More Delays on Sandy Hook Reports

Sheila Matthews
19
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The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission (SHAC) and the State Child Advocate’s office still have produced no reports, and the deadlines continually come and go, with virtually no interest on the part of Governor Malloy or Connecticut state lawmakers.

What is of interest, though, is the complete run-around and disconnect by those involved in producing the reports. For example, last week Ablechild contacted Hamden Town Mayor and SHAC Chairman, Scott Jackson, regarding the status of releasing the commission’s final report.  Mayor Jackson’s secretary reported that the commission was meeting every Friday in the Governor’s office.

Upon contacting the Governor’s office, Ablechild was advised by Associate General Counsel to the Governor, Eleanor Michael, that “minutes from the January and February 2014 Sandy Hook Advisory Commission meetings can be found at the following link.”  Michael further explains, “as the website reflects, the last meeting of the Commission was held on February 28, 2014.”

Contrary to Mayor Jackson’s secretary, the Commission is not meeting every Friday in the Governor’s office and apparently has not held a meeting since February 28th of this year.  And, according to the Commission’s website, of the nineteen meetings held between January of 2013 and February of 2014, transcripts are provided for only four of these meetings.

Given the secrecy surrounding the entire Sandy Hook investigation, it seems completely normal that the public would not be provided actual transcripts of these meetings. But it does fly in the face of Mayor Jackson’s promise that “there will be a written account that can serve as a record of the Commission’s activities and will detail what the Commission investigated, why it investigated issues, and how it reached consensus on recommendations.”

As for the State Child Advocate’s office, recall that Ablechild was advised in late April that the Advocate’s office had, in February of this year, received the requested records for Adam Lanza and it would be at least two months before the Advocate’s office would complete its report.

Last week, however, Assistant Child Advocate, Faith Von Winkel, advised Ablechild that the report may not be completed for another year, explaining that the apparent reason for the delay is because multiple children were killed. This makes no sense.

The Child Advocate’s office is not reviewing multiple files of the children killed at Sandy Hook but, rather, is focusing on the records of Adam Lanza. Von Winkel further advised Ablechild that “we cannot put out a report that in any way would hurt the families of Sandy Hook.”

Seriously? What part of Adam Lanza’s school and mental health records would “hurt” the families of Sandy Hook?  The same argument can be made that the families are being hurt because the Child Advocate’s office has failed to provide information that may have contributed to Lanza’s deadly actions.

But this really is a moot point until both the SHAC and the Child Advocate’s office provide the reports repeatedly promised, but continually delayed. The question that needs to be addressed is why, eighteen months after the shooting, those tasked with providing the reports have failed to produce them?

* * * * *

This blog originally appeared on Ablechild

19 COMMENTS

  1. Shiela hi,

    First, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all the good work that you are doing, with your organization, AbleChild.

    As someone who, himself, as an adolescent, was, against his own strongly voiced objections, forcibly drugged by psychiatrists — and as one who would, for three and a half years thereafter, struggle (at points desperately) to remove psychiatrists and their ‘meds’ from his own life, I thank you, very sincerely, for your work; also, as a parent (my daughter is now in her teens), I cannot possibly overstate how much I appreciate you for your organization’s activities.

    (Note: At that point, when I was ‘introduced’ to medical-coercive psychiatry, I was actually able to object — as I was no longer a child; I was 21 and a half years old. In retrospect, I believe my personal crisis, at that time, could reasonably have been called ‘delayed teenage rebellion.’ And, it did involve a degree of perceptible ‘extreme states’ — which would lead me to be deemed, by psychiatrists, “psychotic”.)

    Also, I must add here, specifically, I think it’s great that you and your organization are taking such an active interest in matters pertaining to the Sandy Hook massacre, its potential causes and effects (as presented in this blog post of yours and as you’ve written about previously); I think this is a perfectly excellent blog post you’re presenting MIA readers.

    My sense is, that most people, in our society, when recalling the Sandy Hook massacre, will, unfortunately, prefer to believe that, mainly, so-called “mental illness” was to blame…

    Supposedly, it was “mental illness” gone “untreated” that best describes the cause(s) of Adam Lanza’s acts of unspeakable depravity.

    That is the narrative that most people in our society will buy into — because it suggests the most seemingly ‘easy’ preventive measures, to be deployed against the development, of future tragedies, of would be similar nature.

    ‘Just be sure to identify and “medicate” kids who are “at risk” — before they lash out…’

    Of course, that’s a terribly deluded ‘social’ policy, which, if implemented, will only make matters worse.

    But, I will question how you seem to suggest, that there may be no good reason whatsoever for the current delay of the release, of a full official report.

    You write,

    Assistant Child Advocate, Faith Von Winkel, advised Ablechild that the report may not be completed for another year, explaining that the apparent reason for the delay is because multiple children were killed. This makes no sense.

