i write this in reaction to the killings in aurora, colorado in which a man armed with an ar-15 rifle and a shotgun entered a theatre during the showing of a movie, and opened fire on the audience.
i apologize if i do not have the figures exactly at hand, but i believe he killed 12 and wounded perhaps 50 others in the audience. from the sparse accounts that i have read, he fired multiple magazines from the ar-15, and also discharged the shotgun. i do not know just who was shot with which weapon, but both types of weapon are quite lethal in such a situation.
from all i can gather, he surrendered rather meekly to police. this is a bit odd, given the fact that he was wearing gear that might suggest to the casual observer that he intended to shoot in out with police.
i don't believe he did, ... , or else, he would have.
rather, i believe he carried out this rampage just to show people how clever he was.
i am not buying the notion that he thought he was "the joker."
let me introduce you to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, revision 5. this manual is known in the trade as the "dsm,5," and is used by clinicians and mental health professional as an evaluation tool to establish whether or not a given person meets the clinical standards for being considered mentally ill. in the criminal justice field, it is used by persons in forming learned and expert opinions, based upon education and/or clinical experience, as to whether an accused's conduct was done under the influence of mental disorder and/or illness.
in short, experts opine whether a person is legally responsible for his actions, or not legally responsible because performed in the throes of mental disorder.
the manual lists those conditions which are recognized as being mental disorders. for each such disorder, it lists a set of diagnostic criteria, a laundry list if you will, and then sets a criteria of how many and for how long any person who either asserts mental illness or is being examined to determine the same has suffered from each such criteria. meet the required number of criteria, for a sufficient length of time, and you are considered a prime candidate for being crazy. looney tunes. bonzo. crazy like a herd of bats.
well, you get the picture.
the dsm5 is also designed to ferret out persons who may desire to manipulate the system to attain a finding of mental illness, should it be advantageous to them in any respect. say, as in establishing a "not guilty by reason of insanity" defense. there are other criteria, which if shown, deemed to be contra-indicative of mental illness. little things which say, "he's faking it," in other words.
the person in colorado was a graduate student in the medical and neuro psychological field.
i will bet you, dollars to doughnuts, that he is thoroughly conversant in the diagnostic criteria for any number of mental illnesses. and, that he is familiar with the "objective" nature of the proofs and evidentiary criteria needed to establish the supporting diagnostic criteria. i will further bet you that he has spent just as much time establishing the behaviors needed to support such findings over the past months and years, just as carefully and thoroughly as he was in arming himself for his climatic assault.
to my mind, it's the apartment.
he rigged it with explosive devices up the yazzu, presenting the authorities one last puzzle to unravel in securing his person, and in securing his ultimate defense.
in short, i think he killed these people just to show everyone how clever he is. and, i think his ultimate goal is to establish mental disease and disorder as a legal defense to the offenses he has committed. i would not be further surprised, to find out that the disorder he has "chosen" and "built" over the coming months is one that he can "recover" from in good order, in a relatively short time.
well, you may be certain that if he skates on this matter on a mental illness defense, he will then be placed into a mental institution having demonstrated that his mental illness presents a risk of harm or death if continued. if continued for his whole life, he will stay in that mental institution for his whole life.
you remember the fellow who shot ronald reagan. he remains institutionalized. but, if he can demonstrate "cure," and that he no longer presents a risk of "acting out," as it were, then he will be release from the mental institution which houses him. and, for a person who has stood trial for his offenses, and been adjudged not guilty of the crimes charged against him, he will be immune from further prosecution on the basis of the double jeopardy doctrine. no person will stand twice accused after being adjudged not guilty.
our friend will conveniently be found to be mentally ill, to an extent he cannot be found legal responsible for his acts, by way of a mental condition usually not permanent, and amenable to cure.
trust me on this.
he did this not to assert political ideals, or fight for a group's sovereignty, or to obey the dictates of his religious conviction, but to aggrandize himself. asserting that you are "the joker" does not follow into that category of motivations tending to legitimize, or attempting to legitimize, the mass killing of innocents.
in this action, the fellow from aurora, colorado is readily distinguishable from other acts of killing of contemporary vintage which have interposed far more difficult and complex issues to resolve.
theodore kaczynski, aka "the unabomber" wrote a lengthy manifesto which sought to legitimize a bombing campaign targeting individuals he picked as being responsible for environmental damage. you can google him at wiki, and read about him. to some people, kaczynski made his points.
i live in the pacific northwest of the united states, home to such historical political activism as the wobblies and other labor radicals who exerted a lot of political power among northwest loggers and longshoreman, for many years. it was the social and theological predecessor of environmental radicalism in the northwest that culminated in the bombing of northwest universities and business interests connected with the logging industry.
