Search This Blog

Sunday, November 12, 2017

More crazies, more shootings?

The only point in the gun debate that looks to be agreeable by both parts is that crazies are to blame. To the pro-guns, they are the main source. To the anti-guns, a contributing factor.

I was then surprised to read today that:
It’s a common misperception: Mass killers are mentally ill. In fact, fewer than 1 in 6 has been diagnosed as psychotic, according to a 2015 paper. Past violent behavior, a history of animal cruelty, childhood maltreatment, access to guns, or being young and male are more reliable indicators. So when President Trump portrayed last Sunday’s church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, as a mental health problem – the killer had escaped from a mental health facility in 2012 – he was really pointing to an exception rather than the rule. [...]
[...] Of 88 mass shooters – those who had killed four or more people in the US – since 1966, only 14.8 percent were diagnosed as psychotic, according to 2015 paper by Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, a gun violence expert who maintains a database of indiscriminate mass shootings. 
As the article goes, it doesn't make much of a strong case, since its main point looks to be that not all mentally ill should be viewed as a source of doom. 


Yet, I wonder, are we all settling for too comfortable an answer? The Sutherland Springs shooter is an easy case of mental disorder, but it is hard to forget the Las Vegas one, whose perpetrator looked to be smarter than everyone in this blog - if we judge so only by financial achievements.



26 comments:

erp said...

Jeff Bezos (a putative theoretical physicist, BTW) agrees with you.

Clovis e Adri said...

???

Bret said...

Yeah erp, that was an interesting article and all, but Bezos wasn't mentioned and I wasn't totally sure how it related to this post?!?!?

Bret said...

My view is that there are multiple versions of crazy. The first is non-functional. Clearly, the Las Vegas dude wasn't that version of crazy.

The second version is "capable of severely abnormal behavior" and in some sense many or most sociopaths/psychopaths fall into this category anyway.

I've read that 90+% of the population is generally unable to kill another human without specific training and conditioning (which is a significant part of military training). Otherwise, most of us simply cannot pull the trigger under normal circumstances where we (and loved ones) are not under direct threat and many have trouble even then.

Unloading thousands of bullets into an unarmed crowd qualifies as severely abnormal behavior. He was certainly extraordinarily functional, but to me, still completely crazy. Maybe this is just me as a layman user of English versus what a Psychologist would think, but these acts themselves show stark insanity to me.

So the question is were the perps outwardly crazy prior to the final act. I'm not confident that we have all of the information required to make that assessment. Some of that information may not be available to anybody. Other information, especially if it makes law enforcement look bad or is contrary to the ideological agenda of the gatekeepers of said information, may be hidden from the general public.

On the other hand, I agree that the vast, vast majority of murders are not committed by someone who's crazy.

erp said...

Bezos owns the Washington Post and I doubt this article could have been in the paper if it wasn't okayed by him.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

I think you are qualifying as crazy (as if Bezos had time to OK every article in WaPo), but I am not worried because it is exceedingly rare for women to commit mass muders. And in the USA, even garden-variety homicides are only 10% to 13% perpetrated by women.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
I've read that 90+% of the population is generally unable to kill another human without specific training and conditioning (which is a significant part of military training).
---
That's an interesting number. I highly doubt it though - remember the link?


---
The second version is "capable of severely abnormal behavior" and in some sense many or most sociopaths/psychopaths fall into this category anyway.
---

Well, to kill a lot of strangers for apparently no reason sure qualifies as severely abnormal behavior, so for us laymen, of course all mass murderers will be branded as mentally ill.

But if you watched how bewildered the Las Vegas shooter's brother was, it really looked like the guy was not seen as crazy to him.


I am inclined to think that a number of the mass killers just decided not to live anymore, but wanted to play a final sick prank to the ones who stayed. If that indeed describes some of them, shall we classify such extreme derision as mental illness?

Bret said...

Clovis,

I can't find the 90% link, but here's a closely related one:

"Marshall's work on infantry combat effectiveness in World War II, titled Men Against Fire, is his best-known and most controversial work. In the book, Marshall claimed that of the World War II U.S. troops in actual combat, 75% never fired at the enemy for the purpose of killing, even though they were engaged in combat and under direct threat."

