Gun Violence in America: Learning the Art of Mass Shooting

Some weeks, you just can’t write the blog posts fast enough to keep up with the news, amirite? This is especially true if you’re a part-time blogger and a full time citizen. Ya got bills to pay and mouths to feed and those paychecks don’t earn themselves, do they buster? So, I was especially happy when I got up on 2 October — I live in China, we’re about 12 hours ahead of the East Coast of the States — to news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Well, happy is not the right word, but it meant that I could write about common sense gun reform that won’t trample on anyone’s Second Amendment rights to belong to a well regulated militia.

But, before I could write that article, the Ol’ Pussy Grabber got into a one-sided war of words with the mayor of San Juan, PR, we went on vacation where posting would be difficult, the Rex Tillerson fucking moron controversy erupted, the hot pissing contest with NK heated back up again, and Harvey Weinstein spilled his accusers all over us. Oh, and life, too.

As luck would have it the NRA, GOP, and Las Vegas Police Department have all done their fair share to keep guns in the news, even if they can’t compete with the other news items for shear outrage, hyperbole, and sexiness. Who woulda ever thunk that the day would come that the massacre of nearly 60 people and wounding of hundreds more would have difficulty staying on the front page of the news? Well, that’s life in the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s America where everyone has ADHD.

The NRA and GOP are tag teaming us with the taunt that they’ll give up bump-stocks if we’ll just shut the fuck up about regulating guns even just a little bit… Just kidding, they were never serious about banning bump-stocks because that’s the first step on the million mile journey to the slippery slope at the bottom of which we have a well regulated militia.

And, the Las Vegas Police Department is doing its best Keystone Kops imitation and running all around the Mandalay Hotel bumping into walls, falling down stairs, tripping up guests, shutting their fingers in the doors, and shooting each other in the butt! I just love it when they shoot each other in the butt. Cracks me up every time. That shit is funny.

Albert Bandura & the Bobo Doll Study

Now, couple this with watching for the umptyteenth time the film clip of Albert Bandura explaining his Bobo Doll study, and a line just leapt out at me! If you watch the video, I bet it’ll jump out at you, too.

Okay, who has time to watch video on websites, amirite? We could put a man on the mood with an 8 bit computer, but we can’t stream video without buffering! Go figure!

So, here it is: At about the 2:38 point, he says, Exposure to aggressive modeling increased attraction to guns even though it was never modeled. I figure everybody and her aunt knows Bandura’s Bobo Doll study and the basics of Social Learning Theory, but in case you were stoned that day during your intro to psych course and missed it, I’ll lay it out for you here.

In the Bobo Doll study, Bandura gathered himself up a bunch of children and showed them a film he made of his graduate students beating tarnation out of an inflated Bobo Doll — you know one of those meter or so tall inflated dolls — not the kind you can stick your wee willy into — but the kind that are weighted in the bottom with sand so they’ll wobble but not fall down. This one was painted up like a circus clown. They kicked it, punched, flung it in the air, and threw it down and pummeled its face like it was a common Ted Cruz. They even hit it with a toy mallet. Then, the children were let loose in the same room to play on their own for a bit, and sure enough, the ones that saw the grad students abusing the Bobo Doll like their favorite drunk uncle did his wife and kids, abused that doll the same way, too. The ones what saw a film of the grad students playing very unconvincingly with other toys or some neutral film, didn’t abuse the doll.

The kids who saw the lackadaisical beating found the toy gun and shot the doll repeatedly, pistol-whipped it, and did all the fun things that Stephen Paddock did to those unfortunate people in Las Vegas with his bump-stocked gun only without real bullets or a bump-stock.

Social Learning Theory

The idea of Social Learning Theory does shed light not only onto our gun problem, but also onto our mass shooting problem. Quite simply subsequent mass shooters are learning to go out and commit mass shootings from the previous ones. Well, no duh! It is a bit more complicated than that, though.

Social Learning Theory suggests that we learn from watching others model behavior — mirror neurons makes this a very much more likely and probable. When we see someone we identify with doing something, we are likely to imitate it or repeat it, especially if the model got some kind of reinforcement or reward for doing the behavior.

