The Dangerous Allure of Copycatting.
On July 22,2011 Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, most disturbingly shooting-killing 69 young white Norwegians on Utoya Island. His reason was that he opposed Muslim immigration into Norway. The images brought out in the world press of Anders included images of him dressed in a tight body suit. He was portrayed looking like the Viking god Thor. My early impulse in seeing this entire picture, is that this is going to create a huge problem of mass-murdering' copycats. What young alienated angry male doesn't want to be seen as the god Thor?
Dec 14, 2012 was the date of the Sandy Hook Elementary school mass-killing by Adam Lanza, and then it has continued to the present time, and will go on into the future unabated. All this fueled by the social media visual culture.
A look into the past on copycatting is worthwhile. This has likely existed for as long as humans have existed (and longer). Humans tend to repeat acts committed/performed by others if there is perceived benefit to them, which includes empowerment, recognition, vengeance to them. In many respects it is an expression of wanting to be seen as a hero / antihero. It worked for them, why don't I do it.
On Jan 30 1889 Crown Prince Rudolf of the Austro-Hungarian Empire shot his lover Maria Vetsera and then himself, in a murder-suicide. Speculations about the deaths were as controversial and subject to conspiracy theories as JFK's death some 80 years later. Rudolf's death may be the most consequential in history as had he lived the First World War may have been avoided, and then by extension of the concept One Hell brings Forth Another, also the Second World War. At the time though, in central Europe there had been an epidemic of suicides for various underling fragile psychological reasons of romance or politics. Equally of a tragic dangerous allure as the modern mass-killing copycatting spree in the USA, which has spread-out to other countries, where other nationalities want to do things like the americans are doing.
In many respects, probably reflecting disordered thought, the victims of these attacks are frequently not the actual targets of their rage, but really are somehow tangential victims. This almost certainly reflects that these self-proclaimed heroes are actually cowards. In Norway the individual who hated muslims killed young white people, an easy target. The Charleston mass-shooting-killing June 17, 2015 Dylann Roof, who hated back people killed the most innocuous and probably nicest people: church attending black people. If the murderers actually had courage, and not just self-pity, they would have targeted the actual source of their hateful thoughts: the one should have targeted Muslim street gangs and the other vicious black street gangs in a large urban setting. At least the Parkland high school shooter targeted pretty female high school students on Valentines Day 2018 to express his rage at not having a girl-friend.
Managing the killing copycatting has unfortunately fallen on a political divide between two parties of approximately equal size and political strength, meaning nothing will be done. One side believes more guns (really?) and more psychiatric health care is the answer, the other side less guns and harder access to guns. The divide essentially means nothing will be done, but realistically neither of these approaches will have enormous impact, but the latter will have atleast some impact on at least the mass shooting school epidemic. Many of the school mass shooters and other white mass-killers already have been receiving psychiatric care, and likely there could be one psychiatrist paired with each potential mass-killer and there would be not much impact.
Why is that? The dangerous seductive allure of copycatting. I want to do what they did because they gained benefit from mass-murdering. They made a statement. My opinion is that since social media has fueled much of the current allure of committing heinous acts, it can also be used to curb it. If the perpetrators of crimes can be shown on social media to have an undesirable outcome that would go a long way to curb the epidemic of mass-killing copycatting.. Maybe the enraged father who wanted 5 minutes along with Larry Nassar, should have been given that by the judge and promoted it going viral on social media. That would then not have looked so appealing to the legions of angry young men sitting in their parents' basement playing grand theft auto 5,, or some kind of military shoot-em-up video game. Rather they would think "ew, I don't want that to happen to me, I had thought I could be the god Thor".
Copycatting is most often alluring and dangerous. Rarely copycatting can be positive, and this would similarly be aided by pervasive social-media. Every effort should be made by governments and corporations to promote this. The problem though is this goes against human nature, where we (overwhelmingly men) are more often driven by greed, anger, and hatred than by affection and understanding. This notwithstanding, social media driven displays of acts of generosity, understanding and kindness must be emphasized.
Most often copycatting is considered on an individual basis: a person is influenced to do bad things, because they have seen others do it and often not only get away with it, but also benefit from it. On a larger, national level, dictators in various countries are driven to even worse behavior because they see other dictators getting away with it. If they can get away with it, then so can I.
Closer to home, if institutions are shown to get away with committing bad behavior, for instance to experience no ill consequence by allowing sexual molestation to go on, or various forms of medical misconduct, such as allowing bullying to go on or allowing drunk doctors to operate on patients. Because on its surface it is easier just to ignore bad behavior, because correcting bad behavior is at the present time, always less stressful than ignoring it and hoping it just goes away on its own, by using thoughts and prayers. But bad behavior always gets worse if left unchecked.
Richard Semelka, MD