Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Red Zone

Tomorrow, dangerous times begin. April 16th will be the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech killings of 32 and the suicidal death of the shooter Cho. Vulnerable suicidal individuals who are thinking about homicide will be triggered by the recycling of the news on cable television, and for ten days, through the anniversary of Columbine. The days through April 26th will be a time in which you should remain alert. The theaters of this tragic play may be played out in more than universities, colleges, and other schools.

Remembering this, others sound similar warnings....

New York, April 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Morality in Media President Robert Peters had the following comments regarding tomorrow's first anniversary of the April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre:

"Two of our nation's leading newspapers, USA TODAY ("For families and survivors, grief becomes call to action," 4/11/08) and the N.Y. Times ("At State Level, More Attempts To Limit Guns," 4/11/08) have already chosen to remember the first anniversary of the April 16, 2007 Virginia Tech massacre with front page articles highlighting gun control efforts.

"Undoubtedly, there are loopholes in our nation's gun control laws that need plugging, but in remembering that the Virginia Tech killer used guns to slaughter fellow students, we should also remember that the killer grew up in a culture that glamorizes and even celebrates gun mayhem.

"Along with reporting on loopholes in our nation's gun laws, therefore, the media should also be reporting on the irresponsible TV shows, films, rap lyrics and video games released in the past year that wallow in deadly gun violence and that are popular among children and young adults.

"The media should also reconsider its blind adherence to modernistic Supreme Court decisions that have made it almost impossible to hold entertainment media companies responsible for harm caused by their reckless disregard for human life. Surely, this was not the intent of our nation's founding fathers, which never meant for the Constitution to become a 'suicide pact.'

"Set forth below are quotations that appeared in news publications following the horrible mass murder that took place one year ago at Virginia Tech. They merit the public's consideration."

"Equally important was an observation made by one of the CNN talking heads who pointed out that the killer who made a bloody wreck of Virginia Tech used the 'weapon of choice' seen in rap videos and action films. That was another indictment of the strutting, malicious violence that pollutes our popular culture and may have influenced the Virginia Tech killer who brandished two pistols..." [Stanley Crouch, "Society hits a dead end," N.Y. Daily News, 4/23/07)

"The notion that 'movies don't kill people, lunatics kill people' is liberating to us screenwriters because it permits us to give life to our most demented fantasies and put them up on the big screen without any anxious hand-wringing. We all know there's a lot of money to be made in trafficking in blood and guts...[But can] we really in good conscience conclude that the violence saturating our popular culture has no impact?...As responsible Americans put their heads down on their desks and reflect, should the scribes of popular entertainment be excused to the playground? ...Before cashing those big checks, shouldn't we at least pause to consider what we are saying with our movies about the value of life and the pleasures of mayhem?" [Mike White, "Making a Killing," N.Y. Times, 5/2/07]

"'My first thought when I saw the newspaper picture of Cho holding two guns was this guy has seen too many Asian gun films...,' Tom Weisser, Editor of Asian Cult Cinema magazine, told the Post yesterday. 'Perhaps there has never been a better example of a pop-culture killer.'" [V.A. Musetto, "Erie link to blood soaked Korean film," N.Y. Post, 4/20/07]

"Much has been made of the frightening similarity between 'Oldboy,' Park Chan Wook's dark 2003 movie thriller, and the deeds of Cho Seung Hui, who shot to death 32 people...But there are problems as well. For one, 'Oldboy' wasn't a gun picture...Many of Cho's pictures - 11 out of 43 - featured guns. And when I look at them, another name struck me as far more relevant than Park Chan Wook. That's John Woo. Woo almost redefined the action genre with a series of Hong Kong gangster movies...In at least three regards, Cho activities so closely reflect the Woo oeuvre that it seems somewhat fair to conclude that in his last moments, before he blew his brains out, he was shooting a John Woo movie in his head. First is the peculiar nature of the gun violence...Second is the nature of the guns themselves...The third...is thematic..." [Stephen Hunter, "Cinematic Clues To Understand The Slaughter," Washington Post, 4/20/07]

"Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui plagiarized other school shooting psychos in a twisted show of one-upmanship. He used the Internet to research and learn from infamous school killers, including Columbine's Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold...'Cho was an empty vessel and he poured himself full from images off the Internet...,' said Loren Coleman, an expert on school shootings and the author of The Copycat Effect. 'There's a psychological process that these shooters appear to be competing for - the high body count.'" [Jill Culora, "Sick homages from a student of psychos," N.Y. Post, 04/22/07]

Monday, April 07, 2008

"Die, Elders, Die!"


