Monday, February 12, 2007

A mall located about a mile from my house was the scene of a shooting: six people dead.

Earlier tonight, about a mile from my home, a man walked into a shopping mall and started shooting. At last report, there are six people dead (including the shooter) and several critically wounded. An off-duty police officer from a neighboring community was in the mall at the time, and shot and killed the man. No information yet on the shooter’s identity, or the identities of his victims.

At least 20 shots were fired, with the man stopping and reloading several times. It appears his primary weapon was a shotgun – the deadliest weapon at short range.

I’m glad I wasn’t eating dinner at Trolley Square tonight.

**CBS story, with a few more details, here, and here's another. The man was 18-years-old. I'm sure videogames will be blamed again.


bite said...

He was a man

As was the guy at the business meeting. As was the guy who shot up the U of U a few years back. As were the guys who were snipers in the DC area. As was the guy who shot Kennedy, King, Lennon, Bobby.

hmmm, I am thinking I am seeing a pattern here.

Keifus said...

I'm avoiding this topic. (It's something I hear too much of on the outside already.) I don't think you're saying it bite, but it's tough not to infer a syllogistic fallacy and get all defensive about it.

Even if men commit the majority of violent acts, that does not mean that all men are violent.

K (anyway, ducking back out)

TenaciousK said...

Well, your analysis might relate as much to men's relative susceptibility to being duped as men's capacity for homicide, depending on where you stand on the various conspiracy theories surrounding most of the events you mention.

Besides, it's not really fair to generalize characteristics from a population of arguably insane people to the larger group of men. One could make a similar argument about the capacity for violence in women, if one looked at only at perpetration of infanticide.

Still, I agree with your contention that men, as a group, tend to be more prone to aggression than women, as a group. Lots of overlaps in those groups, I think, and both social and biological factors to tease out.

The only times people are truly dangerous is when they feel threatened. One of the ways in which people vary considerably is in what it is that makes them feel threatened (and how threatened they feel). I think one could argue that testosterone, in mammals, tends to accentuate the manner in which which one assesses threats (both in scope of threats and severity, I imagine). This certainly seems true of various (subsequently) neutered pets I've owned.

But the role of experience plays a huge role, as does distortions of perception. Historical trauma certainly renders one vulnerable to threats which are context-dependent. In women, Aileen Wournos comes to mind - she committed her murders in the context of performing (purchased) sexual acts, and claimed self-defense against rape. I doubt it's coincidental that her first victim was, himself, a convicted rapist.

Distortions of perception include delusional thinking. Delusional people are perhaps the most potentially dangerous of all, and that crosses genders. [It was a mentally ill woman who shot-up KSL a few years ago - remember?]

Whatever his motive, this has certainly been a horrid and tragic event. I'm sure we'll all sit in morbid fascination as details about this man, and his motives, emerge, as we try to make ourselves feel safer by understanding something that's probably not amenable to rational understanding.

In the end, the vast majority of people will feel satisfied, though saddened, after they reach some understanding of the anamolous nature of this individual, and event. Unfortunately, there'll probably be only token (if any) effort to ameliorate the conditions that contribute to the genesis of such a scenario (aggressive outreach for the mentally ill, breakdowns in community cohesion, re-examination of either the second amendment or it's implementation, or whatever the case turns out to be).

I suspect you don't live too far from me, Bite. I'm glad you weren't there either.

bite said...

I lashed out a bit because my children go to Trolley Square A LOT. I get frustrated trying to keep them safe.

No, Keifus, I know that all men are not violent. It just seems like there is no derth of violent men.

TK, I am trying to understand your bringing up infanticide. The women who kill their children are most likely to have temporary extreme hormonal imbalances (caused by childbirt--go firgure). A very physical state that makes them nuts. (I know, that is a technical term, right?)

I have noted that the majority of child deaths due to domestic violence are caused by men watching the children.

TenaciousK said...

Bite, don't you think that the majority of murders are irrational acts?

I brought up infanticide only as a way of illustrating the folly of generalizing from a distinct subset to the larger group.

I believe you're correct about child murders.

I'm also glad your kids weren't there. I'm glad mine weren't too. I actually considered going to Trolley Square yesterday - to pick up a Valentine's gift. I most likely would've gone in the late afternoon or early evening.


TenaciousK said...

On BOTF, Clot is telling Bite that firearms legislation does nothing to curb firearms-related deaths.

The experience of our Aussie counterparts, however, reveals otherwise.

The same, unlike his description of "more pedestrian" forms of gun-related homicide, is true of mass killings.

I have heard gun-ownership advocates making similar arguments - that more firearms in the hands of responsible people reduces crime.

The problem is, the population of people desiring firearms appears to contain a disproportionate number of irresponsible people. It's a self-selected group, and some of the motivations for self-selection are undoubtedly problematic.

rundeep said...

One of the first mall shootings I remember happened in suburban Philly shortly after I moved here. The shooter, who came with an automatic weapon and was wearing camos, was a woman, Sylvia Seegrist.

I think of Aileen Wuornos, who was executed after shooting 7 men. I think of another recent local case where a 15 year old boy was led into a brutal death by the promise of sex with a 16 year old girl. After all the pleas were entered and justice dispensed, it was clear that she was the most psychopathic and manipulative one of them all. Actually, I can think of at least 3 other cases locally within the past 10 years where there was a particularly awful murder or attack, all of which were pepetrated or explicitly encourage by young females.

Although you think you might hear about it more often, strangely you don't.

