I don’t object to The Economist as much as some folks around here, but there are times when you just want to pick them up and shake them. Consider this article about a school killing in Germany that left nine students, three teachers, and a bystander dead. The text is pretty straightforward, but check out the headline: “Not just an American horror: Germany’s strict gun laws could not prevent another teenage massacre.”
I’ll leave it to the gun-totin’ editor of this blog to comment on the subhead, but as for the first part: Very astute, Economist. School shootings are, indeed, not just an American horror. As the article notes, Germany had a similar shooting in 2002 in which 17 were killed. There have also been two in Finland in the last two years, killing a total of 20, and many others around the world in recent years. Here’s a partial timeline, starting with Charles Whitman at the University of Texas (Texas! you knew they had to get that one in) in 1966.
In fact, as a 2006 article points out:
. . . since the incident at the Scottish school, there have been at least 256 children and 198 adults gunned down in schools around the world.
Forty-nine of the children died in 20 separate shootings in the United States, which has one of the highest levels of gun ownership in the world.
Deaths also occurred in Yemen, Canada, the Netherlands, Argentina, Germany and Russia, where 176 children and 155 adults were killed by terrorists at a school in Beslan in September 2004.
Oh, and that “incident at the Scottish school”? That was the time in 1996 when a local character affectionately nicknamed “Mr. Creepy” killed 16 students and a teacher in Dunblane before committing suicide. Using the statistics in the article quoted above, the Dunblane incident alone gives Britain a much higher per-capita rate of child fatalities in school shootings than the United States. Perhaps the headline should have read “Not just a British horror.”
Similarly, according to this list, over the last 10 years, from spring 1999 to spring 2009 — a period that includes the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres — there have been 96 total fatalities from school shootings in the U.S. Compare that with Germany’s 30 fatalities in the two recent incidents, and the German per-capita fatality rate is also higher than ours (though Finland, with 20 fatalities and a population a bit north of 5 million, outdistances the pack by a large margin).
I’ve been around the publishing industry long enough to understand that headlines are often an afterthought, hastily written and meant to be snappy rather than even-handed. Still, this one is an all-too-common example of The Economist’s reflexive anti-Americanism, which has driven many readers on this side of the Atlantic to find less annoying places to get their news.