Perhaps it is a coincidence but on March 22, 2008, a renegade alignment of "thinkers" calling themselves the RRRgroup (although known by some critics as the "KKKgroup") wrote a blog (together?) entitled "Death(s) will clean the UFO palate."

They begin by stating,
"When ufology’s old-guard passes on – Dick Hall, Stan Friedman, Kevin Randall, John Schuessler, and even the 60ish Jerry Clark to name a few – taking hangers-on and sycophants with them (and you know who they are), the UFO palate will be cleansed."

The RRRGroup then mention others who "include Paul Kimball, Nick Redfern, Greg Bishop, and Mac Tonnies."

I found such statements outrageous, incredible, and unwise. I said, partially, in a comment directed to the RRRGroup:

Every "new" generation sees themselves as having the "real" solutions or the next best outside-the-box suggestions. Of course, it will only be something you will reflect upon when the next generation after you, the new group of "Young Ones" start nibbling at your aging heels....

It's always been that way, and it will continue so into the future.

But calmness is rare and, instead, dark days are afoot when people like these young bloggers feel it is cool to expound on the positive value in the forthcoming deaths of their elders, mentors, and older writers.

It is now with some concern I reflect that on April 2, 2008, a week and half after these words were written by the RRRGroup, Rupert Sheldrake, 65, of London, while speaking at the "10th International Conference on Science and Consciousness" at the La Fonda Hotel, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was attacked by a much younger man.

Sheldrake had just taken a break at 3:00 p.m., when Hirano Kazuki, 33, of Yokohama, Japan, stabbed Sheldrake in the leg.

The Santa Fe New Mexican described the wound in graphic detail: "Sheldrake had a 2- or 3-inch cut on the front of his left thigh, just above his kneecap, causing blood to spurt some 8 inches into the air as he lay on his back."

A statement of probable cause quoted witnesses to the stabbing as saying the man, Hirano Kazuki, had a knife in his hand, pushed people out of the way as he approached the stage where Rupert Sheldrake was speaking and tried to get onto the stage. According to the statement, Kazuki tripped as he tried to stab Sheldrake in the chest and stabbed him in the left thigh instead.

Sheldrake's keynote address was entitled "Memory and Morphic Resonance," and his workshop was "Fields of the Mind: Experimental and Research and Practical Intuition," according to a catalog on the conference.

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake studied biochemistry at the Clare College, Cambridge, UK, graduating with a double First Class honors degree. He was a Frank Knox fellow at Harvard, studying philosophy and history. He returned to Cambridge where he gained a Ph. D. in biochemistry and was a Fellow at Clare College. He was a Research Fellow of the Royal Society.

In recent years, Sheldrake has been an intellectual writer of some note on the topics of animal and plant development and behavior, telepathy, perception and metaphysics, which skeptics and critics have called "pseudoscience." Writers like Jerome Clark, Greg Bishop, and Nick Redfern, the same ones whom the RRRGroup mentioned, have noted Sheldrake's thoughts with favor. Sheldrake's material is marginal to ufology, although central to some Fortean thoughts, but overlaps, no doubt, have occurred.

Getting into the mind of the Japanese stabber seems to be key. But who knows why this individual attacked Sheldrake? Amazingly, people can read articles and watch visual presentations which stimulate their future actions, as I document throughout The Copycat Effect. When statements about how the "deaths" of certain researchers will result in "cleaning the palate" are added to the blogsphere, can anyone say who is reading them and what impact they might have?

What is known about Hirano is that he had been attending the "10th International Conference on Science and Consciousness." Other attendees said he had been acting oddly. They said he confronted Sheldrake earlier in the week, telling Sheldrake that he heard voices and saw demons. Another featured speaker at the conference told the man he was 'full of negative energy' and counseled him to 'calm down,' reported Evan Mecham, an attendee from Broomfield, Colorado.