    The Child Advocate’s office is not reviewing multiple files of the children killed at Sandy Hook but, rather, is focusing on the records of Adam Lanza. Von Winkel further advised Ablechild that “we cannot put out a report that in any way would hurt the families of Sandy Hook.”

    Seriously? What part of Adam Lanza’s school and mental health records would “hurt” the families of Sandy Hook? The same argument can be made that the families are being hurt because the Child Advocate’s office has failed to provide information that may have contributed to Lanza’s deadly actions.

    Actually, to me, it seems very understandable that there is a delay; for, any poorly conceived report would, indeed, harm the people of Sandy Hook — and would harm the public trust, generally.

    And, though I do not trust bureaucracies (and tend to be mainly skeptical of almost any state’s Child Advocacy office), I can imagine, that: Possibly, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission (SHAC) and the State Child Advocate’s office are delaying publication of their report for good reasons…

    After all, the information-gathering process, in such an incredibly impactful and complex event, as the Sandy Hook massacre, can easily take on a life of its own, in the press — which may lead to discovery of truly vital facts, that are essentially ‘game-changing’ in nature; the meeting of originally promised deadlines toward publishing an official report may then become impossible.

    The original deadline may well reflect a clearly unreasonable goal.

    Newly revealed information that’s released to the general press, on almost any major event, could make the initial drafts of an official report obsolete. I believe, that such has, almost certainly, become the case, in this instance. Here is why I say that…

    One game-changing news story came out five months ago — which, unfortunately (or, predictably) was missed by most major/main-stream media outlets. (To its credit, USA Today reported this, but I don’t believe any other major newspapers did — nor any major television news networks either; I could be wrong about that; there may have been reporting that I missed; but, anyway…) I’m referring to the revelation, just this past January, that: One year prior to his horrific crimes, Adam Lanza had spoken, on the air, to a radio show host, in way that, in retrospect, is really very revealing of his motivations.

    See the following article: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/exclusive-lanza-twisted-call-radio-station-article-1.1580984#ixzz2qZJrUK1q.

    I am not a big fan of the New York Daily News,; it can often be over-the-top (sensationalist) in its approach to reporting; however, sometimes it does a fair job of ‘scooping’ the main-stream press. This past January 15, it did that, as it posted online (at the above link) a very informative article, which includes (at the bottom of that web page) a link to the seven and a half minute audio recording, of that radio call-in by Adam Lanza.

    (Emphatically, I must say: If you go to that web page, be sure to listen to the seven and a half minute SoundCloud audio recording, that’s linked at the bottom of the page.)

    Then, two months later (just three months ago), the New Yorker magazine published conclusions of a reporter’s exclusive interviews with Adam Lanza’s father; that was also very informative — as Peter Lanza had not previously spoken, at length, to the press.

    (BTW — note: The New Yorker article is, I feel, highly informative; nonetheless, it is significantly flawed, imho; e.g., it includes certain passages — in particular, a couple of terribly misleading references to people who receive psychiatry’s “schizophrenia” label — that I find quite objectionable.)

    See: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/03/17/140317fa_fact_solomon?currentPage=all

    I suspect that your and/or anyone else who carefully reads those two articles, that I’ve offered links to (above), will realize: It would actually have been a mistake for the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission (SHAC) and the State Child Advocate’s office to rush, toward their first deadline, to publish an official report.

    (But, in fact, I don’t necessarily trust them to do the right thing and publish all the pertinent facts, at their disposal; so, surely, it’s important and necessary that there be well-informed people and organizations — such as you and yours — actively holding their feet to the flames, metaphorically speaking.)

    Carry on, in your good work…

    And, thank you again…

    Respectfully,

    Jonah

    • “mental illness” gone “untreated”
      I’ve always loved this argument. It’s not like almost all of the shooters were under the psychiatric “care” and many of them taking psych drugs.
      There should be an agency recording every instance of suicide or shooting and if it’s linked to drugs, be it teens, veterans, whoever, because this is starting to stink.

        • “…it’s the psych drugs that are causing people to do these terrible things.”

          Is that your ultimate conclusion, Stephen Gilbert? Seriously?

          Such a terribly pat (reductionist) explanation…

          Knowing you are an intelligent guy, I can’t help but wonder, to what extent you really mean it? (I.e., can you not clearly see what an incredibly over-simplified conclusion you’ve offered there?)

          “…it’s the psych drugs that are causing people to do these terrible things.”

          Actually, I presume you well know that that can’t possibly be true (at least, not in many instances); so, have you stopped to consider the potential impact of putting out such an over-simplified view?

          “…it’s the psych drugs that are causing people to do these terrible things.”

