Tuesday, September 23, 2008

School Shootings, warnings and the role of the media

Today at work I was reading a couple of articles about that Finnish school shooting in which 10 people were killed and the shooter committed suicide: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/09/24/2372542.htm

I found a couple of things interesting about this case. I always assumed that these mass school shootings were an American phenomenon, I didn't realize that the trend had spread to other parts of the world. What really surprised me though is that the shooter put up a suspicious video on youtube the day before of him at a shooting range exclaiming at the end of the video "You will die next." The Finnish government knew about this video and the police questioned him the day before the shooting but did not see a need to revoke his gun license.

What I thought was interesting is the role that youtube played in this event. Youtube videos are a sort of media from the people, not from a broadcasting company. With so many videos and so much media out there, how do you know what information is ignorable and what might actually have an impact? People can choose what to believe or what not to believe but how do we deal with this "information overload?"

In between his shooting rampages, the Virginia Tech shooter sent a video explaining his actions to NBC. These shooters want to be heard on some level by the world and use different forms of media to do so. How do you think that the coverage of American school shootings affect phenomenon around the world?


Yukiko said...

I am not quite sure if this phenomenon has spread to other parts of the world originating from the US. But I know that use of media like youtube by an offender can be observed in Japan as well. Notably young people utilize cyberspace to announce their intention of committing a crime so that they can be heard.
(FYI:Since a gun is strictly controled in Japan, you rarely see shooting crime.)

It is very challenging for police or the government to choose what to believe. I have seen a case where the police arrested a boy/girl who posted a thread on the most popular and world-largest BBS to announce his/her intention of committing crime for the purpose of corrective training. This is a rare case because arresting without a proof of crime is not allowed. Often the police realize that an offender left a sign of crime on cyberspace afterwards.

What concerns the government most is its influence on the youth. Obviously mainstream media do not fail to report an offender's message on cyberspace before committing crime, which enables the offender to pursue his/her objective:"to be heard". It has a great impact on the youth and a few of them try to copy the offender's acts. A while ago, this negative spiral became a controversial phenomenon in Japan.

The Japanese government decided to take measures against increasing juvenile crimes originating cyberspace influences. In June 2008, the bill of Internet regulation has passed. It aims to filter contents which could induce criminal behavior or suicide in the youth. This law also oblige all the cell phone companies to include this filtering system when selling their products to the youth.

It leads me to another question.
Yes, it is very difficult for the governement to prevent the use and influence of internet for the purpose of announcing crime. But, what about the question of freedome of expression? How can we satisfy both?

Yana said...

Yeah it's interesting to read how the school shooter in Finland was fascinated with Columbine, and apparently had videos of the Columbine shooting listed under his favorites on Youtube. It's really sad that people abuse the media like that, and I wonder what would happen if Youtube had existed during the time of Columbine, if those gunmen would have made use of it.
Also I was reading that a similar school shooting occurred in Finland just a year ago, and that the gunman there also made a Youtube video. So in a way that may have been the one who's influence was more international, while this second shooting was influenced both by that event in his own country as well as an event outside of it.
In talking about the role of media and school shootings, I think it's important we all go beyond just Youtube video postings and consider other media forms as well, such as sensationalist news that loves to focus on random acts of violence (isn't it nice to know you'll become famous so quickly if you do something horrific like this?) to the abundance of violent movies. Violent movies are a personal pet peeve of mine, I think they encourage a lot of copy catting and a depreciation for the value of life - even the most moderate violent films allow death to happen easily and unemotionally, and we're not supposed to feel any empathy for these random people who die. Or violent video games, I think those are a pretty bad influence as well, especially the military minded ones as well.
I guess my point is that maybe these violent incidents really aren't so isolated, and maybe those Youtube videos and the news on school shootings are all part of a larger media culture that is obsessed with violence and death. Kind of dismal, isn't it?