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  #51  
Old 07-21-2012, 05:26 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

I guess I"m not really persuaded that media don't make people snap. Media make people do all sorts of things. If media didn't make people do things, the advertising industry would not exist. If media did not make people do things, gobsmacking amounts of money would not be spent on political campaigns to convince people that the other candidate is an un-American Muslim terrorist who was really born in Kenya and has a forged birth certificate. Given that the Supremes have given carte blanche to unlimited spending in political campaigns by shadowy sources, it is quite conceivable that Romney with the help of his plutocrats will buy the election because the media does influence behavior, tremendously so.

I agree that people snap because they are crazy, but it seems plausible that crazy people are even more susceptible to media suggestion than non-crazy people, and it should be clear by now that non-crazy people are tremendously influenced by the media. I don't see how a person being "shitty" makes him snap, though.
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  #52  
Old 07-21-2012, 05:43 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

And it seems plausible that media that relies so heavily on sensationalized, overplayed images of exciting crime scene footage, along with breathless commentary about how fascinating a mass murderer and his motivations are would serve to influence yet more dull, whiny manchildren to throw their own deadly temper tantrums to get the attention they want so badly.
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  #53  
Old 07-21-2012, 05:44 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Nobody knows anything about the shooter at this point. He's not cooperating with police and they can't even search his apartment until they disable all his booby traps. If there's anything the media can be blamed for right now it's wallowing in fraught, groundless speculation.
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  #54  
Old 07-21-2012, 06:23 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

In this case, it appears that the news media is simply reporting what federal law enforcement officials told reporters: that the killer modeled himself after the Joker. Reporting on facts as best can be ascertained at the moment, from sources ostensibly in the know, is a proper and unavoidable function of the news media.

Draping it all in lurid sensationalism, as both New York tabs will do on Saturday morning, to take one example, is an entirely different matter. But then, of course, if we suspect that such luridness might influence other manchildren to act out murderously to get the attention that they crave, then we are saying straightforwardly that the media does influence people, and so it is not unreasonable to suppose that this person did what he did because he was influenced by a fictional portrayal of the Joker.
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  #55  
Old 07-21-2012, 06:33 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?


:joker:
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  #56  
Old 07-21-2012, 06:52 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

And then we have the Drudge Report. Nice, eh?
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:18 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

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Originally Posted by davidm View Post
In this case, it appears that the news media is simply reporting what federal law enforcement officials told reporters: that the killer modeled himself after the Joker.
Do you have a source for that? This article attributes the Joker claim to an anonymous law enforcement official who has been "briefed" on the killings. Since New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly made the claim publicly in his press conference announcing an increase of security at NYC movie theaters, I would not at all be surprised if he was the earlier anonymous source, not the feds, and I would take anything he said with a gigantic grain of salt.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates, who as far as I know is in charge of the investigation because the FBI isn't involved yet, would not comment on the Joker story except to say that it's not true that the suspect was wearing Joker makeup. All he would say about the suspect's look is that he was dressed in black, wearing a gas mask and copious body armour. None of the witness accounts I've read thus far have said he called himself the Joker or the enemy of Batman or anything at all, for that matter. It's not easy to be heard through a gas mask, after all, even less so when there's a hail of bullets going down both live and through an incredibly loud movie theater surround system.

It's a groundless allegation at this point, from what I can see.
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  #58  
Old 07-21-2012, 07:48 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

From NBCnws.com:

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After he was arrested outside the theater, Holmes told police that he was the Joker, a reference to one of the most prominent villains in the Batman canon, a law enforcement official told NBC News on condition of anonymity.
This is consistent with a number of reports that have appeared, including in the New York Times.

I'm not sure what the issue is here. Law enforcement officials report, rightly or wrongly, that the guy modeled himself after the Joker. News media outlets report what these law enforcement officials say. That is what reporters and editors are paid to do. Of course, later on, the facts may prove to be much different. And, insofar as these facts may be discovered and understood, responsible news media outlets will report them as accurately as possible, without breathless fluff. So what is the problem here with the news media? If it turns out that the guy never said anything about mimicking the Joker, it was not the news media that said he did. It was the people allegedly in the know who told reporters that he said that. And the reporters reported it. That is their job.
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Old 07-21-2012, 08:30 AM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Well, you first said the source was federal law enforcement official. It wasn't. Nor was it an official who was actually on the scene since the anonymous official was just "briefed" on the investigation, not personally party to it.

