Sunday, January 28, 2007

Freddie Prinze + 30

From my book, The Copycat Effect (Simon and Schuster, 2004):

"...highly publicized celebrity deaths, such as Freddie Prinze, who at 22, died by shooting himself in his head on January 28, 1977, produced higher rates among individuals who were about the same age, ethnicity, and gender as the famed suicides. After Prinze’s death, several young Latino males took their own lives using guns. These suicidological studies indicated that suicide stories were not and are not precipitating suicides that would have occurred anyway, but are actually creating additional suicides that would not have happened without the media accounts."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More Saddam Copycats: Turkey & Yemen

Tracking the news that there have been "more copycat hangings" is not an easy task, as some articles are declaring a low number, forgetting about some past incidents, but at least one article in the Malaysian media talked on January 9th about "almost a dozen" (without backing this up with complete data).

In that context, I've search some more and here are more details on a new copycat in Turkey, and multiple copycats in Yemen.

In Turkey, 12-year-old Alisen Akti hanged himself on Wednesday, January 10, 2007, from a bunk bed after watching TV footage of the Saddam hanging videos. His father, Esat Akti, told a newspaper in the southeastern province of Mus that his son had been affected by the televised images, according to Associated Press writer Anna Johnson.

"After watching Saddam's execution he was constantly asking 'How was Saddam killed?' and 'Did he suffer?'" Akti was quoted as saying. "These television images are responsible for my son's death."

In Yemen, at least two young boys died and another was injured in apparent imitations of Saddam's hanging.

One of the cases involved a 13-year-old junior high school student who hanged himself after watching Saddam's execution on television, a Yemeni security official said.

The breakdown of "known copycats," thus, would be Algeria (12-year-old), India (15-year-old), Pakistan (9-year-old), Saudi Arabia (12-year-old), Turkey (12-year-old), USA (10-year-old, Texas; and 16-year-old, Pennsylvania); and Yemen (two young boys, including one that was a 13-year-old). All of these have been discussed, in more detail, on this blog.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"Copycat Hangings...Almost A Dozen"

The Malaysia Sunon January 9, 2007, claims that "more copycat hangings" have occurred numbering "almost a dozen."

In an article entitled "New video of Saddam's body emerges, more copycat hangings," in one section, it mentions the two incidents not detailed before:

International condemnation followed the videotaping of the execution and events leading up to it. A tragic side-effect is that almost a dozen children have now died around the world in attempting to work out how the execution was done. The latest incidents include a 12-year-old boy in Saudi Arabia who reportedly watched the execution on television and then tried to simulate the event. In Algeria a group of schoolchidren accidently hanged a 12 year-old Algerian boy in the western village of Oued Rihou. In describing the tragedy, local government radio said, "U.S. policy in Iraq has made an innocent victim in Algeria." Days earlier a young woman hanged herself in her parents apartment in the western Algerian village of Oran, "after she was traumatised by images of Saddam's hanging," a family member said.

Saddam Copycats: 8+

There has been at least eight hanging deaths of young people who have copycatted the Saddam execution videos.

Reporters Aqeel Hussein in Baghdad and Damien McElroy in the UK, on January 9, 2007, have noted via The Telegraph that a dramatic increase has occurred in Shia hostages being hanged in the streets of Iraq in revenge for Saddam's execution. It is an awful trend, with over hundred hostages being hanged throughout Iraq, some 200 hostages taken. Their article is mostly concerned with those events.

Additionally, at the very end of their article they write:

Seven children are reported to have died worldwide after seeing video footage of the execution of Saddam, many in "play" hangings. In the latest incident a boy of 12 hanged himself in north-east Saudi Arabia on Sunday, the Al-Hayat newspaper reported. His death followed similar hangings in Yemen, India, Algeria and America.