In addition, 90% of weapons recovered from the Battle of Gettysburg were loaded which, as is explained below, seems odd and seems to indicate an innate reluctance to shoot other humans:

"Author of the Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia F. A. Lord tells us that after the Battle of Gettysburg, 27,574 muskets were recovered from the battlefield. Of these, nearly 90 percent (twenty-four thousand) were loaded. Twelve thousand of these loaded muskets were found to be loaded more than once, and six thousand of the multiply loaded weapons had from three to ten rounds loaded in the barrel. One weapon had been loaded twenty-three times. Why, then, were there so many loaded weapons available on the battlefield, and why did at least twelve thousand soldiers misload their weapons in combat?

A loaded weapon was a precious commodity on the black-powder battlefield. During the stand-up, face-to-face, short-range battles of this era a weapon should have been loaded for only a fraction of the time in battle. More than 95 percent of the time was spent in loading the weapon, and less than 5 percent in firing it. If most soldiers were desperately attempting to kill as quickly and efficiently as they could, then 95 percent should have been shot with an empty weapon in their hand, and any loaded, cocked, and primed weapon available dropped on the battlefield would have been snatched up from wounded or dead comrades and fired. There were many who were shot while charging the enemy or were casualties of artillery outside of musket range, and these individuals would never have had an opportunity to fire their weapons, but they hardly represent 95 percent of all casualties. If there is a desperate need in all soldiers to fire their weapon in combat, then many of these men should have died with an empty weapon. And as the ebb and flow of battle passed over these weapons, many of them should have been picked up and fired at the enemy.

The obvious conclusion is that most soldiers were not trying to kill the enemy. Most of them appear to have not even wanted to fire in the enemy's general direction. As Marshall observed, most soldiers seem to have an inner resistance to firing their weapon in combat. The point here is that the resistance appears to have existed long before Marshall discovered it, and this resistance is the reason for many (if not most) of these multiply loaded weapons.
"

Where I had seen the 90% number before was that the military needs to turn that 90% who won't shoot into 90+% who will and they've modified training based on the findings above.

There's tremendous debate about how to interpret all of these numbers, but, I conclude (yes, just guessing) that an awful lot of people cannot and will not kill someone else under all but the most dire of circumstances, and often, not even then.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "I am inclined to think that a number of the mass killers just decided not to live anymore, but wanted to play a final sick prank to the ones who stayed."

If so, those who are suicidal are general consider mentally ill, both by the layman and psychologists, no?

erp said...

Of course Bezos doesn't okay every article, but you can bet that those that don't promote the narrative don't get published without his okay.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

---
I can't find the 90% link, but here's a closely related one:
---
Pretty interesting stuff that I was not aware of, thank you.

Though looking to other cultures (indian tribes, por example), I tend to think this is a result restricted to some particular conditions of more modern societies.

---
If so, those who are suicidal are general consider mentally ill, both by the layman and psychologists, no?
---
Good question, Bret.

As a laymen, my opinion is as good as anyone else, but I guess that, though mental illness leads to suicidal tendencies, not necessarily all suicidal tendencies are caused by mental illness.

A trivial example: a person mourning the death of a loved one may sincerely think about taking his/her life, and I don't think this is characterized as mental illness.

Likewise - and this is a touchy subject in this virtual space we share, given past events - I believe a non-negligible number of suicides are decisions taken out of 'rational despair', as opposed to a decision taken out of cloudy judgment induced by mental disease or unbalanced hormones that affect mood, leading to 'irrational despair'.

IOW, rational despair would be the rational conclusion of to be living a situation that causes despair, and out of which you see no hope.

I believe most people can get into rational despair, and think about suicide, without being actually ill. So the next question is, the derision necessary to kill a lot of strangers before killing yourself (as I mentioned in the previous comment, and assuming it describes any of those cases): does it come out of mental illness too, or just too much
cynicism can take you there?

Hey Skipper said...

It’s a common misperception: Mass killers are mentally ill. In fact, fewer than 1 in 6 has been diagnosed as psychotic, according to a 2015 paper.

So if I'm not diagnosed with cancer, I don't have it?

erp said...

The problem is who sets the criteria for labeling mental illness and what their motives are. Since the Clinton's everything has become so politicized, I don't believe a single word I hear even if it's from the horse's mouth. :-)

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
So if I'm not diagnosed with cancer, I don't have it?
---
So you also think the other 5/6 were all nut cases? If so, I present the Las Vegas case to you again.

erp said...

