Desire for fame drives mass shooters

Increased media coverage of mass shooters seen in recent years fulfills a cardinal desire of the killers .

Published: 06th August 2016 04:24 PM  |   Last Updated: 06th August 2016 04:24 PM   |  A+A-


NEW YORK: Increased media coverage of mass shooters seen in recent years fulfills a cardinal desire of the killers -- their quest for fame, a study says.

The findings suggest that reduced media coverage, thereby denying such shooters the fame they seek, could reduce the occurrence of such violent crimes.

The prevalence of these crimes has risen in relation to the mass media coverage of them and the proliferation of social media sites that tend to glorify the shooters and downplay the victims, said one of the study authors Jennifer Johnston of Western New Mexico University in the US.

"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. 

"We suggest that the media cry to cling to 'the public's right to know' covers up a greedier agenda to keep eyeballs glued to screens, since they know that frightening homicides are their No. 1 ratings and advertising boosters," she added.

Johnston and her coauthor, Andrew Joy, also of Western New Mexico University, reviewed data on mass shootings amassed by media outlets, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and advocacy organisations, as well as scholarly articles, to conclude that "media contagion" is largely responsible for the increase in these often deadly outbursts. 

People who commit mass shootings tend to share three traits -- rampant depression, social isolation and pathological narcissism, the researchers reported in a paper presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention in Denver, Colorado. 

"Unfortunately, we find that a cross-cutting trait among many profiles of mass shooters is desire for fame," Johnston said. 

This quest for fame among mass shooters skyrocketed since the mid-1990s "in correspondence to the emergence of widespread 24-hour news coverage on cable news programs, and the rise of the internet during the same period."

Johnston pointed out that the media stopped reporting celebrity suicides in the mid-1990s after it was corroborated that suicide was contagious. 
There was "a clear decline" in suicide by 1997, she said.

"The media has come together before to work for good, to incite social change," she said.

"They have done, and they can do it. It is time. It is enough," Johnston said.


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