          Personally, I find that to be a terribly irresponsible statement…

          I would end my comment there, Stephen, but, as I feel very strongly about this, here I am taking the liberty of continuing, with what was originally the beginning of my reply to you, as I’d first sat down to write it out…

          Stephen, here (on June 12, 2014 at 9:35 am) you are expressing a view, which some MIA readers and bloggers may share; but, imho, it is plainly a narrow view, which, I presume can (as it gains traction, in popular culture) quite possibly encourage the perpetration of ever-more extreme school violence.

          I mean, common sense should tell us, that there are at least a few potential school-shooters out there — primarily young men — who are currently sitting on a fence (figuratively speaking); they have not yet fully decided whether they intend to kill (not knowing when or whether they shall act out their violent fantasies).

          If they are individuals who have been ‘treated’ with psych ‘meds’ and are increasingly led to believe, that our society is coming to blame such ‘meds’ for the violence inflicted by school-shooters, then — in their hating those ‘meds’ — they may actually feel it is ‘right’ to go forward with plans to commit outrageous violence…

          And, so, that simplistic statement of yours (“…it’s the psych drugs that are causing people to do these terrible things.”) seems a foolish one.

          I must conclude, whoever says such a thing is either completely failing to fathom the sociological and psychological underpinnings of such crimes — or else, is knowingly over-simplifying, just to express a sincere dislike of psychiatric drugs.

          “…it’s the psych drugs that are causing people to do these terrible things.” It’s a flippant statement, that should be seriously reconsidered and/or amended with any number of caveats…

          And, by the way, mostly, I agree with your sentiments, as expressed in your MIA comments (and I, myself, believe, that most psychiatric drugs prescriptions, these days, are doing more harm than good).

          I’m always interested in reading your viewpoints, knowing that you are a psychiatric survivor who became a chaplain (and who has worked in other capacities?) within the state “hospital” system.

          You do MIA readers and bloggers an invaluable service, by commenting on what you’ve observe at your work, for you write without blinders and have explained, that you’re constitutionally opposed to psychiatric “hospital” worker violence (i.e., it is my understanding, from reading your comments, that you’ve told your superiors in no uncertain terms, they should not, under any circumstances, ask you to participate in the administration of forced ‘treatment’, etc.).

          I deeply respect your contributions to these comment threads; your are mainly contributing to the enlightenment of MIA readers…

          But, in this instance, I quite disagree with your conclusion (which I’ve placed in between quotation marks, now a number of times, above).

          One more time…

          “…it’s the psych drugs that are causing people to do these terrible things.”

          That can’t possibly be true, as stated.

          A far more true-to-life conclusion would express something along the lines, that: An enormous — and growing — boat-load of evidence has come to suggest, that psych-drugs may be a significant contributing factor, in more than a few instances…

          Likewise, one could reasonably say something along these lines: ‘If we study their “histories” as presented through the media, we find that many school shooters have been prescribed psych “medications” at some point, in recent years. Some have been taking psych ‘meds’ regularly; some had not been doing so — perhaps, because they were being prescribed certain benzos, to be taken on an ‘as needed’ basis; some had been essentially refusing to accept a course of ‘daily meds’ (perhaps, including so-called “antipsychotics”). Some are known to have recently quit taking psych ‘meds’ — quite possibly, but not necessarily, against the advice of their prescribing doc.

          Each case requires scrutiny…

          About Adam Lanza: From my readings of various press reports, it seems that he had declined to take any ‘meds’ — except, perhaps, Xanax. (And, maybe he was addicted to Xanax — taking more than his doc prescribed.)

          Frankly, from reading his dad’s words, in the New Yorker, I think it is quite possible that Adam Lanza was using Xanax — and, maybe he had come to ‘abuse’ it (that is just speculation); he was reportedly very sensitive to psych ‘meds’; his use of that drug may have contributed significantly to his ultimately evil behavior.

          But, no way would I conclude that any ‘med’ was ultimately responsible for his crimes… No way.

          All evidence suggests he’d been imagining himself committing extreme violence for years — and had methodically planned his crimes…

          And, consider how his passion for violent fantasies was encouraged, by his use of ‘shooter’ type video games. (No, I will not blame his violence on those games; but, they were a significant contributing factor, imo.)

          At last, I think his mom had taken on more than she could handle, especially as Adam reached his late teens. (Imho, one can hardly come to any other conclusion, upon reading the material — and listening to the seven and a half minute audio recording of Adam himself — at the links I offered, in my first comment, above.)

          Her son had clearly developed an extremely deep/entrenched sense of resentment (really, the murder of his mom strongly suggests it was seething hatred) toward the way in which he had been raised, as the audio recording makes perfectly clear, that: He identified very strongly with a domesticated chimp, that had quite suddenly become absolutely vicious. (Who knows whether he had ever mentioned his keen interest, in that news story, to anyone who knew him? I really wonder…)

          So, at last, when he was, for three months, allowed to live completely isolated, in his room, within his mom’s house, Adam apparently came to him to communicate with his mom (even when she was in that house) only by email; meanwhile, she discouraged her ex-husband (Adam’s father) from fully participating, in Adam’s life, as a parent, at that time… (That is, according to the father’s account, in the New Yorker article.)