Clovis, present the Las Vegas case? Nothing is definitively known about it. It's been a cover-up from start to finish.

Clovis e Adri said...

Erp,

You believe the guy who did it was insane? I don't. I think he did it with very pointed purpose, and that the theories people contemplate to explain it (hidden/unknown diseade, side effects of meds) aren't convincing at all.

Rational despair and derision for people's lives is my bet.

erp said...

I have no idea if the guy was insane or not, or, in fact, anything else about him or the tragedy and neither does anyone else who must rely on media reporting.

Hey Skipper said...

[erp:] The problem is who sets the criteria for labeling mental illness and what their motives are.

[Clovis:] So you also think the other 5/6 were all nut cases? If so, I present the Las Vegas case to you again.

To what end?

The issue is way more fundamental than that. With regard to the brain, our knowledge far less than medical science was about diseases three hundred years ago -- we know almost nothing.

In 1700 to see someone keel over dead and say "he wasn't sick, because we didn't diagnose him with an illness" would be transparently silly. He sure didn't keel over because he was fit as a fiddle -- something was fatally wrong, and just because it was undiagnosable doesn't mean it didn't exist.

Just so with the Vegas shooter. If he was completely sane, then his mental state would be essentially the same as every one else. Okay, let's say that is true. Then any of use would be just as prone to doing what he did, and Lord knows getting guns isn't a barrier. So the question that demands asking is this: why isn't this happening everywhere, all the time? Since 1966, the US has 90-odd mass shooters.

Assuming all mass shooters are male between the ages of 15 and 60. How many of them have there been since 1966? Not an easy question to answer, but I'll take a stab at it: the number of men in that age range in 1991. There were 125 million males alive in 1991, knock off 25 million for being outside the age range.

90 out of 100 million.

That percentage is zero to four places to the right of the decimal point.

On what basis does that article reach the foolish conclusion that something so vanishingly rare isn't due to mental illness?

Every time I think the NYT has raised the bar for intellectual vacuity to an entirely new level, the prove me wrong.

Of course, there is another possibility. If the NYT can get people thinking that any one of us can snap at any time and start mowing people down, then, well, there's nothing for it but to take all the guns.

Oh, wait.

(There aren't enough hours in a day to fisk all the abuses of evidence and logic in that article -- no matter what you think of guns. Why can't confiscationists come up with a sound, fact based argument?)


Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] You believe the [Vegas shooter] was insane? I don't. I think he did it with very pointed purpose ...

MH370. Was he insane? What was his purpose?

Assume the Vegas shooter did have a very pointed purpose. How intelligible does it have to be to the rest of us for it not to be insane?

I briefly knew this guy. Insane? If he had dropped his bombs on a large gathering of people, would he then be insane?

He sure as heck had no diagnosed mental illness beforehand. Therefore sane?

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
On what basis does that article reach the foolish conclusion that something so vanishingly rare isn't due to mental illness?
---
You are mixing things up. The article of the present post is not from the NYT.

---
(There aren't enough hours in a day to fisk all the abuses of evidence and logic in that article -- no matter what you think of guns. Why can't confiscationists come up with a sound, fact based argument?)
---
I don't even know which article you are talking about now, but anyway, your record of presenting 'abuses of evidence and logic' isn't very good these days.

---
Of course, there is another possibility. If the NYT can get people thinking that any one of us can snap at any time and start mowing people down, then, well, there's nothing for it but to take all the guns.
---
I don't know about the NYT, but that's sure not the argument I presented here. I only invited people to think over if just assigning the mass shooters as crazy was too easy an answer. Well, it is also very probably the right answer, but nonetheless, if they are not under the effects of insanity, what the heck may be happening?

You look to find the question a dumb one, and it may well be, but I don't care asking dumb questions too. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] You are mixing things up. The article of the present post is not from the NYT.

Not sure how that matters, but it's near identical twin was

I don't even know which article you are talking about now, but anyway, your record of presenting 'abuses of evidence and logic' isn't very good these days.

I salute you. That is perhaps the very best example of the ad hominem fallacy I have ever seen.


I only invited people to think over if just assigning the mass shooters as crazy was too easy an answer. Well, it is also very probably the right answer, but nonetheless, if they are not under the effects of insanity, what the heck may be happening?

