Thursday, November 22, 2018

Rampage Killing in Russia and the United States form "Media Contagion Cluster"

On October 17, 2018, a student at a technical college in  the Crimean city of Kerch carried out a Columbine style rampage attack. He committed suicide at the end of his attack. He killed 20 people and wounded 70 more, many of them severely. I will not mention his name. It is included in the excerpt below.

There are very restrictive gun control laws in place in Crimea.

The murderer legally obtained a shotgun by performing all that was required, including a medical exam, and joining a local gun club. He purchased 150 rounds of ammunition a month before the attack.

In addition to the homemade bomb mentioned below, he used several homemade grenades during the attack. The bomb and grenades were illegal for him to make and use.  From
Authorities have said 18-year-old student Vladislav Roslyakov carried out the attack, using a rifle and a homemade bomb to kill 20 others, including 15 teenagers and five adults. Forty others remain in hospital, many with horrific injuries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed Western influences for Wednesday's shooting at Kerch Polytechnic College, suggesting "globalization" and "social networks" are creating "false heroes" for young people and leading them to violence.


According to Russian media reports, Roslyakov made social media posts suggesting he was inspired by the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School outside Denver that killed 13.
President Putin is not the only person suggesting that the aggrandizement of rampage shooters is a major motivator.  A paper presented at the American Psycological Society in 2016 estimated that rampage murders have doubled because of the Media and social media aggrandizement. This is often referred to as the "copycat effect". In the paper it is called "media contagion".  From the paper
“If the mass media and social media enthusiasts make a pact to no longer share, reproduce or retweet the names, faces, detailed histories or long-winded statements of killers, we could see a dramatic reduction in mass shootings in one to two years,” she said. “Even conservatively, if the calculations of contagion modelers are correct, we should see at least a one-third reduction in shootings if the contagion is removed.”
A German study, using the terms "amok" and "amok suicide" showed that rampage attacks occur in clusters, providing more evidence of the media contagion effect. From
Therefore, it may be dangerous to report about amok events in a sensational way. The reporting may trigger the same attitude and behaviour in persons who found themselves in a similar state of mood. That it would be possible to use the media also for preventing such acts is clearly shown by some studies on media effects on suicidal behaviour.
The attack in Crimea was covered in the United States, then ignored after the rampage killing in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania, ten days later.  The Thousand Oaks rampage shooting in California occurred less than two weeks after that.

Leftist politicians frequently say that mass killings with guns "only happen in the United States".

That is false. Even the leftist politifact ruled that President Obama was "mostly false" when he made such a claim.

The Crimea killings, The Tree of Life Synagogue killings, and the Thousand Oaks killings fall into a cluster of rampage killings. Such clusters are thought to be triggered by media contagion. 

The danger of media contagion should be raised whenever people consider ways to reduce these types of attacks.

The Media, utilizing the First Amendment, bears more responsibility for these attacks than do gun owners and the Second Amendment. In all three attacks, the perpetrators were able to obtain the firearms legally. None of the proposed legislation in the United States is as restrictive as that in the Crimea. California has some of the most restrictive firearm laws in the United States.

Attempting to prevent these attacks by limiting access to firearms in the general population did not work in Crimea. It will not work in the United States.

These clusters of rampage attacks are a media generated phenomena of our global society.

The media could do much to reduce these events by adopting a set of voluntary rules to stop aggrandizing the perpetrators.

It would be unwise to eliminate First or Second Amendment protections to address these rare events.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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