Kardashians to Blame for Mass Shootings (we can Blame Serial Killers on the Osmonds)

Following the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, and the fact that mass shootings are getting more frequent and deadlier, Planet America went to an expert for answers: Professor Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama. Professor Lankford made the fascinating correlation between mass shootings and modern celebrity culture: in an age of instant celebrity and being famous for being famous, carrying out a gun massacre is a way to instant renown. Everybody will be talking about you; the saturation press coverage will assure you, in death, the attention you may have desperately craved in life. You can watch the full interview here:



And whilst the Las Vegas killer, at 64 years old, may seem unlikely to be swept up by culture of instant (and unaccomplished) celebrity, of thinking if the Kardashians can be so famous why can't you, no one is immune from feelings of isolation - or entitlement.

We know little of his motives at the moment, but the increase in the frequency and fatalities of this age of mass shootings points to a need in the shooters for renown, for notoriety, to outdo the firepower and rage of the last loser to mow down innocent people in a public place.

 But does an increase in mass shootings point to an increase in psychopathy? Does the grim frequency of gun massacres show an increase in fury along with a desire to be known?

Not necessarily. There's long been murderous sadists; they've just switched tactics. Forty years ago, your lone male filled with anger strangled co-eds one by one instead of mowing them down in a massacre. They became a serial killer instead of a mass shooter.

The 1970s were known for Quaaludes, disco and oil crises; punk, the Dismissal and Watergate. The first family of fame was the Osmonds, not the Kardashians. And the 1970s were the golden age of the serial killer. Although the number of killings kept rising into the 1980s, the Seventies  were the time of the killers most non-aficionados have an inkling of: John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Son of Sam, Dahmer. There are still serial killers of course - and there may be killers operating now who haven't been detected yet - but the phenomenon of the serial killer to captivate public attention is one that has passed. 

The serial killer operates in a different way to the spree shooter, and gets a very different version of the sick gratification they seek. By operating in secret, committing murders one at a time, the serial killer may derive a sick thrill from the killing, but gets none of the instant gratification of the mass shooter. No one knows what they have done, not straight away. They have to wait, wait until the bodies are found, the pattern of the killings is discovered. They may eventually get substantial media coverage, maybe a nickname; they may get a thrill from the mystery, from the power of terrorising the area they operate in.

Or they may not. The bodies might not be found. The police might not link the killings. The pattern might not be discerned. The serial killer has control only over the murder itself. Once the deed is done, it's out in the world, and they have to wait for a public reaction that may never come.

It's like the difference between posting on Instagram, and releasing an album. The mass shooter commits the deed and reaction is instant; the comments flood in. The serial killer does their thing, puts it out in the world and then it's up to a mercurial public to discover what they've done and, in the 1970s, a delay for the public reaction, for media attention, a wait for newspapers to be printed, for someone to finally notice them.

Maybe the decline in serial killers and rise of mass shooters points to a change in our culture. Of instant gratification and instant celebrity. Of wanting attention now.

I can't say if the psychology of serial killers and spree shooters is similar enough to support the theory that the type of people who carried out the former in the 1970s are the same type that go for the latter now, that the methodology has changed whilst the psychology hasn't. But it's something interesting to ponder.

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