“Aurora: Shrouded in Myths”

Jack Carney, DSW
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So who is James Holmes and why did he do what he did? Is he a lone wolf psycho or a lone psychopath who calculatingly planned a surprise attack on unsuspecting moviegoers; who wired his apartment with high explosives yet alerted police to their presence; who reportedly sent a complete description of his plan to the psychiatrist who was presumably treating him; who planned to survive the attack and did?

Aurora, Colorado is a special place for me. A suburb of Denver situated on that City’s southeastern flank, Aurora is the home of my Colorado relatives. My sister and her husband, who just recently moved into Denver proper, raised their three kids there, my two nephews and my niece. My niece and her husband are raising their kids there now. The younger of my two nephews also lives there, while the older guy now lives in Denver, close by to his Mom and Dad. I was just there with my wife for a family reunion last May.

The day after the Aurora shootings, when I called folks to make sure they were O.K., I was told that my younger nephew, who’s a police officer in Castle Rock, another Denver suburb just south of Aurora, had been pinned down by gunfire a week or so earlier and had narrowly escaped being shot. The shooter was, by my nephew’s description, a white supremacist and convicted felon armed with an AK-47 and night-vision goggles. He was later apprehended by the Castle Rock S.W.A.T. team and charged with multiple counts of attempted murder. It was my niece, the font of family information, who told me that my nephew had subsequently been invited by a friend to attend the July 20 midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” but had declined and gone instead to his gym. Two or more bullets dodged in less than two weeks.

Aurora, indeed Colorado, has an unhappy history. In 1993, Nathan Dunlap killed four former co-workers at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant in Aurora after he had been fired. In 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, students at Columbine high school, killed twelve fellow students and one teacher, shot and wounded twenty-one others and then killed themselves. Littleton, where Columbine is located, is less than twenty miles away from Aurora. On July 20, 2012, James Holmes shot seventy persons in the Aurora multiplex, killing twelve of them. When I asked family members, particularly my younger nephew and his Dad, my brother-in-law, also a police officer, who has been on the Denver police force for over twenty years, about the impact of the Aurora shootings on family members and on the general public, they offered little. Police officers are naturally circumspect. I suspect they have to compartmentalize their work and the often violent and traumatizing events they witness and separate them from their private lives. I had expected the chain of events I enumerated above to have had a cumulative impact on them, given their proximity, and for my nephew and brother-in-law to have developed a unique perspective. Actually, they were as self-protective as everybody else I spoke to, and whatever they might have known, they were reluctant to plumb deep and talk about it. More on this further down.

My nephew, understandably, was focused on his own narrow escape from harm at the hands of the white supremacist. He shared that he was experiencing some post-trauma effects, but he’s young, smart and resilient, with lots of emotional support – he’s got a loving family and a caring girlfriend – and I expect him to be fine. Nonetheless, I still worry … two near misses in less than two weeks.

Which gets me back to James Holmes. I know of one sympathetic remark made about him. The New York Times July 31st edition quoted the great-aunt of the six-year old girl whom he had killed: “Here was a brilliant person that could’ve done a lot of good. What went wrong?” The media pundits have fretted over this one, as they do whenever an incident such as this occurs. The usual consensus is that Holmes, similar to previous mass murderers, is a crazy loner who snapped under some still unknown stress. To be sure, mass murderers have a tenuous grasp on reality, but they’re not all of a type. Two Northeastern University criminologists, James Fox and Jack Levin, have compiled a data base of all mass murders that have occurred in this country since the early 1980’s. They’ve divided the mass murderers themselves into three broad categories or profiles. The first is comprised of older men – nearly all mass murderers are men – approaching middle age or middle aged, who bear a grudge against specific individuals and kill them in acts of revenge for perceived injustices. The Chuck E. Cheese shooter fits this profile, which, as per Fox and Levin, is the most typical of the three. Rarely is the person in this category psychotic, but rather angry and often paranoid.

The second profile is that of persons whose grievances are more generalized and whose need for revenge is directed against an identifiable class or group whose members are nonetheless anonymous. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, apparently despised the students he shot, seeing them as privileged and self-indulgent. He apparently knew none of the persons he shot. Shooters who match this profile are often quite psychotic and delusional; many, like Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters, are depressed and suicidal. Both he and his accomplice, Eric Thomas, as well as Cho, killed themselves as the endpoint to their killing sprees.