You look to find the question a dumb one, and it may well be, but I don't care asking dumb questions too. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't.


I don't think the question at all dumb, I think both the article you cited and the NYT example very facile, to put it politely.

It would help a great deal if they bothered to put a thumb on what it means to be mentally ill. Clearly I'm not an expert in the field, but I'll hazard this anyway: a person is mentally ill to the extent their mental state is inconsistent with their material surroundings.

Both of my kids are mentally ill. They have struggled with depression -- my daughter has found an effective medication, my son is still looking. They are mentally ill because their depression is completely inconsistent with the material conditions of their lives.

Similarly, I think Harry is mentally ill. He is so consumed by hatred of rightwingers/christians/military officers/gun owners etc. that he has become incapable of reasoned thought on any of those subjects.

And I suspect the same could be said of many progressives. Justine Sacco and James Damore had their lives permanently altered due to nothing more than mass hatred. The progressives at Crooked Timber for the most part hadn't read what Damore wrote, and none of them bothered to quote and refute him. No reason, just hatred.

Sen. Rand Paul got blind sided by a neighbor, getting six ribs broken, and suffering lung injuries. It now seems clear that his neighbor was driven by sufficient hatred to justify the attack.

James Hodgkinson shot up a Republican baseball practice. Which is now getting closer to what you are talking about. He so hatred was so extreme that he was willing to kill people he had never met because of it.

Clearly, it seems to me, anyway, at some point hatred -- a common and normal human emotion -- can get so detached from material circumstances that it becomes pathological.

Of course there is a spectrum. Harry may have lost the ability to reason intelligently about many things, but there is no possibility that it is anywhere near the point of violence.

But I think it is foolish to conclude that a mass killer isn't mentally ill simply because there isn't a "diagnosis". Except for those killing for a cause (and maybe them, too), they are driven by hatred so severe that it can't possibly be reconciled with reality.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
I salute you. That is perhaps the very best example of the ad hominem fallacy I have ever seen.
---
You are right, my apologies.

---
But I think it is foolish to conclude that a mass killer isn't mentally ill simply because there isn't a "diagnosis". Except for those killing for a cause (and maybe them, too), they are driven by hatred so severe that it can't possibly be reconciled with reality.
---
I don't know if my English failed me, but I've chosen the word "derision" because I did not think "hatred" would describe it.

Hodgkinson had hatred enough, but so have many Islamic terrorists, who act out of a personal cause and worldview that induces that much hatred. In this sense, you 'understand' his 'reasoning', and his choice of victims was no longer random.

But the Las Vegas shooter (and maybe the MH370 case too) didn't look to be acting out of hatred, since their choice of victims gives no way to infer what was the source of any such hatred. And if they had no hatred - only pure and complete derision - there is no external reality you need to connect it to, in order to apply your concept of 'mentally ill'.

It is often said that psychopaths (i.e. serial killers) are known for lacking the 'brain circuits' that leads to empathy. They often do not even hate the people they kill, because they also lack antipathy for them. What I am asking then is, maybe there is faulty circuit in the brain that leads to extreme (and mostly indiscriminate) derision for others?

Hey Skipper said...

What I am asking then is, maybe there is faulty circuit in the brain that leads to extreme (and mostly indiscriminate) derision for others?

Between Hodgkinson and Islam inspired mass murder, the latter is easier (IMHO) to comprehend. The Quran specifically promises immediate and unconditional entry into paradise to those who become martyrs while conducting jihad. So if one happens to really believe in Islam, then martyrdom is a perfectly rational decision. Shortly after 9/11, the "comedian" Bill Maher said that the US military was cowardly, but the terrorists were really the brave ones:

“We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly,” Maher said according to transcripts (video below). “Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly,” he concluded.

He missed the point entirely. The 9/11 terrorists fully believed they were going to paradise. Flying airplanes into buildings, for them, required no more bravery than if someone handed me the keys to a bank vault and invited me to haul out all the cash I wanted, forever.

Hatred for the infidel, and the existential threat Western civilization poses to Islam, combined with the promise of instant paradise, makes their acts comprehensible to me.

Hodgkinson, much less so. IMHO -- backed up by ample evidence (again, IMHO) -- progressives hate those who disagree with them far more than non-progressives do. Taking that hatred to an extreme sufficiently dehumanizes the targets of that hatred to the point where killing them seems a positive good. That much is comprehensible, while also being a de facto diagnosis of mental illness, because any normal human emotion taken to that extreme by definition is a complete loss of mental balance.