Hirano is being held on a $200,000 bail.

Sheldrake is expected to fully recover, physically.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Assassination Copycats

Do assassinations come in copycat clusters? Historically, such situations appear to have occurred.

Forty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. On April 3, King in Memphis, addressed a rally, delivering his "I've been to the Mountaintop" address at Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ, Inc. – World Headquarters). King was shot on the 4th of April, while standing on the 2nd floor balcony, near his room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

On April 4, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy, the then-senator from New York State, learned of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and gave a moving impromptu speech in Indianapolis' inner city, in which Kennedy called for a reconciliation between the races. Riots broke out in 60 cities in the wake of King's death, but not Indianapolis, a fact many attribute to the effect of Kennedy's speech. (Barack Obama recalled that speech while speaking himself from Indianapolis on April 4, 2008.)

On April 7, 1968, Black Panther Bobby Hutton, who held the title of the Minister of Defense, was killed. Bobby Hutton, or "Lil' Bobby," was the youngest member of the Black Panther Party. He joined soon after the conception of the BPP in 1966, at the age of 16. He was killed by the Oakland, California, police after a firefight. Eight Black Panther Party members, including Hutton, Eldridge Cleaver and David Hilliard, were traveling in two cars when they were allegedly ambushed by the Oakland police. Cleaver was wounded. Both the Oakland police and the Black Panther Party each called the event an ambush by the other group. Two policemen were shot in the incident.

Rudi Dutschke born Alfred Willi Rudi Dutschke (March 7, 1940 – December 24, 1979, Ã…rhus, Denmark) was the most prominent spokesperson of the left-wing German student movement of the 1960s. He famously split from those who went on to form the violent Red Army Faction and advocated instead "a long march through the institutions" of power to create radical change from within government and society by becoming an integral part of the system's machinery.

On April 11, 1968, Dutschke was shot in the head by Josef Bachmann. After the attempted assassination, Dutschke lived for another 12 years until related health problems caused his death. Because of massive brain damage from the assassination attempt, Rudi Dutschke continued to suffer the effects for the rest of his life. He died on December 24, 1979 in Aarhus, Denmark, when he had an epileptic seizure while in his bathtub and drowned.

On June 3, 1968, Andy Warhol, while in his New York loft, was shot by frustrated writer, Factory-hanger-on Valerie Solanas. The Pop Art guru barely survived the shooting, and would face physical repercussions from the assassination attempt until his death in 1987.

On June 4, 1968, presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy had just scored a major victory from winning the California Democratic primary. He addressed his supporters in the early morning hours of June 5, 1968, in a ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He left the ballroom through a service area to walk through and greet supporters working in the hotel's kitchen. In a crowded kitchen passageway, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian, opened fire with a .22 caliber revolver and shot Kennedy in the head at close range. Following the shooting, Kennedy was rushed to The Good Samaritan Hospital where he died the next day.

June 5, 1968, was the first anniversary of the Six-Day War between the military forces of Israel versus Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.

There has been no assassination of a major political figure resulting in a fatality of any leader in the United States since 1968. There have been killings of minor figures, assassination attempts against significant individuals, and some of these events have come in clusters.

Tappan Zee Suicides

Bridges are magnets for suicides. Two men jumped from the Tappan Zee Bridge on Thursday, April 3, 2008.

"More than 25 people have made fatal jumps from the Tappan Zee Bridge into the Hudson River in the past 10 years, the [New York] State Thruway Authority said," on August 29, 2007, noted New York's CBS-TV.

Called "one of the country's largest bridges," the number of suicides from the Tappan Zee is vague. Copycats are a problem.

"The 3-mile-long Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, which opened in 1955, has no walkway. Would-be suicides tend to drive to midspan, stop their cars in an outside lane, scale the barrier and jump," reported CBS-TV in 2007.

In general, bridge authorities do not like to publicize how many people jump off bridges. "More than 25," of course, could be 250 or 1500. After yesterday's Tappan Zee suicides, the number was revised to "about 30 people" in media accounts.

