Jonesboro massacre: 'Not here' - the mantra that everyone in rural America is chanting in disbelief

NOT HERE. This is the mantra being spoken in Jonesboro in the aftermath of Tuesday's Westside carnage. This kind of horror belongs in the urban wastelands of Chicago, Los Angeles or New York City. But not in our town, not in rural and suburban America. How, then, to explain the fact that the three fatal school rampages that have shaken this country in five months have all been in not-here places?

In Pearl, Mississippi, last October a 16-year-old boy first stabbed his mother and then went to his school and opened fire on nine classmates, killing two. In Paducah, Kentucky, in December three students were shot by a fellow pupil in a school corridor.

Hunting may offer one explanation. Pearl, Paducah and Jonesboro are all in areas steeped in hunting as a family way of life. In the South, almost half of all households have guns compared with 36 per cent in the country as a whole. One teacher from the Westside school actually expressed the hope this week that Tuesday's shooting should not become a rallying cry for stronger gun laws.

Increasingly, however, it is impossible to ignore the media factor: children no longer need to live in gang-infested ghettos to become soaked in a culture of guns, violence and casual death. Television, cinemas and video shops have broken down the insulation of rural America from the violence of the big cities.

We do not yet know what films Andrew Golden, 11, and Mitchell Johnson, 13, liked to watch. But we do know something of the viewing habits of Michael Carneal, the boy accused in the Paducah killings. In police interviews, he made specific reference to a 1996 film starring the Titanic blockbuster's Leonardo DiCaprio. Called The Basketball Diaries, it was no ship-born romance.

Carneal said that when he mowed down his peers as they formed a prayer circle before heading for their classes, he was re-enacting moments from that film.

The Basketball Diaries depicts a school athlete, played by DiCaprio, descending into a life of drugs and despair. In one specially grisly dream-like sequence, DiCaprio strides into his classroom, wields a rapid-fire rifle and guns down class members along with his teacher.

It has been famously suggested that the average American child witnesses 8,000 murders and a 100,000 acts of violence on television before he or she reaches adolescence.

"Now you have the movies and cable and the Internet in rural areas," Brian Levin, a New Jersey criminologist observed yesterday in USA Today.

"Evil has a nice direct marketing pipeline to rural areas that it didn't have in decades past. Today you'd have a hard time telling where a kid is from."

It is shocking that two so young as Golden and Johnson could now stand accused of a massacre like that at Jonesboro. But consider what distractions were offered to them growing up in this scruffy patch of rural America: firing off guns with dad at the weekend and watching murder and mayhem on the video recorder. Combine the two influences and what do you get?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
videoJapanese prepare for the afterlife by testing out coffins
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Supervisor / Housewares / Furniture

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital