What will we name Stephen Paddock’s mass murder?
I’m a news writer. In the last few days, I’ve recounted the events of the massacre this weekend enough times to knock it off with my eyes closed.
Stephen Paddock, 64, checked into his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay days before he showered bullets down upon a country music concert on the Vegas Strip, 59 dead, over 400 injured…
By today I felt the nagging thought: You don’t need to explain this, Margaret, everyone with a pulse knows what happened over the weekend.
But what should I call this event, the most deadly single gun-related, civilian massacre in American history?
By definition, Stephen Paddock committed a massacre.
1. An indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of many people.
Informal: A heavy defeat of a sporting team or contestant.
1. Deliberately and brutally kill (many people.)
Informal: Inflict a heavy defeat on (a sporting opponent)
Informal: Perform (a piece of music, a play, etc.) very ineptly.
There’s a whole thesis defending the use of sports to replace violent conflict, but that’s for another time.
Here are a few massacres from the last ten years:
Charleston Church Massacre
2014 Peshawar School Massacre
Mekong River Massacre
Fort Hood Massacre
Virginia Tech Massacre
We can glean that it’s standard practice to name massacres over where they occurred. But look closer: The Orlando Massacre took place at the Pulse Nightclub, but it’s not called the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. The Bataclan Massacre took place during the November 2015 Paris Attacks, when multiple locations in Paris were attacked in one evening, with 90 deaths at a concert inside the Bataclan. The 2014 Peshawar School Massacre may have been given its year-location name to help distinguish it from the similar Beslan Hostage Crisis which occurred at a school in 2004. The Charleston Church Massacre is unique in that churches appear to earn church massacre as a moniker while schoolchildren who are murdered are not remembered in an event named a school massacre, though it is perfectly reasonable to refer to massacres of school children “school shootings.”
Generally, massacres are named for the building, town or city in which they occur. Dates are added to prevent confusion with similar events. The September 11th attacks will remain The September 11th attacks because of the enormity of the situation.
So, if massacres are named for the building or city in which they occur, where does that leave Stephen Paddock? He was shooting from the Mandalay Bay into a crowd below. The crowd were attending the Route 91 Music Festival which was kitty corner from the Mandalay at 3901 S Las Vegas Blvd, at the Las Vegas Village.
I’ve called it the Mandalay Bay Massacre, but that may be out of a strange affection for the Kipling poem.
Instead, I think that Stephen Paddock’s spree will be simply known as the Las Vegas Massacre. The tweets are all with love to Vegas.The dual locations prevent it from truly being a Mandalay Bay Massacre. It took place late at night in the Pacific time zone which meant that the east coast was watching the evening’s panic in the early morning, so even settling on a date would cause confusion.
Now that that’s settled, we can turn back to the horror and try to answer the question:
What made him do it?