Tag Archives: Daily Mail

The Familiar Voice Of Isla Vista’s Killer

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I don’t normally blog about mass shootings when the reporting doesn’t involve violent video games, aggressive music, the occult or one of the other topics from this site. Nevertheless, I often follow the reporting anytime an incident like Elliot Rodger’s crime spree in Isla Vista, California, takes place. I think we are just beginning to learn about this young man, who left behind hateful videos and an even more hate-filled manifesto. For better or worse, Rodger left behind a lot of documentation that points if not to an underlying reason, at least to his thinking and rationale for the attack. Without pathologizing anger and hatred necessarily, it’s worth pointing out that this level of malice and violent planning is one of the hallmarks of such killers — and of a particular strain of imbalanced mental state Rodger seemed to share with other mass shooters, notably Eric Harris and Anders Breivik.

From Rodgers’ videos:

“I will be a god compared to you. You will all be animals. You are animals, and I will slaughter you like animals. I hate all of you. Humanity is a disgusting, wretched, depraved species.… I’ll be a god exacting my retribution on all those who deserve it and you do deserve it just for the crime of living a better life than me.”

From Eric Harris’ diaries:

“I feel like God. I am higher than almost anyone in the fucking world in terms of universal intelligence.” [in a later entry] “The Nazis came up with a ‘final solution’ to the Jewish problem: kill them all. Well in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I say ‘Kill mankind.’ No one should survive.”

From Breivik’s manifesto:

“Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike. Explain what you have done (in an announcement distributed prior to operation) and make certain that everyone understands that we, the free peoples of Europe, are going to strike again and again.”

When we talk about what mass killers have in common, we have to go deeper than music or hobbies, or even spirituality. If we begin to compare the messages of those who left behind messages, there are certainly a number of common themes. Several of them talk about eradicating massive numbers of people. And many seem to carry this kind of righteousness, a righteousness that is apart from our cultural and legal order, as though they exist outside the societal code and get to decide who lives and who dies. One writer, Dave Cullen, pegged these traits in Eric Harris as sociopathy.

But it’s interesting, isn’t it, how these killers’ mental state is refracted through the hot-button issues of the day. Recently, our society has focused broadly and deeply on issues related to women’s rights — from kidnapped Nigerian girls to the firing of NYT executive editor Jill Abramson. We’ve also been looking more closely at race in recent years, sparked perhaps in part by the election of our first biracial president. Rodgers spoke of a specific hatred toward women, toward other races — very interesting, given that he was biracial.

Music writer Ann Powers said, on Facebook:

“The quick association of the Isla Vista killing with the culture of misogyny is right and necessary. I’m glad for that commentary. But if ever a tragedy illustrated how one pathological cultural imbalance produces and is produced by another, it is this one. As David J. Leonard pointed out, Rodger’s hatred of women can’t be separated from his entrapment within hegemonic masculinity. His distress at being biracial and hatred of both black and blonde people expose the insidiousness of racism. His feelings of sexual failure make me wonder about the competitively hypersexualized environment we all live in today. Mental illness often reflects the most troubling aspects of the historic moment that creates it. This event is a minefield. To reduce its origin to one thing is to fail to step carefully.”

This stuff is complicated, and I’m mostly glad to see, so far, that the non-sensational press (by which I don’t mean the Daily Mail, the New York Daily News, and so on) isn’t dumbing things down. I hope that continues as we learn more about this young man and his terrible crimes. The more nuance and complexity we can pull from the event, the more we will understand when the next one comes.

It’s time to listen to the moms of violent young men


Suspected Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza.

Thirteen and a half years ago, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold brought guns to school, killing 13 classmates and faculty before turning their guns on themselves. When President Bill Clinton solemnly addressed the nation after the shootings at Columbine High School, he said, “Amidst all the turmoil and grief … perhaps now America would wake up to the dimensions of this challenge, if it could happen in a place like Littleton, and we could prevent anything like this from happening again.”

Did we wake up?

Since then, frankly, as a nation we’ve done fuck-all to stop another one from happening. And they’ve kept happening.

While we’ve been listening to the “researchers” like Craig Anderson, Doug Gentile and Brad Bushman, whose hundreds of studies have permanently embedded in our brains a correlation between video-game violence and real-life aggression, young men have kept shooting. While we’ve been listening to the nightly news blame the occult, heavy metal, and goths, young men have kept shooting.

Within hours of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, one of Fox News’ talking heads was already laying it on about video games — without knowing whether suspected shooter Adam Lanza played them. CNN and Sen. Joe Lieberman — also on Fox News — were not far behind.

In the past two days, the Daily Mail has run at least two articles linking Lanza with goth kids, as though that simple fact would have made him a killer. If anything, goth kids — who are about as non-aggressive as kids get — would have taken him in because he was different, he didn’t know how to get along, and they were able to make space in their social group for someone like him.

We don’t know, precisely, what Adam was like. The two people who probably knew him best — himself and his mother — are dead. His mother, who apparently quit her job at Sandy Hook Elementary a few years ago so she could take care of him, even though he was almost an adult. What was going on with Adam? In the coming days and weeks, we may know more. For now, all we know now is that, for whatever reason, his mother felt he needed full-time care at an age when most young men are getting ready to leave the nest.

The thing is, I think a lot of moms know — parents know — when their kids are teetering on the brink of violence. Or when they’ve gone way over the brink. One of the pieces circulating today is by mom/blogger Liza Long, who wrote a post Friday that’s now being called, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” She isn’t — but she is the mom of a violent 13-year-old whom she fears:

On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map). Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

After James Holmes shot a dozen people in a Colorado movie theater this summer, didn’t his mother say she knew he’d done it? How many other moms have had that conversation with police — they felt helpless to protect their sons from those violent feelings, and they knew it was only a matter of time before their sons hurt someone else?

I know it’s tough to talk about mental health here without stigmatizing huge swaths of people who battle mental illness but aren’t dangerous to themselves or others. But we need to try. Note that most of the perpetrators in mass shootings wind up killing themselves at the end of the event. I’ve heard such massacres called elaborate forms of suicide. Something, temporarily or permanently, has gone very wrong in their minds. And in most cases, there seems to have been adequate evidence that they were capable of such violence. There were signs and plans leading up to the event. There were caring people who tried to intervene, but for whatever reason, these boys and men slipped through the cracks.

Their moms: are they asking for an end to violent video games? To goth culture? To paganism? To heavy-metal music? No, they aren’t. They’re asking for something American society is loath to provide: adequate mental-health care. Treatment. Protection, for their boys and for themselves. And for society. Caring for others, especially potentially dangerous others, is contrary to our “everyone has the freedom to make his own choices”/”everyone can pull himself up by his own bootstraps” philosophies. But at what cost?

So while the debate rages on about gun control, video games, and goths, what are we doing for moms like Liza? What are we doing to actually prevent this from happening again?

So far, nothing.

Justice in anti-goth hate crime?


Melody McDermott (left) and the man who attacked her, Kenneth Kelsall (right), outside the UK courthouse where Kelsall was convicted.

Goths worldwide celebrated World Goth Day this week. But another, more bittersweet, victory came today with the news that Kenneth Kelsall has pleaded guilty to the vicious assault on Melody McDermott last October. The 47-year-old UK man and his accomplice, Gareth Farrar, will be sentenced in July.

Much of the case revolved around security footage of the attack. According to attorneys, it began when Kelsall head-butted McDermott, knocking her to the ground of the tram they were riding. McDermott began kicking at the tram doors for help. Farrar pushed McDermott into a corner of the tram. He then turned to McDermott’s companion, Stephen Stafford, and punched him to the ground. Stafford was kicked in the face, sustaining an injury that required stitches. Somewhere in the attack, Kelsall kicked McDermott in the head numerous times, breaking her eye socket. Needless to say, the attack could have been fatal if it had continued.

Farrar’s attorney actually told the court, “He can be seen swinging two punches against the complainant. But he is a man of 43 and effectively good character.” (I’m not sure you can attack a girl half your age, just because you don’t like her looks, and still be of “good character.”)

Although the Daily Mail called the attack a “hate crime,” it was not and could not be prosecuted as such — subcultures such as goth culture are not protected under the UK’s hate-crime laws, despite efforts to gain such protections.

There’s no word yet on the sentences Kelsall and Farrar would face. The Mail said it would be “lengthy,” but quotes Judge Elliot Knopf as saying “they could both face jail sentences.”

Whatever happens, I want to cheer McDermott for bringing charges against her attackers, facing them in court, and doing her part to make sure they face the consequences. It remains to be seen what those consequences will be — and whether they will teach these men not to brutalize others.

Horse killings: Satanic conspiracy or bad reporting?


Another horse mutilation in Cornwall — this one a beheading — has locals blaming Satanists. Again. Photo by flickr user Beer Coaster.

Someone in Cornwall doesn’t like horses. At least, that’s what their newspapers want you to believe.

In recent days, locals found a beheaded horse on Pentewan Beach, and a mutilated, pregnant mare dead in a field. They are, predictably, fingering Satanists for the attacks — and many reporters are listening.

A headline in the Telegraph proclaimed, “Satanic cult blamed for beheaded horse on beach: Fears are growing that a Satanic cult may be behind a spate of animal sacrifices.” Where did those fears come from? A local expert on Satanic practices? No. A fisherman:

A local fisherman told the Sun: “The head seemed to have been surgically removed in a sort of ritual. The way the artefacts were arranged made me shudder.”

No pesky details that would complicate the fear factor — just conjecture and enough scare words to get the imagination going.

In fact, that fisherman seemed to get around, talking to the Sun and the Daily Mail:

Speaking about the Cornwall horse killing, a fisherman told The Sun: ‘The way it was arranged makes me shudder. I believe whoever did this is sick and needs help.

‘It really seems like some sort of black magic ceremony has taken place.’

Reports of the attack on the pregnant mare, 19-year-old Penny, from This is Lincolnshire were thankfully much less sensationalistic, but that didn’t keep other major news outlets from lumping the attacks together — and using locals’ speculation to fuel tales of a Satanic conspiracy.

Let’s look at their evidence:
* They claim the horse slaughters were tied to the full “supermoon” May 6. The pregnant horse died May 3 or 4. The beheaded horse was found May 7. Neither happened on the full moon.
* The beheaded horse was found with a dead seagull and a cross. “Rest in Peace” was written in sand near the body. None of this is particularly Satanic.
* Three bulls had recently been “mutilated with blunt instruments” (how is that even possible?!) in St. Tudy, Cornwall.
* In January, another horse was slaughtered on a made-up “Satanic sacrifice day” that journalists didn’t bother verifying.

If indeed all these crimes were committed by the same person, that person would have to be incredibly dedicated. Pentewan Beach is 25 miles from St. Tudy and another 25 miles from Stithians, the site of the January killing. Stithians is more than 30 miles from St. Tudy. And Cornish roads aren’t like major motorways; traveling 25 miles can take an hour or more. Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, where the pregnant mare was killed, is more than 360 miles away from any of these places. The chances that they’re all linked are very, very small.

I give this link a workout, but in general, Satanists don’t sacrifice animals. However, the Romans and ancient Irish and Hindus did. I doubt any of these groups are offing horses in England, either, but pinning the crimes on them would at come closer to accuracy. Likewise, it’s amazing that, so many years after the Satanic Panic, the idea (and fear) of Satanic cults still exists, despite the lack of evidence.

It’s much more likely that bored teens in a few places are taking their frustrations out on animals — and locals should find out, because such acts are signs of antisocial personality disorder, or sociopathy. Someone who’s killing horses now may move on to killing humans later.

Are Cornwall schools teaching kids paganism?


Schools in Cornwall, home to some of the most beloved stone circles in Britain, may soon start teaching students about paganism. Or will they? Photo by Flickr user iknow-uk.

The ever-sensationalistic Daily Mail ran a story this week claiming that teachers in Cornwall will now be required to teach paganism in religious education classes.

They write:

Paganism has been included in an official school religious education syllabus for the first time.

Cornwall Council has told its schools that pagan beliefs, which include witchcraft, druidism and the worship of ancient gods such as Thor, should be taught alongside Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

The requirements are spelled out in an agreed syllabus drawn up by Cornwall’s religious-education advisory group.

They add that the council’s advice has made Cornish Christians unhappy that the school system would give attention to what they call “a fringe eccentricity.”

Jason Pitzl-Waters already vetted this story over on his blog, The Wild Hunt, and brought some of the Mail’s claims into alignment with reality:

1. This isn’t a mandate; the recommendations of the religious-education advisory council are non-binding.

2. The syllabus maintains that 60% of religious education should be devoted to Christianity. The other 40% would be devoted to all other religions — Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, paganism, etc. Pitzl-Waters wrote, “I would be surprised if this lead to even a full day in any British school on modern Paganism.”

The only other item the new syllabus recommends is some coverage of Cornwall’s pre-Christian sites, such as stone circles and their importance for modern-day pagans. I certainly hope that’s being taught, since Cornwall is home to dozens of stone circles, such as the Merry Maidens and the Hurlers, which are certainly important to Cornwall’s tourism industry even if their importance to the pagan community is sometimes left in the dust.

