How legit are fears that excessive media attention to the shootings in Aurora, Colo., will prompt copycat crimes? That’s a question that The Post’s Paul Farhi addressed in this morning’s editions. And the verdict?
“The empirical evidence isn’t strong,” criminologist James Alan Fox told Farhi. “It’s really all anecdotal.”
And “murky,” as Farhi explained:
Certainly, human behavior — including the most extreme kind — is imitative; we learn from each other. But the exact mechanisms that cause people to copy the antisocial behavior of other people, including the role played by reading or hearing about a crime, aren’t well understood or studied.
In an interview with the Erik Wemple Blogger yesterday, Doris Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, expounded on the unique circumstances of various mass murders: “Jared Loughner [charged in the January 2011 killings in Tucson, Ariz.] — he wasn’t copying anyone. He was acting on his own internal stimulation. [Seung Hui] Cho at Virginia Tech, the Fort Hood killings — these people weren’t copying someone else. They were acting on their own delusions and their own illness. . . . These people tend to have their own unique delusional worlds when they’re ill. One person is paranoid, one person thinks he can save the world.”
In other words, media: Do your work.