Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mass Murder: 2010 and Beyond

Another mass murder that is briefly acknowledged and then forgotten. The coverage is muted because we have become so accustomed to the explosive and sudden slaughter of numerous human beings.

Newspaper reports about mass murders include the details of the slaughter and sometimes mention the apparent ho-hum response that such stories now seem to receive. It's only when a new record is set for deaths in a single episode that we take notice for any length of time.

To be clear, when I talk about mass murder here, I am generally referring to instances where someone (or a pair, or group of people) kill four or more people in one geographic location within a relatively short period of time. There is a categorical difference between a killer whose murders are spread out over a number of days and wider location—the proper term to describe these kinds of killers is actually "spree killer." At the same time, I won't include mass murder carried out for political reasons, either by the state or by a terrorist group.

Within the narrative that usually plays out, there are two main types of killings: those who target their victims, and those who are more random in the people they kill. Think of the killer who murdered 35 people at Virginia Tech a few years ago as falling into the latter category. While the most recent case in the US state of Virginia in January 2010 appears to be the targeted killing of people that the murderer knew. However, you could say that even the so-called "random" killings are somewhat targeted, as a particular group is usually the focus.

The current lack of public surprise caused by every subsequent mass murder is due to how familiar we now are with such acts of violence. Perhaps we even have an inkling of understanding of why people choose to end things this way. Because the reality is that every mass murderer had a reason for doing what he did. No matter how delusional, criminally murderous, and flat out wrong his rationale, he still had a reason.


Why do people commit mass murder? Aside from the excellent information provided in this article, here are some possible societal reasons that contribute to mass murders.

First and foremost, a growing alienation in society brought on by globalization, the institutionalization of life, and fewer and fewer opportunities to take part in communal events, or in fact to have any sense of community whatsoever.

More and more people now work within large corporations and are meaningless cogs in the system. They have little or no control over their day-to-day lives. The fact that many mass murders take place in large, clinical organizations is no coincidence. The term "going postal" originates from the fact that so many mass murders have taken place in post offices or other sterile environments where individual workers have little say in their work lives. These institutions are a microcosm of society in general.

When there is sense of hopelessness, when a person is one of those cogs, and they feel, rightly or wrongly, that they have been treated badly, what easier—albeit warped—way to confirm in their minds that they can have an effect on things than to go on a murderous rampage and then commit suicide.

Another reason is the decline of religious beliefs. Don't get me wrong here—I am no proponent of organized religion or the beliefs it represents. (Or simply call it the increased isolation of many people, and the lack of collective morals and beliefs.)

Try to put yourself inside the mind of someone who has been pushed to the breaking point. If you have decided to check out of your miserable life, and you have been abused, belittled, or humiliated on a regular basis, why wouldn't you bring pain, misery and death down on those who made your life a living hell? If someone feels they are simply going to blink out of existence when it's all over, a lack of a belief in a fairy-tale afterlife where all accounts are settled is one less obstacle holding them back from evening the score.

Common decency, personal morals, a sense of right of wrong, and the realization that murder is a whole lot worse than betrayals, lies, and ridicule should be enough to prevent someone from committing mass murder. But what if someone has been cheated, used, or robbed of their life savings? At some point, any sense that a person can move on must get extinguished in certain individuals. And no doubt humiliation and mockery are often part of the mix. Being laughed at is often worse than the initial wrongdoing.

And let's discuss that abuse and humiliation that seems to be on the rise in the freakshow of a society in which we live. As people seem to be getting more self-absorbed and obsessed with themselves, casual disrespect of others is on the rise. This is anecdotal and very hard to quantify, but I feel that it is true. The word greed is rarely mentioned by the mainstream media anymore because any act of bettering yourself, or gaining more, is seen as a virtue. Short of ponzi schemes that bilk thousands of people out of billions, most acts of greed seem to be passed off as the work of shrewd individuals. Getting revenge and making people pay for what they have done is a huge part of everyday life, and is often praised— from sports to aggressive business tactics.

And, the question that no one dares to ask (at least not in any kind of public way) is "how many people feel an affinity with mass murderers?" Does the apparent increase in mass murders make it seem more socially acceptable for each subsequent person who decides to perpetrate a slaughter?

Are Mass Murders Really on the Increase?

The general belief is that mass murders are on the increase. Barely a month seems to go by without another crime scene littered with numerous corpses. However, that may be more perception than reality. From the same article linked to above:
For all the ink and airtime that follow an attack like the one at Virginia Tech, mass murder is an exceedingly rare crime. The rate of killings in the U.S. involving five or more victims — one generally accepted definition of a mass killing [others use four or more]— represented less than 1% of all homicides 25 years ago, and still does today. Among kids, the overall violence figures are actually plummeting, with the number of children under 17 who commit murder falling 65% between 1993 and 2004. Mass killing, says Diane Follingstad, a professor of clinical and forensic psychology at the University of South Carolina, "is a low baserate thing. It just does not happen very often."
This post will become a running list of all the mass murders that occur in the year 2010. Perhaps some patterns will emerge, and maybe a discussion will start about how to head off such horrible events before they occur.

Eight Murdered in Virginia, January 20, 2010

Where: Virgina, USA
When: January 20, 2010
Number of Victims: eight
Murderer: Christopher Speight

This mass murder appears to be of the targeted variety, i.e., all of the victims were known to the murderer.

More details here.