Holmes would probably fall into their third category. To quote Fox: “The perpetrator has a grudge against the world and feels that if it were not for the system, things would have gone better for him. He doesn’t care who he kills as long as he kills a lot of people.” About 16% of all mass murderers in Fox and Levin’s database fall into this category, i.e., persons who kill complete strangers with no distinguishing characteristics. Their victims just happen to be individuals in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fox goes on to say that, for all mass murderers, regardless of their categorization, there is “a consistent profile in which someone has a history of frustration and failure despite promise and aptitude. But they also have a very weak support system. They don’t have close friends or family nearby to turn for help or to put their thoughts in perspective.” Yet, “there are thousands and thousands of people who fit that pattern and do not kill anyone.” Nothing, it seems, is simple.

Monahan and Steadman, recognized experts in risk assessment, wrote in their landmark work, Violence and Mental Disorder … (1996), that psychiatrists and other mental health professionals cannot predict with great accuracy who will commit acts of violence. To which I would add that none of the killers described by Fox and Levin strike me as good candidates for mental health treatment. They tend to be paranoid or at least suspicious of others, particularly those in positions of authority. Since they won’t trust, they can’t form productive treatment relationships. I’m confident they wouldn’t seek treatment, would evade complying with out-patient treatment orders and would reject any overtures from mobile crisis teams.

So how to help those who wouldn’t be interested in what the larger society and its helping systems have to offer? I would begin by understanding that these mass murderers aren’t as solitary as we’ve come to see them, that they’re part of a culture of fear that has come to permeate this country. I’m referring to a belief system where fear itself has come to be feared, where many if not most Americans have come to see themselves as “at risk” and have adopted a self-identity as vulnerable persons in need of protection. As Furedi and other sociologists have noted, this culture of fear has been promoted by the mass media and exploited by political forces in this country, particularly those with right-wing agendas aimed at underscoring the ineffectiveness of government in protecting its citizens. Just think National Rifle Association. So if you’re frightened, feeling vulnerable and believe only you can protect yourself, buy a gun. Which applies to mass murderers as well as their would-be victims. And be sure to oppose gun controls of any kind: your second amendment rights to arm yourself are being threatened.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
The interpretation that the amendment safeguards the rights of individuals to own guns is a recent phenomenon. Prior to the Supreme Court decisions of 2008, D.C. v. Heller, and 2010, McDonald v. Chicago, where District of Columbia and City of Chicago ordinances to restrict handgun ownership were overturned, the amendment had been understood to protect the right of individual States to maintain militias and to block the Federal government from interfering with that right. The NRA began its campaign for the right of individual gun ownership in 1977, after a group of right-wing activists took over leadership of the organization and changed its mission from promoting recreational shooting to lobbying against gun control. The NRA’s campaign was essentially fear-based: that the gun control legislation that had been enacted in 1968 banning mail order sales of rifles and gun ownership by convicted felons and the “mentally incompetent,” would not protect ordinary citizens from the depredations of inner-city marauders. In other words, black men bent on vengeance. In the NRA’s world, the real danger came not from the John Hinckleys but from the Willie Hortons.

Interestingly, constitutional legal scholar Carl Bogus of Roger Williams University Law School in Rhode Island contends that the second amendment itself has racist roots. In an article published in the U.C. Davis Law Review in 1998, “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment,” he traces its origins to the efforts of James Madison, principal author of the U.S. Constitition as well as the Bill of Rights, to mollify two influential Virginians who opposed ratification of the newly drafted Constitution, James Monroe and Patrick Henry. As understood in its historical time, the intent of the second amendment was to assure slave-owning Southerners that their State militias would remain under State control and could be utilized to carry out their principal mission, suppression of potential or actual slave revolts, without interference from the Federal Government.

Over time, that original meaning has been lost, replaced adroitly by the efforts of the NRA and its supporters to position the rights of individuals to own guns front and center. As David Garland, author of The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society, would have it, “… our fears and resentments [of crime], but also our commonplace narratives and understandings, become settled cultural facts that are sustained and reproduced by cultural scripts …” Black men as objects of fear have now been joined, by fears of Muslims, of illegal immigrants, of generalized and anonymous “others.” Ordinary citizens, rather than clamoring for more controls on guns, rush out and buy them. After the Aurora shootings, gun sales spiked in Denver. However, if you were to ask residents of Washington, D.C., mainly African-Americans and plagued by random gun violence; the residents of South Chicago, also mainly African-Americans and terrorized by gang violence; and the residents of Brownsville, Brooklyn, again African-Americans, who saw two children killed by stray bullets in a gang shootout this past Sunday evening… These are the folks the media rarely seek out, preferring the drama attached to the rush for guns.

