School shootings spread like a virus: The media can help stop them

School shootings spread like a virus: The media can help stop them
Dear Lord, not again. Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on 14 Feb 2018. (Image via Twitter)

[Ed. – Copycat effect]

Hours after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, Zeynep Tufekci spent part of her evening calling out major media that aired video of students trembling while the noise of gunshots ruptured the air. “This is a snuff film,” she said of one such clip, which was embedded atop a New York Times story. The video’s headline: “Filming a Rampage: Students Capture Florida School Attack.”

News consumers are accustomed to seeing such harrowing footage. Tufekci, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina who researches technology and society, maintains they shouldn’t be. Backed by a growing body of scholarship that mass killers inspire imitators, she wants the media to restrain themselves in how much visceral evidence they broadcast of a shooter’s deeds. “This doesn’t mean censoring the news or not reporting important events of obvious news value,” she wrote in the Times in 2015. “It means not providing the killers with the infamy they seek.”

Tufekci’s argument concerns a “contagion” effect. As researchers at Arizona State University wrote in 2015, “mass killings involving firearms are incented by similar events in the immediate past.”

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