Beware the Loner Myth and Profiling Efforts to ID School Schooters

Journalist, author and TalkLeft pal Dave Cullen, who is writing the definitive book on Columbine, A Lasting Impression: The Definitive Account of Columbine and Its Aftermath (to be published this year) has posted a diary on TalkLeft, The Myth of the School Schooter.

The loner myth has been going on all day. CNN was talking about it all morning--how these shooters all turn out to be outcasts and loners. No, what actually happens is that the media got the loner/outcast narrative down years ago, and always jumps to that conclusion, so the repetition convinces them that it's true. In the Virginia case it's looking like it was true--however, in Columbine, and two-thirds of the other cases, it was a wild misconception.

The larger point is that the media does the public a major disservice by trying to convince us that there is such a thing a particular profile that these shooters fit. They try to fit all these ghastly events into a single personality type that we can be afraid of, but it's just not so.

Go read the whole thing, and I hope you'll click the "recommend diary" button so more people will read it.

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    the "loner myth" is only one problem (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by profmarcus on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 03:01:37 PM EST
    i am appalled at the superficial, cliche-ridden, ideological brouhaha that has erupted and continues nonstop as we speak about the carnage in blacksburg... gun control pro and con, "loners," blaming the victims for not acting more aggressively in their own self-defense, and the truly astounding call to end the gun-free zone law in order to allow the carrying of weapons in schools, totally misses the opportunity we have been given to enlarge and deepen our national dialog by talking about matters of real substance... i am no fan of the washington post, but i did find an article buried on page A19 of today's edition that at least comes close to the kind of substance we seem determined to avoid...
    Officials, newspaper columnists and citizens around the world Tuesday described the Virginia Tech massacre as the tragic reflection of an America that fosters violence at home and abroad, even as it attempts to dictate behavior to the rest of the world.

    From European countries with strict gun-control laws to war-ravaged Iraq, where dozens of people are killed in shootings and bombings each day, foreigners and their news media used the university attack to condemn what they depicted as U.S. policies to arm friends, attack enemies and rely on violence rather than dialogue to settle disputes.

    the u.s. is a country with a history steeped in violence and a tradition of using intimidation, violence, and war to assert our collective power in the world, or, as individuals, to carve our niche in society, in the pure social darwinism sense... the u.s. has long been the role model for that kind of behavior and it has served to validate the beliefs of many others around the world that it behooves them to behave in similar fashion...

    it is probably too much to expect that we would - or even could - take advantage of this opportunity to begin talking about the stuff that really matters... the late walt kelly's cartoon character pogo said it best...

    We have met the enemy and he is us.

    And, yes, I DO take it personally

    "they are exporting it to us" (none / 0) (#3)
    by Alien Abductee on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 03:19:09 PM EST
    Nowhere, perhaps, were foreign reactions to the Virginia shooting more impassioned than in Iraq, where many residents blame the United States for the daily killings in their schools, streets and markets...

    "They are always saying that the Arabs and Muslims are behind the terrorism and the killing," said Hussein Kadhum, 26, a traffic policeman in the heavily Shiite city of Najaf, south of Baghdad. "But America has terrorism and they are exporting it to us. We did not have this violence in the Saddam era because the law was so tough on guns."

    Alien (none / 0) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 06:26:40 PM EST
    Glad to see that you like to use the dead to make your political point.

    The VT shootings have nothing to do with Iraq. You know it and I know it.

    Even in slaughter houses they let the dead bleed out before using them furthr.


    The title of the newspaper piece: (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Kitt on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 06:36:39 PM EST
    Va. Killings Widely Seen as Reflecting a Violent Society

    Within this story is the paragraph to which you're taking exception.

    Directly, the killings in Blacksburg have nothing to do with the Iraq war. As with many things they are connected. We are a violent society and we export that violence be it via arms sales, a preemptive attack on another nation or video games.


    You wouldn't want (none / 0) (#9)
    by Alien Abductee on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 07:44:08 PM EST
    jim to actually have to read before responding, now would you?

    Alein - Context counts (none / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 10:43:07 PM EST
    I stand by what I said. You are using the dead of VT to make a political point.

    But he's not the one making the point (none / 0) (#11)
    by Al on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 10:51:32 PM EST
    the Iraqis are. And they have a right to do so.

    At least... (none / 0) (#13)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 02:09:54 AM EST
    the ones still living do. 233 more dead today. Way to make a point. Way to go USA.

    Or the awesome reaction by one young man (none / 0) (#4)
    by Kitt on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 05:19:39 PM EST
    who helped saved those in his class when he & another student threw a long table against the door effectively blocking it shut. He freely admitted he was scared out of his mind and in fact broke down during the interview because he was simply "glad I was there" and somehow managed to think of what/how to do.

    Video of such (none / 0) (#8)
    by Kitt on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 06:38:21 PM EST
    Petkewicz described his state of mind unabashedly: "I was completely scared out of my mind originally, just went into a cowering position, and then just realized you have got to do something."

    Paranoia (none / 0) (#1)
    by mack on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 02:34:00 PM EST
    The paranoia has officially begun...


    One of the worst myths (none / 0) (#5)
    by Warren Terrer on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 05:20:56 PM EST
    that the media perpetuated about Columbine was that the shooters had been the victims of bullying and that's what 'drove them over the edge'. I bought that story for a long time until I did a little research on the Columbine case. The shooters talked about being bullied in their letters and videos, but the evidence for it was almost non-existent.

    The media, however, seeks to set a narrative as quickly as possible. Once they think they've found it, they stick to it and it becomes received wisdom on the subject once and for all.

    what, you think they had pictures? (none / 0) (#12)
    by cpinva on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 12:48:08 AM EST
    there rarely is tangible evidence of bullying, that's why it's considered a "non-event" by most school administrators, unless they can come up with witnesses.

    geez, what a moron you are.