tell you that he did it because he was toilet-trained funny or some other psychobabble.
In fact, I'm not even going to mention his name.
I certainly don't think this is the only problem, or a perfect solution, but I am 100 percent convinced that in at least some of these cases, we have people who aren't ever going to accomplish anything positive for the world who decide they'll become famous for killing people.
Sort of like being a Kardashian but on a much worse scale.
Of course there are other problems -- a violence-drenched culture, a sick fascination with guns, a lack of real role models. All these are things to be addressed before we ever come close to solving this problem.
It seems to me, though, that a lot of this started when we lost the distinction between famous and infamous.
I thought comedian Elayne Boosler said it best. "Can't we agree that you should actually have to do something to be famous? That you can't become famous just for taking your clothes off or having sex with someone.
I understand that it's difficult to write news reports or tell stories without using a name, and I think I have the answer to that. At the time a suspect is arrested, we'll assign him a name.
Something like Bed Wetter, Thumb Sucker or Feces Smearer.
Heck, that might even have stopped Hitler.
Seriously, though. If we remove the chance for these people to become celebrities, they'll use have to go back to working at the car wash.
We might even save a few lives.