The Columbine killers have “inspired” a wave of teen-age boys and young men to attack schools, colleges and other easy targets, reports the New York Times. The copycats are known as “Columbiners.”
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.
In a cellphone video released last week, the Parkland shooter bragged, “When you see me on the news you’ll all know who I am.”
Two-thirds of the way through the story, I realized the Times hadn’t named any of the “Columbiners.”
Denying killers the notoriety they crave is difficult, writes Jack McElroy of USA Today.
After the Las Vegas massacre, 149 noted criminologists sent an open letter to the media asking them to stop naming perpetrators at all, or showing their photos. Coverage “serves to give them a legacy,” explained Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama. In an interview with Journalists Resource, he added, “Even if they die, they may be remembered, according to their distorted views, as someone who mattered, as a somebody rather than a nobody.” He believes journalists still could dig out the details of killers’ lives, so society could try to understand the horror. But denying the murderers their 15 minutes of fame would discourage copycats and, in time, extinguish the behavior.
The media has to tell the full story, says Kelly McBride, a Poynter Institute ethics expert, “If we had not named Seung-Hui Cho as the Virginia Tech assailant,” she wrote, “his teachers might not have come forward to report they had voiced concerns about his mental health in the past.”
I wonder if the Parkland coverage encouraged the Santa Fe High gunman.