From John Hinkley, Jr.’s, assassination attempt on former President Reagan in 1981 to obsessive fans targeting Rihanna, Kendall Jenner, and Gwyneth Paltrow (above) in 2016, stalkers have always gone to great lengths to get their messages across to the objects of their affection.
A recent study has found that stalkers are increasingly targeting celebrities, athletes, and other pop-culture icons rather than politicians — and social media plays a prominent role.
The study, which was published on October 12, 2016, in the journal Behavioral Sciences and the Law, examines 58 attackers between the years 1995 and 2015 and concludes that while 38 percent of perpetrators stalked government or judicial figures, 34 percent targeted celebrities.
A previous Secret Service report that examined attacks on public figures between 1949 and 1995 and ended with the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczysnki, found that only 19 percent of attacks had celebrity targets during those years.
The researchers also introduced the term “publicly intimate figure” to describe the “sociocultural blurring of public and private lives among the targets, and its possible role in some attackers’ perceptions and motivations.”
In the paper, the authors describe dozens of at-risk people who are prominent in pop culture including Paris Hilton,Tom Brokaw, and Roanoke television reporter Alison Parker, who was killed on live TV by an angry former coworker.Researchers found that all of the attackers were males, many with a psychiatric disorder, most were grandiose, and most had both a violent and nonviolent criminal history. In the past, attackers tended to target politicians in order to attain fame and notoriety — epitomized in John Hinkley, Jr.’s, 1981 attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in order to impress the actress Jodie Foster.
Now, according to the study, the motives are more “angry and personal.” In 23 percent of the cases, the attackers lash out due to the fact that they are dissatisfied with a judicial or other government process. Collateral injury or death occurred in almost a third of the incidents.
Celebrities who document their entire lives — and often, most troublingly, their exact physical locations — on Snapchat and Twitter make themselves vulnerable, as Kim Kardashian found out after armed gunmen allegedly robbed her of over $10 million worth of diamonds she had recently shown off on Instagram.
John Rinaldi, the man who was convicted of stalking and harassing Brooke Shields, and sentenced to 60 days in jail, appeared on Dr. Phil and provided a window into the mind of a person who believes that they have a celebrity connection. Rinaldi, who the actress claims sent her disturbing messages on Twitter and targeted her family in New York’s West Village, was visibly angry on the show. He claims the case has destroyed his life, and he blames Brooke Shields for the death of his sister.
Another case with a tragic end was the deadly shooting of Voice alum Christina Grimmie in 2016. An obsessed fan who imagined he had a relationship with Grimmie showed up to a public meet-and-greet and shot the singer multiple times before turning the gun on himself.
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Main photo: Gwyneth Paltrow [Andrea Raffin/Wikimedia Commons]