There are a lot of childkilling women who were diagnosed as Munchausen by proxy by the way (TK, there was something on your blog about this recently). I think Marybeth Tinning is the name of one of the more famous serial child murderers (of her own children). It wasn't hormonal.

Nor are hormones to blame in all the shockingly awful cases case workers have to deal with daily involving maternal and paternal neglect. Those people are murderers too. They're just taking their time.

In short, maybe men are, by virute of testesterone or whatever, more inclined to violence. But there is a large and statistically significant number of women with similar issues. Maybe they just can't afford to buy guns.

That said, I can't imagine how scary it must be for both of you. Glad you and yours are safe.

Andy Owens said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fluffy black puppies said...

thanks for those australian links.

i'd love to see a complete ban on automatic and semi-automatic weapons. not so sure about handguns. definitely ought to be able to keep guns for hunting not that i enjoy hunting].

disclaimer: i enjoy target shooting. i'd hate to not be able to do that.

cat said...

I think deliberate violence is a learned thing, and both males and females are quick learners.

I think we teach our children that violence is acceptable when we spank them. (Yes, I spanked my daughter, and if I could go back in time...I wouldn't.)

I think it's all about needs, and finding the most efficient/effective way of meeting them. If we can't teach our children (I'm referring to the whole village, here.) to see that in the long run, violence is not effective...and/or that they won't really gain from it...then they'll use it.

Especially when they see it work so well on TV, videogames, film...and in so many of their own homes.

Just blathering my 2 cents...

TenaciousK said...

Hi Catnip – sorry it’s taken me so long to provide this blathering response.

I think violence is pretty complicated, actually. Certainly, everyone is capable of becoming violent, should they feel threatened enough (seems adaptive enough to go without saying). Where people seem to vary so considerably is in how quickly they feel threatened, and what it is they find threatening. Violence is regressive – it’s the way we respond to threat in extremity.

But learned reactions are complicated. Socialization is a general term we use to describe acquisition of a complex set of inhibitions (mostly) that serve to modulate our responses. People who are undersocialized for whatever reason are far more disposed to violence. But socialization alone isn’t really enough to quell propensity to violence – we learn to regress almost instantaneously in response to context-specific cues that correspond to prior trauma, for instance, or in situations that are far less traumatic, but where trauma is exacerbated through repetition. People encourage this for their own ends, at times – it’s why boot camp is intentionally traumatic (it works).

Your comment about videogames extends to all of these – there are kids whose primary source of social transactions, outside of school anyway, appear to occur in the course of interaction with imaginary figures on a television or computer screen. Though this type of simulated interaction may prove beneficial in some situations (Sesame Street, for instance, or perhaps even [shudder] Teletubbies], it’s pretty clear that a child playing Vice City all day, without a potent set of remedial experiences, is bad news for everybody. I heard something awhile back about the current crop of soldiers, their unexpected propensity to violent engagement, and speculations about how this relates to video game experience.

If by deliberate violence you mean unprovoked violence, that’s also complicated. The most dangerous people appear to feel very threatened by things ordinary people wouldn’t find threatening, and engage in (perhaps preemptive) acts to neutralize these threats. This, in my opinion, is the reason attractive women are disproportionate victims of violence – it’s not sex per se, so much as the degree of threat posed by someone potentially threatening to one’s sexuality. The people most prone to this type of perpetration fall into two general categories – those who base their self-concept primarily on the feedback received from other people (cluster-B personality disorders, for instance), and psychotic people, for whom what is threatening is idiosyncratic and only marginally predictable.

I’m ambivalent about spanking, actually. Like most thoughtful parents, I tend to contrast my parenting with my impression of what would constitute optimal parenting. Like everybody else, however, I wasn’t raised in, nor have I raised my children in, optimal circumstances (which would be a disaster anyway – think inoculation effects). I have worked with desperate parents who are trying whatever they can to parent their very difficult children. Those parents experience the same sort of regressions (though threat in these cases often involves social messages, and how they perceive these), but it’s also true that when raising children in circumstances where your attention is necessarily divided, and there are large, heavy, fast-moving chunks of metal being propelled by other people with divided attentions, teaching an avoidant behavior (like staying out of the street) sometimes supersedes developmental readiness to comprehend the importance of staying out of the street.

But we all do things to our kids that give them things to talk about with their therapists, as adults. It’s the reality of parenting.

I agree with what you’re saying about the importance of teaching our children the value of shared goals, prosocial behavior and all that. I do find it interesting, however, that when looking at animal behavior in naturalistic settings, there are unmistakable parallels. Overcrowded rodents behave in a manner that mimics to a distressing degree stereotyped ghetto behavior (well, without the loud music and drugs, anyway), and a large group of bachelor ducks, should they be striking out with the lady ducks, sometimes engages in what constitutes gang-rape (illustrating, I think, the peculiar relationship between what is threatening, pre-emptive strategies, and sex). I remember reading some depressing research on social behavior among war-traumatized chimps living in Sierra Leone.

The sad truth is, if we want to teach our children that violence is not effective, we have to modify their environment in such a manner that violence really doesn’t pay off. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be in any great hurry to do this abroad (see Iraq, and a whole host of other conflicted countries), or even at home (see middle school). But for our own narcissistic and exploitive reasons, we seem motivated not to do that, at least in any kind of uniform way; we’re busily teaching our children to circumvent social behavioral constraints by means of objectifying our victims. We teach them to be selectively unempathic. It works, if other people are inclined to be violent towards you.

And ensures that people continue to be violent towards each other.

What a world.