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David Hines [userpic]

Binghamton

April 3rd, 2009 (05:41 pm)
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More substantive comment after actual information comes out. Right now it's in the early stages, so the media keeps putting out inconsistent reports. He had a rifle; no, he had two handguns; he took hostages for hours; no, he just walked into a room and started firing. Right now, we don't know much about the crime, other than that it was at a civic association building that served lots of immigrants, the dead are in double digits, and the gunman is dead, too.

According to what seem to be fairly stable reports, the gunman was 42-year-old Jiverly Voong, himself an immigrant from Vietnam. Not recently; he was a US citizen and his sister told ABC News that Voong had been in the US for almost thirty years, but ABC also says that she told police her brother had been taking language classes at the center, so I'm not sure what the whole story is there. Voong, who was recently laid off from IBM, is reported to have opened fire on a citizenship class.

My brief comment is that this shooting, coupled with the one in Germany recently, scare me. Because both of those guys are reported to have done things that were -- I hate to use this word -- innovations made by Seung-Hui Cho when he killed over thirty people at Virginia Tech. The German perpetrator, like Cho, had two handguns, one a .22, but he killed plenty of people because he took the care to make sure the people he shot were dead. He didn't just shoot and move on. Voong, for his part, is reported to have *backed his car against the back door of the civic association building,* in order to prevent his victims from fleeing that way. Cho had chained the doors of the building he chose for his rampage.

Historically, mass shooters seem to have taken inspiration from other perpetrators -- in the wake of Kimveer Gill, whose story led journalists to report on the misogynist rampage of Mark Lepine, there were incidents in which the perpetrators targeted women and girls. So they've emulated people whose work struck an emotional chord. What they *haven't* done, by and large, is made careful study of previous incidents to see what tactics resulted in a larger body count. Voong did.

Comments

Posted by: Seperis (seperis)
Posted at: April 4th, 2009 12:24 am (UTC)

So they've emulated people whose work struck an emotional chord. What they *haven't* done, by and large, is made careful study of previous incidents to see what tactics resulted in a larger body count. Voong did.

And isn't that a chilling thought. Very few shooters ever seem to try and corral their victims, now that I think about it (though it's not like I've done a study of the subject). Few of them seem to do any strategic planning at all. Which I suppose makes a kind of sense if they're crazy or snap, but crazy doesn't mean the future won't have ones with both a workable plan and a desire to try for a max of deaths.

I wonder if there's somewhere to research the last twenty years or so of this? I'm curious now.

Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: April 4th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
commies

There's a book by Mark Ames called GOING POSTAL, which is really a history of workplace-related shootings. Ames is a terrific writer and researcher, but he's also an amoral extremist (he's currently urging Americans to rise up and murder bankers and corporate executives). As you'd expect, his political take is lunacy: Ames holds that mass shootings were caused by Reaganomics chopping away at the social safety net, though he doesn't try to explain the relative rarity of such incidents during, say, the Great Depression, where there were worse conditions for workers and next to no safety net). But the history is very interesting, and Ames recounts some incidents I'd never heard of.

Posted by: Seperis (seperis)
Posted at: April 4th, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)

I'm wary and curious both hearing that.

As you'd expect, his political take is lunacy: Ames holds that mass shootings were caused by Reaganomics chopping away at the social safety net, though he doesn't try to explain the relative rarity of such incidents during, say, the Great Depression, where there were worse conditions for workers and next to no safety net).

Point. Though now I'm thinking of the French Revolution in terms of suddenly the underclass losing its shit dramatically and for keeps. I always had a faint thought, as in, randomly and out of my sheer lack of knowledge, it's just a lot easier now if your goal in life is a blaze of mass murdering glory, but not so much that if you were just that determined, you couldn't find a way to do it.

