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July 20, 2012

Let's set aside the "obviously insane" conclusion for now [Fritzworth]

One would think we have learned nothing from the 20th century.

Among the various news reports and statements by officials today, in the wake of the Aurora shootings, is a constant refrain that the shooter himself, James Holmes, is obviously insane, deranged, or otherwise non compos mentis -- indeed, that only a person so afflicted could carry out this act.

Horseshit. And I use that word very deliberately.

Did we somehow forget the tens of millions of people imprisoned, tortured, experimented upon, savagely raped, and/or killed in a variety of manners by Communist, Imperial (Japan), and Nazi governments? That this mass torture, rape and murder required extensive planning and prolonged effort by thousands of men and women who were otherwise well-educated, sane, rational, and from long-established civilizations? That people of high sanity and cultural refinement are capable of ordering, overseeing, and even carrying out absolutely horrific acts? The fact that equally horrific acts -- though on a smaller scale -- occur on a daily basis throughout much of the world, often approved or even carried out by the local government officials? (And let's not get into the child sex traffic among UN peacekeepers.)

Why, then, do we immediately assume Holmes is insane, when frankly all the evidence indicates otherwise? You do not complete an undergrad degree in neuroscience -- and then get accepted to grad school for a PhD in the same -- while being unable to understand exactly what you are doing.

Now, I am willing to grant that Jared Loughner -- shooter of Rep. Giffords and murderer of several bystanders -- may well be wacko. His history during the months leading up to the shooting strongly indicate bizarre behavior and strange obsessions. And besides, man, just look at him.

I am far less convinced that Holmes is crazy or insane. Unlike with Loughner, no one interviewed to date who has had contact with Holmes at various times in his life, including currently, has noticed anything peculiar or unusual about Holmes -- quite the contrary.

This was a very well-planned and executed attack. resulting in what I believe is now the largest mass shooting in US history. And it could have been far, far worse. There is speculation -- well founded, I believe -- that the reason Holmes left his apartment meticulously booby-trapped, with a single song playing loudly over and over again over his stereo system, was in the hope that someone (landlord, police, neighbor) would open the door to his apartment, set off the explosions, and thus draw all the first responders in the area to his apartment complex before he began his shooting rampage -- thus giving him more time to kill more people.

These are not the acts of someone who has lost touch with reality or who is otherwise delusional. They are, instead, the acts of someone who is very methodical and rational in his evil. If Holmes were truly crazy, he probably would have blown himself up while rigging his apartment or otherwise given away his plans. Instead, it is only through the providence that no one did, in fact, open his apartment door before his attack began that we are not dealing with an even more horrific list of casualties, both at the theaters and at his apartment complex.

Thinking on Holmes, I am reminded of the character Harold Lauder in Stephen King's novel The Stand: someone who is bright, capable, but for whatever reason comes to a decision to inflict his will on others through violence -- and yet clearly to the end is rational and has both choice and opportunity as to which path to pursue. However, so far at least, there is no indication that Holmes was ever overweight, pimply, unpopular and teased/rejected by his peers (as was Harold) -- most indications appear to be to the contrary.

When Sandra and I first spoke on the phone this morning about the Aurora massacre, while I was in the DFW airport en route to Denver, she wondered out loud what could have made Holmes do this. Knowing almost no details about Holmes at that point, I simply quoted Alfred from "The Dark Knight": "Some men just want to watch the world burn." Given Holmes reported self-identification as the Joker (though I will point out, as everyone seems to overlook, that the Joker usually has green, not red, hair), that statement may have been unconsciously prophetic.

And, no, the Joker (at least in "The Dark Knight") was definitely not insane -- he just was willing to operate well outside the norms of civilized society to achieve his ends.

As, apparently, was Holmes. ..fritz..

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posted by Open Blogger at 10:32 PM

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