Saturday, October 3, 2015

Inside The Mind Of A Mass Murderer

I want to address nagging question of what's going on in the heads of the (largely) angry young men who go out and commit these mass shootings that seem to happen every few months or so. Personally I've seen a lot of hot takes from various left-wing types trying to tie these events to the author's pre-existing arguments about American society. Lots of writing about about race and gender based in critical studies using the terms like "privilege" a lot,. That sort of thing.

Is there any truth to those takes? Well there might be, but I'm deeply skeptical of explanations for individual behavior based on what Noah Smith likes to call "cultural essentialism." After all there's no way to prove arguments that "culture" causes these things to happen wrong. Does the changing racial makeup of American society "cause" young white men to go on rampages? Did Andrew Cunanan's sexuality contribute to his killing spree? These are not the sort of questions you can ever really answer.

Meanwhile things like the large scale available to high powered weaponry and the media's treatment of mass murders as anti-heroes of a sort are things that can be tested and linked to the prevalence of mass shootings. Especially when we compared the US's record on these sorts of thing with other anglo-phone countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Anyway, I don't really have anything to prove this, but I still think the best explanation of what it's like to be inside the mind of angry young man about to go on a rampage that I've ever read comes from cult horror writer Thomas Ligotti's short story "The Nightmare Network." Like most of Ligotti's work is absolutely amazing and totally bizarre. In essence it's a series of found documents and movie script note, detailing the struggle between a Kafkaesque corporation known as Oneiricon and another group call The Nightmare Network. Oneiricon's goal is to own all that ever was, is, and will ever be. They have the following mission statement:


While the Nightmare Networks goals are harder to explain to outsiders. Here's their mission statement:
Our names are unknown and our faces are shadows drifting across an infite blackness. Our voices have been stifled to a soft murmur in a madman's ear. We are the proud failures with only a single joy left -- to inflict rampant damage on those who have fed themselves on our dreams and to choke ourselves on our own nightmares. In sum, we are expediters of the apocalypse. There is nothing left to save, if there ever was anything...if there ever could be. All we desire (in all our bitterness) is to go to our ruin in our own way -- with a little style and a lot of noise.
Does that make any sense to you at all? Probably not, but I think I sort of know what it means, sort of. But that's the whole point, you'll probably never really know what goes inside the head of a rampage killer. So focus instead on the policies that affect the possibility that allow things like this to happen, not on inner lives of madmen.

Or not, I just really doubt this has much to do with "privilege" or anything like that.

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