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Fort Hood, Redux

YYW
Posts: 36,375
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4/3/2014 11:24:51 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
As many of you are by now probably aware, a shooting took place at Fort Hood on Wednesday of this week.

The Wall Street Journal Reports:

"The soldier accused of Wednesday's deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas was undergoing treatment for a combination of depression, anxiety and insomnia, but no evidence has emerged linking his mental condition to his deployments overseas, military officials said Thursday."

http://online.wsj.com...

The New York Post observed that the shooter was "also on medication for his problems, including Ambien for a sleep disorder."

http://nypost.com...

I want to at this moment address Drudge Report's idiotic implication that there may have been some causal link between Ambien and the shooter's actions. There is no evidence for that claim, and it's the kind of veritable horse sh!t that no self respecting journalist would ever even suggest without evidence -but hey, this is fvcking Matt Drudge.

In any event, the post article continued:

There was no record that there was any sign he was likely to commit violence either against himself or others, "so the plan [going] forward was just to continue to monitor and treat him as deemed appropriate," he said. Lopez "had a clean record" behaviorally, McHugh added. There were "no major misbehaviors that we"re yet aware of," he said. Lopez had one weapon, a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun, that was not registered with base authorities, as rules require. It was unknown how much ammo he was carrying."

No matter how many times I hear about mass shootings like this, it still sickens me to the core. That any one person could take others' lives in so arbitrarily is repulsing beyond words. Yet it still happens, and there at least appears to be nothing to do about it. This guy's mental health screening would have come back clean -insofar as he was not viewed as any kind of a threat. There was no indication, no warning sign other than that the guy got into an argument with someone else before he went on a murderous rampage.

Now, as reporters try to make sense of this, the impetus is to search for something to make sense of this. Undetected mental health problems seem to be a popular route to take. Matt Drudge's news outfit (if you could call it that) had the temerity to subtly imply some causal link between ambien and his behavior. Psychological side effects from drugs is a less popular, but still wholly conventional approach. And while both are possibilities that we can't rule out, there's also not a whole lot of evidence for either. But, I want to offer here, an alternative theory.

All such shooters (beginning with Columbine through present) have been male, at least adolescents or young men, most of them white or latino, from lower to lower middle class socioeconomic backgrounds, some had diagnosed mental health or emotional problems. But, a couple of things stand out:

These guys all had access to weapons, which raises questions in and of itself. Are people who are more likely to commit violent acts more likely also to own or have access to gun? That's not to imply that gun ownership is a cause of violent crime, but rather an indication that people who have the capacity to be violent are more likely to own guns. If the latter, than our focus shouldn't be on guns, but on the kind of person who would seek access to a gun, or any weapon, with the intent of harming other people.

Implicitly, that is my way of saying I don't care about the Second Amendment aspect of this, that everyone always wants to talk about in response to these things... or, I at least don't care about that now. What I do care about is why the hell this keeps happening. What pushes a person to a point that they could arbitrarily kill other people en masse like that, and what kind of a person is likely to or capable of being pushed to that point? And I have a theory on both of those issues.

The most glaring aspect of this is the categorical lack of human empathy that is/would be required of necessity to kill other people in that kind of a fashion. The fact that mass shootings like this are arbitrary killings, that says something about how the shooter viewed (consciously or unconsciously) other people. In this case and others, the shooters couldn't view their victims as people; other humans who have inherent worth and who deserve to have their rights respected. The way they were killed is enough to indicate that in those cases, the shooters lost touch with what it meant to be human -but "losing touch with what it means to be human" sounds like one of those bullsh!t philosophical abstractions one might expect from a wishy washy metaphysicist.

What I mean by "losing touch with what it means to be human" centralizes on the fact that as people, we are all precarious (have the capacity to be harmed/not secure) and from the precarity inherent to existence we derive conventions which govern our interactions with one another in a fair and equitable way. And whether we all respect other's dignity just as our de facto mode of operation as a result of an inherent moral compass or as the result of our socialization (I'm more inclined to believe the latter), the fact that these shooters chose to not only ignore but usurp those parameters of human interaction suggests that the person who could be pushed to that point, regardless of preexisting mental health problems (remind me to talk more about that later) sought a kind of power -the exercise of which is not without meaning to the shooter.

There are all kinds of power, but the one that's relevant here is that this shooter wanted to act in defiance and so with impunity. The second Fort Hood shooter killed himself, and I think that he planned to kill himself because he knew that he didn't want to fact the consequences of his actions. Most of these guys kill themselves, in the end, or at least try. And in the act of taking his own life, he was also showing that he not only could exercise power over others, but that he also had that same power over himself. You might even say that this shooter, and others like him, sought to act as sovereigns. It goes without saying that this is incredibly dark, inhumanely grotesque stuff here -but let's put this in context.

The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research "found that college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than they were in 1979, with the steepest decline coming in the last 10 years." The results showed that "between 1979 and 2009... empathic concern dropped 48 percent."

http://www.boston.com...

If this is a trend across the board, and there's other compelling research to suggest that among Millennials it is, I think these guys who perpetrate these shootings are the ones who, if we measured empathetic capacity in degrees and they answered honestly, would almost wholly lack any ability to understand or share other's feelings as well as any interest in learning how to do so. Mass shootings, then, are at once a fundamentally narcissistic and characteristically desperate exercise in arbitrary futility which is rooted in an effort to exercise power at others' expense. So, that explains "how" this happens: they lost touch with what it meant to be human insofar as they must have wholly lacked any empathetic capacity, but that still leaves unanswered the question of why -which I'll talk about later.

