Copyright 2013 by John T. Reed

I wrote a web article saying that terrorism was a publicity stunt and that the way to stop or reduce it was to stop “paying” the perpetrators—be they foreign Muslims or pissed-off young American men—in the form of the “pay” they desperately desire: grandiose, self-aggrandizing publicity.

The 11/9/13 Wall Street Journal has a super article that draws a similar conclusion but goes into more detailed analysis and prescribes more detailed prevention. The title is “What mass killers want.” If you Google that title, you will probably get a clean on-line copy to read. If I try to link to it, you will be solicited to subscribe before you can read it.

They are not crazy

Crazy is usually the diagnosis in these cases. But as I have often noted they seem never to attack a police station or a live firing range. They attack elementary schools or shopping centers. They are not so crazy if your goal is to make the biggest possible splash on the news.

A recent exception was the truly crazy lady with a one-year-old baby in the back seat who tried to crash her car into the White House grounds then led the police on a brief chase before she was shot dead.

Here are some points the Journal makes that my earlier article did not.

They do not snap

Contrary to the insanity diagnosis, mass killings are typically well planned for months in advance. They do not “snap.” People who snap grab the nearest deadly weapon—a rock or steak knife or car—and lash out. People who “snap” on the spur of the moment—legally temporary insanity—do not carry extra ammo or write manifestos.

Just personality disorders

The perps of the mass killings do not have serious mental illnesses. They are not psychotic or delusional. But they do have milder loose screws psychiatrists call “personality disorders.” I believe many politicians including Barrack Obama have those. Often the same ones, namely grandiosity, resentment, self righteousness, aggressive personality disorder (sociopath), and narcissistic personality disorder. Here’s is a sentence from the Journal article which I think could as well describe Obama and black grievance hustlers as the Columbine killers:

To preserve their egos, they exaggerate past humiliations and externalize their anger, blaming others for their frustrations.



The Journal author, Ari Schulman, says the mass shootings are “theater.” Okay, but it is clear they are theater with a purpose, a subset of theater known as a publicity stunt. An elementary school play is theater. Mass killers on the other hand, would not be content with that size audience. They seek a national or international audience of hundreds of millions.

Schulman repeatedly attacks the propensity to describe these killings as “senseless.” They are logical, effective, if sociopathic, publicity stunts.


Part of maximizing the audience size is one-upsmanship. Some mass killers appear to have created a little record book of the number of people killed by past mass killers and tried to set a new record. The sensationalism-seeking public, like drug addicts, need greater and greater quantities to reach the same “high” over time. Mass killers know that and some seek to provide it to avoid being just another mundane multiple killing.

If you want more mass killings, publicize their perpetrators

I pointed out in my article that giving publicity to suicides causing more of them—by people who figure it’s their best shot for their 15 minutes of fame. And the various actors in law enforcement and media have taken some steps to avoid rewarding those who commit suicide with post-humus publicity or attention or—as used to happen—naming school buildings after them!

The Journal article includes an 8-point plan to reduce the incentives for mass killings by publicity seekers: essentially, give them less publicity and make the story about people who considered doing such a thing but got psychiatric help instead.

Guns and magazines designed ‘more for offense than defense’

One point in the story annoyed me: claiming that allowing ownership of guns and high capacity magazines that are for offense rather than defense contributes to this. What nonsense! How can you tell by the design of a weapon or magazine that it is used for offense not defense.?

As I have pointed out before, the number of rounds you need to defend yourself is a function of how long it takes for the police to arrive and take over the fight. That could be hundreds or even thousands of rounds. The aggressive act is not buying a high-capacity magazine and having it handy for self-defense. It is putting it into your car and taking it to a location where you have no need for self-defense.

Precedent for reducing free speech

Schulman cites precedent for restricting free speech or press in some areas like the privacy of sexual-assault victims and minors who are accused of crimes or refraining from publishing the instructions for how to make a bomb. They left out one I have cited: TV sports broadcasts no longer show video of a guy who runs onto the field during a game. If they can, they do not even mention it happening. Only if it is prolonged do they explain what everyone is standing around doing nothing temporarily.

A new charity to fight the publicity givers

I would like to see some charity started whose purpose is to shame and/or sue media who profit from mass killings. To the extent that new laws are needed, the charity could push that as well. Those who profit are both the media outlets seeking ratings and sales of periodicals as well as the sponsors whose ads run during coverage of mass killings. The consumers whom the media people are ultimately serving also need to be shamed for causing the next mass killing by rewarding the last such killer with the massive attention that motivated him. Giving these guys publicity—even posthumously—is akin to paying ransom or refraining from military attacks when the enemy uses human shields or locates near sympathetic targets like hospitals. It causes more hostage taking, human shield use, and location of nefarious people and activities next to innocent or laudatory buildings or activities.

Such a charity could publish studies of which media outlets give the most publicity to mass killers, how much their ratings and income went up as a result of the coverage, which sponsors paid the most to profit from the mass killings publicity, and so on.

Make no mistake, the “paymasters” of those who murdered in Columbine, Boston, Newtown, Tucson, Virginia Tech, and so on are the cable and other news channels, periodicals, and their sponsors. They should be shamed, sued, boycotted, and whatever else works to make them stop encouraging ever more spectacular mass killings.

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions.

John T. Reed