Study finds fame-seeking mass shooters tend to receive more media attention

New research provides evidence that mass shooters who are seeking notoriety tend to receive more media coverage than their non-fame-seeking counterparts. The study has been published in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior.

“The media has been providing sensational coverage to mass shooters for decades, and only recently has the general public become aware of the ramifications of this attention,” said study author Jason R. Silva (@JasonRSilva), an assistant professor at William Paterson University.

The researchers scoured through a variety of datasets to compile information on mass shootings in the United States between 1966 and 2018. Police shootings, shootings related to drug trafficking and gangs, and instances of familicide were not included in the study.

Based on evidence from the perpetrators’ own words, suicide notes, manifestos, homemade videos, police documents, and online profiles, the researchers identified 45 fame-seeking mass shooters and 263 non-fame-seeking mass shooters.

The researchers found that fame-seeking incidents have been on the rise since the turn of the century.

About 96% of fame-seeking mass shooters received at least one mention in the New York Times, compared to about 74% of their counterparts. The New York Times also tended to dedicate more articles to fame-seeking mass shooters.

“Fame-seeking shooters incur high victim counts, and receive disproportionately higher levels of media coverage. As such, the media is reinforcing their initial motivations, and potentially contributing to copycat criminality,” Silva told PsyPost.

“While the ‘No Notoriety‘ campaign and ‘Don’t Name Them‘ movement have been vital for reducing attention to perpetrators — and focusing on victims — there is still a need for further understanding of responsible reporting of mass shootings.”

The researchers also found that fame-seeking mass shooters were more likely to perceive themselves as victims, be socially marginalized, suffer from mental illness, and have suicidal ideations. Fame-seeking mass shooters were about 15 years younger than their non-fame-seeking counterparts on average.

“This research lists all the known cases of fame-seeking shooters (with evidence), in the hopes that other researchers will continue to explore this important field of mass shooting inquiry,” Silva added.

The study, “Fame-seeking mass shooters in America: Severity, characteristics, and media coverage“, was authored by Jason R.Silva and Emily Ann Greene-Colozzi.