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Old 01-11-2013, 11:24 AM   #1
piercehawkeye45
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US culture of mass killings

This is just one of my 'rabbit hole' runaway thoughts and would appreciate other perspectives and discussion on the topic. As a note, I believe that every mass killer has their own personal reason and story for their pathetic, horrible acts, but I do think we can make some generalizations.


Since Aurora and Newtown, there has been plenty of discussion of what factors are causing these school shootings (or mass killings in general) and more importantly, how can we reduce them. Not surprising, the usual suspects have been mentioned over and over: too many guns, too few guns, mental health issues, video games, media, etc.

However, I think it clear that these "solutions" can be checked with a simple thought experiment. Since these shootings really only occur in the United States, what possible factors are unique to America? This quickly eliminates video games, media, mental health issues, and lowers the argument for too many guns (there are other countries that have guns while very few if any school shootings). These leads me to believe that this has something to do with our culture (duh!).

Now, I don't believe there is any specific cultural factor in the US that leads to shootings or that it is solely cultural factors. I see it more in the sense that there are external conditions found everywhere (mental health issues, bullying, etc.) that makes a person unstable and something with American culture pushes these people over the edge. If I had a guess, it would be some combination of a need for "greatness" (I think we are only country where we tell our kids that they are expected to be successful...I can go into more detail about this later), copy cats, and pride issues. There are probably others as well.

To expand on copy cats, maybe its just my perspective (when the media started covering them), but it seems that these mass shootings have been occurring since Columbine or a bit before. It also seems that there is an "arms race" between some of these shooters. Each shooter using more powerful weapons and armor. This either implies that a killer's unstable thoughts are "validated" by seeing someone else do what they were thinking or there is a "glorification" issue. On the other hand, the first argument does not seem to hold since people in other countries besides America hear about the shootings here and do not act on any unstable feelings.


This leads me to my next question: why use guns? One of the arguments I've heard for banning assault rifles is that it is the most efficient way to kill people. I disagree with this. As an engineer, I can think of multiple way to kill more people and create more damage. However, I believe shooting someone is the most direct and emotional way of killing a large group of people. Unlike poisoning, bombs, etc., you need to look at the person and you need to pull the trigger to kill them. It is your direct action that is killing them, not some chemical substance. Also, it is one of the most emotional shocking ways of killing people. 30 students dieing from food poisoning isn't going to get the same amount of media attention as 30 students dieing from an assault rifle. It could be very well that these killers are trying to make some fucked up statement and they know shooting is the best way to "promote" their statement. So, are our mass killers sticking with guns due to a lack of creativity, the "emotional satisfaction", emotional shock, or some combination?

If it is for lack of creativity, then we have much bigger issues to worry about then guns but if it is for the "emotional satisfaction" or emotional shock, this can hopefully lead to some idea about the reasoning or what is pushing these people over the edge. I don't have any direct answers to what are causing these shootings or solutions, but these are at least my thoughts.
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Last edited by piercehawkeye45; 01-11-2013 at 11:34 AM.
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Old 01-11-2013, 12:01 PM   #2
Undertoad
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I examined the question of whether this is specific to the US, and in the process found some interesting things.

• If you expand out from "school shootings" to "whatever's called a massacre", it turns out that wacko groups and governments around the world are much more effective at killing than loners. This doesn't change the problem, except to maybe put it in some interesting perspective.

• If you only look at the US, in modern times, in the list of "whatever's called a massacre", the US government is the winner at 76 deaths (Waco) and killed more than Columbine (15), VA Tech (33), and Sandy Hook (25) combined. (However, it failed to commit suicide during the process.)

• If you look at the list of notable school shootings in the US you find that the great majority of events involves only 1 or 2 deaths, and one of them is usually the suicide of the shooter. Only 5 events go into the double digits, and the largest of these was in 1927, a suicide bombing killing 45. Three events happened since 1990, suggesting that this is a modern problem.

• Also, the number of listed events is greater in modern times, but one wonders how much news reporting comes into this; a death of 1 or even 2 was not major national news during times when wars were taking out tens or hundreds of thousands of people.
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Old 01-11-2013, 12:38 PM   #3
piercehawkeye45
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Hey, don't question my initial assumptions! Those are imperative to my argument.
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Old 01-11-2013, 01:48 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by piercehawkeye45 View Post
...This leads me to my next question: why use guns?...
That question walks and talks like a duck trap.

