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Copy-cat killers? (Updated)
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, April 19, 2007

On a related note (see below) Michael Ledeen asks, given the almost incessant playing of the Cho video on NBC:
Surely they know it will spawn copy-cats. So are they showing it because they would rather enjoy copy-cats?
Now most of us may be inclined to say, "bah, there won't be copy-cats", but in fact there is a copycat effect. It's a pretty well known phenomenon. For instance, the NY Zodiac killer, Eddie Seda was copycat of the California Zodiac killer who was never caught.

So, the question then is why fulfill the wishes of a killer for notoriety (after death no less)? I'm not suggesting parts of the video should never be shown. But repeated showings (yes, I'm aware that the TV news is a visual medium so save it)? What message does the repeated showing of the video do in terms of reinforcing the wrong message - do a video of yourself and then do something murderously outrageous and we'll make you famous.

To the deranged mind that's not a particularly bad deal, is it? As I recall, one of the most important things to a lot of young people was "to become a celebrity". Well, this may not be the ideal, but for some it might be close enough.

So do you agree? Is the incessant playing of the video by NBC irresponsible? Do you think it might spawn copycats? What would you consider responsible use of the video by NBC?

UPDATE: Here's a completely different take on the matter:
The father of one of the victims of the Columbine tragedy said he isn't surprised that the Virginia Tech gunman refers to the shooters responsible for his son's death as "martyrs."

"Because Jefferson County lied so much about what happened in Columbine, they raised the interest in these guys," Brian Rohrbough said Wednesday. He lost his son Daniel Rohrbough at Columbine. "When (officials) refused to release the basement videos, they created a cult following for these two guys."

Rohrbough has long sought the release of videos - the so-called basement tapes - and other documents created by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris long before they went on their rampage at Columbine.

"If the videos were released, then parents, schools, law enforcement and counselors would have a benchmark to look for potential murderers, and the odds of stopping this before it happens would increase dramatically," Rohrbough said.

"The basement tapes and the documents give a very clear picture on how to identify these guys. There is so much information that would help identify these serious threats."
Interesting. I was especially struck by the line where he says not releasing the tapes "created a cult following for these two guys." Possible.

Then again, would releasing them and giving them a lot of visiblity have created copycats inspired by them? Seems Cho was inspired by them without seeing the tapes. Would more have been inspired if they had been released? We'll obviously never know, but it does muddy the water a bit, doesn't it?
 
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If I recall correctly, there have already been several false threats, and one or two possible threats in the past couple of days.

Would need to pull some research, and I’m about ready to get out of work...

This is one reason I agreed with Scott Erb about this incident receiving to much press. They endlessly repeat the same things, with minor adjustments to the story as facts or new information becomes available. Much of the early reporting is conjecture and misinformation.

It is a long, drawn out sensationalizing of death and violence.
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
Some years ago, there was a tradgedy at a Northern Virginia high school. A senior committed suicide. This person was not well known. He was a quiet young man afflicted with and under therapy for depression. The school reacted with Memorials, Grief Counselors, the works.

Before the school year was over, there were three more teen suicides in the area. Not necessarily the same school but nearby schools were affected. Copycats? Yes. In every case, the dead young person left behind a note describing how much they wished they were the ones being eulogized. How they wished they were the one that tears were being shed over. How they wished they could be as popular as these dead children. Death seemed a nice alternative to what they considered to be their own mediocre lives. (Notice a similarity to the movie "Heathers")

In retrospect, maybe these schools should have done the insensitive thing - cursed the first young man’s cowardice! Cursed him for taking the easy way out! Instead of eulogizing him, they should have rebuked him.

Our paramount duty at the moment of discovering such a tradgedy is to the living. And keeping them that way. In so many ways, our Kumbaya society, in trying so hard to do the right PC-kind of thing, over-reacts and by doing so encourages the very same actions we decry so loudly.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
Cmon SShiell if you kill yourself, its obviously not your fault. Why blame someone for killing themselves? Society shunned them and drove them to it, they were depressed, it just wasnt their fault.










