This is a brief placeholder post as I look for data on mass murder comparable to Grant Duwe’s for the 21st century.
One of Duwe’s points in his book on mass murder in the 20th century is that people often think of it as a relatively recent phenomenon, interest in which was piqued by the murder of 8 nurses in Chicago in 1966. But as we know from the data he presents, it wasn’t that mass murder didn’t exist before that; it was simply underreported and unrecognized.
An analysis published in FiveThirtyEight in January of 2016 suggests the same may be true of “mass shootings” today.
In “The Phrase ‘Mass Shooting’ Belongs to the 21st Century,” Oliver Roeder highlights the extremely dramatic rise in use of the phrase “mass shooting” in printed news (and other media) since 1978.
Even if mass shootings have increase in that time period, they have not increased as dramatically as the media’s use of the phrase. Which suggests that the same distortions that lead people to overestimate crime in general, can lead them to overestimate this particular crime. The culture of fear and the media’s role in fostering it are real.
One reason the author gives for the ubiquity of the phrase is the same ambiguity I commented on before. It means all things to all people. But, of course, if the phrase can mean anything, it means nothing.