          Reportedly, Adam had ultimately blacked out his windows and put pictures up, in his room, of the corpses dead children… Imho, anyone who now gathers these facts can very reasonably say, his mom was, by that point, way out of her depth — to put it mildly. (I’d say, she was in a state of ‘denial,’ that could well have been, in itself, considered, very much to blame.)

          Because I believe justice should be an ideal that our society does not abandon or take lightly, I like to think, had Adam Lanza’s mom somehow managed to survive, she would have been put on trial — for some kind of negligence…

          Though, not being a lawyer, I’m not sure what the precise charges against her would be — as her son was, technically, an adult. (He was not a child, in her care.)

          But, I would not put all the blame on her; I might put some of the blame on the ‘mental health’ pro(s) who were encouraging Adam to take psych ‘meds’ instead of finding ways to connect with him.

          And, though he was incredibly psychologically disturbed, I would not call him “insane” — as that is a legal term, implying that one does not know ‘right’ from ‘wrong’.

          Imho, it doesn’t matter that he was once labeled with “Asperger disorder.” (Imho, that label — like all psychiatric labels, more or less — is misleading.) The bottom line, I’d say : Imho, Adam Lanza had come to develop an “inferiority complex,” which was never properly addressed.

          It festered throughout his teen years — and eventually turned into a kind of ‘malignant narcissism’ and ‘psychopathy’ via the fact that, at last, he wound up “morally alone.” (That is a term from the writings of Albert Camus.)

          He finally got to the point, that he was connecting with no one — not even a pet, at all (not even at a distance) and had, I presume, not even the least bit of desire to connect. Only a desire to destroy.

          No matter what the official report comes to say, I know, for certain, I’ll not wind up ascribing his violence to some psych drug(s) he may have been taking, nor will I suggest he should have been taking some sort of psych drug(s); however, perfectly clear (and this should go without sayin), is that: Whatever sort of ‘mental health care’ he had been receiving, it did him no good whatsoever in the long run.

          I just pray that society, as a whole, will not come to judge him as having been a “mentally ill” person who supposedly lacked “medication” of some kind. All things considered, I imagine, surely, you must share that last sentiment with me…

          Stephen, thank you for having posted such that comment!

          It really got me thinking…

          Respectfully,

          Jonah

          • I think I’ll jump in a bit…
            I agree with you that the psych drugs aren’t a likely cause of it, not solely at least. Looks like pretty much all of these guys seemed to have a similar problem: they were isolated from their social environment, they felt like outsiders failed by the people around them and they didn’t have any meaningful relationships. That seems to be the leitmotiv, at least to me. You’ve mentioned psychopathy but I’d say that may be incorrect here – people with psychopathic tendencies don’t care about their social relationships or lack thereof. These guys, at least to my understanding, actually suffered from the perceived social exclusion, inability to form relationship with their peers, girls or own mother. Their apparent narcissism looks like a reaction to rejection and loneliness (the world hates me and punishes me so I’ll get my revenge on it), not like something intrinsic.
            However, what can be said for sure is that the so-called mental healthcare system failed them (and their unfortunate victims) and that was not for the lack of trying. They were at least at some point in their life under psychiatric “care” and often drugs and at the very least it made no difference.
            It may not be that drugs were directly causative. That being said, psych drugs are known to cause mania, psychosis and violent behaviour. For a lot of people they also seem to put them in a state of detachment and emotionally empty state combined with ahedonia. If that is true a combination of these “side effects” could have contributed to the crimes. All the shootings were committed as premeditated acts of violence and most people think these drugs can at best make someone go “crazy” in a conventional sort of way but having been on these drugs I know that cold-blooded murder is not a remote possibility (Seroquel seems to be very good at that).
            The mass shootings are still very rare – not in comparison to other countries but just by counting all the people in US and cpunting how many of them turn to shooting people. This seems like a very unfortunate combination of skewed personalities, lack of social attachment, lack of proper “mental healthcare” (in this case someone who could help these people out of the state of complete social isolation), free access to weapons and possibly psychoactive drugs.
            As this seems to be a rising trend there also have to be factors that change. It may be the gun frenzy and copycat ideation that’s sweeping the US, it may be the peculiar reaction to drugs, it may be the individualistic society with its cruelty and disruption of social interactions. It may be all of it. But without proper investigation of these cases, including medical histories, it’d be very difficult to understand if there is any thyme or reason to it.

          • “…without proper investigation of these cases, including medical histories, it’d be very difficult to understand if there is any rhyme or reason to it.”[typo corrected]

            B,

            Great to see you jumping in…

            RE ‘rhyme or reason,’ it seems to me, we can make fairly good educated guesses, as to what went wrong, in some of these guys’ lives.

