The cultural construction of ‘running amok’

Very interesting discussion by criminal psychologist Paul Mullen on the psychology of lone gunmen running amok – which he says is a relatively recent cultural phenomenon, in which suicidal young men following a newish cultural script of going out in a ‘blaze of glory’:

The first recorded instance of such killing sprees only dates back to Germany in 1913. The second was in 1924, and every few years one of these things occurred, until 1966, when the very well publicised mass killing at Texas University occurred, for which a film was made afterwards. And this seemed to create a cultural script for angry disaffected desperate young men who were thinking of suicide to kill themselves in what they thought of as a blaze of glory. From then on it started to accelerate. It started to occur every year. Last year, every month there was somewhere in the world an episode of mass killing…They’re very conscious of who has gone before, so there’s an imitation to this.

Mullen argues it’s an ‘absolute tragedy that the Norwegians have allowed Brevik to have a platform. That increases the chances of people wanting to imitate Brevik around the world many, many times and we will pay the price for the Norwegians’ good intentions.’

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