Are America’s School Rampages Acts Of Terrorism?

Print reviews a new book on masscres in U.S. schools over the last decade. Jonathan Fast, a professor of social work, in “Ceremonial Violence: A Psychological Explanation of School Shootings,” calls them a type of terrorism, but says we have a hard time seeing them as such. We think we know, why terrorists blow themselves up in Middle Eastern marketplaces, but we can’t agree on how a 14-year-old winds up toting a semiautomatic weapon to school and opening up on classmates and teachers.

In the media circus that follows, says Salon, the list of purported causes is long — lax parenting, video games and movies, child abuse, declining moral values, religious fanaticism, high school culture, antidepressant drugs, genetics, mental illness, gun worship and so on. Fast, in search of a more illuminating explanation, has made an in-depth study of 13 incidents in which a person (or persons) under 18 shot two or more people on school grounds. The SR (“school rampage”) is still a very rare crime. Fast believes he has found some persistent themes and commonalities and lays them out in a grimly compelling sequence of case histories. SRs are, in his view, “acts of terrorism without an ideological core” or “at best there is a sham of an ideology cobbled together from books like ‘Mein Kampf,’ Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ the writings of Nietzsche, the glamorized pop-culture accounts of Charles Manson and his followers, and movies like ‘Natural Born Killers.'” It’s difficult to nail down a single cause because there is no single cause.”


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