What isn't comprehensible is someone who is presumably an atheist disregarding the inevitable self-destruction. To those without suicidal ideation, suicide is completely incomprehensible; asking for a "why" behind a suicide is to hope for a rational answer where rationality has long left the building.

It is completely impossible therefore (IMHO) to understand why some suicides hope to kill complete strangers (add to MH370 GW9525, and a half dozen or so others). Derision? Hatred? Nihilism? God-complex? Since these people never survive, it is impossible to ask them.

And it is just as impossible to conclude they weren't mentally ill; indeed, the supposition must be for Hodgkinson, LV shooter, etc that they were by definition mentally ill, whereas Islamist terrorists could be completely rational.

Clovis e Adri said...

Skipper,

---
The 9/11 terrorists fully believed they were going to paradise.
---
You say you have the record of a probe of their exact internal mental states proving so?

---
And it is just as impossible to conclude they weren't mentally ill; indeed, the supposition must be for Hodgkinson, LV shooter, etc that they were by definition mentally ill, whereas Islamist terrorists could be completely rational.
---
Because it is completely rational to fully believe you will get 72 virgins in paradise for blowing up an airplane?


I don't think their faith in paradise (or even Islam) is half as strong as you think, Skipper. And notice that, if their hatred was directed generically to 'infidels', as you deduce their religions obliges them, we would see a uniform distribution of terrorist attacks against non-Muslims nations in the world. Which is not the case. What would be the reason for some infidels attracting more of their hatred than others?

Bret said...

Clovis asked "Because it is completely rational to fully believe you will get 72 virgins in paradise for blowing up an airplane?"

I wouldn't've used the phrase "completely rational" personally. But the opposite of insane is not "completely rational"; it's sane.

So then, is it possible to be sane and have faith in certain beliefs? For example, can one be sane and believe in God? If yes, then I don't see why one couldn't be sane and believe in jihad that results in one's death given the faith that it also results in an eternity in paradise with 72 virgins. If no (one can't be sane and believe in God), then the vast majority of the world is insane, so there's not much point in rational discussion.

Clovis asked "What would be the reason for some infidels attracting more of their hatred than others?"

The religious leaders identify the US as the great satan.

Hey Skipper said...

[Hey Skipper:] The 9/11 terrorists fully believed they were going to paradise.
---
[Clovis:] You say you have the record of a probe of their exact internal mental states proving so?


Do you know anything about the Quran? Have you bothered to familiarize yourself, even a little bit, with what these people proclaim before the engage in mass murder then suicide?

True believers believe what true believers believe. Rationality has nothing to do with it, because, if it did, there would be no Islamists. Just as there are virtually no Christians today that would have been recognized as such a century ago.

And notice that, if their hatred was directed generically to 'infidels', as you deduce their religions obliges them, we would see a uniform distribution of terrorist attacks against non-Muslims nations in the world. Which is not the case. What would be the reason for some infidels attracting more of their hatred than others?

You have jumped to a conclusion absent an argument.

There isn't a uniform distribution of Muslims around the world. Given that Muslim antagonism towards different sects of Islam is scarcely any less than that towards Dal al-aharb, then a non-uniform distribution of violence isn't the least surprising.

And that is long before you get to the vastly more effective governments in Western societies.

So perhaps "we would see" requires rather more substantiation than you have provided.

[Bret:] I wouldn't've used the phrase "completely rational" personally. But the opposite of insane is not "completely rational"; it's sane.

Exactly.

All beliefs require accepting entering arguments. (And really, how much more rational is the Big Bang than Some Hairy Thunderer?) And the time since the Enlightenment has demonstrated that some sources of belief are more persuasive, on the whole than others. However, that doesn't mean that those others won't be just as persuasive to those who hold them. Moreover, because of the existential challenge that modernism poses to Islam, those who are motivated to act in its defense are bound to be more zealous.

In other words, "comprehensible" and "sane" for me exist in the same intellectual space, even if I completely disagree with the entering arguments. Accepting that some people will fervently believe in Islam (just as there are plenty of people who believed -- and some who still do -- in Marxism), everything that follows that belief is comprehensible.

The Hodgkinsons/GW 9525s of the world are completely baffling.