            We can, based entirely on documentation that’s been posted online; indeed, I believe, in some instances, it’s easy to establish, that psych drugs were not primarily to blame for an outbreak of extreme violence…

            You and I are largely agreeing, on these points… But, I see we are using psychological language differently, which suggests a need for me to be more clear when I do use such…

            So, here, as follows, I aim to clarify…

            I offered my comments in this thread, using the terms narcissism and psychopathy, as descriptors of effects, not causes (imho, the primary causes exist in how a person has been conditioned, beginning in ones family, to relate). And, by the way, I was thinking mainly of Adam Lanza and Elliot Rodger; to me, these terms describe prominent features of their personalities and ways of being, that are described online…

            One can rather easily gather a lot of revealing material online, to make fair educated guesses, as to how such tendencies developed, in both of these guys, over time…

            So, I don’t mean to refer to any supposed ‘intrinsic’ conditions, when referring to psychopathy and to narcissism. (Some people employ such terms to suggest ‘intrinsic’ conditions; but, I don’t…) I take them as referring to learned behavioral patterns. We needn’t necessarily agree on that point, in order to find common ground, in discussing these matters; in fact, we should know, that we can disagree on it and put it aside, as there are a number of ways, of ‘expertly’ defining such terms. For instance, Wikipedia presents them, and there we see a variety of meanings, that they can suggest. One needn’t buy into all of them — or any of them. To me, some make sense, others don’t…

            For, I view them as effects of family system and/or cultural conditioning (that can occur outside the house, in school — as well as, these days, online).

            To me, the concept of ‘malignant narcissism’ is quite useful in this conversation, and it makes sense to say, that such constitutes a certain type of psychopathy, wherein an individual is quite interested in ‘appearing’ a certain way, to others. (So, though you say, “people with psychopathic tendencies don’t care about their social relationships or lack thereof,” I respectfully disagree.)

            Additionally, this somewhat old fashioned concept of an “inferiority complex” applies — especially, to describe cases such as that of Adam Lanza and Elliot Rodger… (I suggest, readers who are interested in coming to a somewhat clearer understanding, of what went wrong with either one or both of those guys should know the meaning of that term. Google that term.)

            Arguably, both these individuals became psychopathic and narcissistic, over time — due to an unchecked inferiority complex, which found no creative solutions, just growing bitterness and resentments and devastating isolation…

            But, the narcissism was ultimately more plain to see, in the case of Elliot Rodger. (It was made abundantly clear, in his writings and Youtube videos.)

            Respectfully,

            Jonah

          • Just one more connected factor — a form of conditioning — that I have, to this point, in my commenting on this thread, failed to emphasize…

            RE: Most of these ‘school-shooter’ guys, who were, at one point or another, ‘treated’ by psychiatry: Isn’t it likely that most were deeply affected by the truly unconfirmed (but ideologically imposed) belief, that there was something intrinsically wrong with their brains — and, perhaps, wrong with them genetically.

            Those beliefs, as transmitted through ones experiences, in the realm of psychiatry, can become, in ways, psychologically crippling; they can also become something of an ‘excuse’ for ones breaking the law and/or for anti-social behavior (to varying degrees and in any number of ways).

            I can still well recall myself, in my early twenties, seriously asking a young psychiatrist, who’d been appointed to my case: ‘Do you think you could write me a note, excusing me for my traffic ticket, based on my mental illness?’

            Today, I’m embarrassed even to admit here, anonymously, that I ever spoke of myself as someone with a “mental illness” (not to disrespect people who believe that that term fits what they are experiencing). Simply, it seems to me such a sad confession, to admit that I would have spoken of myself that way — while knowing in my heart, that I did not believe in the concept; but, it is all the more embarrassing, to admit having been someone who’d once hoped to get out of a moving violation, by using the ‘diagnosis’ of such, as an excuse…

            But, hey, I needn’t be overly concerned with my online image, I think; I can offer that anecdote, as it’s a personal experience, that well makes my point.

            And, by the way, when, now, decades later, I recollect, looking back on myself, in those years, it seems to me undeniably obvious, I was then being made somewhat stupid by the cocktail of psych drugs that was being prescribed for me (theoretically to ‘treat’ a “mental illness” that would supposedly be with me forever).

            Surely, there was, in fact, a degree to which my level of intelligence was being lowered, by psych drugs; and, that may have, in part, accounted for why I would have requested such a note from that young psychiatrist.

          • BeyondLabeling a.k.a. Jonah,

            So, though you say, “people with psychopathic tendencies don’t care about their social relationships or lack thereof,” I respectfully disagree.

