Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Elizabeth Skewes

Second Advisor

Paul Voakes

Third Advisor

Nabil Echchaibi

Fourth Advisor

Stewart Hoover

Fifth Advisor

John Ackerman


The Columbine Massacre holds an important place in America’s cultural memory. This study examines why this particular mass shooting, as opposed to hundreds of others, made such a strong impact. Using Conjunctural analysis, I summarize the historical factors that made this shooting a ruptural moment that represented the Moral Panic over youth delinquency in the 1990s. This study also examines how the vibrant narrative about the Columbine Massacre, complete with trench coats, Nazis, and bullied outcasts still echoes across media coverage of mass shootings today despite its weak relationship to the facts of the case. Content analysis guides conclusions about just how far removed discussions of prevention were from most of the media coverage of the shooting which primarily focused on victims. Prevention remains stagnant today as sharing a Facebook post becomes synonymous with gun violence prevention advocacy in the public mind. After interviewing prevention experts who hope to deepen the conversation about mass shootings to address their complexity, I suggest a new media model that can inform the audiences of ways to affect real change. Using historical analysis, content, analysis, and interviews with prevention experts, this study concludes that present-day prevention is limited by a narrative of senselessness and focus on victims that dominates media coverage today.

Available for download on Friday, December 21, 2018