Defining Modern Terrorism and Resisting Stereotypes: Update 2

As of a week ago, I completed (almost) all of my research and travelled to W&M to meet with my advisor and discuss my process thus far.  I have narrowed my case studies to the past 5 years, looking at the seven mass shootings with the highest mortality rates within that time period (San Bernardino, Umpqua Community College, Pulse nightclub, Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Parkland, and Santa Fe).  One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed through researching via news sources is how differently the cases are treated based on whether or not there was a connection to Islamic terrorism.  When the shooter had declared an allegiance to the Islamic State, there is very little mention of their background or their mental health; however, when the motives of the shooter are unclear, there is a more thorough investigation into their childhood, home life, and mental health problems.  I am planning on doing some further research and analysis regarding the implications of this.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing that I have noticed is that many of the shooters idolized others who committed such horrific acts in the past, and want to gain notoriety.  Because of this, I am not going to mention any of the perpetrators by name, calling them only the “shooter” or “perpetrator.”  Hopefully media outlets will recognize this issue as well, and focus less on humanizing the shooters, and more on how to prevent further violent acts.

This is a somewhat discouraging thing to research, as there are few positive things to read about these cases.  However, this is something that is a very real, current problem in our society, so it is important to not be ignorant about such topics.  Social media can play a huge role in identifying at-risk people before it is too late – an aspect very relevant to several of these cases, specifically Umpqua and Parkland.  Unfortunately, this opens up the discussion to the issue of privacy and how much access is too much.  These are all very heavy topics, but are important to recognize, as we cannot begin to prevent these tragedies if we are ignorant.  I plan on writing the majority of my paper over the next couple of days, giving an overview of each of the cases and analyzing how they should be categorized, followed by the more general implications.

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