Data from the National Institute of Justice website reveal that, in 2005, 11,346 persons were killed by firearm violence and 477,040 were victims of a crime committed with a firearm. In 2006, firearms were used nationwide in 68% of all murders, 42% of robberies and 22% of aggravated assaults. As per the Department of Justice, gun homicides have increased slightly each year since 2002. The last meaningful gun control legislation was passed by Congress in 1994 – the Brady Act, which imposed a five-day waiting period and background check for handgun purchases, and the Assault Weapons Ban, which prohibited the sales of designated assault rifles, among them the AK-47. The latter law expired ten years later, in 2004, and a new assault weapons law has never been enacted. The prospects for new gun control legislation, however modest, appear bleak. Congress is variously in thrall to or intimidated by the NRA’s political muscle and lobbying prowess. The president and his right-wing opponent appear wary of arousing the NRA. Despite editorial chastisement by the New York Times, both have maintained silence on this issue. As Lt. Gordon reminds us at the conclusion of part two of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight, referring to the Batman, “… he’s the hero Gotham deserves … not the one it needs.”

So where does this leave us? For now, it leaves all of us – my nephew, his fellow police officers, ordinary citizens — vulnerable to individuals like James Holmes, who, fearful of the world, will choose to buy guns, legally or otherwise, and seek to protect themselves by killing those whom they’ve identified as the cause of their fears. At the very least, additional safeguards need to be established for the larger community, principally some form of gun control to limit access to especially lethal guns, such as assault rifles equipped with drum magazines. There are some folks out there who do have some worthwhile ideas about how to accomplish this. David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health has outlined a public health approach to the issue of gun control, arguing that it must be accompanied by a cultural shift from the narcissism that appears to dominate our society and undercuts notions of collective responsibility. It remains to be seen whether a discussion about remedies will take place anytime soon, or whether ideology will trump common sense and preoccupation with political gain continue to outweigh concern for the common good. In any event, don’t mourn, organize!

References:

Begley, S., “Accused Colorado Killer No Easy Fit for Mass Murderer Profile,” Reuters News Service, July 24, 2012

Bogus, C.T., “The Hidden History of the Second Amendment,” U.C. Davis Law Review, Winter, 1998, Vol. 31, #2

Cullen, D., “Don’t Jump to Conclusions About the Killer,” The New York Times, July 22, 2012

FindLaw, “Second Amendment – Bearing Arms,” http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com

Furedi, F., “The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is the ‘Culture of Fear’ Itself,”
http://www.spiked-online.com, April 4, 2007

Garland, D., The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society, Oxford U. Press, 2001

Garrett, B., “History of the Second Amendment,” http://civilliberty.about.com

Healy, J., Frosch, D., “Colorado Suspect Is Told He Faces 142 Counts As Case Inches Forward, The New York Times, July 30, 2012

Hemenway, D., Private Guns, Public Health, U. of Michigan Press, 2007, 4th ed.

Monahan, J., Steadman, J., eds., Violence and Mental Disorder: Developments in Risk Assessment, U. of Chicago Press, 1996

National Institute of Justice, U.S. Dept. of Justice, “Gun Violence: How prevalent Is Gun Violence In America,” http://www.nij.gov/

The New York Times, Editorial, “The Shootings in Colorado,” July 21, 2012

The New York Times, Editorial, “Candidates Cower On Gun Control,” July 27, 2012

The New York Times, “Brownsville Residents Say Gun Violence Is All Too Common,” July 30, 2012

Nolan, C., “The Dark Knight,” 2008

Winkler, A., “NRA Took Hard Right After Leadership Coup,” San Francisco Chronicle, online edition, http://www.sfgate.com/

28 COMMENTS

  1. There can be no gun control, these laws are only people control. Control of people willing to abide by the law.

    Just like the war on drugs, a war against guns would be futile.

    People are correct to fear the government, and to fear the police. The police are very dangerous people. Just ask Kelly Thomas if he were still alive, whether he felt safe from the Fullerton PD.

    You can’t stop tunnels and couriers with drugs coming over the border, can’t stop people growing and manufacturing their own drugs, and you certainly can’t stop gun magazines being available.

    In China, with strict gun control, people go berserk with knives, if so and so percentage of murders use guns, and you feel you could change the weapon to knives, go ahead.

    “and seek to protect themselves by killing those whom they’ve identified as the cause of their fears.”

