January 15th, 2013

With mass murderers, a different profile

I have a new piece up at PJ. Please take a look.

28 Responses to “With mass murderers, a different profile”

  1. Don Carlos Says:

    It strikes me that trying to profile the one-in-ten-million that becomes a mass murderer is inherently absurd. To what use can such a profile, even if it can be defined, be put in our heretofore nominally free society, without a dragnet that ensnares thousands of others who share some profiled features?

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “But there are no simple answers to the question of what makes mass murderers tick, as desperately as we might want to find them, as much as we would like to comprehend what may be incomprehensible.”

    In the final analysis that’s true but important explanative factors are being ignored.

    As The Giant, Gaping Hole in Sandy Hook Reporting makes clear.

    “it is simply indisputable that most perpetrators of school shootings and similar mass murders in our modern era were either on – or just recently coming off of – psychiatric medications.”

    The side effects of these FDA ‘black box’ warning labeled drugs being taken by millions of Americans include “homicidal ideation” (murderous thoughts) “mania,” “insomnia,” “anxiety,” “agitation,” “confusion,” “amnesia,” “depression,” “paranoid reaction,” “psychosis,” “hostility,” “delirium,” “hallucinations,” “abnormal thinking,” “depersonalization” and “lack of emotion,” among others.

    Here’s a sortable database of 4,800 articles in the media mentioning antidepressants, violence and anti-social behavior.

    The correlation between the rise in mass murders and the prescribing of antidepressants is compelling.

  3. Ike Says:

    In addition to the problematic side effects – and perhaps even the primary effects – of the medications, consider this: none of these horrific mass murders would have occurred had the perpetrator been institutionalized without possibility of release as he should have been.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Ike: wrong.

    Very few of these perps gave any reason to institutionalize them prior to their crimes. A few, yes, if the rules about institutionalization were not as stringent as they now are. But for most, no—unless you are suggesting we institutionalize everyone for life who seems a bit odd, and everyone who’s had any problems. That is quite a suggestion, to say the least.

    My guess is you’re not a libertarian.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain: no, it is not compelling. I have read a lot of the research, and I do not find it so–although going into the details would take a very long post, and I’m not going to do it in this comment.

    Do you know how many people in America are on these meds? Do you know how many mass murders there are?

    See this for the first question. And as for the answer to the second, it’s “extremely rare.”

    Of course, since people with psychological troubles are often put on these meds, some (or perhaps even many) of those very few individuals who go on to commit mass murder will have been taking these meds. But causation is an entirely different kettle of fish. I have read a great deal of research on the subject of these drugs and violence, and remain unconvinced that there is a causative connection. And I’m not particularly a fan of the drugs, either.

  6. parker Says:

    I think it is impossible, in a more or less free society, to preemptively protect said society from the rampages of a mass murder. However, these incidents can be nipped in the bud or at least limited in scope by ending the futile concept of a “gun free zone”.

    “”The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.” – George Washington

  7. Mr. Frank Says:

    To say that you can’t lock people up because they are a little strange begs the question. The VaTech, Arizona, and Aurora shooters were so strange that they frightened people. The Newtown shooter was so strange he could not function in high school. There used to be lots of mental hospitals until the Supreme Court said you couldn’t just lock people up. I understand that 95% of psychiatric beds have been lost. Where are all those people now? Most are probably on meds much of the time.

  8. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    I’m suggesting it as a contributing factor rather than as causation.

    The federal government’s health statisticians figure that about one in every 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. The FDA defines “rare adverse events” as occurring in less than one in 1,000 people. Which means that approximately 30-35,000 Americans are experiencing “homicidal ideation”, “mania,” “insomnia,” “anxiety,” “agitation,” “confusion,” “amnesia,” “depression,” “paranoid reaction,” “psychosis,” “hostility,” “delirium,” “hallucinations,” “abnormal thinking,” “depersonalization” and “lack of emotion” etc.

    According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.

    Young men start to appear on the Mother Jones list in 1991.