/sarcasm off
 
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
There’ll be copycats. The more they emphasize this, the more likely.
And in some cases that’ll suit some people just fine because their agenda
is more important than any damage that might be done.

Course they’ll deny it, but.....
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
and I understand Erb - I’m already tired of hearing from talking heads of the class that can ’recognize this guy had a problem!’ after he killed 32 people.

Well, noooooooo s*it sherlock.

Course all these psych experts couldn’t pre-empt him, but now they’ll hold forth on how all the signs were there.
And it’s probably caused by guns, or movies, or music, or video games or impending Global Warming, or American society in general.

But you can bet your last buck that it won’t be because the psych experts who touched his life over the course of time didn’t actually do anything useful (probably worried about his self-esteem).
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I have to disagree with the idea that there’s some -Crucial- nugget of information in the Columbine tapes that will magically allow identification of future shooters. There’s a great deal of misinformation that’s been spread about Harris and Klebold here in CO (for example, the local churches have been telling the story that they were targeting Christians specifically and that it was a religious hate crime in order to bolster their congregations). Sorry, but we already have a very good profile of the general personality type of the school shooter. I highly recommend anyone interested in the subject read the paper "The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective" (get it here: http://www.fbi.gov/publications/school/school2.pdf ).
 
Written By: Lysenko
URL: http://
A thoughtful post.

I’ll argue the libertarian side: that NBC is not obliged to not show tapes just because they might inspire copycat killings. Their job is to provide the news, and material that provides a more accurate picture of the killings is by definition news.

No other considerations should be foremost. Report the truth.

I do agree that it’s impossible to really define the impact of publicity on social motivation, and a bad idea to guess. For every would-be killer that’s inspired by Cho, we’ll never know how many people have flirted with these terrible fantasies, but were turned away from it now, by seeing how much trauma they would be causing, or seeing how warped the guy was.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Before the school year was over, there were three more teen suicides in the area. Not necessarily the same school but nearby schools were affected. Copycats? Yes. In every case, the dead young person left behind a note describing how much they wished they were the ones being eulogized. How they wished they were the one that tears were being shed over. How they wished they could be as popular as these dead children. Death seemed a nice alternative to what they considered to be their own mediocre lives. (Notice a similarity to the movie "Heathers")
Think of it as evolution in action.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
I’ll argue the libertarian side: that NBC is not obliged to not show tapes just because they might inspire copycat killings. Their job is to provide the news, and material that provides a more accurate picture of the killings is by definition news.
And at what point do they quit showing it? I know the obvious answer is "when it quits being news", but being our resident lib I’m expecting a much more nuanced answer from you.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
So you are afraid of this?

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
I do agree that it’s impossible to really define the impact of publicity on social motivation, and a bad idea to guess. For every would-be killer that’s inspired by Cho, we’ll never know how many people have flirted with these terrible fantasies, but were turned away from it now, by seeing how much trauma they would be causing, or seeing how warped the guy was.
Dude, anyone who flirts with these fantasies in the first place is going to love the results they have seen.

It is interesting how you want to consider government intervention to "solve" these problems, but only if it doesn’t step on the rights you value.

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
"When (officials) refused to release the basement videos, they created a cult following for these two guys."
I don’t see how that would create a cult following. Perhaps they show a couple of hopeless dorks, but even then it seems to me that more exposure means more of a cult following.

I mean, look at the crap of reality TV and the resulting cult followings they have.
"If the videos were released, then parents, schools, law enforcement and counselors would have a benchmark to look for potential murderers, and the odds of stopping this before it happens would increase dramatically," Rohrbough said.

"The basement tapes and the documents give a very clear picture on how to identify these guys. There is so much information that would help identify these serious threats."
Now, this does make sense, although I don’t really agree that it means it should be on broadcast TV.

It is something that police and educators and others in similar positions should view, perhaps.

However, to a large degree I am not convinced this would add anything new to the professional data set.

