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Friday, November 15, 2019

The Barry Loukaitis Case: The Media And Mass Murder

     Suicide clusters of the 1980s would be replaced by the school shootings of the 1990s, almost all conducted by suicidal male youth. The Copycat Effect had merely shifted its target as the media had shifted its focus. School violence has been around for a long time, but the media-driven contagion of modern school shootings dates back to February 2, 1996, when Barry Loukaitis, a 14-year-old boy in Moses Lake, Washington, killed two students and a math teacher. He ended his rampage by saying, "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?"

     Loukaitis had taken that expression directly from the Stephen King novel, Rage, which he had really liked and which was about a school killing. Loukaitis said his murderous loss of control was inspired by Rage, Pearl Jam's music video Jeremy, and the movies Natural Born Killers and The Basketball Diaries. Unfortunately, the explosive media attention to Loukaitis's school shooting triggered a series of similar events. Today, Stephen King says he wishes he had never written Rage. [The Columbine shooting in 1999 created an Internet subculture of disaffected youths who fantasize about becoming mass murder anti-heroes like Harris and Kleber.]

Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect, 2004 

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