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The Copycat Effect Point here for more book info
How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines
by Loren Coleman

Paraview Pocket Books, 2004
ISBN: 0743482239
Culture, 318 pages
Trade paperback, $14.00

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A disturbed student shoots up his classroom -- and suddenly a wave of mass murder is sweeping through our nation's schools. A young child is taken from her home -- and for months afterward child abductions are frantically reported on an almost daily basis. A surfer is attacked by a shark -- and the public spends an entire summer fearing an onslaught of the deadly underwater predators. Why do the terrible events we see in the media always seem to lead to more of the same? Noted author and cultural behaviorist Loren Coleman explores how the media's over-saturated coverage of murders, suicides, and deadly tragedies makes an impact on our society. This is The Copycat Effect -- the phenomenon through which violent events spawn violence of the same type. From recognizing the emerging patterns of the Copycat Effect, to how we can deal with and counteract its consequences as individuals and as a culture, Loren Coleman has uncovered a tragic flaw of the information age -- a flaw which must be corrected before the next ripples of violence spread.

"According to Coleman, the media's attitude is 'death sells... if it bleeds, it leads.' The author, who has written and lectured extensively on the impact of media, mounts a convincing case against newspapers, TV and books that sensationalize murders and suicides, thus encouraging others to imitate destructive crimes. He traces the problem's roots to Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), which spotlighted a fellow who shot himself over a failed romance and inspired many young men to do the same. The novel encouraged widespread use of the term 'the Werther Effect' when referring to copycat catastrophes. Coleman addresses Marilyn Monroe's 1962 death, pointing out that thanks to extensive coverage of the star's passing, 'the suicide rate in the United States increased briefly by 12%.' Other subjects include the 2002 Washington-area snipers John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, whose actions spawned numerous sniper killings; suicide clusters among fourth-century Greeks; cult leaders [Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, and David Koresh] who attained gruesome glamour through melodramatic press perusal; Jack the Ripper -- who created copycat killers from the late 1800s into the 20th century -- and today's suicide bombers. Although readers may feel there's little they can do to muzzle media destructiveness, Coleman presents his advice to with enough punch to intrigue the public and possibly exert a minor influence on the press." -- Publishers Weekly

"In this startling new work, Loren Coleman translates the academic research on copycat effects into a very readable and accessible book. He brings imitation of violence to life through many detailed case studies and person-centered examples, such as on the sensationalized reporting of suicide, sniper attacks, and suicide bombers. The media are still largely in a state of denial on how its coverage of death contributes to the violence and destructiveness in our society -- but Coleman's book should wake them up!" -- Dr. Steven Stack, sociologist, Center for Suicide Research

"Drawing from a wide variety of examples -- from Natural Born Killers imitators to the Columbine massacre, from the Golden Gate bridge jumpers to the Heaven's Gate cult suicides -- Loren Coleman raises troubling questions about the media's hidden role in perpetuating the very crimes and tragedies they sensationalize. An interesting look at a rarely discussed topic." -- Benjamin Radford, author, Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us

"The Copycat Effect is a fascinating and frightening look at the bizarre outer limits of human behavior." -- Tess Gerritsen, M.D., author, The Sinner

"In this new book from a master of connections, Loren Coleman's The Copycat Effect examines major news events, encouraged and promoted by the mass media, which get repeated in lesser-known incidents covered primarily by the local news. Coleman calls the mass media reports 'hot death' stories. They will jolt readers at their familiarity once Coleman jogs them from collective memory and fits them into a pattern recognizable in their daily lives. If The Copycat Effect doesn't change the mass media it will certainly change the way people think about it and the violent world it creates. This is urgent reading." -- Kenn Thomas, author, Popular Alienation

"Devoting separate chapters to disparate events like sniper sprees, suicide via airplane, suicidal cults, post-office killings, and teenage suicide, Coleman finds that, in each case, frequently overlooked event repetitions over time likely influenced the most shocking, current iterations, such as the Muhammed/Malvo sniper attacks and 9/11. By carefully cataloguing long strings of traumatic events, the author offers persuasive and sometimes chilling evidence that murders and suicides often inspire imitation, as in the 'suicide clusters' among seemingly normal teenagers that occurred in affluent and blue-collar towns alike during the 1980s and '90s." -- Kirkus

  Loren Coleman

has dealt with the Copycat Effect through his federal government-funded research work, books, and media consultations for almost three decades. As a senior researcher at the Muskie School of Public Policy, University of Southern Maine, from 1983 through 1996, he was the director of eight million dollarsí worth of federal projects, which investigated contagion in suicides, arson, substance abuse, child maltreatment, sexual crime, and other behaviors. Loren Coleman is the author, coauthor, or editor of over 20 books, including the acclaimed Suicide Clusters, Bigfoot!, Mysterious America, and Mothman and Other Curious Encounters. He has appeared on National Public Radio, NBC, and other media forums as an authority interviewee concerning Heavenís Gate, Waco, Hemingway, and Columbine.

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