The reporters and Al-Hayat probably are unaware of the reported copycat death of Bobby Martin in Pennsylvania, and its seems, of the one in Pakistan, so I consider the total is at eight or nine or above. Here is my reconstruction of the timeline of hangings:

Saturday, December 30, 2006 - Iraq - Saddam Hussein is executed by hanging at dawn. Within minutes, Arab and Iraqi news sources are showing video of the preparations leading up to the hanging, the noose being placed around his neck, and then still photographs of his body.

Sunday, December 31, 2006 - Worldwide - Broadcast media show video taken of Saddam's hanging, via wall-to-wall coverage on cable news and news programs. More graphic footage from a cell-phone appears within hours of the execution on YouTube and other internet site, showing Saddam falling after a level is pulled.

Sunday, December 31, 2006 - Webster (near Houston), Texas - Sergio Pelico, 10, dies by hanging from his bunk bed after watching the news of Saddam's death, mimicking the tape he had watched with several family members. Local time in Texas is Sunday, but the Monday hanging of Mubashar Ali probably had already taken place.

Monday, January 1, 2007 - Multan, Pakistan - Mubashar Ali, 9, becomes the first copycat mentioned in some Mideast media, when he dies by hanging after tying a rope to a ceiling fan. Ali and his sister had been watching the Saddam footage on television and were imitating the hanging, according to their father.

Wednesday, January 2, 2007 - Kolkata, India - Moon Moon Karmarkar, 15, dies by hanging from a ceiling fan after watching the scene of the Saddam hanging over and over again, then not taking any food on Saturday and Sunday to protest the hanging. She was found dead early in the day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2007 - Harborcreek (near Erie), Pennsylvania - Robert Joseph “Bobby” Martin, 16, dies by hanging by stepping off a loft, after may have been viewing the Saddam video during a New Year's Eve party he gave for friends.

Sunday, January 7, 2007 - Hafr Al-Bath, Saudi Arabia - Sultan Abdullah Al-Shammari, 12, dies by hanging from a rope that he had attached to a iron door in his home, while re-enacting the widely publicized execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The Arab News reports that Sultan Abdullah Al-Shammari is copycat #4, but the Martin hanging apparently is not being counted. The UK's Telegraph mentions a total of seven children having died, mentioning India and America, but not Pakistan, then two additional countries as the locations of copycat incidents:



Certainly eight, if not more, of these copycat hanging incidents have unfortunately occurred. The wide and graphic dissemination of the footage of what has become the "public" execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, through the copycat effect, without media moderation or parental supervision, has to be logically considered as the root of this wave of deaths.

Saddam Copycat #5

The Arab News is reporting on Tuesday, 9, January, 2007 (20, Dhul Hijjah, 1427) of another Saddam execution video copycat hanging. This appears to be the fifth one revealed in various local and international media.

Please note in the article posted below, this newly reported incident is said to be the "fourth." But the source appears to be unaware of what we posted here today, of the fourth copycat, last January 3, 2007, in Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, when Bobby Martin, 16 years old, died by hanging who may have been watching the video during a New Year's Day party, (see Saddam Copycat #4).

12-Year-Old Saudi Boy in Copycat Hanging

Arab News

Hafr Al-Batin — A 12-year-old Saudi boy hanged himself on Sunday re-enacting the widely publicized execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

His brother found the boy, Sultan Abdullah Al-Shammari, hanging from a rope that he had fixed on an iron door in their home in Hafr Al-Batin, a small town 400 kilometers north of Riyadh, Okaz newspaper reported yesterday.

By the time Sultan was taken to a nearby hospital he was dead. Two of his younger brothers were watching the apparent accidental hanging.

A police investigation is under way to determine whether the accident was a case of parental negligence.

This marks the fourth youngster that has died imitating the hanging of the former Iraqi strongman. A 10-year-old boy in Houston, Texas, last Thursday hanged from his bunk bed, in a death that was ruled accidental. On the same day, a 15-year-old Indian girl committed suicide by hanging after becoming depressed and expressing outrage over the execution of the former dictator.

A nine-year-old Pakistani boy hanged himself from a ceiling fan on Jan. 1 trying to copy the scenes from the widely distributed video clip of the execution. That death was also ruled accidental.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Saddam Copycat #4

Another young person has died by hanging, in possible imitation of the Saddam execution video.