The problem is that a lot of people talk a lot of shit when this kind of chaotic event happens, including cops who heard something from another cop. It's a game of telephone. It may all turn out to be accurate, but for the moment I don't consider this a solidly sourced story.

ETA: CNN says their source of the Joker story was indeed a federal law enforcement official. I'm still reserving judgement on this angle until the officers to whom he supposedly said this come forward.

Last edited by livius drusus; 07-21-2012 at 10:15 AM.
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  #60  
Old 07-21-2012, 12:15 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Media influences everyone, and helps inform our brains which put it all into categories, which in turn forms our sort of collective imagery (describe the alien most often involved in abductions, we all know exactly what they look like).

The media however cannot cause a healthy person with adequate stress coping mechanisms to gear up for war and murder movie goers, walk into a college bar with an assault rifle and start shooting kids, or build bombs and booby traps to add more death to the aftermath.

There has to be something (rage, fear, power trip, attention seeking, insanity, something) already in that person's mind to fuel the fantasies, as well as a definitely pathological lack of mental filters and "stop" signals, for someone to actually decide "Yes, okay, I am going to murder a bunch of people today". How that act plays out in the details is how it looks like in that person's head, so of course includes imagery from the media.

The problem with even accurate reporting is that it adds more imagery to the violent fantasies of other people, some with a similar lack of filters and stop signals.

Last edited by LadyShea; 07-21-2012 at 12:54 PM.
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  #61  
Old 07-21-2012, 12:57 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Well, sure, but media exposure (like any kind of experience) can also fuel rage and fear, and can restructure "mental filters". The contrast between information inputs on one hand, and the internal structures/character/dispositions that handle that information on the other hand, is not a stable one.
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  #62  
Old 07-21-2012, 01:06 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

The media certainly fuels rage and fear in me, but I simply cannot imagine anything that would trigger me to mass murder random strangers in a public place. I have a very hard time accepting that the media culture can create the ability in someone to carry such acts out.

ETA: I found this from last year: Mass murderer psychology - The patterns of horror | Brain Blogger

Quote:
As some of the literature points out to media influences on mass murderers, preeminently the influences cited by the murderers themselves (e.g. the movies Natural Born Killers (1994) and The Basketball Diaries (1995)), the implications of this type of obsessive and even video game-like coverage of the mass murders themselves can have a widespread influence on how both covert potential perpetrators of similar crimes and the public in general view and process this type of incidents.

If the media is turning violent-videogame influenced acts of horror into a highly entertaining pseudo-violent videogame, it seems that research should focus on this aspect extensively, besides the psychology and modus operandi of these yet puzzling crimes. In a way, a mass murderer in the making toying with the idea of killing people at random would see this videogame-type coverage as something positive: he will at last be the star of his own videogame, and, in his view, he will come out as the victor.
And this from last decade: Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2000
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What would it take for you to slide across it? We want to believe it is impermeable, with us here forever and them over there permanently, when in fact, that line is permeable--we good ones could become those bad ones.
My modest task is to outline some of the psychological processes that I believe are involved in human evil, more specifically, to share with you some ideas I have about the social psychological strategies and tactics that can facilitate the transformation of good, or at least ordinary, people into monsters, who are perpetrators of evil. I try to counteract the fundamental attribution error, the human tendency to overemphasize the dispositional while simultaneously underplaying the situational. I do so by demonstrating that seemingly trivial aspects of social situations can influence our behavior in profound ways, more so than we can imagine or give credit for--in the extreme--that can make us do the unimaginable.
I dunno, again I cannot even start to imagine killing random people, but I have a son to raise in this culture, and if media and social influences can actually give him the ability to push past compassion and empathy and instead indulge any rage or revenge....WTF? How do I handle that?

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  #63  
Old 07-21-2012, 03:09 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

I would argue that media is a social construct, and like many other influences can be positive or negative for kids. What other social constructs can lead to "push[ing] past compassion and instead indulg[ing] any rage or revenge" even taking murder out of the equation? Quite a lot of them actually.

For some it is a group of friends or a peer group. Gang culture is the most infamous example, but cliques and in groups can foster that kind of emotional response. For some it is churches or political organizations. Echo chambers which can plant the seeds of intolerance and reinforce negative emotions. This can extend all the way to hate groups and cults. For some it is more institutionalized. Our military and even our schools reinforce and reward that kind of thinking.

