MAIN Article                                       by      Michael Hammerschlag


There are  a couple of urgent risks looming in the next month, if you spend enough time studying Loren Coleman’s important new book  THE COPYCAT EFFECT  and talking to him. First is the risk of students copying shootings that happened in Red Lake MN. The one month anniversary of that shooting is near the nightmare time for all schools and domestic terrorism personnel.  First is Patriots Day (the start of the American Revolution in the battles of Lexington and Concord- April 19 actually, but now celebrated on the third Monday of April- the 18th this year), The 19th is the day the Waco Koresh compound burned in 1993, the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and right-wing racist Richard Snell’s execution in 1995, the day of Federal raid on an earlier extremist murderous Christian Identity group (inc. Snell) The Covenant, Sword, and Arm (CSA) in northern Arkansas in 1985- ten years before OK City.


Kerry Noble was the second in command of the CSA in the 4 day standoff, which came a hair from ending in a bloodbath like Waco. He negotiated the surrender of 80 odd people, who had 30 gallon vats of cyanide and plans for putting it in a towns’ water supply, and plans in 1984 for attacking the Murrah Federal Bldg. that Timothy McVeigh destroyed a decade later.*    “It’s not like the (right-wing) movement picked April 19th,” said Noble: “Our siege started on the 19th, the Waco fire started then, then you had Snell’s execution set for April 19th- the (extremist) movement considered that a slap in the face.”   Since imprisoned and reformed, Noble wrote Tabernacle of Hate about his experiences.


The next day, April 20 is worse: it’s the date of the horrific school shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton CO in 1999 (which now closes then) and the date of Hitler’s birthday. Jeff Weise, the hulking 6’ 250 lb. teased Goth shooter in Red Lake, was a Nazi dabbler. The day after that, April 21st, is the one month anniversary of Red Lake.  “Between April 18th and 26th is the window where we could see some school shootings,” warns Coleman.  “There will be so much security on the 19th and 20th that it might push attacks later or earlier, and April 26th is Rudolph Hess’s birthday. School shooters aren’t stupid.”    The extreme importance of dates among troubled individuals and religio-extremists can’t be overemphasized. Noble explains,    “Why is something happening on this day? What is the historical, spiritual, and symbolic significance behind that day. If it’s something you’re initiating, then you want God’s blessing. The number 30 (day interval) has the significance of maturity or responsibility or redemption.   Often copycat events often happen 1-3 days, a week, or a month later; or on the same day of the month, or on the anniversary in a later year.


There were additional pressures on Weise by the shameful media circus surrounding Terry Schiavo because of his shattered family. Coleman illuminates a corner of Weise’s dark world: “The other thing about Schiavo, that nobody connected with Red Lake, is that Jeff Weise’s mother was brain damaged and had been in a hospital for 4 years. Here he is: his father killed himself 8 years ago and mother’s brain dead in an assisted care home and he sees all this stuff about Schiavo, day after day after day. He was a fuse that got (blown) by the Schiavo situation.”    Virtually everything.. that came out of Terri Schiavo’s council’s mouth was factually inaccurate and said with purposeful neglect for truth, and news media did an abhorrent job of checking the public record,” opined Charles Davis of the Freedom of Information Center. Coleman continued, “I think he may have wounded some cousins (in the school), and it may have had something to do with family living situation. Now they’re saying there were 20 kids involved in the “plot”. If you interview 100 students, you’re probably going to find 20 who knew some part of the plot. But it’s not fair to say they were part of the plot.”


Weise’s father killed himself after a day standoff with police and his mother was brain-damaged in a drunk driving accident. In Weise’s apparently silent Flash-animation trial-run assault rifle murder video clip,  the audio of the shots knocks you out of the chair with shock. The victims, one a KKK man in a hood, heads disappear in a splash of red, he grenades a police car and puts the gun in his mouth. This is a homicidal, very violent video that was a giant flashing warning sign.


