In response to the horrific school shooting in Virginia Tech, a commenter in this post left a link to a fascinating story from the latter part of 2006. Its a Boing Boing article, which quotes Loren Coleman, entitled School shootings: malignant, contagious social meme? and its really worth a read in light of today’s scary events. It explores the incidence of school shootings ‘in a row’ or how the Columbine shooting is “a dark cloud” hanging over such incidences and inspiriing copy-cat crimes.
Most contemporary school shootings tend to occur primarily during two periods of the school year – at the beginning (late Aug through October) and near the the end of the academic year (March-April).
* Copycats follow a regular temporal pattern that repeats – these could be after a primary media event in a day, a week, two weeks, a month, a year, ten years – vulnerable humans have internal media clocks.
* Copycats imitate the previous violent attacks, oftentimes down to specific details as that mirror the previous specifics of the shooter, the victims, and the methods.
* “Celebrity” events have a far-reaching impact and modeling effect — so, of course, Columbine serves as a dark cloud over many school shootings.
While I certainly hope that this will NOT prove the case in todays events, the evidence is certainly stacked against. Even the date of the Columbine shooting (April 20th) seems to have significance now, perhaps evidenced by this shooting occuring just four days before. Coincidence?
Are school shootings a social meme which propagate themselves? Its a sick idea, but one that, if confronted, may help to prevent future shootings and deaths from occuring.
(Hat tip femalesci)
UPDATE: Loren Coleman (quoted in the Boing Boing article) contacted me and wished to direct us to his blog post on the very subject. Check it out here.