And this is soon after the anniversary of that big British mass murder of all those kids as well--there was a thing about that, since the survivors were all protected by their age until their eighteenth birthdays this year. Not connecting them, but it's bringing to mind suddenly that I wonder how much of a curve we're on with mass shootings. I hate to say there's a rise in them, because I'm not sure there's an overall rise that's not copycat linked (last year someone did an overview on work and school shootings, very bare bone, but interesting), but hmm.

And randomly, around here--somewhere in Texas recently--some woman went on a rampage with a bow and arrow. Or tried--two coworkers were licensed to carry and one shot her, if I remember correctly, but unfortunately, the radio discussion got sidetracked onto gun laws and I forgot to follow that up. I have to admit, after watching professionals at an archery range when I guy I knew took me there once to learn, I'd find someone with experience holding a long bow with a frantic gleam in their eye almost as intimidating as a .22.

Posted by: Barbies May Bite Me (obsession_inc)
Posted at: April 4th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)

Personally, I've been leaning toward the idea that Gavin de Becker puts forward: that these guys are looking to get a lot of attention and to re-make their personal images by having the media-- particularly television-- crown them as evil bad-asses. Which, by and large, they do, by focusing on their guns, their planning, their wake of destruction, et al. According to his theory, the more television coverage-- and there's no denying it's gone up dramatically over the years-- the more the next guy in line is impressed and thinks yeah, I want to be that guy, which is why we usually see these things in clusters as a bunch of guys on the edge of going postal take that as confirmation that this is the impression they want to leave on the world. De Becker suggests that we could cut way down on these sorts of things by universally using TV coverage to focus on how much these guys are/were losers-- referring to them by the dumbest nickname they ever had, showing them being guarded by a single bored-looking female cop, showing interviews with people who air all their embarrassing dirty laundry, and so forth.

Granted, the media would never go for it, because they get ratings spikes every time we get an assassination or mass murder, so they milk it for all they can. So I guess there's no way to test the theory, but damn I'd love to see it in action.

Posted by: vito excalibur (vito_excalibur)
Posted at: April 4th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)

Hmm, I don't know! I am not sure that presenting them as losers would kill ratings. People love to dogpile.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 4th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
You're not wrong to focus on innovation...

One of the things to check on when looking at these mass shootings is the ratio of dead to wounded. A lot of the early rampages, especially pistol-based ones, tended to have about two wounded for every one dead. It suggests that even in a confined space, moving through and shooting at people you see isn't going to kill as many people as you want to. No surprise to the actual gun experts here that it's surprisingly difficult to kill a moving human with a pistol, of course, but it took the shooters themselves a long time to realize this and adjust accordingly.
One would think that'd they'd adjust by switching weapons-- for example, to big, sawed-off shotguns with the capacity to do huge amounts of tissue damage with one shot. But that didn't end up happening. Why not? Is it the greater size, weights, recoil and general difficulty of firing shotguns accurately in a stressful situation?

Or is it just that it doesn't look as cool-- or the shooters haven't seen someone do it in a popular movie or TV show. And no, I'm not arguing that mass media causes people to flip out. But it's pretty clear that spree killers are taking cues from popular media-- from the San Francisco office building killer emulating Steven Seagal's submachine gun in each hand moves in Under Siege to Cho doing the hammer pose from Oldboy.

Instead, Cho and Voong stuck to pistols, but used two, had backpacks filled with spare clips, and as David pointed out, took care to both keep their victims confined and obviously took care to fire multiple shots and finish off the wounded. So much for my "play dead" strategy to survive a spree killing.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 6th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
Re: You're not wrong to focus on innovation...

I recall a WaPo column by Stephen Hunter, the film critic and novelist, in the wake of the VT shooting suggesting that that killer - I refuse to use his name; why should he be remembered instead of his victims? - was also heavily influenced by the films of John Woo, particularly in his use of "two-gun" shooting.

It's too bad that the Binghamton killer didn't put at least as much effort in improving his English skills as he did in researching mass murder. And selected, as his victims, fellow immigrants who actually had their priorities straight.

--Wes S.

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