Media and Control of Violence: Communication in School Shootings

Glenn W. Muschert, Massimo Ragnedda, Control of Violence, Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Andrea Kirschner, and Stefan Malthaner (eds.) New York: Springer Publishing, (forthcoming).

Abstract: This chapter examines school shootings to explore the role that communication processes play in the dynamics related to the control of violence. We argue that much of what we observe in regard to school shootings is a mass-media phenomenon. Many such acts of violence carry expressive, communicative connotations, and thus school shootings should be understood as discursive processes. We present a model for this understanding, specifying the participants (i.e., shooters, mass media, and the public) and the directionality of communication that dominate the discourse. In particular we explore the performative script behind many school shootings and the mass media’s role in the emergence of rampages as a social problem, with an examination of how this fits into the natural-history approach to social problems. The discussion concludes with an assessment of whether the shooters’ performative script is acknowledged in policy responses to school violence.

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