Cornwall is also home to the Museum of Witchcraft, which documents the long history of pagan and folk practices in the region.

One has to wonder whether the ubiquitousness of these ancient circles has made the Cornish people blind to the pagans living in their midst, not to mention their peaceful practices. After all, when a beloved horse was slaughtered, some locals were quick to blame local pagans and/or Satanists. Better religious education could nip such horrible rumors in the bud before they make it to the BBC. Today, there are similar rumors in Edinburgh, Scotland after horses’ manes and tails were cut off.

It would be wishful thinking to believe that Cornwall will begin to teach local schoolchildren about paganism in a way that is fair, respectful, and accurate. It’s certainly nice to see such teaching recommended, but will it happen? Time will tell.

Seaman’s submarine shooting rampage blamed on … game that has nothing to do with submarines


British seaman Ryan Donovan was recently sentenced to 25 years in jail for a shooting rampage on a submarine. Some say “Grand Theft Auto” is to blame.

Grand Theft Auto has been blamed for a lot of things. In fact, the series has been called the most controversial game franchise of all time by Guinness World Records. Some have claimed the game inspired multiple murder sprees, though none of those claims have held up in court. Most recently, GTA was blamed for inspiring the UK riots — as though there weren’t more legitimate forces at work.

Ryan Donovan, a 23-year-old seaman from Kent, was recently denied transfer from a submarine docked at Southampton to another he preferred. His response was to bring a gun on board last April, attacking several fellow workers and killing an officer, Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, 36. Donovan admitted to the crime and has been put behind bars for 25 years.

End of story, right?

Not so fast. It turns out that Donovan, a year earlier, told a co-worker, “I am going to kill somebody.” But that’s not all. He also discussed “trying to ‘create a massacre in the control’ … The pair had discussed the computer game Grand Theft Auto, in which players took part in a “kill frenzy”. This, somehow, translates into GTA inspiring the shooting.

How many times do we jokingly tell co-workers “I’m going to kill someone” in a fit of frustration? And how often have GTA players talked about the game with co-workers? I get that the Daily Mail is not the most ethical or objective newspaper in the UK, and the things they say are taken with a very large lump of salt. It doesn’t even sound like the game played a major role in the court case. Still, sensationalism plays well. It gets people talking. And it gets people thinking about what it might mean the next time someone talks about this game — or something violent within it they enjoy. Are they the next killer? Should you report them to the police?

It certainly can’t hurt, right?

MW3 offers catharsis for bombing survivors

The newest trailer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is out, and it includes compelling footage of gameplay in London and Paris, among other places. The London scenes zoom through an Underground tunnel — and even show a Tube train derailing. It’s understandable that Londoners, particularly those who experienced the 7/7 bombings or know someone who did, would be unnerved by such scenes.

Still, many say the London newspaper Daily Mail is taking it too far, with headlines like, “BAN THIS SICK FILTH” and “BAN THESE EVIL GAMES.” From the Giant Fire Breathing Robot blog:

The paper quotes Vivenne Pattison, spokeswoman for Mediawatch UK, as saying, “I have concerns as these games are hyper-real and take place in a landscape we are familiar with. In light of the fact we have just had the 7/7 inquests, it is in incredibly poor taste.” One of Mediawatch’s self-proclaimed missions is to, “campaign against violent, sexually explicit and obscene material in the media.”

It would be easy to say that game companies are capitalizing on these kinds of events. They are, after all, earning a profit from the games they design and sell. That said, the Call of Duty series didn’t get to be one of the best-selling game franchises simply by being gory and exploitative. If you watch the trailer above, you’ll see that it’s gripping, exciting, and incredibly lifelike. This isn’t just a game — it’s a chance to vividly imagine that you’re in the thick of a conflict on the modern-day streets of London and Paris.

As I’ve said before, these kinds of games can help both teen and adult players make deeper sense of current events such as the 7/7 bombings or other incidents. Anyone who is aware of those bombings, whether they experienced them directly or not, may have some leftover anxiety. Playing a game like Modern Warfare 3, with its built-in rewards and chances at heroism, can help people move past those anxieties.

Instead of banning these games, perhaps they should be handed out for free as a public service to anyone who needs to work through lingering fears about what happened that July morning in London. What do you think?