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Old 01-11-2013, 03:38 PM   #5
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(However, it [the US] failed to commit suicide during the process.)


Nah, the US prefers to kill itself by inches through legislation like the Patriot Act and jumping off fiscal cliff's.

My thoughts fwiw:

Back in the day, the US wasn't all that excited about jumping into wars - especially ones in far off places. When WWII broke out, the American people had at least an idea of how awful Hitler was. We knew our British "cousins" were fighting single handed, but we still didn't join Churchill fighting on English beaches. It took the stunning surprise attack on Pearl Harbor to get the US off its butt.

Fast forward to modern times, and the US is now part of the war of the month club. We invade other countries on the smallest pretext, and we don't care that carpet bombing and drones, etc take out the innocent along with the guilty. Kill 'em all, and we'll sort it out afterwards. And we all get to watch on CNN every day.

How can we possibly think we're still the "good guys" when we employ torture and use drones that kill children? Our "culture of violence" starts at the top and far from trickling, it roars down from there.
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Old 01-11-2013, 03:51 PM   #6
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If there's a cultural problem to school shootings, it's that we are addicted to the drama of reality. The most dramatic, horibble thing we can imagine is schoolchildren being shot. We are glued to the coverage of it. Like driving past the traffic accident, we cannot turn away.

And these days, there isn't that much else that draws us together. This is, weirdly, one of those things. But it feels a little like we used to draw together over accomplishments. Like the moon shot, dramatic events such as the ending of M.A.S.H., artistic endeavors such as the Beatles, medical advancements like the end of Polio.

These days we are depressed, and have little in common, and only news of horror unites us.

Oh and Gangnam Style.

Only news of horror, and Gangnam Style, unite us.



It's like, "Hey everybody! We figured out AIDS and people don't have to die from it any longer!"

"Yeah but the medicine is so expensive."
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Old 01-11-2013, 04:47 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Undertoad View Post
If there's a cultural problem to school shootings, it's that we are addicted to the drama of reality. The most dramatic, horibble thing we can imagine is schoolchildren being shot.
Almost like everyone forgot what was so obvious in "Bowling for Columbine". Go across a bridge. Where fear is not promoted. Across from Detroit is almost no gun crimes. People need not even lock their doors. Where many if not most violent crimes were by people from where fear is promoted to increase profits.

Today in America, we need even bigger weapons to protect us from fears that did not exist ... until we had big guns to protect us from those once mythical fears.

Only useful statistic - how many dead per shooter? A number that increases as number of assault weapons increase. And a number that decreases with less guns. Well documented in history.

We need bigger weapons to protect ourselves from our fears. A bogeyman invented to increase profits.

Recently, down the road from the Cellar, a Council Rock High School student (Newtown PA) planned to attack his school the next day. Police invaded that house. Found two 9 mm handguns on his nightstand. Even his parents had to be arrested for obstruction. They full well knew their kid had these guns, was not properly securing them, and was only a minor. An adult who is not a child would not be so irresponsible. And then deny their responsibility using profanity.

Every kid should have weapons - the parent's attitude. A potential disaster averted only a week after Newtown CT. Necessary because every student must protect himself from his peers. An attitude even in parents.

Other nations do not promote mythical fears to their mentally weakest. Therefore do not have these problems every month.

Relevent number: deaths per murder. A tiny number in nations when industry does not invent fears to increase sales and profits. It works mostly on adults who still think like children.

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Old 01-11-2013, 04:48 PM   #8
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A sidetrack completely but, from a distance at least, Americans seem to have a different relationship with their guns from people elsewhere on the planet. Perhaps it's a kind of love. Even where guns in other parts have proliferated they seem to be considered as nothing more than tools but I often see something appoaching worship displayed by many an American on websites. My daughter and I were laughing at a recent article in a newspaper until we looked at each other, realising at the same time that the folk in it were for real.

