Saturday, September 16, 2017

Washington School Shooting Classic Copycat Effect

 The murder of Sam Strahan at Freeman High School in Washington State, appears to be another result of the American media's obsession with school shootings.

Guns have been around for hundreds of years. Semi-automatic pistols have been common for over a hundred. But the rash of school shootings only escalated in the middle 1990's, after the federal bans on guns in schools. The most likely explanation is the copycat effect.

The copycat effect is well known and understood. When an event is highly publicized, people who are emotional misfits, contemplating suicide, see a way to put meaning in their lives.  They see the previous events brought media attention, fame and a sort of "immortality" to the previous perpetrators. They see a way to end their pain and to become famous. They become "copy cats".  They attempt to duplicate or surpass previous incidents. It is why school shootings happen in clusters.  It is why the number of victims have been increasing. The Establishment media know this, but they want more ratings and more gun bans. From
The documents and his classmates detailed troubling behavior by Caleb Sharpe, saying he brought notes to school about doing "something stupid," was obsessed with past school shootings and posted videos online showing him playing with guns.

Sharpe, a sophomore at the school of 300 students, also had left a suicide note at home for his parents, the records said. Freeman High School in the tiny town of Rockford has not responded to calls for comment on how they dealt with Sharpe's behavior outside of counseling for his suicidal thoughts.
The media responsibility for mass shooting was recognized by an article in the left-leaning Pacific Standard. From
We’ve witnessed the collision of the media’s mass murder fixation and the fame-seeking of would-be perpetrators: the Columbine shooters’ desire “to leave a lasting impression on the world”; Jared Lee Loughner’s pre-Tucson proclamation that he’d “see you on national TV”; Umpqua Community College shooter Chris Harper-Mercer’s belief that “it seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”
What the Pacific Standard article missed is the perceived political benefits to the establishment media from exaggerated coverage of school shootings. Several studies have confirmed the overwhelming leftist bias and anti-Second Amendment attitudes in the establishment media. Perhaps the best study is "The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage" by Brian Anse  Patrick.

The establishment media culture sees opportunity to push its desired restrictions on firearms ownership with school shootings. The media spends a disproportionate amount of time effectively glamorizing school shooters when compared to other violence. The push for political action has the effect of providing more incentive for school shootings.

There are numerous ways the media can cover school shootings while providing little incentive for more school shooters. The media has been told, again and again, how it could be done.  Clayton Cramer wrote a paper on this in 1993.   It was published in a the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 9:1 [Winter 1993-94].  It won First Place, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Ethics Prize, 1993, Undergraduate Division.  It has been widely written about in other publications, such as the Wall Street Journal.

Author Loren Coleman, who wrote "The Copycat Effect, published in 2004, made these suggestions, among others.

1. Accept that these stories have an effect and that the way they are covered is important.

2. Stop glamorizing the deaths with wall to wall coverage.

3. Stop using cultural stereotypes about the perpetrators or victims.

4. Do not give details about the killing. That serves as a road map for copycats.

5. Give alternatives, such as seeking help or counseling.

These recommendations could be implemented voluntarily by the media, if the establishment media were serious about reducing school shootings.  The AP could include these requirements in its writers guidelines.  The Cramer article has been around for 20 years, and won a prize for ethics.  "The Copycat Effect" has been available for over a decade.  Any thoughtful person can see the connection between making anti-heros of school shooters and the potential to tip unbalanced people over the edge.

The media would rather use these events push a political agenda. They could prevent children from being murdered, but they will not.  As Cramer noted, the coverage of school shooting is at least 8 times as large at that of similar mass homicides that do not involve guns.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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