  9. Stark Says:

    I apologize this is somewhat off topic however, James O’keefe’s Project Veritas has released a new video today exposing the hypocrisy of those who would support gun free zones. It is worth a look. It can be viewed at:

  10. RJO Says:

    Neo, you might be interested in this short reflection on the same subject, written after the Virginia Tech shooting: “The Question Mark Kid.”

  11. Don Carlos Says:

    Thanks for the O’Keefe.

  12. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Here’s a link to a thoughtful piece by a retired LEO that kind of backs up your conclusion, neo.

    Hardening a school’s entrances and training staff how to react in emergencies might help somewhat. (Although it didn’t help much at Newtown.) Putting armed, retired, non-uniformed police officers in schools might make a tiny difference. It could provide a sense of security for parents much like the TSA does in the airline business. Mental health professionals could be more alert to possible dangerous patients, but that is already a part of what they are supposed to do. Overall, there just isn’t anything dramatic that can be done without giving up a whole lot of freedom.

  13. Paul A'Barge Says:

    Please address the worship of Satan by these killers.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    Mr. Frank: I repeat—you can’t lock people up for being strange, or even for frightening people, or for having serious adjustment problems in high school.

    Is that what you’re really suggesting we do?

    And believe me, I’m aware of the way it used to be. There were plenty of strange, weird kids around back then who were still going to regular schools. Most of the kids who were in institutions were severely developmentally disabled or autistic or that sort of thing. There were also reform schools, where what was called “juvenile delinquents” were put for a while; not forever. And those latter kids had committed some sort of offense that put them into the juvenile system. That still occurs, by the way.

    I am actually shocked that so many people commenting here seem to be suggesting that we lock up all young people who are weird. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you and others, but that’s my impression. The Newtown shooter, as far as we know, never threatened anyone or committed a violent act until the day of the shooting. And are you saying that somehow he should have been locked up, simply because he was removed from high school and home-schooled, perhaps because of a combination of being brilliant and very shy?

    By the way, here is Lanza’s schooling history:

    He attended Sandy Hook Elementary School for a brief time. Afterward, he attended St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Newtown, and then Newtown High School, where he was an honors student. Lanza subsequently was home-schooled by his mother, and earned a GED. Lanza’s aunt said his mother removed him from the Newtown public school system because she was unhappy with the school district’s plans for her son. He attended Western Connecticut State University in 2008 and 2009.

    Do you think that’s a history that screams out “lock him up”? My point—and I know it’s hard to accept—is that most of these mass murderers gave no cause to be locked up beforehand, or that, if what they did beforehand warrants locking up, then we’d have to lock up some huge percentage of the population just for preventative detention, since they have committed no crime and do not appear to be an imminent danger to self or others (even though it turns out that we know, ex post facto, that they were such a danger). Making people uneasy, or having problems getting along, is not enough. Even threatening people (which I don’t think Lanza ever did) is not enough. It’s nice to think there’s a way to differentiate the people who will murder from the ones who won’t, but the reality is that in the vast vast majority of cases we cannot know except in hindsight, and the price (both in economic and in human terms) of locking up every possible future perpetrator is just too high.

  15. Michael Adams Says:

    A few years ago, I gave my wife a revolver for Christmas. A friend who lives near you and has even met you, was distressed, because my Beloved Spousal Unit has been on and off Prozac. I assured him that the pistol was likely no more dangerous than the shotgun which we’ve had for decades.

    What’s that Sandra Bullock movie in which someone suggests that somebody is dangerous, because he has a firearm, and the Bullock character says, “Are you kidding? This is Texas. My FLORIST has a gun.”

    I generally discount conspiracy theories, because of the math, i.e. The number of people who’d have to be involved in a particular conspiracy would exceed the number who could keep quiet about it. However, I am plagued by a nagging question: Knowing, as they must, that none of the anti gun-rights measures being proposed have ever had any negative effect on gun violence, what are they trying to do?

