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Contagion Effect

Mass Shootings and the Media Contagion Effect by Jennifer Johnston and Andrew Joy.

According to the latest FBI analysis, mass shootings in the United States have increased three-fold in just the last fifteen years (Blair & Schweit, 2014). Recent analyses of media coverage followed by copycat incidents indicate a media contagion effect (Garcia-Bernardo, et al., 2015; Towers, Gomez-Lievano, Khan, Mubayi, & Castillo-Chavez, 2015). Lankford (2014; 2015) and Meloy, Sheridan, and Hoffman (2008) found that most shooters desired fame and wished to emulate a previous mass shooter. Madfis (2014) suggests that rampage shooters, who are almost all White men in early adulthood seek power and dominance that they perceive is their right, but perceive they are being denied, for various reasons, by society. Profiles of shooters indicate that they are often socially isolated and suffer a pattern of ostracization or bullying, yet they tend toward narcissism (Fox & Delateur, 2013; Fox & Levin, 2013; Meloy, 2014). Many fantasize about revenge or murder, and that this type of fantasy is not unusual or “extreme.” Buss’s (2005) research indicates up to 90% of men fantasize about murder. What tips the scales from fantasy to reality? We would argue identification with prior mass shooters made famous by extensive media coverage, including names, faces, writings, and detailed accounts of their lives and backgrounds, is a more powerful push toward violence than mental health status or even access to guns. First proposed by Phillips (1983), the violent media contagion effect was largely ignored by criminologists and psychologists, but more recently the evidence of the power of copycat homicide is mounting. Computer models developed by mathematicians note that the events cluster in time and by region (Garcia-Bernardo et al., 2015; Towers, et al., 2015), according to mass and social media coverage. Also, as Phillips (1974) and Stack (2002) determined, celebrity suicides were followed by a sudden spike of suicides in the general population, so mass media agreed to cease reporting names and some details of suicides since 1994 (O’Carroll & Potter, 1994). Our symposium panel of leading experts on this topic will examine the magnitude of the mass shooting media contagion effect, with an aim to suggest guidelines to the media about how, and how much, to cover specific details about the shooters with the aim of preventing a portion of mass murder.

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Incompetence

The Peterson Principle: Intellectual Complexity and Journalistic Incompetence by Paul Benedetti.

Today’s mainstream reporting on difficult subjects is often bereft of most of the qualities that define journalism itself. Instead, it demonstrates a lack of respect for evidence; a penchant for conflict; a desire not to understand but to confront and perhaps most dangerously, a lack of nuance. Instead of inquiry and critique, we get knee-jerk adherence to whatever the current dogma happens to be. On topic after topic that folks like Sam Harris and Peterson meet head on with facts and studies, mainstream media falls in lock step with the zeitgeist of the day: gender is divorced from biology, any critique of Islam is bigotry, cultural appropriation is abhorrent, words are actual violence. And worse, when writers or editors dare to challenge these “truths”, or deign to suggest a real conversation is in order, they are banished, fired or called racists. On the other hand, authors who pander to the flavor-of-the-month outrage are given national platforms that their shallow, mean-spirited writings don’t deserve.

But is that what people really want? Increasingly, I’m convinced that mainstream media is on the wrong track and the only way to ensure its future is to change course, drastically. Right now.

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Inside

Psychology Gets Inside The Mind Of Florida School Shooter by Raj Persaud and Peter Bruggen.

Latest school shootings psychology study uncovers patterns suggesting solutions.

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Oversimplification

No, Steven Pinker, The Enlightenment Doesn’t Pit Reason Against Faith by Paul Bonicelli.

Steven Pinker oversimplifies the Enlightenment by claiming it pits reason against faith. In fact, the Enlightenment sprung from Christian ideas of nature.

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Thinking

Jordan Peterson Knows What You’re Thinking by Alexander Blum.

The rockstar of modern psychology strips the mythology off divisive beliefs.

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Secret

The NBA’s Secret Wine Society by Baxter Holmes.

The inside-the-bottle story of the intense love affair between NBA stars and the gilded grape.

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Waste

Robert Weissberg reviews The Case Against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money, by Bryan Caplan.

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Liberalism

Quillette reviews Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen.

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Conscience

What Is Freedom of Conscience? by Marilynne Robinson.

Its long history in Europe and England prepared the American Revolution. Where has this trait gone?

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Learning

What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn by Maggie Jones.

American adolescents watch much more pornography than their parents know — and it’s shaping their ideas about pleasure, power and intimacy. Can they be taught to see it more critically?

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Magic

Teaching: Just Like Performing Magic by Jessica Lahey.

One half of the entertainment duo Penn & Teller explains how performance and discomfort make education come alive.

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Disneyfied

How the Olympics Got Disneyfied by Michael Weinreb.

The 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Games were star-studded and futuristic—and broadcast to U.S. audiences for the first time.

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Mindfulness IV

Mindfulness No Better Than Watching TV by Steven Novella.

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of mindfulness meditation on prosocial behavior found, essentially, that there is no evidence that it works. I find these results entirely unsurprising, and they yet again highlight the need for rigorous research before concluding that a phenomenon is real.

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Surrender

NATO’s Real Existential Threat: The Surrender of Western Values by William S. Smith.

On January 17, Petr Pavel, a Czech army general and NATO’s military committee chairman, led meetings with his counterparts from Ukraine and Georgia, which he tweeted were “Sessions dedicated to Projecting Stability.” Yet while NATO’s collaboration with nations historically intertwined with Russia could lead to a number of possible outcomes, “stability” seems the least likely one. Like so much of what the alliance does, the purpose of these meetings is to push the alliance ever eastward.