    Spree killers aren’t seeking to protect themselves. They hate the world, they want to destroy themselves and some people in it. Getting life in prison or the death penalty is a form of suicide by cop. James Holmes knew is life would be effectively over post-shooting, even if he didn’t actively shoot himself in the head at the end of it. He wrote to women to come visit him in prison on his internet dating site profiles. He knew the consequences.

    A few dozen/hundred people have been killed in these angry young man gun massacres.

    Governments, on the other hand killed hundreds of millions of people last century alone. Democide, see link.

    http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM

    The most pressing question is can the individual in the modern era get through his/her life without the government taking their right to life and liberty away somehow, not how can they get through life without be among the 0.00000001% of movie theater patrons who have been gunned down.

    “Ordinary citizens, rather than clamoring for more controls on guns, rush out and buy them.” I guess the people have spoken then.

    At least this article was better than Healy’s, the one immediately preceding this, I’ll give you that.

  2. Thank you for another good, analytical analysis of current topics of mental health interest. The expression, “Where you stand, depends upon where you sit,” seems appropriate when examining the view of the criminologists whose study you quoted. They are criminologists, not mental health workers, psychiatrists, psychopharmcologists or social workers. So, they interpret their findings in a way that leaves out important information. Nowhere, at least in the part of the study you quoted, is “psychosis” mentioned as a factor. Young men Cho’s and Holmes’ age (under 25) are particularly vulnerable to psychosis at this age. Criminologists are not psychopharmacologists. David Healy questions what pharmaceuticals Holmes was on. Medications can exacerbate psychostic tendencies. Many young men are angry, fearful and alienated – it goes with the territory of psychosis. One thing is clear. A person’s chances of becoming a mass murderer are substantially reduced if he doesn’t have access to weapons of mass destruction. Medications are supposed to make somone better, or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe, and when they don’t, we are told that different medications or more medications must be tried, which is adding fuel to the fire. Very few people are lucky enough to gain access to concurrent psychiatric or alternative treatment that tries to get to the cause of the symptoms.

    • You’ve got to be kidding me. Let me count the ways.

      We don’t have any evidence Holmes was anything except Vicodin. You act as if we are there yet.

      You act as if a “psychopharmacologist” is in a special position to explain why a young man hates the world. He is not. He is in a position to explain how a drug acts on biology. And for someone who is in such a position, Healy spends hardly any time doing that, and usually only has low bows to draw about statistics, that’s all he really does around here.

      “Many young men are angry, fearful and alienated – it goes with the territory of psychosis.”

      These three emotions also COME WITH THE TERRITORY of being young! But again, you believe that by calling them a name, you’ve somehow proven that they have a disease or a condition or something.

      “They are criminologists, not mental health workers, psychiatrists, psychopharmcologists or social workers.”

      You seem to really believe there is something taught in these college courses to enter these professions that gives them a special insight into human nature, I reject this completely. Only very rarely, have I witnessed a member of these professions having anything insightful or true to say about mass murderers.

      Weapons of Mass Destruction don’t include small arms.

  3. ” principally some form of gun control to limit access to especially lethal guns, such as assault rifles equipped with drum magazines.”

    But high capacity magazines, especially drum magazines, almost always jam up within seconds of rapid fire. James Holmes’ gun did exactly just that and he killed most of his victims with the shotgun that happens to produce a much more lethal spray of buckshot opposed to some small little bullet.

    I also don’t think that he did what he did because he was afraid of society. That to me just sounds ridiculous. “I’m scared and insecure, the media says that the danger is all around me because people are all around me…. So ya know what I’ll do, I’ll get preemptive!”…. It’s just not plausible.

    • He did it because he hated the world and saw that he had failed / or been hampered by the world, into becoming the successful adult he dreamed of being.

      Some spree killers will tell you straight up.

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1060869/I-did-I-hate-human-race-says-Finland-shooter-victims-included-women.html

      The handwritten suicide notes left in [2008 Finland spree killer] Saari’s dormitory explain he launched his attack because ‘I hate the human race’.

      Young men are the most aggressive and reckless kinds of humans, out of old men, old ladies, young ladies, children, etc…

      Growing up in the decline of western civilization, with stymied hopes and dreams (self-perceived), can make young men very angry. Most angry young men are deterred by the sanctions they will face, death penalty, life in prison, shaming their family by becoming a murderer, but you get the occasional individual who just doesn’t care and his hate overrides all other considerations, even respect for other people’s right to life.

      Most young men who get to a desperate place in their younger years, where they see no future, and feel they are a failure, whether because they failed, or “others stood in their way and caused them to fail”, will simply kill themselves and not others.

      More still, will just escape reality with illicit drugs and develop a habit.