What can be done? You can limit their access to such groups and to media. Keeping kids from falling in with a "bad crowd" is as old as time. You can only see and referee so much of their lives, especially as they get older, and someday they will be on their own. They will have to navigate this world and society on their own and we all need tools for that.

I don't want to sound facile, like some freshman undergrad, but my mind goes to the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments in these situations. Milgram showed that a midwestern school teacher can behave like a Nazi presented with the wrong authority figure. Zimbardo showed how easy it is for us to BE that authority figure given a uniform and an environment that accepts it.

I think of the media as a social authority. It can be an even more dangerous than a despot in that it contains the wisdom of crowds, as well as a great deal of unconscious negative constructs. I believe that you need two things to counteract all these social influences, whether it is interpersonal or whether it is the more nebulous cultural kind. Sadly, these two things can be incompatible and it is a balancing act to keep them in check. Thankfully, I do believe it can be taught and that people are capable of learning this at any age.

A person needs a strong sense of self in order to question authority. Critical thinking, creative abstract thought, and an ability to see alternatives which may not be evident. But they also need to be able to question themselves in order to have self accountability. I think our culture currently pushes the first and ignores the second. Self accountability is vital so that you do not become part that negative authority, or reinforce it actively or tacitly.

I think lacking that second quality can be the element which makes people go mad. It wasn't Timothy McVeigh's political beliefs that made him dangerous. It was that he felt he had the authority to take people's lives in the name of that cause. I think most of these mass murders all have that in common.
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  #64  
Old 07-21-2012, 03:25 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

I have been reading Zimbardo all morning. And crying a little.

You've expressed some of his same thoughts

http://www.lucifereffect.com/guide_intro.htm
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Old 07-21-2012, 04:14 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

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  #66  
Old 07-21-2012, 04:24 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

At this point I have seen no speculation as to what mind or mood altering substances this murderer may have been using. Easy enough to speculate about the effects of culture on the human psyche, except that I consistently notice a tendency toward blindness regarding drug and alcohol abuse. It rarely enters the discussion, and even then, the focus tends to be on whether or not the murderer had been under psychiatric care and what prescription drugs they had been taking.

That said, humans don't necessarily need outside influences to be homicidal. It's in the nature of the beast.
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Old 07-21-2012, 04:48 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

I really struggle with this issue. In me it plays out as a struggle between my undergraduate and graduate degrees. In undergrad I studied Social Psychology and was particularly focused on Social Learning Theory, the theory that produced the bobo doll studies that introduced the idea that media can induce violence in children. Naturally I believe those studies have validity. One of my professors even owned one of the original bobo dolls, a gift from the man who did the study.

In my professional work with the American Library Association I have focused on intellectual freedom. In fact, I just accepted a seat on the Reference and User Services Association intellectual freedom committee that I chaired for three years before timing out some years ago. As a librarian and intellectual freedom advocate I abhor the blaming of books, tv, music and films for acts of violence and any attempt to censor based on them. I always want to point to the thousands of people who watch the same thing and don't commit violent acts.

Honestly I have no answer to this question. I do believe that if you have no urge toward violence or healthy coping behaviors to deal with your urges you will not act out no matter what you watch. But I do believe we learn from watching other people, in person or through media. Hell, I'm the youngest of nine children, I live learning from others' mistakes. It's still one of my primary methods of learning and dealing with situations. So I just sit here and argue with myself and feel a bit helpless when these ideas come up.
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  #68  
Old 07-21-2012, 05:03 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

I don't mean this to sound smug or 'splainy, because I feel the pull in both directions as well. But reading it as you have it laid out here, Janet, it strikes me that the former is at least based on some evidence, while the latter is (in the absence of further elaboration) a principle or conviction without much to support it directly. (I think the empirical conjecture you offer on the latter side is analogous to the observation that some people smoke and never get cancer, or sleep around widely without using condoms but never get a STI.)