13 Murdered in Mexico, January 30th, 2010

Where: Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
When: January 30, 2010
Number of Victims: 13
Murderer: Numerous hitmen, currently unknown

While this doesn't fit into the pattern of mass murderers that was discussed at the beginning of the post, I have included it. This would seem to fit into the targeted variety, though it is quite possible the killers didn't know the victims. More details here.

3 Murdered in Huntsville, Alabama, February 12th, 2010

Where: University of Alabama, in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.A.
When: February 12th, 2010
Number of Victims: 3
Murderer: Dr. Amy Bishop

A rare female mass murderer (only three victims here, which, according to some definitions, does not qualify as a mass murder) goes on a rampage at a University, killing three, and wounding three others.

The woman was a faculty member at the University, which is a fairly common theme in mass murders. Numerous mass murders in the past have featured disgruntled university professors or other staff who start firing due to being passed over for promotion, academic rivalries, or other disputes with fellow colleagues. In this case, apparently she was angry that she was being passed over for tenure. Well, definitely no chance for that now.

Read the full story here.

8 Murdered in Fujian Province, Eastern China, March 23rd, 2010

This is a particularly sick and tragic incident. Eight children were stabbed to death by a mentally ill former medical worker as their parents were taking them to school in the morning.

Where: Fujian province, eastern China
When: March 23rd, 2010
Number of victims: 8
Murderer: Zheng Minsheng

Read the full story here.

12 Murdered in Cumbria County, England, UK

A rampage that went on longer, and over a wider geographical area than is common in mass murders. The killer slaughtered two people he knew (one was his brother), and then continued shooting random individuals across a number of small towns in England's Lake District. When he was finished killing, 12 people were dead.

Read some of the stories in the British press about what happened, and you will notice a common theme that crops up when mass murders have just been committed and people are weighing in on the killer and what type of personality he had. The word "loner" is almost always mentioned.

But even more interesting is the fact that the word "loner" seems to be a cliché that is offered up as a knee-jerk reaction. It often turns out that the killer was anything but a loner—as is the case here. Read these two stories on the tragic mass murder in the same newspaper and notice how the image that emerges is almost completely different in the two stories. Edit: the earlier story in which Bird was described as a loner is no longer available on the Guardian's website. However, it is very interesting how the media almost inevitably latches onto this stereotypical image of what a killer is supposedly like.

For the full story on the mass murder in England, click here.

Where: Village of Lamplugh, Cumbria county, England, UK
When: June 2nd, 2010
Number of Victims: 12
Murderer: Derrick Bird

8 Murdered in Manchester, Connecticut, USA

One of the most common narratives that plays out in mass murders: a killer goes on a rampage in the workplace, with a gun, in the United States.

In this case, the murderer, Omar Thornton, was a driver for a beer distributor. He was called in for a disciplinary hearing, but decided to dole out some sick, murderous discipline of his own. Reports are trickling in that Thornton was dealing with some nasty racism in the workplace. Of course, that will colour people's reactions to this mass murder.

Thornton finally turned the gun on himself, bringing the total dead in this butchering spree to 9.

Read the full story here.

Where: Manchester, Connecticut, USA
When: August 3rd, 2010
Number of Victims: 8
Murderer: Omar Thornton

4 People Murdered in Buffalo, New York, USA

This appears to be a case of someone snapping on the spur of the moment and murdering the people with whom he was having a dispute. Either that or just another garden variety freak who has seen too many gangster flicks and not only wants to end some lives, but wants to be seen ending those lives. A group of people shot as they left a restaurant. Killer quickly apprehended. His life for all intents and purposes over as well.

Where: Buffalo, New York, USA
When: August 14th, 2010
Number of victims: 4
Murderer: Keith Johnson

Read the full story here.


  1. this is a ill pagge ima keep comin back to see if there are any new murders

  2. Well, it is now 2011, and we got another disturbing HEADLINER with this Arizona Shooting spree!

  3. Most Mass Murders are male between 25 and 50 years old. Most men are having a really hard time coping with the unprecedented economic hard times we are all living in. Lets say a Man loses his job, which if he doesn;t find a job within a certain amount of time will fall behind on his mortgage or rent payment, which will lead to can't pay the car payment, utilities, food, etc. He also just lost his health benefits, he now has to put up with a nagging wife who probabely is not a problem solver, she just says the obvious things like " you have got to get another job" or "pretty soon honey we won't have any money " NO SHIT , don;t tell me things I already know, tell me where I can get a job at. Bill collectors will start calling soon, his age will be a blockade to getting another job. When he FINALLY gets another job it wont pay as much as the one he was let go from. He wont have the good medical benefits his old job had, his naggin wife ( remember her), will more than likely say something stupid like " work 2 jobs honey" easy for her too say as she is not doing it.

    In conclusion we must be THANKFUL there aren't more men who go postal.

    Have a good evening folks

  4. I was looking at a documentary about white children that committee mass murders, but I saw that there were masses of black children locked up in mental health facilities that had not committed even one murder. White adults spend so much time labeling black children and worried about the possible murders they will commit and ignore their own children who are the real threat to society , and who are committing the mass murders. How many black children have committed mass murders, you can count them on one hand, while on the other hand there are case after case of white kids killing mass amounts of white kids. I find it ironic, that white people are so racist that they are always looking at black kids to murder, but it turns out that their own kids are the murderers and monsters. God don't like ugly, and your chickens are just coming home to rust. And you people are reaping what you so, maybe one day you will stop labeling black kids as psycopaths and take some time to help your own, true psychopathic white kids.