      The daily task of guiding your life to a good and successful place, is the herculean task that humankind has been grappling with for thousands of years, it is the springboard from which all religious traditions come, all philosophy, and all schools of thought around how to run the eduction system and how to be a good parent.

      On how to live your life, this question is an open question. Family and friends try to guide young people, but sometimes people become misguided and lash out in hate and anger and kill.

      Pretending, and it is pretending, that there is a special class of “professionals” called “mental health professionals”, that because of their status and training know a damn thing about how to live a human life, is an utter myth. If you find the occasional useful “mental health professional” who does give good guidance on life, it is most certainly in spite of their training, and any assistance they will be offer will be just because they are a wise person. From the prescription pad, comes no wisdom on life. From knowledge of anatomy, comes no wisdom on how to live a human life.

      We are not like cars, there is no “mind mechanic” that you can take your kid to, and have him lubed and serviced. Tragically, with psychiatry’s simplistic creation stories, most of the world believes there is “help” for the James Holmes’ of this world behind the door of a psychiatrists office. There is none.

      Just look how successful his “treatment” was with this woman from the college he went to!

      If anything, going to a quack biopsychiatrist would have sent Holmes a message that life is cheap, and the humans he was about to blow away were nothing but a bunch of brain chemicals, and nothing means anything, because we are just neurons.

      • “Most angry young men are deterred by the sanctions they will face, death penalty, life in prison, shaming their family by becoming a murderer, but you get the occasional individual who just doesn’t care and his hate overrides all other considerations, even respect for other people’s right to life. ”

        I will add, that very often, these young men, despite the “not caring” at the time of the crime, grow to care, care a lot, later in prison, and regret their actions. Some even cry like babies the first few days they are put in solitary confinement.

        You can get angry enough to kill, but knowing the actual feeling of killing, and seeing the people humanized after the fact, with the photos of their families, seeing the victim’s families in court, is a whole other kettle of fish.

        Many people know or can guess how horrible prison is going to be, and make sure to kill themselves at the end of the killing spree. Or even just comparatively small-time domestic murder-suicides show this to be true.

        Most people don’t have a clue what it is going to be like when they go from being the big powerful guy with the gun, to being outnumbered by government employees when they are in prison. It’s going to be a lot harder to kill yourself in prison, and they don’t screw around (the staff), they will take you down and put you in a suicide smock and throw away the key in a second, with even the slightest words of self-harm intent. Most people have no understanding of what it is going to be like when they lose their liberty.

        I think this is why you find there is a mix of spree killers who kill themselves, and those who surrender and allow themselves to be taken alive.

        • I just had a quick look for the full texts of the suicide notes of the 2008 Finland spree killer Saari, that you mention, but I couldn’t see them. For sure The Daily Mail can’t be trusted. Did see somewhere that the police wouldn’t say that a motive was established, so I don’t know if those little quotes establish it.

          I’m not sure about this article’s conjecture about Holmes’s motive either. It doesn’t seem that he just killed anyone – he chose a specific movie and dressed up for it. He booby trapped his home but then tipped off the police about it. He was in communication with a psychiatrist who he apparently told about some risks of violence. The conjecture that he couldn’t meet academic/social expectations and therefore became homicidal, seems to just beg the question of why he in particular had such an extreme reaction, and/or whether that was due to the fact he was struggling with bizarre delusions/hallucinations or whatever.

          • Please.

            “seems to just beg the question of why he in particular had such an extreme reaction, and/or whether that was due to the fact he was struggling with bizarre delusions/hallucinations or whatever.”

            So everyone who chooses to cross a line and commit an outlandish crime, is suspected to be “struggling with delusions” by you?

          • Insightful comments, Anonymous. I agree that “bizarre delusions/hallucinations” are not necessary for someone to become frustrated, desperate, and enraged enough to kill. If it is so clear that many in our society are so frustrated and desperate, I wonder why we cannot devote more of our time, attention, and energy to helping each other out – looking out for younger people (all ages, really), being there for them, lending our ears, our hearts, our time. A society so focused on “me, myself, and I” cannot long stay healthy. Young people struggling with failure and becoming lost and hopeless need somewhere to turn, real people to turn to who will actually care about them and lend them some guidance. Right now, that can be next to impossible, if not impossible, to find. So much of people’s individual success right now depends on their personally having a strong family/support system of their own, because the sense of community in this country is so generally lacking. So, those who are not blessed with this strong family and support system – to whom do they turn? The mental health system is often not a solution, though it purports to be. Left alone with no healthy social interaction to turn these thoughts and feelings around, they generally fester til you get to this crisis point. With all of the prosperity and the resources this country has, we need to turn off the celebrity reality shows and actually concern ourselves with each other – or this alienation and societal ill-health will just keep getting worse. (I’m betting on the latter, unfortunately.)