Many without Phds in psychology knew these guys were trouble; it’s taking it to the next level and dealing with it that is typically the problem.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
I’ll argue the libertarian side: that NBC is not obliged to not show tapes just because they might inspire copycat killings. Their job is to provide the news, and material that provides a more accurate picture of the killings is by definition news.
I’ll take a page from the lib playbook here used against Limbaugh and Imus- since NBC is broadcasting via the scarce public airwaves, they have a responsibility to uphold certain standards and morals etc etc etc. Isn’t this a violation of that trust and responsibility? Furthermore, where are the apologies, the firings and the calls for NBC to lose their broadcast licenses?

I think this argument is a pile of crap, but I’ve seen oh so much of it made over the past weeks, why not raise it now?
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Just what in the term “Freedom of the Press” is unclear. The Press has an obligation to report the news and the Cho material is news. It may upset some people and spawn copycats, but that is not a reason to censor the information.

By the reasoning behind censorship, the press should never report on Corruption, it might cause some to loose confidence in the government, War, all those dead bodies might upset viewers, or Crime, might spawn copycats.

Using the proposed criteria, Frank Capra’s award winning photo of the Spanish Civil War “Falling Soldier” would have never been printed. Nazi Concentration Camps never shown, Watergate never covered. A vigorous press is essential to Democracy, without it the public has no basis to decide who to vote for.

The Press is the “Watchdog of Democracy.” It needs sharp teeth. Sometimes it goes overboard. That is the price paid for freedom.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://faroutfishfiles.blogspot.com/
If I recall correctly, Rohrbough’s been in a twist for a while. Understandable of course; in addition to the obvious, I’ve the sense that he has desired a living target for his rage at losing a son. I suspect that he is piggybacking upon todays rage, his own attempt to to find answers to his own unanswerable questions.

Had I been in charge of NBC, I would have put online transcripts of the videos and asked immediate family members of those killed, 1) we’ve got video of your ____’s killer, would you like to see it, and 2) would you object to our showing it now (today, tomorrow, this Sunday...) knowing that we will, none the less, release in the near future.
 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
I am a fan of the treatment Cho got at Ace of Spades, but maybe I’m biased since he included my poorly done effort.
 
Written By: abwtf
URL: http://abw.mee.nu
I’ll take a page from the lib playbook here used against Limbaugh and Imus- since NBC is broadcasting via the scarce public airwaves, they have a responsibility to uphold certain standards and morals etc etc etc. Isn’t this a violation of that trust and responsibility? Furthermore, where are the apologies, the firings and the calls for NBC to lose their broadcast licenses?

I don’t know where they are, shark. It appears that they haven’t shown up. I guess that means the public doesn’t think NBC deserves to cease to exist as a news show for showing news. You could equally well argue that Imus didn’t deserve to be fired as a humorist for making a joke. I don’t really think Imus deserved to be fired, either, but I wasn’t in charge.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
It is interesting how you want to consider government intervention to "solve" these problems, but only if it doesn’t step on the rights you value.

Yeah. Pretty much indistinguishable from libertarianism when you frame it that way, except with two different lists of "rights". Thanks for such a kindly frame, Don. You’ve got my back.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
we’ll never know how many people have flirted with these terrible fantasies, but were turned away from it now, by seeing how much trauma they would be causing, or seeing how warped the guy was
.

Why Glas, you’re a hopeful romantic! Nay, dreamer, I think, is the better term.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
OK, strangest headline I’ve seen today...

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070420/LOCAL/704200533
Gary student pulls medieval weapon

A 15-year-old girl who allegedly swung a medieval-style weapon at a teacher, striking a student who intervened, told police she was tired of being picked on.

The Lew Wallace High School freshman swung the mace — a spiked ball and chain attached to a wooden stick — at a teacher Thursday morning, said Gary Police detective Sgt. Darlene Breitenstein.
The teacher wasn’t hit, but a 19-year-old student who intervened was cut on her hand.
"It’s heavy, and it’s metal and it’s sharp," Breitenstein said. "I took the weapon to the detention center for the judge to see."
The problem isn’t primarily about access to weapons...
 
