Most commentators have stopped saying Derrick Bird “snapped” and are now thrashing around instead to find his motive. I think we may need to go back forty years for that. Derrick Bird was born in 1957, and I think it may be significant that he was born within a few years of two other mass-murders, Michael Ryan (Hungerford) born in 1960, Thomas Hamilton (Dunblane) born in 1952. So I think it’s not the year they committed their crime that matters, nor their age at the time, but that they were young and impressionable when Hollywood released films such as these:
Get Carter (1971)
High Plains Drifter (1973)
Death Wish (1974)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
These were highly acclaimed ultra-violent films that dealt with retribution, portraying a solitary individual successfully exacting revenge and being widely admired by the cinema-going pubic for it. Allowing of course that each of these three murderers had different “triggers” that prompted them to put their fantasies into effect, I do think it’s possible films such as these could have provided them with a rationale for their actions. That was to settle scores and die in a blaze of glory. In their world, the outcomes were justified.
Here’s the score-settling tally for Bird: He settled scores with his brother and the family solicitor over a family dispute; he settled scores with his taxi-driving colleagues over alleged fare stealing; he tried to settle a score with a scuba-diving instructor; and he targeted passers-by seemingly at random. I wonder if they weren’t as random as we imagine, but perhaps they represented fare-paying passengers who he felt had disrespected him in some way. I can certainly imagine as a taxi driver he might have a problem with cyclists. I’m not saying all taxi drivers do or should, but seeing as he now seems to be an intolerant individual maybe he saw cyclists generally as a nuisance. So, see one, kill one. Likewise if he sees someone who reminds him of passengers who never tip, or someone who might have thrown-up in his cab once, or maybe even the guy who robbed him. It’s death by association.
You need the means and you need the motive to carry out something like this, but I think you also crucially need the self-justification.