Tornado Violence: Are Tornadic Images In The Media To Blame?

Top Headlines


Fargo on FX

Goodwill Executives Arrested After Years Of Skimming Donated Goods Off Top

ROCKVILLE, MD—In what authorities are calling one of the most wide-reaching and deplorable cases of embezzlement in recent history, seven executives at Goodwill Industries International were arrested Thursday for allegedly skimming used clothing, old furniture, small appliances, and thousands of other donated items from the charitable group.

Neighborhood Busybody Reports Sound Of Gunshots

INDIANAPOLIS—Once again sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong, neighborhood busybody Sally Christensen, 54, reportedly took it upon herself to report the sound of gunshots to law enforcement early Tuesday morning, sources confirmed.

How Grand Juries Reach A Decision

The recent non-indictments of police officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo have shed light on the secret process of grand jury deliberations, by which a group of ordinary citizens hears a case from a prosecuting attorney and privately decides whe...

Thieves Make Off With Museum’s Most Valuable Docents

CHICAGO—In what is being described as a sophisticated and well-executed heist, thieves stole nine of the Art Institute of Chicago’s most valuable docents in broad daylight this morning, according to museum and law enforcement officials.

Police Pleasantly Surprised To Learn Man They Shot Was Armed

LEXINGTON, KY—Following a pedestrian stop Monday night during which they fired their weapons on a suspicious individual, patrol officers for the Fayette County Police Department were pleasantly surprised to discover the man they shot was armed, sour...

3-Day Waiting Period Leads To Far More Feasible Murder Plot

MASON CITY, IA—Saying that the past 72 hours offered him plenty of time to pause and reflect, local man Andrew Boyle told reporters Tuesday that the state’s three-day waiting period to purchase a handgun had allowed him to devise a far more pr...

FBI Raids Kennedy Fundamentalist Compound

HYANNIS PORT, MA—In a surprise predawn raid Monday, heavily armed FBI agents stormed the notorious Kennedy Compound in Massachusetts, reportedly arresting more than two dozen key members of the faction and exposing many of the bizarre inner workings...

Criminal Prosecuted To Fullest Extent Of Budget

STOCKTON, CA—Concluding proceedings of a case that will now be sent to a jury it lacked the means to properly vet, San Joaquin District Attorney James Willett told reporters Monday that he believes his office prosecuted a suspected murderer to the f...

Paranoid Oscar Pistorius Still Thinks Burglar After Him

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA—Insisting that the dangerous individual could be literally anywhere right now, a paranoid, wild-eyed Oscar Pistorius was reportedly overheard muttering to his defense lawyers numerous times during his murder trial Thursday tha...

Report: Local Gas Station Wouldn’t Be That Hard To Rob

LAWRENCE, KS—Citing a range of factors from the lack of security glass to the fact that the cash register is situated right next to the front door, a report published Thursday confirmed that robbing the BP gas station at Reynolds and Murray wouldn...

Highlights From Ariel Castro’s Courtroom Statement

Ariel Castro, the 53-year-old Cleveland man who abducted, imprisoned, and repeatedly raped three women over the course of 11 years, made a brief statement during a court hearing Thursday, shortly before he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Dick Van Dyke Finally Confesses To Zodiac Killings

MALIBU, CA—Saying he had wanted to talk about the subject for years but feared it would damage his career, beloved entertainer Dick Van Dyke confessed Wednesday to being the infamous Zodiac Killer, the serial murderer who terrorized Northern Califor...

Tim Tebow’s Former Teammate Charged With Murder

FRAMINGHAM, MA—Adding yet another wrinkle to the football player and media sensation’s eventful offseason, authorities confirmed today that a former teammate of New England Patriots quarterback Tim Tebow has been arrested and charged with murd...

The Case For And Against George Zimmerman

FOR Typed, signed letter from Martin confirming he attacked Zimmerman Americans have soft spot for nation’s rugged, rawly sexual neighborhood watch volunteers Actions fall within the letter of Florida’s “Get Out Of Your Car, Trac...

Athlete Arrested

HOUSTON—According to numerous sources, a star athlete of the city’s professional sports team was reportedly arrested in the late hours of yesterday evening. A police report confirmed that the high-profile player faces multiple charges, includi...