Written By: Keith_Indy
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com/
The Press has an obligation to report the news

Says who? The Constitution prevents the government from muzzling the Press (however you define it: newspapers, pamphleteers, bloggers, etc.), but there is no law anywhere that says that the Press has to do anything at all, or even that there should be a press.

And if they have an obligation to report the news, why don’t they report all of it, including the fact that John Doe got a flat tire yesterday and had to walk a half-mile in the rain? How do you define news? What’s "new" or interesting to one person may be old hat to the next. And why should the "new" stuff be important? It’s unusual — that’s why it’s "news" — but my life is more drastically affected by the everyday and mundane. I am more likely to be bitten by a dog than to bite a dog myself. So why only report the unlikely scenario? Public interest? How is that different from outright voyeurism?

The Press has to exercise judgment as far as what it broadcasts because of space and time limitations. The fact that some psycho sent them a video doesn’t mean they have to show it, even if it’s part of a story of national interest.

Besides, you could easily argue that Cho is the copycat. He’s aware of past school/workplace shootings, he knows what kind of publicity the shooters get, and he was hungry for just that kind of legacy. That’s why he sent the tape to NBC instead of hiding it under his mattress: he knew they’d give him what he wanted.

Way to play into the guy’s psychosis, NBC. Whatta buncha suckas.
 
Written By: dicentra
URL: http://dicentrasgarden.blogspot.com
I guess that means the public doesn’t think NBC deserves to cease to exist as a news show for showing news.


glasnost, NBC aired the as***les propaganda tape. It isn’t important news that we need to see. It’s just propaganda. He’s getting his last word in, his victims only have silence.
Yeah. Pretty much indistinguishable from libertarianism when you frame it that way, except with two different lists of "rights". Thanks for such a kindly frame, Don. You’ve got my back.
Nope. I don’t think that the government should be able to censor NBC. I think that NBC should be free to air this stuff, if they wish.

I think they shouldn’t have aired it, but I don’t believe they should have been prevented from airing it. That doesn’t conflict with libertarianism in any way.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
glasnost: we’ll never know how many people have flirted with these terrible fantasies, but were turned away from it now, by seeing how much trauma they would be causing, or seeing how warped the guy was
Looker: Why Glas, you’re a hopeful romantic! Nay, dreamer, I think, is the better term.
Yep.

If someone changed his mind due to what he’s seen on the news, imagine how quickly he’d change his mind after seeing the real effects of bullets on humans. He’d stop after his first victim.

And anyone watching and going "gee, that guy’s warped!" is gonna think killing people is warped in the first place. Glasnost consistenly doesn’t "get" violence.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
AHEAD of the CURVE: "The one month anniversary is near the nightmare time for all schools. First is Patriots Day (the start of the American Revolution)- now celebrated on the third Monday of April- the 16th this year. The 19th is the day the Waco compound burned in 1993, the tenth anniversary of the OK City bombing in 1995, the day of Federal raid on extremist murderous group CSA in 1985. April 20 is the date of the 1999 Columbine shootings and Hitler’s birthday." -CLEAR and PRESENT DANGERS

I was happy to see Cho’s diseased comments, but there is no question that showing it gave hope to thousands of disturbed abused soulless characters that think such national publicity is worth doing anything to get. NBC probably should have not released the video. As far as the huge outcry against guns goes, crazy and determined people can get guns in many places. If more people there had guns, somebody might have taken this wacko out before he completed his rampage.

From the timeline, it looks like tough police cowered outside for a half hour while this fiend was murdering people, just like at Columbine, where their negligence should have been prosecuted. These maniacs are only one or rarely, 2 people, who usually kill themselves quickly when challenged, but police dither outside while executions continue and wounded die. They are very courageous, however, when confronting single motorists. Cops must adopt a charge-in strategy - the old psychological negotiation hostage strategy must be dumped when dealing with school or mass shooters.
 
Written By: Michael Hammerschlag
URL: http://hammernews.com

 
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