This occurred on Wednesday, January 3, 2007, in Harborcreek (a section of Erie), Pennsylvania, when a 16 year old died by hanging when he stepped off a loft (apparently with a rope around his nexk).

The young person's standard death notice was published in the Erie Times-News from January 4, 2007 and January 5, 2007.

It reads, in part:

Robert Joseph “Bobby” Martin, 16 of Erie, died Wednesday, January 03, 2007. He was born in Erie, September 28, 1990, a son of Thomas O. and Wendy Mangan Martin. Bobby was a 10th grade student at Harborcreek High School where he played on its Jr. and Varsity football team as both running back and line backer. He also was the assistant on the girls varsity basketball team. He was a member of St. Peter Cathedral, enjoyed the outdoors, school and his many friends.

According to one local resident who left a comment here, Bobby Martin was a popular football player and honors student. He "had a New Year's Eve party for friends and two days later was dead. One cannot help but think that viewing the Saddam video again and again and again and again planted the seed."

Nevertheless, it is unknown if he did view the footage.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Saddam Copycats #2 & #3

The Saddam execution video was shown so often on television and made so available on the internet, that it became a graphic model of behavior for young people to attempt to copycat. Telling in the following stories - and the one posted earlier - are the indications that direct copying of the videotape occurred. The ages of the young people - 9, 10, and 15 - are close enough to have been reflective of the modeling taking place. Furthermore, in the non-American incidents, the behavior contagion was even repeated in the copying of the use of ceiling fans. The copycat effect has been a factor, at least during this short window of contagion. Little restraint seems to have been taken by even the mainstream media who played most of the "official" and "cellphone" footage of Saddam's hanging, over and over, for days.

(Note: I expanded my comments here thanks to a blog by Dave LaMorte. His remarks reminded me that I wanted to come back and be a little more reflective. The above paragraph was added on January 7, 2007. Many people have found there way here due to Xeni Jardin's Boing Boing posting, of course.)

On Monday, I posted here about the death of Mubashar Ali, 9, who hanged himself in Pakistan, on Sunday, December 31, 2006, while copycatting the execution of Saddam Hussein.

Two more copycat hangings of young people have occurred in the wake of the widespread broadcasts of the Saddam hanging video on cable and satellite television, and the entire video on such outlets as YouTube. In Texas, Sergio Pelico, 10, was found Sunday, December 31, 2006, dead from hanging from his bunk bed in an apparent copycat of the Saddam death. In India, early on Wednesday, January 3, 2007, Moon Moon Karmarkar, 15, hanged herself from a ceiling fan.

I am posting extracts from the source articles on the Pelico and Karmarker deaths for archival reasons, as they have a tendency to disappear quickly.

Texas Boy Dies Mimicking Saddam's Hanging
Cops: 10-Year-Old Hung Himself From Bunk After Watching News About Execution
Houston, Jan. 4, 2007

"I don't think he thought it was real. They showed them putting the noose around his neck and everything. Why show that on TV?"
(CBS/AP) Police and family members said a 10-year-old boy who died by hanging himself from a bunk bed was apparently mimicking the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Sergio Pelico was found dead Sunday in his apartment bedroom in the Houston-area city of Webster, said Webster police Lt. Tom Claunch. Pelico's mother told police he had previously watched a news report on Saddam's death.

"It appears to be accidental," Claunch said. "Our gut reaction is that he was experimenting."

An autopsy of the fifth-grader's body was pending.

Julio Gustavo, Sergio's uncle, said the boy was a happy and curious child.

He said Sergio had watched TV news with another uncle on Saturday and asked the uncle about Saddam's death.

"His uncle told him it was because Saddam was real bad," Gustavo said. "He (Sergio) said, 'OK.' And that was it."

Sergio's mother, Sara Pelico DeLeon, was at work Sunday while Sergio and other children were under the care of an uncle, Gustavo said. One of the children found Sergio's body in his bedroom.