          • Unfortunately, it seems like the right to act like self-centered and self-indulgent teenagers is one of America’s most highly valued freedoms, lately. It is especially obvious in our pop culture. That along with the skittishness and (perhaps unintentional) coldness with which we often conduct our daily lives… seems to create a very bad environment in which to suffer emotionally and need help – a desert where love and warmth and inclusion are only available to the very (previously) blessed or lucky (or to those who agree to profess to some religious belief or other). Those who fall through the cracks often have nowhere to go but down in such an environment. I’ve experienced this myself. What we do currently is relegate all emotional problems in those who are not fortunate enough to have good friends & family & other support structures to turn to, to the mental health system. The mental health system is currently pretty much bollocks. Those like me who know the system is very unlikely to help and even has the possibility or probability of harming, where do I go? This is why I see the development of safe-haven type communities as so important. Truly what we need is to provide these loving & healing communities for those in the most distress while we rehumanize our entire society & way of life, making it more hospitable to life. Gosh knows when or if we will achieve that. My hope is to simply make it to another country which does value family, community, and the human heart more than we do. Where interdependence is valued, not just independence.

  4. Almost all the mass killers we know of, particularly at Columbine, are known to have been taking psychiatric drugs. Based on the fact that Holmes was seeing a psychiatrist, and one who had been disciplined for overprescription of drugs at that, it is almost certain that he was on psych drugs, most likely antidepressants, at the time of the shooting. It seems strange to me, given what this website is about, that we aren’t talking about this. The mass media seem really determined to hide this fact.

    I think it would be helpful if the writers and readers on MIA would start raising this issue of the media’s willful refusal to report the role of psychiatric drugs in these tragedies.

    • The “role” of psychiatric drugs in a particular willed human action is unknown. Their role in the thousands of decisions the killer made in the planning of his crime, is drawing a long bow at best. At best, they could play a minor part. But there’s no confirmation he was even taking these drugs yet. There were plenty of angry young man massacres in the last 20 years where the kid was not on psych drugs. Just as there were plenty of auto purchases where the buyer was on psych drugs, and where they were not on psych drugs. Yet we don’t blame auto purchases on drugs.

      James Holmes demonstrated a months long, carefully calculated, well executed surprise attack, combining months of careful stockpiling of advanced weaponry and explosives, training himself to use both, and elaborate body armor purchases to ensure he would remain unbeatable until he had carried out his deadly crime.

      Oh and they are “talking about this”. Just look elsewhere on the main page for David Healy’s usual drug blaming schtick. It gets very tedious.

      The contents of the Columbine killers’ dairies, and the mutual synergy from egging each other on, provide a much more coherent understanding of that tragedy than a mindless Michael Moore-esque “blame the magic chemicals in psych drugs that override free will” type explanation (oh and the mechanism for such is handily never offered by those who support this conspiracy theory).

      Human tragedies are much better understood by looking at the human elements. The knee-jerk desire to blame a chemical compound, smacks of the simplistic thinking that we rail against from psychiatry explaining our feelings and behaviors with their ridiculous “brain disease (trust us)” theories.

  5. What happened in Aurora is horrible.

    I think that psychotropic drugs, or “antipsychotic” drugs or whatever you want to call them, definitely can change the way you experience the world, in a different, more “twisted” way than maybe alcohol.
    I can only speak from my own experience with some of them, namely Risperdal, Abilify and Benzodiazepine, the latter very addictive stuff by the way, and falling into another category I think.
    I was forced to take this stuff for a while and well, I had memory loss, felt numb, had no real sense of time (time was flying by), could not think, it felt like there was an enormous pressure in my head, pushing from the inside out, horrible headaches.
    Sometimes it felt like the pain was only in certain regions of the head, sometimes it felt like every inch of my head was in pain. Everything felt distorted. It was like hell for me, because I felt like I had no control over my thoughts and everything was weirdly distorted.

    I have been told that I would have to take this stuff for the rest of my life, that I was a danger to myself, to others and what not. I never agreed with their assessments.