There's a popular thread here in the Cellar, which I admittedly don't closely follow, I wish could've been called 'Interesting Weapons' - I've always found its current title a little creepy, but that's just me.

I'm happy that guns are a rarity here.
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Old 01-11-2013, 05:21 PM   #9
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I agree with you Rhianne its the old mentality of who can piss higher on the tree, my gun is bigger than yours> penis envy
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Old 01-11-2013, 06:52 PM   #10
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Almost certainly, there are many factors involved.

The relative availability of guns, especially handguns and high capacity rifles, in the US is almost certainly one.
But there is also the attitude towards them, as already mentioned. Switzerland has lots of guns, but they're regarded as mundane, kept at home. In the US, it approaches a fetish or even a religion. "Guns keep us safe from tyranny!" etc. To the mentally ill, the idea that Guns Are The answer is easy to absorb from the pro-gun statements regularly and loudly made.

The media's fascination with these events is another factor. For the mentally ill, the saturation coverage of events like these soaks in and makes it seem like a normal or reasonable act. I wish I had saved it to share here, but I recently saw an infographic of the shooters of the last dozen or so mass shootings. Each shooter had a little box with name, date, types and legality of weapons and number of victims. They looked like baseball cards. The shooters were listed, not by name or date, but by number of kills.
What better to motivate some insignificant-feeling psycho to try to top the list?

And yes, culture. Think of all the wild west folklore, the western movies, where one or a few "good guys" with guns defy and defeat a bunch of crooked land barons/ rustlers / outlaws / corrupt officials etc. There are so many cases where this happens. After a few hundred such movies, the idea is unconsciously absorbed that, if you're repressed and downtrodden and the system won't help or is in fact the problem itself, armed defiance is the correct response.

There is no single factor that is "the" explanation, and so there is no single action that will fix the problem.
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Old 01-11-2013, 07:35 PM   #11
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Despite my love of Westerns, I think Django Unchained will go unwatched. We are programming ourselves to accept violence. I think we are a pretty sick country. Our constant war-making, our exposure of young (often previously damaged) kids to violent media, our founding mythology, our crazy religious, our intolerance for each other, our sick school culture, our economic stress, our embarrassing political culture, its all in there how much each thing weighs in cracking some loon is not knowable. What I know is I spend every working day teaching children peaceful conflict resolution and everything I teach can be wiped away by shitty culture.
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:53 PM   #12
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... Switzerland has lots of guns, but they're regarded as mundane, kept at home. In the US, it approaches a fetish or even a religion.
Religious dedication seems to creep in everywhere in one form or another. The Pontifical Swiss Guard provides armed bodyguards for the Pope and requires that their members have completed basic Swiss military training in good standing, be Catholic and take an oath of allegiance to the Pope.

Quote:
... And yes, culture. Think of all the wild west folklore, the western movies, where one or a few "good guys" with guns defy and defeat a bunch of crooked land barons/ rustlers / outlaws / corrupt officials etc. ... There is no single factor that is "the" explanation, and so there is no single action that will fix the problem.
I saw what you did there, implying that Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Paladin and not even the Cisco Kid can save us.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:53 PM   #13
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At risk of repeating myself, I admit I did that automatically, and I apologise for the breech of etiquette.
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:58 PM   #14
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Religious dedication seems to creep in everywhere in one form or another. The Pontifical Swiss Guard provides armed bodyguards for the Pope and requires that their members have completed basic Swiss military training in good standing, be Catholic and take an oath of allegiance to the Pope.
So, that explains it! The reason why about a dozen or so Swiss Guards in a largely ceremonial position don't run amok and kill busloads of children visiting the Vatican is because they're afraid a nun will rap them across the knuckles.

Works for me.

So what's the skinny on all the rest of the non-Catholic Swiss fondling their military issued weapons back home in the Alps?








dropped off since it was along the way, anyhow by a Navajo on the war path
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:44 PM   #15
sexobon
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Your information is outdated. While there is still the pageantry, the Swiss Guard also functions as does our Secret Service with both uniformed and plainclothes officers numbering 110 (Company sized unit) last I read. Personal protection officers have high capacity semi-automatic pistols and fully automatic submachine guns for armament. Don't be messin' with no Pope.
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