Looking for answers after yet another school shooting, I came across an old article by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink, The Tipping Point, and other popular books on social psychology. In “Thresholds of Violence: How School Shootings Catch On,” published in The New Yorker in 2015, Gladwell offered an intriguing theory for the accelerating rate of mass murder in schools since Columbine. Gladwell drew on the work of Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter, who explained the related phenomenon of riots in the following way:
“…A riot was not a collection of individuals, each of whom arrived independently at the decision to break windows. A riot was a social process, in which people did things in reaction to and in combination with those around them… Riots were started by people with a threshold of zero—instigators willing to throw a rock through a window at the slightest provocation. Then comes the person who will throw a rock if someone else goes first. He has a threshold of one. Next in is the person with the threshold of two. His qualms are overcome when he sees the instigator and the instigator’s accomplice… and so on up to the hundredth person, a righteous upstanding citizen who nonetheless could set his beliefs aside and grab a camera from the broken window of the electronics store if everyone around him was….”
In this view, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, perpetrators of the Columbine massacre, threw the first rock through the window (the first, at least, in the age of the new media). That riot has now spread, as social acceptance of unspeakable violence has ensnared the troubled young men with the lowest thresholds. Can this explain, at some level, the horrific events of the past week?
Read the original article here: