Underlying Causes of Mass Shootings in America Seethe Below the Surface

Conventional explanations for recent mass shootings, like Sandy Hook, are overly simplistic and fail to help society fully grasp the reasons why these tragedies keep occurring. These ready-made answers often tempt society into narrowly focusing blame at the expense of searching for deeper answers and devising needed solutions.

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Since the horror of the Columbine shooting in 1999, there have been 31 school shootings in addition to a number of other mass shootings. Each time one of these tragedies occurs, we understandably engage in a public dialog that asks why. Unfortunately, each time the dialog is cut short by a barrage of ready-made answers that steadily and thoroughly whacks each question away.

Viewed within the context of Columbine, the past six months raise these questions again, since this time period contains three mass shootings that urgently cry out for a level of understanding that transcends these overly simplistic, self-serving answers.

Why, after shooting and killing his mother, did Adam Lanza, 20, walk into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and shoot 26 people, 20 of whom were children? How come, three days earlier, Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22, opened fire in a Portland, Oregon mall food court with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle? Tragically, two people were killed, but Roberts’ intention was to kill a lot more had it not been for the gun jamming. Or why is James Holmes, a 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student, believed to have opened fire on an audience in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, CO, with a 12-gauge pump action shotgun?

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The Monster Dialectic

Suicide Bombers

Presidents Obama, Bush, and other politicians routinely call them and their leaders evil. Others say they’re hapless dimwits lured into sacrificing themselves on the altar of jihad for the sake of remuneration or virgins in paradise. There are also theories that they’re trying to rid their countries of what they perceive as military occupations by foreign governments. Who are the suicide bombers and why do they want to kill us so bad they’re willing to blow themselves up? Why are there so many people volunteering to end their lives in such a gruesome way? Continue reading “The Monster Dialectic”

Who or What are Contemporary Monsters?

Who are the monsters that contemporary, developed nations fear the most? A look at the ones we hear the most about nowadays.

The Quintessential Monster…is he real?

Wild eyes bulging out of a face squeezed into vertical ribbons of fury that stretched down to peel back the lips of a snarling mouth filled with gnashing yellow teeth. He stood wringing his blackened hands and stared at me with violent intent.

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Hunting the Terrorists — The Impact of Words on Actions

Implications can be very powerful tools. When the media hypes language using phrases, such as “hunting terrorists”, listeners should be concerned with the consequences. Not does this kind of phraseology raise ethical and moral questions but lays the groundwork for heavy-handed legislation down the road.

Connotations of Hunting Terrorists

In the Who or What are Contemporary Monsters? chapter, we provided a summary of the official U.S. rhetoric that was used to communicate why it was necessary to pursue the War on Terror. Before we turn to the question of who the terrorists are that threaten the U.S. and other—especially developed countries—it will be instructive to look at some of the specific government actions that have evolved out of this war. This will add an important dimension to our understanding of the terrorist monster, as he is symbolized in the Western mass media. By and large these actions are a logical extension of the heated rhetoric that was so well communicated in the years after the 9/11 attacks. Continue reading “Hunting the Terrorists — The Impact of Words on Actions”

Preface: The Modern Monster, a Working Definition

The definition of a modern monster and an explanation how it evolved and what it means today. Do all members of a society fear monsters in the same way and to the same extent?

Monsters and Masters

As you read the following chapters about modern monsters, it might be helpful to keep these questions in mind: What does it mean to control society’s monsters? Are those who control society’s monsters better able to control society? What is the relationship between monsters and masters? Who defines whom? Continue reading “Preface: The Modern Monster, a Working Definition”