Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Copycat Effect

[This is Monday’s entry from Loren Coleman’s blog:]


Monday, April 16, 2007

VA Tech Shooting

Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing has a good overview of the Virginia Tech shooting today. It appears 33 dead are confirmed, including the shooter (described in some reports as an Asian male with a black hood).

Sadly, I saw this coming.

In an article based on an email I sent to a Canadian TV reporter Bridget Brown on September 18th and her followup interview, CTV noted that Expert predicted 'cluster' of school shootings, on October 3rd, 2006.

In that article, I was quoted as noting the psychological process that these shooters appear to be "competing for the highest body count." Sadly, we've seen that come true today.

Also, the news item from last fall noted: "He says that while the Pennsylvania shootings may not be the last in this cluster, the copycat crimes will likely slow down as we near winter. He says spring, and the anniversary of Columbine, could be enough to spark another cycle of tragedy." Again, my prediction of a reigniting of the school shooting wildfire during this very week was revealed today.

Interestingly, I am been interviewed by Canadian media today, and will be on the CBC tomorrow. The media north of the border seem less threatened by what I've said in The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines. I was interviewed after the Dawson College schooling last fall frequently by Canadian television and radio stations, less by American programs.

Xeni Jardin wonders how I would feel about what I am hearing on the American cable news networks. To listen to CNN and MSNBC is to watch the news people stumble through this story.

These cable news people certainly should be aware that there is a copycat effect going on here. They have been reporting on this for ten years now, and can't see the legacy between wall-to-wall coverage and what happens when you elevate Columbine the way the media has.

Specfically today, there is something over-the-top being heard in some of the reports that this shooting today is the "deadliest" in American history. Also, incorrect information is being shared. These newspeople are misreporting on the profiles and the changes in it. Cable news earlier this afternoon misrepresented that this is an American-only problem. During the early evening, I just watched a report on CNN saying that the few historical non-American school shootings have been done by adult non-students.

Of course, this is simplistic. The American cable networks are ignoring Taber, Alberta (1999) to Erfurt, Germany (2002), and several in-between international events where the shooters have been relatively young people. The US media outlets are also forgetting that most of the fall 2006 American school shooting incidents involved outsiders, non-students and adults.

Last fall, as I told all that would listen, there was a shift in the overall North American shooter profile. It moved from one of mostly Caucasian males who were members of the student body to "outsiders." It began in earnest with the the youthful South Asian immigrant who became happier as a member of the cult of Columbine before his attack at Dawson College, and the two adult alleged sexual molesters who victimized young females in Bailey, Colorado and at the Amish school in Pennsylvania.

Will more of these happen? Probably.

There was a Columbine copycat shooting last week (April 11) in Oregon (with no deaths) in which the shooter said he got the idea after watching National Geographic's April 7th showing of "The Final Report: Columbine."

This VA Tech shooting comes days before the Columbine anniversary on Friday, April 20th.

I would definitely say we are going to be entering a period for the next month of many threats, many plots, and a few shootings.

Don't let your guard down. Awareness is key, communication is important, and quick response is a must.

posted by Loren Coleman at 4:22 PM

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