Hoax school shootings in US traumatizing students

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 21, 2022
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A girl is comforted before a candle light vigil in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Oct. 15, 2022. The vigil is held to honor the five victims killed in a shooting two days earlier. [Photo/cfp.cn]

Multiple schools in the United States have been subject to school shooting hoaxes. 

Students or others will call the police to misreport that a school is under attack. Sometimes they say they witnessed a shooter. Sometimes they say they are the shooter. Sometimes they say they planted a bomb. Either way, it has a terroristic effect and results in the police being involved and the school being shut down.

Fake school shootings have real effects.

In a country like the U.S., where mass bloodshed at schools and in public squares is a weekly occurrence, police chiefs say they can't ignore any reported threat, no matter how unreliable it may seem. These false reports tie up the phones and waste police resources.

Then there is the effect on the students. Students say they are traumatized even by these shootings that didn't happen. They are told to go into lockdown. They are, from the time it is reported, under the notion that they are under attack. Since they have seen so many torn-flesh, broken-bones and lead-to-skin shootings play out, they have no reason to think otherwise. Some people have been hurt fleeing a school after a false report.

In fact, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, the subject of one of the worst shootings in American history, which is still fresh in students' memories as the trial of the shooter who perpetuated it just wrapped up, was barraged with threats during the trial's closing phase. The defamation trial against radio shock jock Alex Jones, who falsely claimed that the Parkland shooting never happened, had also wrapped up around the same time. Jones was found guilty and ordered to pay millions of dollars, while he encouraged his crazed listeners to take action.

It is evident from this and other cases that there is an intent to sow fear in some of the bomb hoaxes. The conspiracy theorists are particularly outraged against the Parkland victims for being victims of brutality that they think never happened. Some of them have vandalized the graves of the dead. They think they are supporting Alex Jones by making new threats against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

There have also been threats against historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that reek of racial terrorism. For decades, America's major universities were segregated. The white majority didn't allow blacks to attend school with whites. So black Americans established schools of their own. 

While schools have been desegregated, racial justice advocates still point to issues of inequality at elite white institutions. HBCUs still have an important role to serve. But their existence angers white racists. 

Howard University reports receiving eight hoax bomb threats this year. Howard is the alma mater of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is the first black and first female to hold such a high office in American history. 

However, not all of the hoax shootings reported are cases of terrorism. Sometimes students just want to miss school. According to Newsweek, "School shooting hoaxes were also the result of a TikTok trend late last year, during which some social media posts encouraged students to call in a fake school shooting incident in order to get out of school early."

America's unregulated social media wasteland has allowed hate speech, lies and propaganda to spread unabated. Now it is a breeding ground for false reports of school shootings. It seems that it is just the latest cool thing to do, like eating tide pods or playing the "fire challenge," other trends that spread on social media. 

America's twin passions of unrestricted access to guns and shameless social media provocation are hence united in a truly depraved trend.

Mitchell Blatt is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


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