--

My apologies for any run on sentences, or other grammatical errors. I didn't edit this, because I'm too tired to do that right now. I'm still working this out in my mind, and I'm sure there are things I've overlooked. M
Tsar of DDO
YYW
Posts: 36,375
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4/4/2014 12:03:17 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
(Ok, back once more, now that I've got 8k characters more to write on here.)

Recall that the kind of person who could be pushed to the point of killing people in a Fort Hood type outbreak would have to lack any degree of human empathy (which is in and of itself is at minimum a personality disorder: extreme narcissism, that at least appears to take the form of psychopathy). Additionally, that most of these mass shooting incidents are both incidences of mass murder and suicide is significant. Ordinary explanations of suicidal behavior are insufficient because this isn't only a question of self harm, but of both harming oneself and others -and doing so fatally. Ordinary explanations of murder are similarly insufficient, because the harm caused isn't like most murders, nor only murder of others but also murder of self such that there is no specifically targeted individual other than the shooter himself when he takes his own life.

These aren't quite crimes of only passion, either -but violent and premeditated, yet arbitrary incidences of nothing less than mania. But, just being a narcissistic psychopath/sociopath (the distinction here is hard to make because a psychopath will make no discrimination in who s/he harms among those with whom a psychopath is closely associated, whereas a sociopath will only harm those the sociopath does not especially care about) who has access to weapons doesn't necessarily cause a person to arbitrarily take other people's lives even if that is the only kind of person who could be pushed to a point of doing so.

I think it's about needing to feel powerful, in response to feelings of powerlessness -and I think that the task of psychological profilers to screen people from that perspective. As a rule, I think it could be established that those who are the least empathetic and who feel most powerless are probably the most likely to kill others and themselves in that way. The fact that societal empathy levels continue to precipitously drop, and the fact that gun ownership/possession in the United States is such that access is practically ubiquitous makes the need for identifying those individuals that much more pressing.

But I also think that there's a bolder way to combat this: teach empathy. That happens through getting students to read books about other people's lives, and be interested in them. Chekov, Dostoevsky, Austen and Dickens -especially. It requires that children be actively taught that they have an ethical responsibility to care about other people, and not to think only of themselves. In the past, that kind of communal solidarity was ingrained in society by the church, but now, it's not. Getting people to love other people, to value other people and to respect other people, I think, is going to become the single greatest challenge of the modern age where lasting communities are evermore fragmented and where our lives exist in evermore increasing isolation. I know that's a far out solution, but I think there's something to it that's at least worth exploring.

Teaching people to take responsibility for their actions and their lives is in all probability going to be even harder than that -and it goes far beyond merely holding people accountable for what they've done. It requires that people be encouraged to, from birth, set meaningful goals for their own lives and map strategies to achieve them. It also requires that people be taught coping strategies for how to deal with failure, tragedy and loss. It necessitates facilitating social interconnectedness, that people may not only be held accountable by those closest to them, but that they have support networks for when their best laid plans gang aft agley -that their suffering is not in isolation, and that it does not create the kind of conditions where a person could be pushed to harm others.

There's something really, deeply fvcked about a society where people shoot other people and themselves. I don't know that I've sufficiently covered everything here, but I think this is a start.

I'd love to know what you all think about this.
Tsar of DDO
ararmer1919
Posts: 362
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4/4/2014 11:44:01 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I think the main problem you have and why you are so upset/concerned about the whys is because you haven't excepted the fact that, quite frankly, some people are just born arseholes. Iv seen people do some pretty sick and demented crap for any number of reasons (like strapping explosives onto a 9 year old girl) and Iv found that the best way to reason why people do sick crap like this is because some people are just naturally di(ks. We can't change this nor can we always prevent them from causing their chaos. The best thing we can do is try to weed out the ones we can.
YYW
Posts: 36,375
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4/4/2014 12:00:07 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/4/2014 11:44:01 AM, ararmer1919 wrote:
I think the main problem you have and why you are so upset/concerned about the whys is because you haven't excepted* the fact that, quite frankly, some people are just born arseholes.

*accepted

To say that people are "born @ssholes" implies a kind of understanding about human nature that I'm just not going to buy into. Some people just act like @ssholes, sure, but to say that they're born that way is something different entirely. But, that's a minor point. And yet, even if some people are just @ssholes, that doesn't mitigate the fact that this is a problem that doesn't exist only on an individual level.

Iv seen people do some pretty sick and demented crap for any number of reasons (like strapping explosives onto a 9 year old girl) and Iv found that the best way to reason why people do sick crap like this is because some people are just naturally di(ks.

That actually sounds more like something a jihadist with an anti-western vendetta would do. That's more than just being a d!ck. That's being a terrorist.

We can't change this nor can we always prevent them from causing their chaos.

Actually, I think we can -but the kind of problem you cited above (terrorists using children as suicide bombers) is, like the problem with the latest Fort Hood shooter is more than just an individual problem. It's a cultural problem, as well. But, the solutions to both of those problems are pretty different.

The best thing we can do is try to weed out the ones we can.

If by "weed out" you mean "detect preemptively" then, yes, that would be nice, but it's damn near impossible to do. I mean, we can isolate the minimal necessary conditions that could produce someone who could do this, but even with that criterion, that doesn't mean that it's going to be a flawless, perfectly successful approach by itself.
Tsar of DDO