Rampage shooting to fame


Across the world though, we all now know the face of Omar Mateen – he will not be forgotten and when shootings are discussed, his name will live on. Many people and researchers included have said that the ‘fame’ that follows these shootings encourage others to follow suit.

The threat of people seeking fame through mass shootings is serious enough that there is a big push for major reversal in the way the media covers these attackers through organisations like “No Notoriety” and “Don’t Name Them,”



These groups are trying to push media organizations to avoid giving rampage shooters the attention and fame that they seek. Although it is hard to regulate blogs and much of social media – the main stream media is what these shooters want. The cost-benefit of such a measure is not clear. However, researchers are suggesting that such a move may deter some shooters.

Adam Lankford from the department of criminal justice at the University of Alabama in the USA addresses this issue in a paper published this year (2016) in the journal ‘Aggression and Violent Behaviour’ titled ‘Fame-seeking rampage shooters: Initial findings and empirical predictions’.

He quotes other researchers who have shown that although it is true that over 90% of mass shooters have mental health problems, it is also true that the vast majority of people with mental health problems don’t go out and harm people – other factors must come into play.

Many mass shooters have mental illness but also a belief that the world does not appreciate or respect them and feel that they have been treated badly by the world (school, work, bosses, co-workers etc). Sometimes, there may be some truth to this but other times, it is the mental health problems leading them to these feelings of victimisation.

Quoting the paper….

Instead of being marginalized, ignored, or forgotten, they want to show the world that they deserved far more attention—and now they are going to get it. Many school shooters “are searching for a way to retire their public image as dweebs and misfits, exchanging it or something more alluring: the dangerous, violent man”. Fame shooters almost always shoot people often attracted to the Hollywood-glorified notion of “going out in a blaze of glory”

A direct interpretation of the line “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

In his study, Adam looked at statements and actions of fame-seeking rampage shooters – so his focus was on those who wrote or said something that revealed that fame was one of their main motivation. He compared rampage shooters who were seeking fame and other shooters in the period between 1966 to 2015.

Adam found that almost all fame shooters were male (the only woman involved in a fame mass shooting in the USA was a 16 year old girl who killed 2 people in San Diego in 1979). The average age for fame shooters was 20 while the others had an average age of 35. Fame shooters also kill a lot more people than other rampage shooters – an average of 7 compared to 3.

Some of the statements these ‘seekers of glory by death’ left behind point clearly to a need for fame and I have picked them direct from the paper…..

“I wanted to get known, just wanted to get myself a name”

“Isn’t it fun to get the respect that we’re going to deserve?” “We’re going to kick-start a revolution.” Discussed with co-attacker whether it would be better if Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino directed the film about them. Said he wanted it to have “a lot of foreshadowing and dramatic irony”

“The most deaths in U.S. history…We’re hoping. We’re hoping…Directors will be fighting over this story. I know we’re gonna have followers.”

“No one ever listened…I want my story to be told and I’m willing to write about it…I want my story told. I want all the social service agency’s to listen, the schools, the parents all over the state. My Myspace page has more info as well”

“I am just putting the finishing touches on my autobiography. It is in my computer, in Microsoft Word…Today is the big day for Operation Columbine. It is time that the world be reminded of Columbine!”

“I die, like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the Weak and Defenseless people… I set the example of the century for my Children to follow.” Sent his self-made video and manifesto to NBC News.

“I had to act weird in order to gain attention. I was tired of being the invisible shy kid. Infamy is better than total obscurity…I never knew how to gain positive attention, only negative.” Wrote 137 page autobiography and filmed himself in a series of videos that he posted to YouTube prior to his attack

“when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are…A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”

Now that fame shooters are not only getting fame in their own country but globally – the motivation is high. Adam predicts that the number of fame shooters will grow, they will kill more people and they will find innovative ways to get attention.

This has been the case throughout President Obama’s time in office. The number of post-attack speeches that Obama has given are myriad. He wants gun laws changed but many in America oppose him and even those in support know the damage is mainly done – there are already too many guns in civilian hands in the USA – home of the vast majority of fame shooters.

Fame shooters are few – not many people are that way inclined. But it needs just one person. Yet these shooters are getting way too much attention from mainstream media, blogs, podcasts and all that is going on in social media.

Although I agree that fame shooters should not get that amount of attention, I wonder how possible it is to pull off such an experiment. How do you cover a story like this without mentioning the killer? How many people are that way inclined to go out and do more of the same after watching the media coverage? But numbers don’t lie and fame shooters have increased with time and the numbers killed at a go are rising – and the media coverage can only be described as frantic. Perhaps anything that can be done, should be done. A mental health check for anyone licensed to carry a gun. Perhaps making heroes of everyday lives, instead of this celebrity-worship, may make things better for the young who are so obsessed with fame. No one thing holds the cure.