Popeye's Home Boiglerized

SWEETHAVEN VILLAGE—According to a report filed with the Sweethaven Police Department, the private residence of sailor man Popeye was violently boiglerized at approximately 4:30 a.m.

Co-Op Casino Robbed Again

ANN ARBOR, MI—The member-owned-and-operated casino known as the Sunshine & Sharing Gaming Cooperative was robbed Tuesday for the fourth time...
End Of Section
  • More News
Up Next
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage

Fantasy Sports



Fargo on FX

Tornado Violence: Are Tornadic Images In The Media To Blame?

DEL CITY, OK—It's been almost two weeks now, but life still hasn't returned to normal for the residents of this central Oklahoma town. It probably never will.

On May 3, Del City and its surrounding area was shattered by a shocking act of violence that took 41 lives—not to mention this peaceful farming community's collective innocence.

"This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen here," said Del City resident Bud Swearingen, gazing at the mound of rubble and debris that what was once his home. "Maybe in Bangladesh or some other far-off place, but not here in America's heartland."

Like so many of those caught in their path, the killer tornadoes have died, fading away on the Oklahoma plains. But the questions remain. How could this happen? Why didn't anyone see it coming? What would drive an air mass to commit such a horrible act of violence?

For many, the blame lies with the media.

"Every day in this country, we are bombarded with images of powerful, destructive wind vortices," said Roland Gilchrist, director of the Princeton University Center For Media Studies. "Movies like Twister, TV shows like Fox's World's Scariest Tornadoes, networks like The Weather Channel—all of these only serve to glorify tornado violence and send the message that such destructive behavior is acceptable and even rewarded. We shouldn't be surprised, then, when real-life weather fronts start imitating what they see on TV."

Gilchrist called the similarity between the Oklahoma attack and those depicted in Twister "chilling."

"There's a scene in Twister in which a pick-up truck flips over, and then a farmhouse explodes," he said. "The exact same thing happened in Del City. That can't be mere coincidence."

According to Gilchrist, TV news programs only exacerbate the problem, reinforcing tornado behavior by giving them the attention they crave.

"Whenever a tornado threatens to strike, it's the lead story on the news," Gilchrist said. "That only fosters that kind of violent behavior and increases the odds of it recurring. Meanwhile, you never see any positive, uplifting weather stories on television. When was the last time a show was interrupted to report a beautiful, sunny day? When was the last time a 'cool-breeze warning' icon was placed in the corner of the screen? Never."

A scene from the hit film <I>Twister</I>, which some are saying glamorizes tornado violence and is partially to blame for the recent massacre in Oklahoma.

"It's sad," Gilchrist continued. "There are so many decent, gentle air masses out there, but you'd never know that from watching the 6:00 news."

Dr. Todd Pollack, a psychologist with the National Weather Service, took issue with Gilchrist's condemnation of the media.

"It's a gross oversimplification to say that tornadic violence is the result of media images," Pollack said. "Environmental factors such as temperature, air moisture and barometric pressure have a major effect, along with everything else in the atmosphere in which a tornado develops. Yes, the media do play a role, but there are countless other factors that influence a young tornado's behavior, as well."

Nevertheless, federal legislators, outraged over the latest act of tornadic violence, are calling for a media crackdown. On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) proposed the Responsibility In Meteorological Programming Act, which would place warning labels on "movies, TV shows and albums that glorify violent weather patterns." The act would also ban networks from airing any programming that contains depictions of tornadoes, typhoons, mudslides or earthquakes before 10 p.m.

Families of tornado victims are also fighting back. A $300 million lawsuit has been brought against Twister director Jan De Bont, and similar suits have been filed against the makers of other tornado-glamorizing films, including The Wizard Of Oz. And more than 300 survivors of the Oklahoma tornado attack have filed a class-action suit against director Oliver Stone for the "tornado jailbreak" scene in his film Natural Born Killers, which, like the Oklahoma tragedy, took place on the Great Plains.

As a further measure, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is calling for mandatory life sentences for homicidal funnel clouds.

"We need to send the message, loud and clear, that this sort of weather will not be tolerated," said Roberts, wearing a maroon ribbon in memory of the 41 people slain by the tornado. "Too many lives have been lost. Our nation's tornadoes must learn that there is a price to pay for their actions."

Crime Video