July 8, 2022 | NBC

Vulnerabilities and red flags are crucial to the intervention of mass shootings

ISD’s Head of Communications and Editorial Tim Squirrell spoke to NBC Chicago in the wake of the Highland Park shooting that left seven people dead.

Tim explained the online subcultures that glorify mass shooters, saying “We have a fandom, a mass shooter fandom that needs to be understood, dealt with, and isn’t explicitly ideological.” Communities in these spaces are driven by a desire for attention and glory. Tim told NBC, “Many of them are motivated by the idea of notoriety, wanting to get their face, their ideas, their name out there and also of getting what they call the ‘high score,’ the gamification of mass violence.”

These spaces, which glorify mass shooters, can have a radicalising effect on those who arrive in them, particularly those who are already vulnerable. Tim explained, “It’s partly that people who already have issues come to these spaces, but also people can come to have a really keen interest in mass shootings, in school shooters, in terrorists as a result of being immersed in a community like this.”

Tim also drew a distinction between this incident and some of the recent ‘Great Replacement’ inspired right-wing terrorism incidents we have witnessed, “It’s really important to recognise that while there is a footprint here, and it’s a footprint which is shared by quite a large number of people who are pretty vulnerable or at risk of engaging in violence, it’s not a coherently or explicitly ideological footprint in the way you’d expect from ‘Great Replacement’ inspired terrorism we’ve seen in the last few years,”

Speaking to possible interventions, Tim highlighted the “extremely obvious, massive red flags,” including the police’s seizure of dozens of bladed weapons from the suspect’s home after he made a threat in 2019. Understanding what the vulnerabilities and red flags are is crucial to intervention, Tim said, “Very often we are very caught up in trying to understand the most recent attack, and we’re not thinking about the next one. That’s why it’s really important to understand what the red flags are, what the vulnerabilities are, and to try to recognise those and intervene.”