there were deaths.
and, i suspect that there are people in the northwest to whom kaczynski still make a lot of sense, and who is viewed as persuasive up to and including the bombings he carried out that injured and maimed. lawyers have long maintained that a murder case is defensible if the victim needed killing, and the defendant were the right person to do the killing. a lot of radical environmentalist would likely view kaczynski as having made his case.
and, should you need reminding of a theme in this essay, in theodore kaczynski's mind, there were no innocents among those he targeted. they were guilty of environmental abuse and degradation, and they needed killing.
that brings us to anders breivik.
breivik is unique in the same sense that kaczynski is unique, in that he went to considerable pains to establish the rationale of his actions in a manifesto, published contemporaneously with the commission of his killings. i have not read the entirety of breivik's manifesto, but it is quite obvious that he attempts to justify his killings on a political and historical basis, and tries to persuade and prove that he committed his acts of killing in order to preserve norwegian identity and sovereignty.
in short, breivik attempted to assert and prove that he did not act in his own interests, but in the interests of protecting his country, and his countrymen. he sought, in his writings, to establish social and historical justification for his acts.
at first glance, breivik's actions seemed directed solely to the killing of innocents. he does not seem or appear to have shown, in any convincing respect, that those he killed needed killing, or deserved to die at his hand, or that they had ever done anything to harm anyone else. but, it seems to me that breivik sought, by the very act of killing youngsters who were being trained as political cadres for the norwegian leftist political parties, to establish that such youngsters needed to be perceived as far more serious dangers to traditional norwegian values than their perception as children would suggest.
he appears to have attempted to hoist himself by his violent bootstraps to a position he could not accomplish by cogent argument and analysis. he argued the political abuse of the norwegian establishment in pretty clear terms, in using various groups in society as a tool of attacking norwegian values and beliefs, but, he doesn't seem to have made a very clear case that his victims had any part in this. just that they might have been reasonably anticipated to participate in such abuse in the future.
in so doing, breivik seems to have readily convinced his own lawyers and the entire norwegian medical establishment that he is indeed mentally deranged. i have not followed the case that closely, but, it would appear from the reading that i have done that the medical establish will defuse whatever political connotation in breivik's trial that he might personally have sought to introduce into it.
he will be pronounced as crazy. and, in so doing, the norwegian political and judicial and mental health establishment will have deprived him of his "bloody pulpit" from which to state his case.
indeed, in this context, an attempt metaphor provided us by teddy roosevelt, to understand breivik's motivations. it will not be, for him, however, as he will have no windmills to tilt against, the ground before him having been made devoid of any edifice of injustice or intrigue to have waged righteous battle against.
for, he will be deemed insane, and his thoughts the ravings of a wild man.
which brings us to major nadal malik hasan, the muslim psychiatrist who murdered his fellow soldiers on the eve of their departure to the middle east to wage battle against the islamic jihad. hasan also wrote a manual, or manifesto, if you will, for muslims who face the decision of whether to obey the dictates of their religion or the lessor dictates of military discipline and medical oath.
nadal hasan explained, in meticulous recitation to the authority of the koran, why a good and observant muslim will fight the enemies of islam, regardless of other duties and dictates. hasan's verdict and analysis was as crystal clear as it was straight forward, and that is, a muslim must follow the dictates of islam against all other duties and obligations. the duties of islam are holy and eternal, the rewards for following islam are holy and eternal to a muslim, and the other matters are fleeting and temporal as against these realities.
in short, nadal hasan explained quite clearly that his killings were to be performed as a result of his religious duty to follow the eternal voice of allah. and, he showed very clearly that in terms of islam and the koran there are no innocents, and that the wrong doing of the infidel may be clearly established, for purposes of islamic law, simply by the assertion that he is a non-believer in the religious truth of islam.
there are no innocents in islam, and there is no concern that there are any innocents in the infidels. their punishment, and the right and duty and the holiness of chastising and killing them is established by the fact of their non-belief.
nice. and. tidy. that.
and, for this, the medical and military establishment will declare him quite insane.
where the ultimate truths lie in these matters, i will leave to another day. and, i might add, i have voiced my opinion on of these issues previously, so i am not being intellectually ambivalent.
i do, however, wish to make a limited though important point in considering these sorts of situations.--
we do ourselves short shrift, we do ourselves an intellectual disservice, ... , we commit historical folly, ... , if we simply dismiss the carefully prepared manifesto's of the kaczynski's, the breivik's, the hasan's as the ravings of insane men. and, if we find them immune from prosecution on the basis of mental insanity or depravity, using the "content" of their arguments, however self serving, as "proof" of their insanity. (were marx and lenin "insane," because of the very statement of their "ideology?" mistaken, surely, but "insane?" i think not.)