Mass shooters tend to be angry white guys seeking fame. How many of them have left writings talking about how everyone will know this one’s name like they know what’s his name Ryan or Dylan or Thomas or Dylan Thomas or whatever those guys were who shot up whatever it was they shot up! See? The names of the mass shooters just force themselves up from the depth of our guts and force their way unbidden and unwanted out of our mouths to be spewed all over the tips of the toes of our shoes.

Mass shooters are wanting to express their anger and hatred at someone or a group of people somewhere. They see one guy do it, and get some press — any kind of attention, even negative attention, is better than no attention — so they want to do it, too.

In how-to-be-a-teacher school, they teach a rudimentary behavior modification technique: pay attention to the behavior you want; ignore the behavior you don’t want;  respond to negative behavior only when you absolutely have to. So, a student is using her cell phone in the class, the teacher remembers this rule, and ignores the behavior. Before the week is out, every student is using her cell phone in the class. The teacher proclaims the technique rubbish.

It is not. It is just not that simple. The other students are more likely to identify with one another, so if one is doing something, then the others are likely to imitate it, especially if the behavior is (a) desirable and (b) rewarded somehow. Using your cell phone is desirable. Man, those things can be compelling, especially when coupled with a social media platform! Then, when the teacher didn’t yell at the kid or take the phone, it is seen as a reward for the behavior — she got to do what she wanted. It was fun for her.

Modeling Mass Shooting

Mass shooters are watching the news and see other mass shooters doing mass shootings, and they start to figger, they will, too. But, there’s more.

Little kids watching Saturday morning cartoons — sadly that is a thing that has passed, but nothing was better than getting up at the crack o’ dawn and turning on one of the three available channels to watch Bugs Bunny and wake your hung over parents up! Man, that was living. Nowadays it is all streaming and buffering, and the cartoons are extra stupid.

But, when we watched Wile E. Coyote plummet to his death off of a cliff and simply leave a Wile E Coyote shaped hole in the ground about a meter deep and then climb out of it, we laughed, but we also knew it wasn’t real. It was a cartoon, stupid. It’s not real. Now, there have been several unfortunate accidents in which kids playing World Wide Wrestling Federation have killed one another by jumping onto one another’s chests or slamming one another’s heads into solid objects or whatever else those idiots do on WWWF or whatever else they are calling it. The kids imitate it because it is real people doing it for what seems like reals, but it isn’t. See one is easy to recognize as fake; the other isn’t.

The kids watching the grad students stumble through roughing up the Bobo Doll routine thought it was real because they saw real people beating the bejeezus out of a Bobo Doll for what seemed like real. So, they imitated it.

When they imitated it, though, they were expanding their repertoire. They knew about guns, so they used the toy gun. This suggests that even without the model of a mass shooter, an angry person exposed to violent models will quickly arrive at the expansion kit of using a gun regardless of whether the model did or not.

The real problem in America is that even if we could eliminate all the violent models modeling all of the violent behaviors from everywhere at once, we have all been exposed to enough violence to last us the rest of our lives.

Children_and_teen_gun_death_rate.svgI know, people can intuit violence, but not all societies are equally violent. In fact, the US seems uniquely violent. We have the murder rate of a developing country when our peers have virtually no murders at all. And if we go to certain communities, we have murder rates that rival the most murderous of countries, while our peer-nations don’t have those violent communities.

Our peer-nations are all watching violent American movies and violent American TV shows and violent news events coming out of our uniquely violent country, but, yet, they haven’t caught the contagion.

By modeling violent behavior for one another through movies, TV shows, music videos and in the news, we are seeing models that we identify with. Hey, look! Those are good guys with guns shooting up all the bad guys with guns! How often are the good guys with guns white guys?

10DeadliestMassShootingsCould it be that through our behavior and the behavior that we reward either directly or indirectly, we are encouraging gun violence? Not just the gun violence of the mass shooting variety but of all shooting varieties? Could it be that after the mass shootings when good guys with guns show up on our TVs telling us that there is nothing that we can do but go home and hope and pray and buy more guns because the scheming liberals are scheming to take them away from us and that we should parade around with them to demonstrate that a well-regulated militia is protected by the Second Amendment is, in fact, encouraging gun violence?

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