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Friday, November 09, 2007

Look how I can kill!

Youtube has become the medium of choice for mass murderers wanting to get their message across, says an expert in criminal psychology.

Earlier this week 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen posted a video to YouTube signalling his intentions to “eliminate all who I see unfit” and “die for my cause”.

Yesterday, Auvinen killed seven students and a school principal at Jokela High School in southern Finland before shooting himself in the head. He died in hospital.

In the video, a photo of a building resembling the high school breaks apart to reveal a red-tinted picture of a man pointing a handgun at the camera. It has since been removed from the website.

“I don’t think this will produce copycat situations but what I do think is that people who want to make a message will see this as a new avenue,” said Mike Berry, a professor in criminal psychology.

“Go back 50 years or 25 years, they wrote letters and now they’ve moved onto YouTube,” he said.

“He’s just using today’s modern facilities. Young people use YouTube instead of a pen and paper.”

The video, called “Jokela High School Massacre – 11/7/2007″, was posted to the website by a user named Sturmgeist89.

Sturmgeist means “storm spirit” in German and is also the name of a European black metal band listed as one of Auvinen’s favourites in his YouTube profile.

Access to media

Earlier this year, a gunman who killed 32 people and himself at a college in the US state of Virginia recorded a video of himself explaining his actions and sent it to broadcaster NBC.

Unlike the Finnish case, where the video appeared on a freely accessible video sharing site, NBC had to choose whether to air Seung-Hui Cho’s footage or not.

Its decision to do so triggered a debate about whether the diatribe should have been made public.

Access to media was very different a decade ago.

In 1996, the man behind Britain’s worst gun killing spree, Thomas Hamilton, sent letters to local officials, politicians and Queen Elizabeth to express his anger at perceived injustices before killing 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane, Scotland.

Ian Brown, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute said he did not think the use of YouTube was a driving factor in the Finnish case.”

“New technologies like the internet get used by a very wide range of people and unfortunately including in events like this,” he said.

“Before this, many people who committed very serious crimes would get publicity through newspapers. This is how the mass media works in the 20th and 21st century.”

Violence on YouTube

Online video-sharing sites like YouTube mean controlling violent or disturbing images is becoming increasingly difficult.

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting, some experts suggested that access to mobile phone cameras meant a deadly attack might one day be broadcast over the internet in real time.

YouTube has been criticised in the past for carrying clips which show violence and bullying. It takes down those found to breach the site’s guidelines.

Earlier this week graphic footage of a shooting at a techno gig in Venezuela, which left four people dead and five wounded, was posted to YouTube.

The video showed people scrambling for safety after gunshots were heard during a performance by techno DJ Carl Cox.

The clip was removed from YouTube, but not before appearing in the website’s prominent “Most watched” list.

Sturmgeist89’s profile

In other videos posted to YouTube, Auvinen paid tribute to Columbine High School killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and appeared in a T-shirt with the slogan “Humanity is overrated”.

Auvinen had previously signed up to the website with the username NaturalSelector89, but had to create a new profile after that account was suspended.

In his new profile, Auvinen said he was interested in serial killers, macabre art, heavy metal bands and films including Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Natural Born Killers and the Australian-written and directed horror movie Saw.

In a message posted alongside one of his videos, Auvinen said he was “prepared to fight and die for my cause” and planned to “eliminate all who I see unfit”.

“You might ask yourselves, why did I do this and what do I want. Well, most of you are too arrogant and closed-minded to understand,” he wrote.

“You will probably say (to) me that I am ‘insane’, ‘crazy’, ‘psychopath’, ‘criminal’ or crap like that. No, the truth is that I am just an animal, a human, an individual, a dissident.

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