  16. parker Says:

    I agree with you neo; if we want to live in an open and free society we can not preemptively restrain an individual without a strong, provable in court, probable cause. In such cases it should require a thorough review by a team of mental health experts. The liberty of the individual demands nothing less. And, there will always be mistakes and errors that condemn the innocent.

    IMO, the only recourse is that we as a society encourage responsible people to be armed.


  17. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Recently, on this subject on another site, a commenter mentioned the Rosenhan experiment.
    What do you think of it and is it a caution for those discussing the subject of your post?


  18. sergey Says:

    In many cases of mass murder without any reason, paranoid schizophrenia was involved. And this disease can start abruptly in young men (and women too) and in two weeks turn a normal person into complete nut. This can not be foreseen or prevented, and even detected fast enough. The only explanation (which really does not explain much, but at least makes it possible to wrap one’s mind around it) is a demonic possession.

  19. Mr. Frank Says:

    Michael Adams said: However, I am plagued by a nagging question: Knowing, as they must, that none of the anti gun-rights measures being proposed have ever had any negative effect on gun violence, what are they trying to do?

    A current thread on Ann Althouse has your answer. They are trying to feel good. Thus Obama will use children as a backdrop for his anti gun initiative.

  20. expat Says:

    I was wondering about the speed of change too. Is there a physical trigger, or are social events involved? Lanza was said to fear that his mother was going to institutionalize him and he may simply have obsessed on this. I can’t see how a 2-year-old diagnosis could be helpful. Family or friends might suspect that things are going seriously downhill, but what can they do and where can they get help to discuss what they are observing.

  21. holmes Says:

    It is basically irrational to be afraid of mass murderers in our society. They’re so rare. But we’re quite the neurotic people these days.

  22. Conrad Says:

    I doubt anyone is seriously proposing that ALL “crazy people” should be locked up. I do think that there should be procedures whereby someone can be locked up if he or she exhibits a psychotic detachment from reality. Obviously, there would need to be an investigation and due process. My sense is that society has become so fearful of institutionalizing essentially sane people who are merely “weird” that we are unwilling to deal with people who everyone would agree are completely whacked out.

    That said, I agree the incidence of mass killings is exceeedingly rare. Truly, the best solution would be more “good guys with guns” who could potentially intervene as soon as a mass shooter opened fire.

  23. Conrad Says:

    BTW, based on a perusal of that list of 62 mass killings assembled by Mother Jones, it appears the plurality of incidents (about 22) were workplace shootings apparently motivated by some kind of revenge against bosses or co-workers. Some of the remainder involved students opening fire at a school or university they attended, which is a context similar to an older person’s workplace. Relatively few appeared to involve a crazy person randomly opening fire on a group of strangers.

    With the high number of workplace incidents, it appears the “typical” age of a mass killer is around 40, not some teenager or young adult, as the recent shootings in Newtown, Aurora, and Arizona (Gabby Gifford et al) would imply. This makes me think that, while it makes no sense to demonize law-abiding gun owners as a way to defend against these kinds of massacres, nor does it make sense to demonize the videogame industry or Hollywood.

  24. artfldgr Says:

    I generally discount conspiracy theories, because of the math, i.e. The number of people who’d have to be involved in a particular conspiracy would exceed the number who could keep quiet about it.

    thanks so much for illustrating my point from the conspiracy thread. those who dont read about them (and are not driven nutters but realize its the norm), come up with all kinds of short answers that they use to discount things.

    what he used was the statistical schema.

    A schema is a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. Schemas can be useful because they allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our environment. However, these mental frameworks also cause us to exclude pertinent information to instead focus only on things that confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas. Schemas can contribute to stereotypes and make it difficult to retain new information that does not conform to our established ideas about the world.

    without knowing how something operates, one will, especially today, make up what and how they think it works.

    in your case, you imagine that everyone has to be in the know about it, and you have no idea of the mechanics of such things. so, you basically think in spy vs spy terms where people meet in a basement, and everyone knows whats going on.

    this despite that i kept saying to read the catechism of the revolutionary, which tells you to divide the groups into a hierarchy. with only a few in the know helping each other, and the rest being manipulated in various ways based on self interest and so on.

    how many people were and are a part of Costa Nostra? and note… how connected where they to the various administrations from passing notes, to Cuba, to other dirty things that only they could do?

