title for Murder Manuals note
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This page considers 'murder manuals'.

It covers -

It complements discussion of online bomb-making information, stalking and censorship elsewhere on this site.

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What is a 'murder manual'?

As the characterisation indicates, murder manuals are primers about how to kill people. They are variously hailed or damned as -

  • an expression of free speech
  • a mechanism for jihad
  • a basis for self-defence by 'survivalists' against an oppressive 'new world order'
  • a collectible for spotty insecure males
  • an aid for weirdos and embittered people who want to murder ex-partners, celebrities and judges.

Murder manuals typically offer guidance on specific methods (eg shooting, strangling, bombing) and on associated tasks such as gaining access to the victim (eg through breaking into a building), conducting covert surveillance of that individual or legally finding the person's address.

Some regimes have prohibited such guides, on the basis that maurder manuals have no legitimate uses and are instead properly stigmatised as facilitating (even inciting) serious illegality. Other regimes have grappled with tensions between free speech and appropriate censorship, between restriction of an illegal act and restricting writing about an act, or about the circumstances in which an activity takes place (use of pyrotechnics per se may not be illegal whereas use of pyrotechnics to murder someone is illegal).

Nations have also wrestled with questions of principle and practice, for example regarding -

  • online publication
  • distribution of manuals in a different script or language that escape recognition as a prohibited item
  • restrictions on import, sale and transmission through the post but not on private ownership
  • constraints on what are marketed as "guides for hit men" but not on government, industry and scholarly works regarding explosives, marksmanship, private security protocols and surveillance.

Observers have asked whether murder manuals are more of a media phenomenon (and matter on which governments display their vigilance in the 'war on terror') rather than a serious threat to individuals and the community. Sceptics have, for example, noted that depictions of murder are a staple of commercial television, feature films, newspapers, books and magazines.


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