That raises a question. Why should Americans participate in an alliance in which a general—from a minuscule military power that spends 1 percent of its GDP on defense—hosts a meeting that is more likely to provoke a catastrophic U.S.-Russia war than to prevent one? As Ted Galen Carpenter recently explained here at TAC, this is the dangerous calculus that results from interlocking the United States with so many NATO nations, including some that Moscow regards as within its sphere of influence.

Let me offer another reason to be skeptical about the long-term future of U.S. participation in the Western alliance: the West is dying. The historical and cultural legacy that animated Western civilization is atrophying. This is particularly the case in Western Europe, where elites see nothing particularly valuable in their cultural heritage, which will increasingly make them unreliable partners to the United States. How can a Western alliance be maintained when less and less remains of common, distinctly Western values and ideas?

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Dangerous

Why “Open Borders” is a Dangerous Idea by George Gallatin.

A decade before he fell to esophageal cancer Christopher Hitchens gave a series of riveting speeches on George Orwell. In them Hitchens argued that Orwell was an intellectual of such tremendous consequence because he got the “three great dramas” of the 20th century right. These were: the moral unsustainability of imperialism, the rising danger of Fascism, and the soulless cruelty of Communism. Most today agree that Orwell was a singularly perceptive observer of that barbaric century.

So in the opening decades of the new century, what are the great dramas bearing down on us? The danger of climate change is surely high on most lists. The promise and peril of artificial superintelligence? Or genetic engineering? Perhaps the danger lurks most in the threats we have slowly adjusted to and may be complacent about such as nuclear and biological weapons proliferation.

From my point-of-view, mass migration is the singular challenge of the 21st century. This is because it is a meta-issue that will affect our response to every other challenge. This is due to the fact that as mass migrations change demography, they may also affect changes in host nations’ cultures and political economies. The specifics of these changes are exceedingly difficult to forecast, because they hinge on dozens of variables specific to the migrants, the host nation, and the scale and rate of the movements. While we do not yet know the vector, the titanic, high velocity migration the West is currently experiencing will cause profound changes.

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DROP

It’s Not Enough to Get Paid for Not Working: These L.A. Police and Firefighters Figured Out How to Double It by Scott Shackford.

Meet the LAPD couple who made a cool $2 million off the city while hanging out at their condo in Cabo San Lucas.

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Offense

In Defense of Offense by Michael Robillard.

In September of last year, conservative speaker, Ben Shapiro, spoke at the UC Berkeley campus for approximately 90 minutes. The cost of security for the physical protection of Mr. Shapiro, an American citizen, and Harvard-educated lawyer came to approximately $600,000. Prior to Mr. Shapiro’s visit at the Berkeley campus, right-wing British speaker and internet provocateur, Milo Yiannopolis, was prevented from speaking on campus due to security worries caused by approximately 150 masked agitators who committed various acts of vandalism, arson, and violence, resulting in the harm of several innocent Berkeley students and local citizens and totaling around $100,000 in property damage. In May of last year, at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, biology professor, Bret Weinstein, refused to participate in the “Day of Absence” in which “white students, staff, and faculty,” were, invited to leave the campus for the day’s activities.” Weinstein’s refusal resulted in him being surrounded by an angry mob of 50 students who called him a racist and insisted that he resign. He was later advised by campus police to remain off campus indefinitely for his own physical safety. Weinstein and his wife, also a professor, did so, and eventually resigned from their positions at Evergreen in September. In March of 2017, at Middlebury College, demonstrators physically attacked libertarian author Charles Murray and his liberal host, professor Allison Stanger, pulling her hair and giving her whiplash, sending her to the ER.

Berkeley. Evergreen. Middlebury. Missou. Yale. Brown. McMasters. Wilfred Laurier. The list goes on. One must wonder where this trend will ultimately take us. There have been several justifications given for this increasing rash of no-platforming, shaming, and at times, physical violence on North American campuses. In essence, these justifications can be distilled into a triad of well-meaning but ultimately flawed theses, namely, 1.) that all discourse is about power and that any speech that renders a listener physiologically uncomfortable therefore rises to the level of a physical attack upon that individual, thereby justifying actual physical violence in response, 2.) that for the sake of historically marginalized voices, persons who are members of historically privileged groups should forfeit their right to free speech or ought to remain silent, 3.) that certain assertions, even if possibly true, are nonetheless morally impermissible to make since to do so will likely create conditions whereby bad-intentioned persons will inevitably and successfully advance their morally heinous projects.

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Brotopia

Vanity Fair provides an excerpt from Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang.

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Doomed

Enjoy The Super Bowl While You Can, Because Football Is Doomed by Robert Tracinski.

Super Bowl Sunday seems the appropriate day to bring you the cheerful news that football is doomed. The sport is dying and cannot be saved, at least not in America, its traditional home. The cause of death is science. Simply put, football is a sport in which the audience entertains itself by watching men violently turn each other’s brains to mush.

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Religion

Football as American Civic Religion by John Kitch.

From political protests, to debates about player safety, to attempts to project the future of the sport, football has been the subject of unending controversy over the past few years. In addition to political controversies and safety arguments there have also been public debates about whether college athletes deserve to be paid, and scandals involving systematic sexual predation at prominent programs like Penn State and Baylor have many questioning whether football is on its way out as America’s favorite pastime. Recently there have been reports of declining NFL television ratings and a drop in the numbers of young boys playing football around the country.

And yet, from tiny high school fields in Texas, to packed sports bars across the northeast, to 100,000-plus seat stadiums across the deep south, football draws the communal attention of Americans in a way that nothing else does these days.

While these questions are important, they do not address the fundamental question of what is at stake for American culture as football’s future hangs in the balance. Football has become a key ritual in the nation’s civic religion and both the best and worst aspects of its impact on the country’s cultural landscape flow from this point.

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