    I have been labeled with various mental illnesses since I was around seven years old. I am now in my mid thirties. I can’t really remember if I have been drugged when I was a kid, but I remember sudden weight gain and overeating shortly after I have been labeled for the first time, and a lot of headaches over a period of a few years.
    If I remember correctly, I had a few cramps in the class room when I was seven or eight. Teachers talked to psychiatrists and from that time on, I have been in the sights of psychiatrists. When my parents asked for a second opinion, after I had no cramps anymore, one doctor or psychiatrist, said there was nothing wrong with me. The other guy insisted that I was “dissimulating” symptoms of a “mental illness”.
    Anyway, when I was around fourteen, they said I was now in the “prodromal stage”, and that I will get “seriously mentally ill” if I don’t get on drugs.

    There always was an expectation from the psychiatrists that I were in contact with, that I would grow into a “seriously mentally ill” person. There was just no way around that in their minds, as if god himself had decided that.
    There was also always an expectation that I would act in a “crazy” manner. If I did not, they would simply say I am “dissimulating” the “illness”.
    The psychiatrists I have been in contact with, have tried to humiliate and degrade me on many occasions.

    Once in a psychiatric hospital, when I decided I did not want to obey their hospital rules just like that, I was literally told by a staff member, that they may be forced to “thoroughly brainwash” my head. For my own good of course. Also because I was ten minutes late, when I was allowed to leave for an hour.

    Compared to some “healthy” male people my age, I haven’t gotten into much fights or things like that over the course of my life time at all. I have been pushed around on the street by random strangers on two occasions and did not fight back at all. Unfortunately, I was so naive to tell a psychiatrist about these incidents, well guess what happened? I was committed to a psychiatric hospital, because now I was a danger to myself and others in their minds.
    When I finally got out of the hospital, I decided to slowly taper off this cr*p. I have kept it a secret to my family and to the psychiatrists until this very day.

    Being “treated” by psychiatry can be an extremely frustrating experience, on many levels, but I am not saying that this is the cause of the shootings in Aurora.

    In my opinion it is important to ask the question of drug induced violence, but I also reject the notion that a psychiatrist has a super secret, special insight into how humans think and behave.

    On another note: the supreme court of the country that I live in (Germany), has ruled in 2011, that forced treatment and forced medication against ones will, is against the constitution, and that this is also in compliance with the United Nations Disability Convention.
    So it is basically illegal here right now, to “treat” people against their will.
    That is how it should be and I hope it will be illegal here for the time being. I also hope, other countries will make forced treatment illegal.

    • “I was forced to take this stuff for a while and well, I had memory loss, felt numb, had no real sense of time (time was flying by), could not think, it felt like there was an enormous pressure in my head, pushing from the inside out, horrible headaches.”

      Same here. Apart from the headache part. And you can see how this would not be conducive to planning a complex crime and training yourself in special weapons and tactics, bomb making, etc. as in Aurora.

      You did more than well to survive, and see psychiatry’s lies. Psychiatry lies and people die. All the time.

      I am sad to hear that you haven’t found enough freedom that you feel you have to keep your drug-free status a secret from your family.

      You may get that freedom one day.

      I recommend you stick around here, this is a good community where at least half the crowd here don’t view you as brain diseased.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

      It is of interest to me, and will be of interest to others, that you experienced this ‘prodromal’ idea being pushed on you as far back as 20 years ago almost! that was rare then. Common now, and sadly an ascendant idea in psychiatry, but I would be very interested to hear more specifics about that, the year, what they said, etc… where it was… (but not if that is going to give your ID away).\

      Thank you. Very good. You’ve done it, all on your own. That’s the thing we need to be encouraging more people to do.

      • Hey Anon….

        “I recommend you stick around here, this is a good community where at least half the crowd here don’t view you as brain diseased.”

        What about the other half? I haven’t been in such (metaphorically) close contact with so many condescending mental illness professionals in a long time, except when I go into psych wards to try to get people out.

        And in that case, the relationship between me and the shrinks is clear and accurate: we are adversaries.

        I am asking myself why I am bothering. We survivors should be creating our own space for discussion, and leave the mental illness pros to be their own audience.

  6. Good post Jack, I was intrigued by your desire to explore human feelings and subjective states of mind, in your natural concern for family members. You painted a good picture of that strange device we all no well, in our ability to split off, or “compartmentalize” experience.

    “I had expected the chain of events I enumerated above to have had a cumulative impact on them, given their proximity, and for my nephew and brother-in-law to have developed a unique perspective. Actually, they were as self-protective as everybody else I spoke to, and whatever they might have known, they were reluctant to plumb deep and talk about it.”

