Friday, December 11, 2015

Is America obsessed with fame? And does that play a causal role in mass shootings?

Gun ownership can't be the entire story, though, given that overall violent crime is decreasing. There seems to be something that sets mass shootings apart.

One possibility is the American preoccupation with fame. Studies have found that Americans are more interested in fame than people of other nationalities are. A 2007 Pew Research survey of 18- to 25-year-olds found that about half said that getting famous was a top priority for their peers. Television shows increasingly promote fame as a value, research has found, and pop lyrics are becoming more narcissistic. A 2010 review of research studies found that modern college students display less empathy than students of the late 1970s. These studies fit a general pattern of research showing that narcissism is on the rise.

Simultaneously, Lankford said, the line between being famous and infamous is blurring. Scientists looked at the covers of People magazine issues dating from 1974 to 1998, and found that cover stars were increasingly featured for bad behavior — cheating, arrests, crime — rather than good acts (though there was a slight shift toward positivity after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks), according to their 2005 report.

Likewise, reality television and talk shows vault people into the limelight for bad behavior, Lankford said.

"There is a 'fame at any cost' mentality," he said. And many mass killers explicitly cite fame as their motivation: A quick Google search for "wanted to top Columbine" reveals multiple news articles about killers or would-be killers mentioning the 1999 school shooting as their inspiration.
Here's an interesting comment:
"We see, sometimes, with adolescents — they envision themselves committing suicide but actually seeing themselves at their funeral or wake," Muscari said. "They don't connect 'dead' and 'being dead.'"
There's a chapter in Tom Sawyer where Tom, who has run away from home, sneaks back and overhears his aunt, who believes he is dead, talking about him.

H/t Tyler Cowen.

1 comment:

  1. In contrast to the Shinnyo-En Buddhist Master Shinjo Ito who believed that happiness is the practical result of kindness and generosity.