In one month recently, eight mass killings in the U.S. have left 57 people dead. Listening to the mainstream media, one theory is trumpeted above all others: “The dismal state of the nation’s economy,” as one April 8 story in The Washington Post says. I’ve certainly seen that echoed on most of the news outlets, and I’m sure you have as well. But Kurt Soller, a writer for Newsweek tested that idea with three leading criminologists. Here’s what they said:
Richard Rosenfeld, president-elect, American Society of Criminology: “There are too few mass murders to draw a meaningful connection … [And] there’s no way to prove whether those killings would have occurred under different economic circumstances.”
Alfred Blumstein, former director, National Consortium on Violence Research: “There’s not much linking these shooting events, and certainly not the economy … If anything, it’s a mixture of notoriety [and] retribution against one’s enemy. Any sort of pattern here would be a copycat effect.”
Roger Lane, author, “Murder in America: A History”: “Mass killings are different from ordinary homicides; the psychological profile is closer to suicide … It’s usually just that the shooters are utterly crazy, which has nothing to do with economic conditions.”
As I said in a recent post on the Columbine High School tragedy, the news media is great at getting their first. But in their haste to report the story quickly, they often miss the truth. The real problem is that because of their vast audiences, that wrong meme gets repeated and repeated throughout the culture, until for most people it becomes fact.