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Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the whole sniper-in-Washington killing spree (aside from all of those messy deaths, of course) is the fact that, since there are so few clues left by the sniper, it’s been difficult for the media in the US to develop and market a suitable Nickname for it.

Ironically, since it’s a sniper we’re talking about, the very mystique, secrecy, and mystery is exactly what we should expect until he/she/they eventually become bored and/or screw up.

In the interim, how are we to carry on without a suitable chroma-key in adorning our television sets when any breaking news about white panel vans emerges? How will Ted Turner sell Pepsi Ads during the nation’s hour of need if he can’t segue the breaking story thing with an appropriately recognizable moniker?


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Washington Sniper Evades Nickname with Few Clues 1 hour, 8 minutes ago

By Laura MacInnis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A sniper has left few clues behind in his two-week-long shooting spree in and around the U.S. capital, foiling efforts to coin a suitable moniker for the killer.

Time Magazine dubbed the gunman “The Beltway Sniper,” named for the highway encircling the Washington suburbs where the gunman has shot 11 people, killing 9, seemingly at random. Newsweek called him “The Tarot Card Killer,” referring to a Tarot “Death” card found near one of the crime scenes.

Journalism experts said most media outlets have avoided labeling the killer because too little was known about him or his intentions.

“People are too afraid right now to hand out nicknames,” said Columbia University professor Andie Tucker.

“There is next to nothing known about this killer, and what we do know about him is generic. Nobody wants to give him a name which later turns out to be embarrassing or accusatory or flat out wrong.”

High-profile criminals have a long history of attracting nicknames. “Jack the Ripper” gained notoriety in London in the 1880s and the “Blood Countess” of 16th-century Hungary were said to have partly inspired Bram Stoker to write “Dracula.”

In the 1920’s, new U.S. tabloid newspapers used nicknames like Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd, many of which romanticized crime.

The New York media used the shorthand “Son of Sam” for serial killer David Berkowitz, who killed six people in 1976 and 1977 and called himself “Sam’s Creation” in notes to newspapers and police.

Other serial killers are now best-known by monikers like the Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski), Boston Stranger (Albert De Salvo) and Scarborough Rapist (Paul Bernardo).


Major U.S. newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have referred to the Washington assailant as “the sniper.” Europe’s press has also shied from labels.

Spanish newspapers depict the shooter as “the mysterious sniper.” The Greek press describe him as “the Washington sharp shooter” and in Germany, Der Tagesspiegel refers to the gunman as simply “serial killer.”

Since Oct. 2, the gunman has killed nine people and wounded two, each time with a single bullet fired in busy, public places. Despite witness reports of get-away vehicles and extensive highway searches, no arrests have been made and police have not released a composite sketch of a suspect.

Police Capt. Nancy Demme, of Montgomery County in Maryland, where the first five murders took place, said on Wednesday the assailant could be changing weapons as well as cars with every crime, adding police had not ruled out the possibility there was more than one shooter.

“The only common denominator thus far is male,” she said in response to conflicting witness accounts of the shooter.

With so few clues, one media expert said it was premature to characterize the suspect — or suspects — in any way.

“I was really surprised to see the reference to the ‘Tarot Card Killer,”‘ Columbia University journalism professor Sreenath Sreenivasan told Reuters.

“We haven’t really established that the man who pulled the trigger is the man who pulled all the triggers, is the man who left the card … It’s all too early.”