for, by doing so, we remove ourselves from understanding and comprehending the strength, the appeal, the power such of their writings may have to a considerable number of others in the world. say what you will about kaczynski for instance, but his views resonate as the ring of pure reason to some in this world, some whose motivation and commitment to environmental protest see the logic of what he advocates. and, by so doing, we remove ourselves from comprehending the extent and measure of what some of those people might do in adherence to kaczynski's core values and beliefs.
environmental activists in the northwest pound spikes and other metal objects into trees, in hopes of dissuading timber companies from milling the lumber given the risk that giant saws might explode. they have bombed buildings, and released research animals from university research institutes.
and, they have killed.
dismiss nadal hasan's writings and actions as those of a mad man, and you have removed yourself from any understanding of the actions a person who otherwise appears/appeared fully and thoroughly inculcated into the mores of the west, and business, and profession, might very well take in living up to his convictions and perceptions of the duties of an observant muslim.
oh, you might say, he is just like us.
like fuck he was, like fuck he is. and, to compound your folly, you have disabled yourself from comprehending the very simple and authoritative communications of a religious zealot like hasan explaining his actions.
the simple fact is this.
if a person identifies an adversary with persuasion and clarity, and if a person explains in the light of history, tradition, respected political and religious doctrine why that adversary needs to be opposed, then that person will find support from any number of people in any community who hold to the same views he does.
in short, there needs to be a nexus of thought between the asserted grievance suffered and the person you assert as being responsible for imposing that grievance or wrong against you, before you can convincingly argue that the wrong doers conduct legitimately calls out for his punishment by death. and, the nexus had best be strong and persuasive to convince others either to follow you, or to find your actions justifiable.
marching into a theatre and announcing yourself as "the joker" will not establish that nexus. that your victims were watching a batman movie will not cause them to find your actions in killing others justifiable.
heeding the calls of islamic jihad to wage war against the infidel will garner you support the world over. to assert the duties of islam will find you a ready audience over a good part of the world. to ignore the power of the invocation of faith amongst muslims is stupidity in the extreme.
the power of argument based in tradition, heritage and the accepted ideals of the political and religious philosophy underpinning that heritage should not be ignored. and, it should not be underestimated, or dismissed.
it would be foolish for a regime to underestimate the power of a movement invoking tradition and religious obligation, in calling for action.
and, it would be just as foolish for those who seek to overcome repression of their views, from the sufferance of oppression, to ignore that power, that power which is invoked by a call to rise up and fight for ancient liberties, ancient values, and for a shared brotherhood based on ancient ideals.
but, is is quite obvious that if you are to make your case, you have to establish by clear argument and example what wrongs you suffer, who is inflicting such wrong, and that the measures you take against your aggressor and the aggressor of your fellow citizens are justified by the nature of the wrongs you suffer. i can provide no clearer example in our history, than jefferson's declaration of independence. he did not directly incite to killing. he did, however, clearly incite others to assert their rights to freedom and liberty, as clearly understood in terms of history and tradition, and in no uncertain terms in a way in which a fight was coming if such transgressions continued.
oh, yes, thomas jefferson was a dangerous man. and, a man with right on his side, and argument and facts to prove it. and, a man who was armed. and, a man whose impeachments to his fellow citizens carried the weight and authority of his righteousness.
so, who is right, and who is wrong, and who is merely insane?
well, as roy medvedev wrote so eloquently, and so accurately in rising in opposition to the tyranny of the soviet regime, "let history judge." or, as john locke and sir william blackstone noted so many years ago, let the matter be put before god for his decision, and his edict.
but, do not ignore the man with a well organized argument, and with a well put justification for his actions or his contemplated actions. and, do not be surprised by his actions, for he has foretold them. and, history will judge.
john jay @ 07.22.2012
p.s. if it is not abundantly clear from the above, i do not advocate nor condone the killing of innocents. for any reason.
i view homicide as justifiable only in the defense of ones self from lethal threat, or the defense of family, friends and others in the community who are placed under such threat. i therefore view the killing of those who are clearly identified as presenting such threat as clearly justifiable, and morally & ethically legitimate.
those persons who would destroy or infringe our ancient rights and liberties, and our political heritage, in order to impose unjust laws and controls over our expression and enterprise, i would deem them neither innocent nor immune from the ultimate sanction of violence in order to preserve our values.
they are not, by definition, or ethics or morality, to be considered innocent.
they view us are fair game. i would view them as fair game.
history has proved that politics, and the desire to impose rule upon others against their wishes, is a very rough game. it is, as we say in north eastern oregon, just the way that hardball is played.