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Friday, October 2nd, 2015 04:15 pm
I'm not going to go into huge detail about this one (save to note that so far this year, there have been more mass shootings in the USA than there have been days in the year). Instead, I'm going to concentrate on some things which could be tried to stop these things from happening (or at least slow down the rate of them) without necessarily altering gun laws.

1) Start treating mass shootings like suicides with regards to press coverage.

By this I mean: don't publish the name of the shooter; don't publish any details about the shooter; don't mention where he (it's inevitably "he") got his gun from; don't mention where he got his ideas from; don't mention details about the planning; don't mention their name even in any eventual court coverage. If there must be press coverage, provide profiles of the victims, and focus wholly on the victims of the crime.

Why? Well, by publishing all these details about the shooters, by going to a great deal of trouble to analyse them, figure out how they work, and so on, we are rewarding this sort of behaviour. It's basic behaviourism - the behaviours you give attention to (whether the attention is positive or negative) are the behaviours which will be repeated. The kind of man who is going to carry out a mass shooting is one who is desperate to be noticed, to be seen, to be perceived as dangerous, powerful, worthy of respect, attractive and so on. Unfortunately for them, and for those people in their vicinity, they don't really have any way of gaining that notice which isn't either inconsistent with their ego-beliefs about their masculinity or which doesn't require them to put in a lot of work for an inconsistent result.

A mass shooting, meanwhile, guarantees your name will be in the papers, your picture will be on television, and people will be talking about you for days.

We get the behaviour we reward. So stop rewarding this behaviour. In the same way that suicide rates dropped precipitously once suicides stopped being publicised, I suspect the rates of mass shootings will drop precipitously once the focus is removed from the shooter. Keep the shooters nameless, faceless and uninteresting, and the attraction goes out of the crime.

2) (Long term) Start making mass cultural products where guns, shooting things, and/or other violent methods aren't the only solution to problems.

I know it's been said before, but the USA does seem to have a massive hard-on for guns and shooting things, and for violence. It's in practically everything you export culturally - your movies, your books, your video games, your artwork, your toys... there is so much glorification of violence as the solution to problems. It's sold world-wide as a quick solution to everything that ails you. The gun fetishism is just a symptom of this. It's hurting everyone.

So it's time to start thinking about ways of doing things where killing your opponent isn't the primary solution. Where harming your opponent is, in fact, the WRONG solution, and the one which loses you points, or gets you into a worse situation than you were in before. Ways of doing things which are a bit truer to real life, in other words.

We need to start telling ourselves stories in which the clever character, the diplomatic character, the sneaky character is the hero. We need to start telling ourselves stories in which these characters work together to defeat an evil before things get to the big violent climax. We need to stop gorging ourselves on hyper-violent hyper-realities, and start learning how to content ourselves with the quiet lives we have.

But definitely stop showing guns, and gun-related violence, as the best (if not the only) solution to problems.

3) (Long term) Work to incorporate greater diversity into mass cultural products.

Look, there's a reason the vast majority of these crimes are carried out by white men, usually of the lower-middle-classes. It's because they're told by our culture (WEIRD culture in general, but particularly US mass culture) that they are somehow special, destined to lead and so on. Then, when things turn out otherwise - when they're not immediately the heroes in their own stories (or when the story they're the hero in turns out to be largely uninteresting) they feel cheated, and turn to these crimes of entitlement to make their point. The cry is "where is the attention I have been promised by society?"

So, let's start de-centralising white men.

How about we start with a rule insisting that crowd scenes have to be statistically and demographically accurate for the city they're occurring in? So, for example, in Los Angeles, instead of a crowd being all white, and mostly male, let's start by making the crowd 50% female. Let's represent the ethnic groups in the percentages you're likely to see them in (in a poorer neighbourhood, they're more likely to be non-white than white). Let's start off with a few more heroes who aren't white, or aren't male. Being white and male shouldn't mean you're automatically the hero.

And if white men don't feel as entitled (or required) to be the heroes of their own particular stories; if they're allowed to be secondary characters in someone else's, then we may well see the number of mass shootings go down.

Now, none of these three things is going to drastically drop the number of mass shootings immediately. If you want an immediate impact on the number of mass shootings in the USA, then it's going to have to be done through gun control laws, just the same as everywhere else on the planet. But in the medium-to-long term, and particularly if you have the NRA and their paid-up politicians remaining as stubborn as ever on the issue, then these measures will help.

So start speaking to the media firms. Start speaking to your political candidates. Start demanding change.

Ignore the idiots who say "it's too soon" - as I pointed out above, you're currently averaging better than 1 mass shooting per day. How many do there need to be before things change? Ignore the fools who accuse you of "politicising the issue. Shootings like this are essentially about power - which means they're political from the get-go. The choice to do something about preventing them is a political choice, I'll grant you - but so is the choice not to.

It's up to the people of the USA to make it clear they don't want to see this happening. And the best way to start is by denying these little dickweasels who want to exhibit their sense of entitlement, their sense of personal power, the attention that they so desperately crave.