It was a weekend of shootings, most notably the mass shooting perpetrated in connection with a terror bombing in Norway. The 32-year-old shooter, also the suspected bomber, killed approximately 90 people, many of them children of Norwegian lawmakers. He’s in custody, and the ease with which he surrendered when police finally reached him suggests to me that he wanted to remain alive, see the aftermath of his carnage, and live in infamy as some kind of “poster boy” for anti-Muslim racists in Norway.
I’m always fascinated by how people like this guy think their terrorism is really going to change public policy in the ways that they want. Think back to 9/11/2001 and other acts of terrorism that you can remember. How many times do you recall anyone saying afterwards, “You know, these terrorists really do have a point, and we really should start doing things more their way”? Now, there have been some times when terrorism has achieved its goals, like when President Reagan pulled a U.S. Marine detachment out of Lebanon in the 1980’s after a terrorist bombing at their barracks (which I think was an uncharacteristic mistake on Reagan’s part because it emboldened an enemy to attack Americans again later). Most of the time, however, all terrorism really does is strengthen the resolve of the targeted people to preserve and defend their ways of life.
I think it’s both unfortunate and unwise that many media outlets continue to describe the Norwegian shooter as “right wing.” That label confuses his apparent racist ideology with people in the U.S. and elsewhere who may be characterized as “right wing” simply because they’re politically conservative (i.e. because they believe in keeping governance as small as possible, preferably local, keeping taxes low, upholding the rule of law, protecting the public safety from external/internal threats, etc. — nothing to do with hate, violence, etc.). There’s no connection whatsoever between the Norwegian shooter and what we think of as “right wing” in the U.S.
Another ill-fitting yet widely-reported misnomer is the description of this guy as some kind of a “Christian.” Clearly, there’s no way that a guy who’s interested at all in following the teachings of Jesus Christ would do what this guy did, so it’s utterly oxymoronic to identify him as a Christian. If that’s how he self-identifies, then the media should report that he “claims to be a Christian” rather than that he is one.
Pay attention, though, to how quickly, clearly, unequivocally, and universally the leaders of the world’s various Christian denominations condemn this guy’s actions. I think you’ll find a clear difference from the deafening, tacitly-condoning silence that we’ve heard many times in the past when terrorist attacks have been perpetrated in the name of another major world religion (one which, in fairness, is less centrally-organized, making it more difficult for anyone to speak for the religion as a whole, but which nevertheless needs to do far more to marginalize people who commit murder in its name).
The Norwegian shooter is not “right wing” (at least not in the American sense of that label); he’s not “Christian;” he’s a psychopathic racist and terrorist, plain and simple. Amazingly, even though it’s crystal clear that 1) he knew what he was doing (he reportedly engaged in all of my “three p’s”: planning, preparation, and practice) and 2) he had the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions, the maximum sentence that he can receive under Norwegian law is 21 years in prison. That’s right, he’ll likely be free in his 50’s after killing 90 people, which is insane. Unless maybe he’s completely paralyzed from the neck down, this guy should never be trusted not to turn violent on his fellow citizens again. But before you take comfort in the belief that we’re smarter than that in the U.S., please read on…
Three other shootings making headlines this weekend happened here in the U.S. One, at a backyard birthday party in California, killed a teenager and wounded eight others. That shooter got away, but it looks domestic to me, like an estranged parent, family member, etc., so I predict either a quick roundup of a suspect or the discovery of a deceased suspect (by suicide at another location). Another, also at a birthday party only this one at a roller-skating rink in Texas, killed six people including the shooter (suicide on the scene) and was clearly domestic (the shooter was the estranged father of the boy whose 11th birthday was being celebrated). A third, also domestic, happened at a Washington casino when a woman’s estranged husband entered the casino and shot her, her date, and her two sisters. So far, all four victims in that one reportedly have survived, and that shooter is in custody.
As usual, it’s a virtual certainty that these shooters will prove to have exhibited warning signs if not clear tendencies toward violence in the past, and as I’m always saying, if we’d get tougher sooner on citizens who exhibit violent propensities, box those individuals in much more tightly, and keep them boxed in for much longer periods of time, we might actually be able to prevent some future tragedies like these. Until then, sadly, I think we can expect more of the same, and as we’ve seen in recent years, it’s not just the U.S. with its relatively permissive laws regarding gun ownership. It’s also Europe, where gun laws generally are much more restrictive, and it’s even China, where a series of assailants entered schools and committed mass murder with no firearms at all but with machete-type blades. Psychopaths are a fact of human life around the globe. We need to realize that preempting the carnage that they cause is less about the means that they use and more about who they are, because they almost always reveal themselves well in advance, if only we’d be looking for them and be prepared to take preemptive action when we see them.
Remember the guy with the “house of horrors” in Ohio, the one who had the bodies of 11 women entombed in his home? (By the way, as yet another illustration of points I made above, this guy was a previously-convicted sex offender, yet we still gave him a “second chance” to kill at least 11 other people). He has now been convicted of 11 murders. The sentencing phase of his trial is next month, and he’s eligible for the death penalty. Expect “mitigating evidence” to include “nightmares” that he supposedly had about harming women. Yeah, cry me a river. Wonder if we’ll finally throw away the key this time or if we’ll give him a “third chance” sometime later in his life like the Norwegians apparently would do.
And remember the case that I told you about last week, the one in which a pharmaceutical executive’s girlfriend’s body was found hanging naked and bound from a balcony at his house while his son (who later died) was hospitalized in critical condition from a fall down a staircase in the same home? Turns out the girlfriend was the one who was supposedly taking care of the little boy when he fell down the stairs. Now, if you recall my commentary about the case of a U.S. Census worker whose body was found hanging under similar conditions in a Kentucky forest in 2009, you know that people do sometimes commit suicide in ways that make it look like they were murdered. In this case, though, I’m hypothesizing that the woman may have been deemed responsible (either intentionally or negligently) for the boy’s deadly injuries and may in fact have gotten a private “death penalty” from…(you fill in the person likeliest to have been the “executioner” in that scenario). Of course I/we could be wrong.
As I predicted, Arizona mass shooter Jared Loughner is back on forced anti-psychotic medication while federal prison officials attempt to restore his competency to stand trial for the January massacre that killed several people and severely injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Justices of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have concluded that Loughner is a danger to himself and that his forced medication at this time is in fact consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Loughner remains on “suicide watch,” about which I (as you may know if you read regularly) have mixed feelings (as long as the jailers don’t encourage it or participate in it in any way, I sometimes wonder whether a self-administration of the death penalty by a guy like Loughner wouldn’t actually be a preferable outcome to us spending millions of dollars and a couple of decades to accomplish the same result).
And finally, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead of an apparent drug overdose over the weekend. I’ve written about her sad case in the past, and with lyrics like, “They tried to make me go to rehab. I said, no, no, no,” millions of cheering fans acting like that message was cool, and yet again, a legal system that let her slide even when she allegedly was caught on videotape committing (drug) crimes, it didn’t take a Ph.D. to predict that she’d eventually slide right over the proverbial edge, taking her formidable talent with her.