* Noble continues,  “Only a handful of people knew about the CSA plot to blow up the same building and my belief is he (McVeigh) got in contact with Snell to help him pick out the target from prison. In those days in Arkansas prisons, mail wasn’t read going in or out, so it easily could have happened that way. (Got) down to xxx and Snell going a couple of times to case out (Murrah) building and main guy building the rocket launcher that we were going to use in attack. If the rocket launcher hadn’t gone off in his hands, if think we would have used it…. (It’s a) situation that what you do is going to spur everybody else…. start a chain reaction. It is delusional, but it’s so easy to get caught up in deception.”


Apocalypse Now, and for the Next Five WeeksNY Times


The other possible risky business is the airing of the NBC miniseries REVELATIONS (April 13coverth Wed + Sun, and continuing for 5 subsequent weeks), about the coming Apocalypse. It is pretty well done (review below), by the producer who did The Omen, which I thought to be scariest movie ever. With vast influence of religion and evangelicals in government, some serious apocalyptic groups may be close to feeling "empowered" enough to follow through with a self induced mass extinction, and with a 5 week  series (which may get huge publicity), there's enough time for other groups to copy them. “Chances are it could,” said Rod Gelatt, communication professor at University of Missouri’s J-school. “I won't predict anywhere like 100-500 copycat suicides based on a limited television mini-series.  Maybe 23 to 66? says Coleman,” only half in jest.  “Most apocalyptic people try to live a good life while they wait for the end,” countered Mark, an evangelical Brown University graduate student. “But, it does seem kind of salacious- people’s fascination with destruction.”  “I’m very negative on doomsday and fear mongering. I just see a lot of people who’re very.. anxious and worried,” says cult expert and therapist Steve Hassan of  The Freedom of Mind Center.


As "signs" for the unstable, you also have the death of the pope, who apparently was born on an eclipse and whose funeral was on an eclipse (astronomical events were triggers for Heaven’s Gate and Solar Temple suicides); the agonizing Schiavo circus, an apocalyptic sermon near Milwaukee by a church leader causes a member to come back and start blasting cultish church members; another incident April 4th in Stuttgart where a Tamil went into an evangelical church and started hacking people with a sword. Of course the X Files  and Millenium shows used alot of that End Times imagery, but the whole thing has never been so clearly drawn for such a mass audience and extremists never been so ascendant. NBC has been promoting it with this muscular Christianity: finally Christians are getting something that they need..  about them, when of course this apocalyptic obsession affects only a small subset of the religious. “The Old Testament actually says ‘How terrible for you who want the Lord’s judgment to come,’” explained Mark.


“Evangelical groups have now connected up with the Catholics because it’s so conservative and moralistic… and they’ve been feeding off of each other… That Brookfield WI thing happened right at the end of the Atlanta situation, (which) was really evangelical. Here you have Ashley Smith saying that cause she read this evangelical book she was able to talk Brian Nichols out of killing more people. Got a $70,000 reward and next thing you know a church is being shot up in Brookfield,” expounded Coleman.


Coleman’s book details the copycat psychology inherent in the horrific and bizarre cult suicides: Jonestown, the Heaven’s Gate comet Hale-Bopp suicide (of which I  broke a part of the story), and The Solar Temple (74 combined poisonings and murders associated with the solstices in chalets in France, Switzerland, and Quebec in 1994-97). 5 of the Solar Temple members burned themselves on the same day as The Heaven’s Gate people were picking up their spaceship. The danger in these doomsday cults, apart from some not totally tragic natural selection, is that many murder the recalcitrant members who don’t want to pass into the great beyond, like in Jonestown. “Murder and suicide are just two sides of the coin,” says Coleman flatly. In an almost unknown event in America (“subtle racism”, say several),  “priests” of the apocalyptic fundamentalist Catholic cult Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God  nailed shut the doors and windows of their southern Uganda church and set it ablaze. They had been expecting the end of the world at the millennium, but by March 2000, members wanted the money back that they had given the church… so the monster leaders crystallized their apocalyptic vision, murdering immense numbers of people in 5 pits besides the Carrie-like church. From 800 to 1600 died in probably the worst mass murder of any modern cult.