    When the American mafioso Joseph Valachi testified before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Operations in 1963 (known as the Valachi hearings), he revealed that American mafiosi referred to their organization by the term cosa nostra (“our thing” or “this thing of ours”).

    what you dont get is how it works

    so its real easy for one to say in ignorance that X rule proves its not possible

    sorry… history not only proves its possible, but quite common, and that people wont talk. especially if their self interest is blocked in some way like a chess piece. you tell on us we remove our protection and together attack you.

    funny… but you can read about journolist
    how many were conspiring there almost openly and how long before we knew, and now what is the new group that is harder to find?

    JournoList (sometimes referred to as the J-List) was a private Google Groups forum for discussing politics and the news media with 400 “left-leaning” journalists, academics and others.

    400 members and how long did it exist before we found out about it?

    The existence of JournoList was first publicly revealed in a July 27, 2007 blog post by blogger Mickey Kaus. However, the forum did not attract serious attention until March 17, 2009 when an article published on Politico detailed the nature of the forum and the extent of its membership

    the REASON they get away with it, is that people like you wont believe it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    think on that for a second…

    mickey kaus comes out and claims there is a left leaning site in which journalists commisserate to align their articles and talk strategy for “the cause” (our think in leftist terms).

    and for two years no one listend to him.

    well, he was claiming a conspiracy of 400 people, and everyone knows that you cant have more than 2 thanks to a very creepy man saying it (who also copied stalin in saying things about broken eggs).

    so… for over two years leading up to the election of obama, they not only were colluding, but someone was reporting it and no one wanted to listen for the SAME SCHEMA YOU EMPLOY

    cool, eh?

    it wasnt until 2010 when breitbart got into it and the daily caller, and others started to report it.

    then it moved from conspiracy theory to news.

    there are larger ones that have gone on for generations among the children of the elite old money families… (who want to own nothing and control everything to copy a quote)

  25. Conrad Says:

    On a related note, I see that Obama is asking doctors to ask their patients if there are any guns in the house. This seems misguided for a number of reasons:

    First, the medical/health risks of guns is sort of obvious. I don’t think patients who are being seen for other medical reasons are really looking for the physicans to educate them on the potential medical implications of a gunshot wound. Nor are doctors necessarily equipped to discuss how to prevent gunshot wounds, which is a subject for policemen or firearms safety experts.

    Second, given the relatively small statistical occurence of death or injury from one’s own guns, wouldn’t it be a better use of the doctor’s time to ask some other question rather than whether there are guns in the patient’s home? Right off the bat, it seems to me that more harm could be avoided by asking whether anyone in the home is exhibiting symptoms of heart disease, diabetes, etc. — and having the doctor explain what those symptoms might look like. Having doctors ask about the presence or absence of firearms seems very unlikely to save lives compared to other health risks that could be addressed during doctor’s visits.

  26. neo-neocon Says:

    Conrad: you are right–none of it makes sense. The killings are used as an excuse to get the agenda passed; there doesn’t have to be any reasonable relationship, just an emotional one in the public’s mind that is exploited to pass the statutes.

  27. Mr. X Says:

    When I was an adolescent, I alternated between wanting to kill myself and wanting to kill just about everybody else. I had fantasies of doing one or both for about two or three years, I would say. Do you know what stayed my hand? The thought that I would be punished forever in Hell. Really. I doubt that notion is taught to youngsters much these days, but it worked for me and I’m very grateful to those parents and teachers who put such thoughts in my head and forced me to consider all the possibilities.

  28. Don Carlos Says:

    There are lots of politically misguided docs out there. Howard Dean comes to mind. As does Ezekiel Emanuel.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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