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The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines Paperback – September 14, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743482239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743482233
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 Charles Manson 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Dr. Steven Stack sociologist, Center for Suicide Research The media are still largely in a state of denial on how their coverage of death contributes to the violence and destructiveness in our society -- but Coleman's book should wake them up!

Benjamin Radford author of Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us Coleman raises troubling questions about the media's hidden role in perpetuating the very crimes and tragedies they sensationalize.

Tess Gerritsen, M.D. author of The Sinner A fascinating and frightening look at the bizarre outer limits of human behavior.

Kenn Thomas author of Popular Alienation This is urgent reading.

Publishers Weekly A convincing case.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Warnock on September 17, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Loren Coleman's "The Copycat Effect" is a well researched and compelling account of how media accounts of suicide trigger off further deaths. Coleman, a well known and respected authority on suicides and the author of "Suicide Clusters" goes into exhaustive detail and carefully documents the phenomenon of copycat suicides, giving examples from Ancient World up to the Kurt Cobain, Columbine and "The Deerhunter".

After reading the extensive documentation that Coleman provides there can be no further doubt of the existence of the suicide copycat effect. What is interesting about Coleman's account is that he never descends into a polemic about media violence and it is clear that the media does not "cause" violence, but rather triggers off these occurrences in susceptible individuals.

The most intriguing part of "The Copycat Effect" is the penultimate chapter where Coleman begins to explore what he calls the magnetism of milieu and moment, delving into why certain places and times attract suicides. This "twilight language" once elucidated has the potential to explain why hundreds of people have completed suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge while ignoring the Bay Bridge and why suicides take place on particular dates.

Highly recommended!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peeter Joot on September 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
I had heard the author speak about the dangers of too much details in sensationalist media coverage, and how that leads to exactly the sort of horrific events that they covet.

He spoke well enough that I borrowed this book from the library to read his arguments with more depth. However, it turns out that I don't have the stomach to read this book in it's entirety. I don't have any doubt that should I have the inclination to fully read this book, I would find that he would continue to support his thesis with enough detail to quash any debate on the subject.

We see yet another failing of the mainstream corporate media spelled out in detail here. This book should likely be mandatory reading for those inclined to produce horrific sensationalist coverage, and perhaps given an inclination to manufacture that sort of content, they'd actually be able to make it through the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BookReview on January 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book should be read by everyone.It is well researched.Loren Coleman explores the media's over saturated coverage of murders,suicides,and deadly tragedies.This is a unique gem of a book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. T. Morrison on June 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
From some negative reviews, maybe this book is more like a scientific study than a typical book which has little evidence and gripping anecdotes. People can be convinced about anything with stories. That's a little what the book's about, right?

We all know the 3 monkeys, See/Hear/Speak no evil. Americans think it's about turning our backs to something bad --to let it happen-- but actually it's true meaning is exemplified in this work.

The monkeys are about subjects against the propriety of a culture, subjects against the norm. Recognition of such subjects cause others to be drawn away from the norm, to what might be considered evil.

Speak no evil or you create:
a Meme, a mind virus, like when a video goes "viral".
Manifestation of thought: Think it, speak it, and it will be.

This concept exemplifies one of the shortcomings of psychology and our desire to label others and ourselves, because people see themselves in the descriptions, people attribute the labels to themselves. The labels become self fulfilling prophecies. Most know not to tell a child they're bad for the same reason. The badness is a temporary condition, but the label may stick in the child's mind, the label creating a 'bad' adult.

See and Hear no evil, so that you yourself aren't infected with the thought or idea.

When we become aware of something, we seem to see it everywhere. This was Thomas Jefferson's theory of his own new theories, he saw evidence of them in everything. And Shakespeare said, "Suspicion always haunts a guilty mind".

Beware the person who sees evil in everyone else, because, well, you figure it out.

When people did things monstrous, cultures of the past knew better than to make people the monster.
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Format: Paperback
This book is really interesting but disturbing.

And the subtitle pretty much explains it: “How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow’s Headlines.”

Although the premise of the book is all about sensationalism, the book’s presentation and writing are anything but: measured, relatively clinical. But in the sections where he departs from the recounting of crime to discuss the emotional aspects of these crimes, Coleman allows his human compassion for victims (and perpetrators) to show.

The book begins with a look at the imitative suicides that followed the popularity of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (originally published in 1774).

He next examines “waves” or “clusters” of crimes, mostly murders and/or suicides, that can be directly traced back to an earlier popularized crime. These categories include:
• snipers from high places
• planes into buildings
• school shootings
• arson crimes
• cult followers
• “Cobain copycats”
• celebrity deaths and inspiration from movies such as The Deer Hunter
• “going postal”

… and such. It’s really stunning to see how many imitative suicides or other crimes can follow a publicized “original.”

In the chapter on snipers and popular media’s reaction to the Charles Whitman murders of 1966, Coleman leaves one (to me) important thing out. I am surprised that in his list of fictional depictions of similar violence, he doesn’t appear to know that the 1968 film Targets was also sparked by the Whitman shootings.
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