            I don’t think you got what I meant, maybe I wasn’t really precise with it. People whom I’d call sociopaths or psychopaths don’t care about others’ feelings, opinions, etc and they don’t really find it necessary to be loved or appreciated on a deep personal level. That is not the same as to say they don’t care about others opinions in a superficial way – as to appear to them as likable, trustworthy etc., in order to make it easier to use others for their own goals. The mass shooters displayed none of these behaviours: they were quite openly maladjusted and they appeared to suffer from this lack of connection to others, which in my opinion is what drove them to narcissism and aggression rooted in rejection, real or perceived.
            That’s at least my take on it…

          • “People whom I’d call sociopaths or psychopaths don’t care about others’ feelings, opinions, etc and they don’t really find it necessary to be loved or appreciated on a deep personal level.”

            B,

            RE — “sociopaths” or “psychopaths” — Thanks for the clarification, of your view (or your usage of these terms), that: 1. “sociopaths or psychopaths don’t care about others’ feelings, opinions, etc” and 2. “they don’t really find it necessary to be loved or appreciated on a deep personal level.”

            Imo, it’s perfectly fine that you use those terms that way, as those are popular conceptions, of what these terms mean; many people use these terms to describe certain individuals (and, sometimes, even to describe themselves) exactly as you do.

            But, these terms, as I use them, don’t necessarily mean that, to me.

            Here why I say that (I’ll explain just briefly how I use this kind of psychological labeling, when I do resort to using it, at all):

            Imo psychopathy does refer to those who could be called ‘sociopaths’ (apparently you feel the same) and, yet…

            I think of psychopathy as more suggestive of a demonstrated potential for ultimately sadistic, violent behaviors and/or machinations; that would be, in it’s most extreme manifestation, akin to someone the like of any of the most brutal dictators that the world has known…

            In it’s less blatantly obvious forms, psychopathy is ‘just’ characterized by a habitual practice of ‘othering’ (people who are being ‘othered’ are not being viewed as worthy of complete respect, their needs being considered as forever secondary, and often their needs are utterly disregarded). This ‘othering’ may be a very private practice; i.e., few people may know if it, as it goes on; maybe no one knows of it.

            So, someone whom I think of as ‘a complete psychopath’ is someone who, seemingly, as a rule, is always thinking of his/her own needs before the needs of others.

            I know there are some people who become very ‘high functioning’ psychopaths (‘psychopathy’ may become virtually a badge of honor to them).

            Meanwhile, as I have explained (above), when it comes to psychopathy, I will not tend to think some people are just ‘inherently’ this way. (“Born that way” is the common phrase.)

            They may feel that is the case, but I don’t believe it is.

            Next (I realize you describe yourself as a neuroscientist, and I don’t know if what I am going to say now will sound ‘airy-fairy’ to you or ‘new agey’ or otherwise less than fully ‘scientific,’ but my way of conceptualizing human character, I think of, as a ‘Buddhistic’ in nature), imho, any truly careful observation of people, in time, suggests, that: All aspects of human personality exist as potentials in everyone, and when any ‘characteristic’ way of being comes to manifest, it does so in varying degrees, from moment to moment — never being completely this way or completely that way — and never being absolutely set in stone; so, I when I use psychological labels, it is not to be black and white, all or nothing…

            Human personality characteristics that are supposedly ‘pure’ this or that are a thing of legend and mythology, imho.

            Imho, we are all, in our character, subject to change, depending how we are — for better and for worse — touched by others…

            Psychological labeling, once it is taken too completely seriously (as though the ultimate word of a Creator on High), tends to make people appear as though their ways of being are somehow permanently fixed.

            Deference to labels implying such fixedness doesn’t bother some people (some are plainly pleased by the labels they’ve garnered — even and especially some who are called “psychopaths”); but, I believe they can all get in the way of our seeing reality for what it truly is…

            And, I believe what’s most important to understand about these labels is that they will always mean different things to different people.

            So, really, it’s possible that we can be better understood, in conversations such as these, when we just dispensed with them, at last.

            That is what I’m doing now — very respectfully (and with great appreciation for all you’ve shared of your views).

            And, of course, it’s true, from what you’re saying (i.e., by gathering your two main criteria for describing certain people, as “sociopaths” or “psychopaths”), in speaking of Lanza and Roger, those labels may not well apply…

            Respectfully,

            Jonah

          • I indeed use more a definition akin to what Dr Robert Hare has characterised as a psychopath in his work, which is a close concept to my experience. I’ve been in a very toxic relationship with a person who could be very well ascribed many of these characteristics and as I have met people who grew up as siblings or children of people like that – it seems to if not be inborn then at least developed very early on. It also doesn’t have to do much with sadism as getting off seeing someone’s pain. Some psychopaths are sadistic but my ex was not. He got off on what all of them do (and most other people too, at least until the conscience and empathy kick in) – power and ability to manipulate others.

            I think this definition is more useful since I don’t really believe that people who can be described as psychopaths can really change under any sort of psychological intervention (I’d not even call it help since they do not suffer – it’s everyone around who does). In fact they use it as a tool to learn better manipulation techniques and to play with people around them.