Police said the boy had tied a slipknot around his neck while on a bunk bed. Police investigators learned that Sergio had been upset about not getting a Christmas gift from his father, but they don't believe the boy intentionally killed himself.

A 9-year-old Pakistani boy also apparently hanged himself re-enacting Hussein's execution with the help of elder sister by tying a rope to a ceiling fan and his neck in his home, Agence France-Presse reported.

The boy's father said his children attempted to imitate the hanging while other family members thought they were playing in another room.

Clinical psychologist Edward Bischof, of California, said children Sergio's age mimic risky behaviors they see on TV — such as wrestling or extreme sports — without realizing the dangers. He said TV appeared to be the stimulant in Sergio's case.

"I would think maybe this kid is trying something that he thinks fun to act out without having the emotional and psychological maturity to think the thing through before he acts on it," Bischof said.

Family members held a memorial for the boy Wednesday in the apartment complex activity center. Gustavo said the family is trying to put together enough money to send Sergio's body to Guatemala for burial.

"I don't think he thought it was real," Gustavo said of Saddam's hanging. "They showed them putting the noose around his neck and everything. Why show that on TV?"


"Kolkata teenager hangs herself over Saddam's execution"

Kolkata, Jan 4 (ANI): Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's execution has had a mixed reaction in India. While the government expressed its disappointment over his execution, the Left and some sections of the Muslim community accused the US of masterminding the Iraqi leader's killing, and there were the Shiatte population in different Indian towns who expressed jubilation over the hanging.

But nowhere, probably not even in Iraq did an ardent supporter of Saddam express his or her loyalty and sorrow over the execution by taking his or her own life.
So it was quite surprising that a 15 year old girl from Kolkata's suburbs to kill herself in response to Saddam's execution, even though the city is well known for its anti-US feelings and stance.

According to a report by a foreign news agency, the girl, Moon Moon Karmarkar hanged herself for wanting to "feel the pain Saddam did during the execution".
"She said they had hanged a patriot. We didn't take her seriously when she told us that she wanted to feel the pain, Saddam did during the execution," the girl's father Manmohan Karmakar was quoted as saying.
According to Manmohan, Moon Moon had become extremely depressed after watching Saddam's execution on television.
"She kept watching the scene over and again and didn't take food on Saturday and Sunday to protest the hanging," he said.
Police superintendent Pravin Kumar while confirming the suicide, said the girl had strung herself up from a ceiling fan and was found dead early on Wednesday.
Saddam was hanged for crimes against humanity at dawn on Saturday....(ANI)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Saddam Video Copycat

January 1, 2007 opens with the news of the death of a nine-year-old who died by hanging, as he attempted to imitate the widely broadcast Saddam Hussein execution video. This press account, "Boy hangs himself 'like Saddam'", includes the details of the young person's death and the realizations from some media critics that the video being shown is graphic:

Multan - A young boy who tried to copy hanging scenes from the execution video of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein died in central Pakistan, said police on Monday.

Mubashar Ali, 9, hanged himself, while re-enacting Hussein's hanging with the help of elder sister, 10, after tying a rope to a ceiling fan and his neck in his home in Rahim Yar Khan district on Sunday, said a local police official.

The father of the deceased boy said that his children had been watching the video of Saddam Hussein's execution on television and attempted to imitate the hanging as other family members thought they were playing in another room.

"My wife and sister rushed to rescue Mubashar when children cried for help from the adjoining room, but he died due to hanging," said Alamgir Paracha, father of Mubashar.

Police said that the death was accidental and a case of parental negligence.

"It was an accident which happened due to carelessness of parents," said district police chief Sultan Ahmad.

Images of the fallen Iraqi dictator with a strap around his neck, surrounded by executioners in balaclavas, were repeatedly telecast by Pakistani television channels at the weekend.

Commentators and the media across Europe had expressed shock and unease on Sunday at graphic television pictures showing the last moments of Hussein just before his execution.