But I do think that part of the problem might be in assimilating blaming books to censoring them. I'm often frustrated when I hear arguments against censorship framed in terms of the causal inefficacy of the contested materials. An informed and honest public discussion about this issue, like the one you've sketched here, will have to come to terms with the idea that movies, books, tv and video games really can make people more dangerous, more violent. The question, IMO, is whether that's sufficient grounds to censor or regulate that material.
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Old 07-21-2012, 05:21 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Wait, what? The Basketball Diaries being blamed for violence? The story of a wanna be basketball player descending into heroine addiction?

Bizarre.
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Old 07-21-2012, 05:22 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

I think it's a question for statistics. If a very tiny percentage of people watching or reading something act out because of it, then the value probably outweighs the risk. For instance, the US gross for The Dark Knight is $533,345,358, assuming an average ticket price of $10, that 53,334,535. Let's assume many of those people saw it twice so say about 40,000,000 people saw it and 1 may have shot up a movie theater because of it. I say that's pretty good odds on the art not making anyone into a murderer. I imagine that's much better odds than smoking without getting lung cancer or avoiding STIs without a condom.
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Old 07-21-2012, 05:33 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Agreed. I think the discussion has to be about cumulative effects of media types, not whether this asshole was somehow turned evil by a movie that he didn't watch.
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Old 07-21-2012, 05:38 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

livius, can we split off the media and societal connection to violence discussion
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Old 07-21-2012, 05:55 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Janet View Post
40,000,000 people saw it and 1 may have shot up a movie theater because of it. I say that's pretty good odds on the art not making anyone into a murderer.
Important also to bear in mind that causes and effects here are likely to be both one-many and many-one. We don't think of the single cigarette that caused the individual tumor, etc.
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:01 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidm View Post
In this case, it appears that the news media is simply reporting what federal law enforcement officials told reporters: that the killer modeled himself after the Joker. Reporting on facts as best can be ascertained at the moment, from sources ostensibly in the know, is a proper and unavoidable function of the news media.

Draping it all in lurid sensationalism, as both New York tabs will do on Saturday morning, to take one example, is an entirely different matter. But then, of course, if we suspect that such luridness might influence other manchildren to act out murderously to get the attention that they crave, then we are saying straightforwardly that the media does influence people, and so it is not unreasonable to suppose that this person did what he did because he was influenced by a fictional portrayal of the Joker.
Mass murders like this are not common. This is not a trend. We're still all probably going to die from heart disease or cancer. As far as we know at this point, nobody here was personally affected by this shooting. Twelve people died. You're more likely to know someone who died in a car accident that day, and you're also more likely to know someone who dies in a car accident in the future. Sensationalizing and dragging out coverage of incidents like this is nothing but pure, unadulterated tragiporn.

On its own, an incident like this is statistically insignificant. Shit like this has happened every now and again since forever. It's always been rare, but it's also always existed. Sometimes, for whatever stupid reason, some loose nut flips out and kills people.

Whether or not some outlier takes some inspiration for their manner of killing from popular fictional media is not a huge issue that the public needs to address or discuss, particularly not in the immediate aftermath of a mass killing. In fact, it's fucking gross. The victims haven't even all been identified yet, and a lot of families are waiting; and people are already engaging in sick speculative fan fic or some shit about who this mysterious and fascinating killer was and what motivated him.

If there is one clear and well-recognized trend that can be squeezed out from the rare cases like this, it's that killers are primarily motivated by the excitement and the expectation of attention just like this. Whether or not pop culture plays some role or not, we already know that sensationalistic media coverage is a huge motivating factor in copycat crimes.

Here's a pretty concise video where an actual, well respected criminal profiler briefly explains that in the aftermath of a well-publicized mass killing like this, we can expect to see copycats within a week or two:


From here, with more links.

Duck and coverage Mind Hacks
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Old 07-21-2012, 07:21 PM
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Default Re: What's the frequency, Colorado?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Janet View Post
I think it's a question for statistics. If a very tiny percentage of people watching or reading something act out because of it, then the value probably outweighs the risk.
I think that's a big issue when trying to figure out what causes things like this. No matter what the reasoning, those who mass murder are such a small percentage that any one cause will have thousands or millions of people who came out just fine. If anything I wonder if the cases of mass murders are a 'perfect storm' of conditions.

Take mental illness, millions of people with supposed dangerous illnesses live fine lives and don't kill anyone, and yet a few do. I keep thinking there's a mental illness component to this attack mostly because he is a male in his early 20 (a common sex and age for onset) who dropped out of society and away from any long term goals.
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