            That is not true for people who commit acts of violence out of internal pain and anguish for whom relieve could be possible and by that integration back to the social structure. That is basically the aim of prison rehabilitation programmes.

            You mention “othering”. “Othering” is something that everyone does and it’s a part of normal human psychology. It is thought to be a useful evolutionary strategy as we are group animals and it takes conscious effort not to fall into this thinking, especially in times of crises. It also has its pluses and minuses as every form of group think – it allows you to make sense of a very complex world using simplistic approach but it can also lead you to becoming a perpetrator of atrocities. It has little to do with psychopathy per se.

          • Just to add: I also agree with many of your points, namely:

            “Human personality characteristics that are supposedly ‘pure’ this or that are a thing of legend and mythology” – of course. Everyone is different and even if some aspects of our characters can be thrown into one or other bucket doesn’t imply that this defines us. Also these labels are given without a context, which in many cases is everything.

            “I believe what’s most important to understand about these labels is that they will always mean different things to different people.” That’s exactly true. I think that before starting any discussion parties should first agree on the definition of discussed terms as this is in most cases the root cause of misunderstanding – people talk about different things and quarrel, while in fact they largely agree on the substance. At least that’s my impression.
            “it’s possible that we can be better understood, in conversations such as these, when we just dispensed with them, at last.”
            I don’t really think we can. I’ve seen it happening in science – things like people disputing endlessly if viruses are alive for instance. It’s kind of futile because you’re basically discussing your definition of life which is different from someone else’s definition. I personally think it’s not important how you call it, it’s important what you do with it but in some cases, like psychiatric labelling or if there is such thing as mental illness use or not use of these terms immediately puts you in a camp. I hate this and I think is counterproductive but I don’t see that going away any time soon at least until people can decide on a definition satisfying to everyone (good luck with that).

            This is something I do disagree with:
            “Meanwhile, as I have explained (above), when it comes to psychopathy, I will not tend to think some people are just ‘inherently’ this way. (“Born that way” is the common phrase.)”
            People are born with certain psychological characteristics. Children are not clean slates to be written upon. Of course there is a lot to be done by up-bringing and life experience but some underlying character features do not change easily. Honestly, I don’t know if anyone is born a “complete psychopath” (I’m not even sure what that would mean) but I’m pretty sure that people who are born with a propensity to be this way will never grow to be caring, empathic individuals just like people who are very emotional will not turn into emotionless, cold individuals (well, maybe with some pills:/).

            That’s at least my view on it, I don’t think I have any authority to say one way or the other and I appreciate your views on the subject – even if they don’t change my mind they at least make me think about my positions ;).

          • @ oldhead,

            Thanks for feeling my pain! As you demonstrate your empathic skills to be in working order and as you’ve directed them toward me, I feel no need to label you a psychopath… 🙂

            (Really, I am going to avoid calling anyone that, in these conversations, from this point forward…)

            And…

            @ B,

            Thanks for your further replies.

            Yes, I know that nearly everyone ‘others’ certain people, at times…

            And, you well describe the evolutionary psychology (which includes ‘survival mechanisms’), that could account for such behavior.

            But, imho, there are some people who do this habitually — far more than others; some people make a life of this ‘othering’ behavior; perhaps, they make their livings with it, so it becomes like second nature. (E.g., here now I’m thinking of many psychiatrists.)

            Their minds are constantly seeking to establish the existence of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ dichotomies…

            (At times, I have done this, in my own mind.)

            Sometimes, upon discovering that a person’s mind is constantly working that way, we find that s/he is utilizing that behavior to amass considerable power in society. S/he is gaining considerable social status or wealth. S/he may show no true concern for anyone who may be harmed in the process. I’m inclined to view that person as someone deserving of these labels, which we’re discussing…

            Meanwhile, as we’ve progressed in this conversation, it becomes more clear to me, that you may be saying, that: in your view, ‘psychopathy’ is defined by this third criteria, that is: an unusual propensity for manipulating others.

            That’s helpful to know; and, yes, I realize that’s typically key to what’s meant by that term…

            Sorry to hear that you had a partner who manifested such qualities in relationship, to you.

            You mention studying Robert Hare. I have studied a bit of his work (have one of his books lying around here somewhere but right now can’t find it). I think maybe I deliberately put him aside, but I can’t recall why I’ve put him aside, it could have been due to his expressing a strong inclination to propose, that ‘psychopathy’ is ‘intrinsic’ (and/or that it will never yield to interventions).

