SHOOTING YOUR WAY TO FAME – A few weeks ago, in the aftermath of the Santa Fe school mass shooting, I wrote about the phenomenon of mass shooting, and particularly school shootings, as a meme. An interesting article in “The New York Times” expands on this deadly trend:
Interviews with law enforcement officials, educators, researchers, students and a gunman’s mother, as well as a review of court documents, academic studies and the writings of killers and would-be killers, show that the school-shooting copycat syndrome has grown more pervasive and has steadily escalated in recent years. And much of it can be traced back to the two killers at Columbine, previously ordinary high school students who have achieved dark folk hero status — their followers often known as “Columbiners” — in the corners of the internet where their carefully planned massacre is remembered, studied and in some cases even celebrated.
Investigators say school shootings have become the American equivalent of suicide bombings — not just a tactic, but an ideology. Young men, many of them depressed, alienated or mentally disturbed, are drawn to the Columbine subculture because they see it as a way to lash out at the world and to get the attention of a society that they believe bullies, ignores or misunderstands them.
School shootings are a relatively new phenomenon, and while it’s a truism to say that school shootings are there because guns are widely available, until relatively recently guns have been as widely available as they are now without there being an epidemic of school shootings. Guns may enable but they don’t explain. What changed was the cultural environment.
Ms. Klebold, the mother of one of the Columbine attackers, said she was shocked by the number of letters she receives from people who relate to her son: “The girls who say, ‘I wish I could have his baby’”; others who say that her son, to them, is “heroic.” Even seeing images of the Santa Fe gunman’s Communist hammer-and-sickle medallion — just like the one that her son wore, a gift from a friend’s parent who went to Russia — was painful to her.
“It’s to me like this kid was being” her son, “all over again,” she said.
There are no easy answers or solutions. Perhaps, as many have suggested, the media refusing to name and show the killers might be a good start to tackle crimes designed to be social events.