Details about the school shooting in Canada are still in short supply. We know that police have a 17-year-old male in custody, facing four counts of murder and seventeen counts of attempted murder. It seems likely that the shooting was motivated by the media coverage given to mass shooters, especially school shootings, in the western world. From thestarphoenix.com . . .
“The community usually pulls together really strong in times like this,” said Clearwater River Dene Nation Chief Teddy Clark on Friday.
“Both Clearwater and La Loche, a lot of people are in shock. This is something that you only see on TV most of the time.” . . .
Desjarlais-Thomas forwarded to The Canadian Press a screenshot of a chilling exchange that had taken place on social media a short time before the shooting between a young male and his friends.
“Just killed 2 ppl,” wrote the young male. “Bout to shoot ip the school.”
The shooter is in custody, so we will likely get more information. But we know that this small town of about 2,600 is not an isolated Canadian village without communications to the outside world. They have electricity, paved streets, television, Internet and most of the modern amenities that exist in Canada and the United States.
It’s fairly certain that this small town has been saturated with media coverage of mass school killings, just like most of the Western world. The media knows that such coverage tends to motivate additional mass shootings. The copycat effect has been extensively written about and researched.
These mass killings still recieve far more media attention than comparable mass killings involving other instruments, such as arson, automobiles, knives or other items. The number of these killings would be substantially reduced if the media simply followed a few simple guidelines recommended by Loren Coleman in his book The Copycat Effect. The book details strategies for reducing media incentives for mass killings.
(1) The media must be more aware of the power of their words. Using language like “successful” sniper attacks, suicides, and bridge jumpers, and “failed” murder-suicides, for example, clearly suggest to viewers and readers that someone should keep trying again until they “succeed.” We may wish to “succeed” in relationships, sports, and jobs, but we do not want rampage or serial killers, architects of murder-suicide, and suicide bombers to make further attempts after “failing.” Words are important. Even the use of “suicide” or “rampage” in headlines, news alerts, and breaking bulletins should be reconsidered.
(2) The media must drop their clichéd stories about the “nice boy next door” or the “lone nut.” The copycat violent individual is neither mysterious nor healthy, or usually an overachiever. They are often a fatal combination of despondency, depression, and mental illness. School shooters are suicidal youth that slipped through the cracks, but it is a complex issue, nevertheless. People are not simple. The formulaic stories are too often too simplistic.
(3) The media must cease its graphic and sensationalized wall-to-wall commentary and coverage of violent acts and the details of the actual methods and places where they occur. Photographs of murder victims, tapes of people jumping off bridges, and live shots of things like car chases ending in deadly crashes, for example, merely glamorize these deaths, and create models for others down to the method, the place, the timing, and the type of individual involved. Even fictional entertainment, such as the screening of The Deer Hunter, provides vivid copycatting stimuli for vulnerable, unstable, angry, and depressed individuals.
(4) The media should show more details about the grief of the survivors and victims (without glorifying the death), highlight the alternatives to the violent acts, and mention the relevant background traits that may have brought this event to this deathly end. They should also avoid setting up the incident as a logical or reasonable way to solve a problem.
(5) The media must avoid ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural stereotypes in portraying the victims or the perpetrators. Why set up situations that like-minded individuals (e.g. neo-Nazis) can use as a roadmap for a future rampages against similar victims?
(6) The media should never publish a report on suicide or murder-suicide without adding the protective factors, such as the contact information for hot lines, help lines, soft lines, and other available community resources, including email addresses, websites, and phone numbers. To run a story on suicide or a gangland murder without thinking about the damage the story can do is simply not responsible. It¹s like giving a child a loaded gun. The media should try to balance such stories with some concern and consideration for those who may use it to imitate the act described.
(7) And finally, the media should reflect more on their role in creating our increasingly violent society. Honest reporting on the positive nature of being alive in the twenty-first century might actually decrease the negative outcomes of the copycat effect, and create a wave of self-awareness that this life is rather good after all. Most of our lives are mundane, safe, and uneventful. This is something that an alien watching television news from outer space, as they say, would never know. The media should “get real,” and try to use their influence and the copycat effect to spread a little peace, rather than mayhem.
The media benefit from coverage of these events with increased ratings. The old media use them to further the agenda of imposing severe restrictions on gun ownership and use. The restrictions called for often have no relationship to the mass killings committed.
How much more blood will be on the media’s hands before they stop using these events to promote their political agenda without regard to the devastating toll of innocents that they are encouraging?
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.