This is the worst danger: that one of these American fanatical apocalyptic groups could pull the plug, and one of them work in a dam, or nuclear power plant, or weapons depot, and think ‘maybe I can help this apocalypse along and kick-start the deaths.’      “If they’re that close to edge, movies like that (Revelations) could push them over,” says Noble.  “They want to see some closure, no matter what it is... You’re so isolated from society and you don’t have anything to balance out the rhetoric and the propaganda.”   Like the Branch Davidians, who immolated their children. Aum Shinriko were very bright, while the rich Moonies now own 2 major media organs in Washington DC, and their strange leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who claims backing by Lenin, Hitler, and Stalin,  “was "crowned" and declared himself the messiah” in the Senate Dirkson Bldg. last year.    “Clearly the movements are stronger,” says Hassan.  “My experience since the Bush Administration is that major media do not want to do cult stories or mind control stories and if the do… they’re not going to call them a cult- they’re going to call them a sect and talk about their beliefs.” 


Which apocalyptic group is close to edge, down by the corner?   “Warren Jeffs is a Mormon fundamentalist polygamist that claims to be Prophet. It’s a total cult where his word is God’s word and whatever he says goes. If he says pick up guns and shoot, they will!”   With 10,000 members in compounds in Arizona, British Columbia, and Texas, Jeffs is a ruthless dictator who strips men and women of their family and homes on whims, chooses who is to marry whom in as little as 2 hours, and keeps 80 odd wives.    “He claimed April 6th was going to be the end of the world- really crazy… and he has a sheriff in the cult” warns Hassan. On that day sheriffs and FBI went to a compound to check on the safety of acolytes, but found nothing amiss.


The only good thing?   “I don’t think he lets them watch TV,” muses Steve Hassan.



REVIEW: Wed + Sun 9pm NBC:    “It’s as probable for a tornado traveling through a junkyard to produce Buckingham Palace than for life to emerge from the Big Bang,” says the teacher at the start of Revelations… and he’s the scientist. The series, produced by Omen maker David Seltzer is quite well done, with the likeable Bill Pullman playing a scientist whose daughter has been kidnapped and murdered by a Satanist who excised her heart in a ritual sacrifice. Pullman goes to Chile and helps capture the fiend, and later is confronted by a Nun (the unworldly Natasha McElhone – the wife in Solaris) whose sister has died in an apocalyptic cult in Africa, and who drags him to the bedside of a young brain dead Florida girl who was hit by lightning. Of course, this girl is talking.. in Latin, and it’s about the end of the world. Evil secular doctors are eager to harvest her organs while the Sister’s foundation staves them off (doctors love to pull the plug on speaking patients). The girl draws a stick figure (with ancient writing) that is the same as Pullman’s daughter used to. The parallels with the Schiavo circus are probably coincidental, but jarring. Signs abound: a shadow of Jesus on the cross on a Mexican cliff, a lone child pulled from floating wreckage of a Greek ferry, the Satanist chopping his finger off without bleeding.


I personally love these apocalyptic movies, but feel this is in so many ways a sop to the religious right, whose penetration into government is alarming. It feeds the creationist fervor, the cheap exploitive political acts behind the Schiavo carnival of fools. At the first meeting the Sister wisely advises the dubious Pullman to start contributing to religion. “All the signs and symbols are currently in place for the end of days.” They allow Pullman to visit the killer of his daughter in prison, dubiously unmonitored, who chops his finger off in the feeding slot, and doesn’t bleed. This sends Pullman on a quest for the answers, being dragged kicking and screaming towards the Truth, like Gregory Peck so long ago in The Omen (actually saw that world premiere in LA). Portentous Bible quotes start each section. When the girl dies, Pullman holds her hand, and she.. awakes. Personally I don’t think we should rush this apocalypse business- some nightmare virus may make it real for hundreds of millions soon enough.                                    Rating: 6 out of 10



Michael Hammerschlag's commentary and articles ( have appeared in Seattle Times, Providence. Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Hawaii Advertiser, Capital Times, MediaChannel; and Moscow News, Tribune, Times,  and Guardian. He's been a TV reporter, foreign correspondent, and produced documentaries over 25 years. He spent 2 years in Russia as the empire collapsed,  he broke the story of the faked spaceship photo altered from a U. Hawaii telescope pic that provoked the Heavens Gate cultists to commit suicide, and once wrote a weekly column on television.