            (Note: You say psychological interventions can’t work, and I have no doubt that most such interventions fail to significantly change the behaviors of the sort of persons who could be well described by your three criteria; but, I think that’s because, here we are talking about systematic interventions. Of course, they’d be unlikely to work — as would interventions attempted by close relations and lovers; but, what about interventions by masters of human relations… and genuinely wanted interventions… and interventions that would be initiated for ultimately selfless reason. Someone who is quite wise, who, perhaps, wields a philosophy of life that’s basically unassailable, who is reaching out, as a friend who can demonstrate a way to truly add to that individual’s ability to work efficaciously, amongst others…)

            The seeming ‘fate’ of not all but many people who live with those three main criteria for your definition of psychopathy, is to wind up rather unhappy, in ways…

            They may find a religion (or, at least, a ‘religious’ sense) that actually renews their faith in themselves — and in humanity.

            Some such people, as those whose behaviors are well described by your three criteria could possibly make their way to the top of a religious organization’s hierarchy — just for the sake power, status and/or wealth — i.e., only to prove they’re incapable of changing, after all.

            But, I don’t think that would always be the case…

            Some, in the course of devoting themselves, to a new faith, benefit from meeting with individuals who have truly mastered themselves and have come to live a life of relative selflessness.

            (Note: By this point, in my life, no way would I describe myself as such a master; and, yet, there are a few people whom I have met, who I would describe as such… only a few.)

            On the other hand, most people who attempt ‘psychological interventions’ are themselves professional manipulators, and their motivations are anything but selfless.

            About Hare: I cannot recall what he says (right now, I could Google him, to remind myself, but I won’t…); I can only recall, that I wound up deliberately putting his book aside, so here I’m imaging, based on my reading of your view of ‘psychopathy’ (and my sense that you’re suggesting, that you basically concur with Hare), probably he defines much or all psychopathy as fate and as fixed.

            Of course, people are born with various behavioral propensities, that could be viewed, as enduring — but not, imho, propensities which prove a person to be, now and forevermore, filled with guile. Those features (‘fated and fixed’) seems to be a major feature of psychopathy, in the eyes of many.

            But, my belief is, that anyone can change for the better — given some sort of ideal impetus for doing so…

            Respectfully,

            Jonah

          • “‘psychopathy’ is defined by this third criteria, that is: an unusual propensity for manipulating others.”
            I’d rather say that psychopaths aren’t intrinsically better than the next person in manipulation, they’re simply more ruthless so they do it all the time and just get good at it with practice. It’s just like a normal person cannot even imagine why one would go to such lengths in lying and gaslighting basically for the fun of it. It seems to make no sense at all until you realise how a person like that thinks. And it’s in itself very disturbing.
            I think it’s very difficult to understand what I am talking about if you have no personal experience with such a person. Which I wish you’ll never have. It’s like looking into the abyss. I’d jsut warn you not to make the same mistake I did (and most if not all people who have fallen for such people) – to assume that every human being has good in them and that evil is never intrinsic. That is true for most people but not for all people and ignoring that fact makes you very vulnerable.

  2. P.S. — In my preceding comment, I very deliberately mentioned benzos (because reportedly Adam Lanza was taking Xanax) and mentioned resistance to “antipsychotics” (because Elliot Roger had reportedly refused to take Risperdal). What I should have mentioned, in that same breath, was SSRIs. Ever since the Columbine shooting, many school-shooters have been described as individuals who had been prescribed them; and, I think their use could be a contributing factor, in such violence…

    But, again, all things considered, I feel it’s foolish to say, that “…it’s the psych drugs that are causing people to do these terrible things.”

  3. “Sandy Hook Redux: Obama officials confirm that it was a drill and no children died”
    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2014/06/13/sandy-hook-redux-obama-officials-confirm-that-it-was-a-drill-and-no-children-died/

    “I have a lot of sources in regards to as to what’s going on with the president and the administration and so on, and every one of my sources said it was a false flag”–Paul Preston

    Of course this sounds like conspiracy theory, doesn’t it? And no one likes to be labelled a conspiracy theorist, but not infrequently the truth is unavailable in MSM.

    A dab more: “Sofia Smallstorm, who produced and directed the documentary, “Unraveling Sandy Hook”, which many regard as the best video study of the Sandy Hook event, recently interviewed a Los Angeles school expert, Paul Preston, about Sandy Hook and his knowledge of what had transpired.

    Governor Malloy had held a press conference that day, explaining that he and the Lt. Governor had been “spoken to” that something like this might happen, which raised the question, what “something like this” did he mean? Had he been told a school shooting massacre would take place? or a drill that would be presented as a real event, which appears to be what took place?

    Remarkably, we now have confirmation from an unexpected source. Paul Preston had obtained information from officials in the U.S. Department of Education of the Barack Obama administration, who confirmed to him on the basis of their own personal knowledge that:
    (1) it had been a drill;

    (2) no children had been killed; and,

    (3) it had been done to promote an anti-gun agenda.

    Given his background of 41 years in the California public school system (from custodian to district superintendent) and having served as a teacher, coach, vice-principal and principal before retiring in 2012 as the superintendent of two charter schools, I thought what he had to say about Sandy Hook deserved widespread dissemination.”

    Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Hope you read this and make your own decision.