DUDLEY, Mass.–Feb. 15, 2018–The following is a statement from Nichols College Criminal Justice Professor Allison McDowell-Smith, Ph.D., who is director of the Nichols College Counterterrorism Studies Graduate Program.
As I am getting ready to present on the topic “A Culture of Fear” in New Orleans at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the buzz within the crowd is regarding the horrific mass shooting that occurred yesterday in Parkland, Florida. It is ironic that in my study of undergraduate students at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., the number-one fear of students within my sample from 2016 to 2017 was violence associated with mass shootings.
We are finally beginning to learn details about this alleged suspect’s personal life, and we are seeing this is digital profile displayed signs of extremist beliefs and behavior. According to news reports, he had posted a social media comment stating: “I wanna die Fighting killing s**t ton of people” and “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.” Why did someone not report and/or alert proper authorities when they saw this statement? Regarding countering violent extremists and mass shooting incidents, we look to what could we have done to prevent this.
As we dive into the digital profile, some will argue that the social media entities should have reported this language as dangerous and as a threat. Yet, during a recent conversation with an American Civil Liberties Union representative, there is always the concern of violating our freedom of speech Constitutional Amendment. We need to ask ourselves whether we can balance these concerns and work together to report and address any potential signs of radicalization among an individual to potentially avoid horrific attacks such what happened in Parkland, Florida.
Lorraine U. Martinelle
Director of Public Relations and Social Media
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