Local News

Experts say Flanagan's use of social media was calculated

Posted August 27, 2015
Updated August 28, 2015

— Some watched on live television Wednesday as Vester Flanagan shot and killed two journalists and wounded a woman being interviewed in Roanoke, Va.

Others saw a first-person perspective online when the gunman posted videos to social media of the murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who worked at the WDBJ newsroom where he was fired in 2013.

Lori Brown, a criminology professor at Meredith College, said Flanagan’s actions are textbook.

“Yeah, he has a grudge. He’s not getting what he thinks he should get,” she said. “He fits it perfectly. I mean the whole desire to be on the media, his anger. He talked about he was ready to blow up. He fits all of that.”

When the gunman planned out the deadly shooting, she said, part of the plan did not include hiding the evidence but instead using it to gain fame.

“The new thing is really the media,” Brown said.

At North Carolina Central University, the use of social media was the topic Thursday in professor Russell Robinson’s mass communications class.

“The person who did this, they are not a rookie,” he said. “They actually had some media background. They knew how.”

Flanagan understood the instant access to the world through social media, Robinson said.

“Gil Scott Heron said the revolution will not be televised. I agree. It’s now been digitized,” he said.

Many are now using social media as a new platform to establish a cause. Dylann Roof, who is accused of killing nine church members in Charleston, S.C., posted his thoughts on social media before he was captured.

Intentions behind the reasons to take to social media may vary. But the case of Vester Flanagan seems clear to Brown.

“People will regret how they treated me later. I'll be famous, even if I'm not here to enjoy it,” she said of Flanagan.


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  • Arron Lee Aug 28, 2015
    user avatar

    Come on WRAL, say it with me, "he was a racist," Now that wasn't so bad. He had racial issues and plastered messages to support that on social media and in this "manifesto." All the media wants to do is talk about "why" he might have done what he did. Really, doesn't matter, anyone that is a racist have their own reasons but that doesn't justify their actions.

  • Brian Crocker Aug 28, 2015
    user avatar

    Editors do your job. "Fits perfectly" to what?.