The specific number of bridge suicides is a touchy topic nationally. Take, for example, what has occurred in conjunction with the suicide count from the Golden Gate Bridge. I wrote about the subject in The Copycat Effect:

Between 1937 and 1973, five hundred people “officially” died by suicide from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s a rate of fourteen a year. Between 1974 and 1995, when the next five hundred victims died, the rate had increased to about twenty-four a year. When the actual number of suicides neared a thousand, local media madness tried to document who would be number 1000. Tad Friend writing in The New Yorker in 2003 about the approach of this milestone in 1995, recalled that a “local disk jockey went so far as to promise a case of Snapple to the family of the victim. That June, trying to stop the countdown fever, the California Highway Patrol halted its official count at 997. In early July, Eric Atkinson, age twenty-five, became the unofficial thousandth; he was seen jumping, but his body was never found.”

By 2003, upwards of 1,300 people are said to have died from throwing themselves off the Golden Gate Bridge, a yearly rate of nearly forty-three people a year. But one Coast Guard coxswain who works closely with others on the bridge recently told the media that the yearly average is, incredibly, closer to three hundred.

The Tappan Zee may have more suicides in its near future because of copycats. On April 3, 2008, it experienced two men jumping from the bridge within an hour of each other. Steve Lieberman of The Journal News shares the following about the news (edited):

The two suicides were individual decisions and represented the first time in recent memory that two people jumped from the bridge within such a short period of time, authorities said.

The first man, a 55-year-old from Montvale, N.J., jumped from the bridge's causeway in Rockland on the Westchester-bound side just before 1:30 p.m. The second man, a 27-year-old from Ossining, leapt into the water from the main span on the Rockland-bound side about 2:30 p.m., about 10 minutes after the first jumper's body had been found.

Both were dead when pulled from the water by Piermont firefighters.

State police were not releasing the names of the two men until they could confirm their identities and notify their families.

The two deaths came about two weeks after a 23-year-old Newburgh man jumped to his death from the 3-mile bridge on the Rockland-bound side. His body has not been recovered.

"This is the first time I can recall two jumpers so close together in time," South Nyack-Grand View Police Chief Robert Van Cura said.

Van Cura, a police officer for 26 years and a volunteer firefighter, said there might have been two jumpers within a 24-hour period before, but he couldn't recall specifically.

A state police report said the jumps were an "unprecedented series of events" on the bridge.

During the past decade about 30 people have jumped to their deaths from the bridge. Several others have been saved, either in the water or grabbed on the precipices.

"I don't know what it is about the Tappan Zee Bridge, but it is certainly a magnet for folks," Van Cura said. "This is all very sad. Two people dead."


"Never before have we had two jumpers like this in one day," said Goswick, a three-time Fire Department chief and a 25-year volunteer. "We've had a lot of jumpers in recent years after a quiet period. You don't know what goes through people's minds."

Yesterday's first jumper leapt into the river from the bridge's causeway, which is 35 feet above the river. The chances of survival from that portion is considered better than from the main span, which at its highest point is 157 feet above the river.

Ramesh Mehta, the New York State Thruway Authority's director for the Hudson Valley, said the man pulled into the right lane, which was closed for maintenance. Moments later, a two-truck crew arrived on the scene to ask if the man needed help. He declined and drove off. Mehta said the man then passed through the tolls, turned around at an exit, crossed the bridge back into Rockland, circled around again and then headed back onto the causeway, where he pulled over - and jumped around 1:40 p.m.

He had left the keys in the ignition, witnesses said.

Rescuers found the first jumper just before 2:17 p.m.

At first, state police held out hope of saving his life, though they didn't know at the time the man was dead when pulled from the water.

"We got the person and they are working on him now," Sgt. John Antonelli of the state police said before the jumper had been pronounced dead. "We had a quick response and found the body pretty quickly. We hope they can revive him. In a sense, that height is more survivable."


Authorities have taken some steps to cut down on the number of suicides off the Tappan Zee Bridge and other spans in the Lower Hudson Valley.

In August, the Thruway Authority activated four suicide hotline phones at each end of the bridge. Signs were installed along the approaches on both sides and near midspan directing people to the call boxes. Above each telephone is a sign that says, "When it seems like there is no hope, there is help."

Mehta said the hotlines have yet to receive a call.