    Besides the evolved ability of the human nervous system to stimulate these “objectively” mysterious states of numbing, is it also because we don’t yet have a language to talk about these experiences, and help process them? Exactly how is that strange “compartment,” which bad experiences are locked away in, constructed? And are these metaphors we use in an “as if” analogy of our inner experience, fundamentally mismatched to an overwhelmingly chemical reality within?

    You alluded to deeper cultural issues involved in our subjective states of normal and abnormal mind, and I thought you were about to go there in an exploration of individuals like James Holmes? I thought you were about to explore the nature of fear, pain and the internal stimulation of paranoia? An internal reality prone to emotional projection onto the world “out there.”

    Interestingly though your description of just how often deadly violence occurs in American society, seems to raise the possibility of unconscious stimulation in an often stark, “us vs them” stance in public debate?

    I was a bit disappointed that you switched from the personal theme to objects of mass destruction and their regulation. It tweaked my own rationalizations about organizing external reality, in the hope it will affect my internal motivation? If we could just organize the world in a better way, it would change our behavior, seems to be the rationale? Yet as Anonymous points out, those members of any culture so frustrated into fear, pain and rage fueled paranoia, will find a weapon of mass destruction? The cultural element in China is perhaps the strict one child policy which has led to these awful attacks in child care centers?

    You do get back to culture though with, “the issue of gun control, must be accompanied by a cultural shift from the narcissism that appears to dominate our society.”

    In my own training as a therapist, the most potent phrase I took with me from those years was “all behavior is communication?” So incidents like this prompt me to wonder what the behavior is communicating beyond the shock of the obvious, in these awful acts of themed violence?

    By themed, I mean Hollywood in its disney-fied view of life, and its effect on young impressionable minds still asking the age-old questions of life, “how should I be & how will I cope?” Are there wider cultural implications concerning escapist fantasy portals of life, and its affect on states of mind, seeking a right of passage towards maturity? Implications so easily covered up by an acceptance of a diseased based mental illness? Implications so easily covered up in our anti psychiatry community, with the simple cause and effect logic of blaming the pills?

    These kinds of acts remind me of Harry Chapin’s hauntingly brilliant song “Sniper,” and the cry of pain fueled infamy at the end of the track? “And now I will be!” Has Holmes fueled his narcissism with an infamous act to bring him some sort of fame in a culture obsessed with pulp celebrity?

    A non-obvious speculation I know, yet now that psychopharmacology is failing, are we back to exploring the unconscious, albeit with the aid of technology? Certainly my own journey has involved exploring the new frontier of neuroscience and what it taught me about my internal chemical makeup. Words like “compartmentalization” have given way to a sensate awareness of the chemical frizz, that is my unconscious nervous systems response to life, including my thinking. So much so that I no longer try to organize the world “out-there,” to make me feel safe, having discovered how my perception of safe is stimulated from within.

    AS we mourn and try to re-organize the world “out there,” do we need more self-realization about the world within, were all perception is created?

    • You call that disgraceful exploitation of this tragedy a “good piece”? [Healy’s piece]

      ‘Healy’s book states, “the charge of brain damage from ECT is an urban myth” (p. 3) and “Therapeutic convulsions induced by electricity, by contrast [to epilepsy], do not harm the brain and can save lives” (p. 9). His statement, “ECT really does work in illnesses where drugs fail” (p. 7), directly connects to his work in criticizing drugs. ‘

      • Anonymous,

        I just finished responding to your reply to a comment I posted on Dr. Healy’s blog, referenced above by Duane. Looks like your in a copy and paste mode?
        You are apparently on a roll attacking the posts of anyone who references Dr. Healy’s writing on the issue of psychotropic drug induced violence.

        Not responding to your attacks is probably the best response, but I just had to opt for NOT condoning your cheap shots via silence….

        • Cheap shot?

          Healy exploiting a tragedy where 12 people died, BEFORE any news stories have EVEN confirmed the kid was on psych drugs, is a cheap shot at the families of the dead. He will latch on to ANY suicide, ANY violence, to further his agenda.

          Thanks for inserting yourself.

          • Anonymous,

            Your jump from opinion to fact is mind bending. Similarly, you discount the value anyone else may assign to information that is relevant to their work, their lives. Rather, you are assigning *value* to others based upon your own personal value system.

            “Exploitation”? Using something for your own personal agenda– fits exactly what you are doing with any mention of David Healy! So, I think you have a solid working definition of *exploitation*…. and evidently believe you have some noble claim for your exercising your patent exploitation of this site!

          • What can I say? You know better than me and every news article published to date on this story. James Holmes WAS on drugs, the drugs DID cause it, yada yada.