Homicidal psychotic break, reasons possible pharmacological

Is it possible to have a homicidal psychotic break and do long term planning for a complex crime?  John Ringo has an interesting and personal take on the (now practically forgotten) Las Vegas shooting.  He relates his wife’s reaction to being put on a certain antidepressant.  It’s well worth reading the whole thing.

The specific issue was she had ‘an uncontrollable desire to do harm to those who do harm to others.’ Notably, she’d built up a list of persons on the Megan’s (sexual predators) List and had developed very carefully constructed kill plans for each. She was tracking them and targeting them carefully. She has an extensive background in forensics and was probably going to get away with it.

Now, people may look at the targets and go ‘Well… Uhm… having a hard time with that being ‘bad’.’ But to be very clear, my wife had shifted, subtly and without warning, from sweet, Christian, Miriam to serial killer. And I do mean without ANY REAL WARNING.
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Most people think of ‘homicidal break’ as someone suddenly ‘grabbing a letter opener and carving their way out of Cost Accountancy and into forensic history.’ (H/t: the late Sir Terry Pratchett.)

That’s not, generally, how it works. How much planning and preparation a person does depends upon how rapid the onset is (months in Miriam’s case) and how good they are at planning and preparation. (Both Miriam and Paddock were planners. He was an accountant and multi-millionaire.)

So look at the story above and break it down:

Relatively normal person, perhaps a bit odd, has minor changes in behavior that no-one in their close circle really notices.

He/she is a methodical person with an agenda. Other people who’ve done mass kills simply did not do it right. He/she is going to do it right. He knows they hold concerts by the Mandalay. That’s the perfect venue for the most kills.

Suddenly they’re a mass killer for no apparent reason.

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Identity Politics = children who are crying out to belong?

I’ve wondered about the connection between identity politics and un-met needs to belong and to be part of a “tribe,” a community, but I hadn’t yet followed that train of thought far enough back.

In The Primal Scream of Identity Politics, Mary Eberstadt provides as assessment of  identity politics and our culture that takes us back to the foundation: the family.  She examines several other authors’ analyses of identity politics (and our cultural climate) and concludes that while some have noticed important factors, no one has gone deep enough in their questions and conclusions.  The whole thing is worth a read.

“Mine! Mine! It’s mine!” The manifest panic behind cries of “cultural appropriation” is real—as real as the tantrum of a toddler. It’s as real as the developmental regression seen in the retreat to campus “safe spaces,” those tiny non-treehouses stuffed with candy, coloring books, and Care Bears. In social science, the toddler’s developmental “mine!” is called the “endowment effect”—the notion that humans ascribe extra value to possessions simply because they’re theirs. Some theorists consider it a subset of another human proclivity: loss aversion.

Maybe that cultural scream of “mine!” is issuing from souls who did have something taken from them—only something more elemental than the totemic objects now functioning as figurative blankies for lost and angry former children. As of today, less than 65 percent of American children live with both biological parents, even as other familial boughs have broken via external forces like the opioid crisis, criminality and incarceration, and globalization. Maybe depression and anxiety have been rising steadily among children and teenagers for a reason. Maybe the furor over “appropriation” unveils the true foundation of identity politics, which is pathos.

Did anyone really think things would turn out otherwise—that the massive kinship dislocations of the past 60 years wouldn’t produce increasingly visible, transformative effects not only in individual lives and households, but on politics and culture, too?

After all, it defies common sense to believe that the human surroundings during one’s formative years have no effect on the life to come. There’s also a library of social science, now over half a century in the making, tracing the links between fatherless homes and higher risks of truancy, criminality, psychiatric trouble, and the rest of the ledger suggesting that ripping up primordial ties hasn’t done society any favors. It’s all there, no matter how many of us have deep reasons for wishing otherwise.

One irony is certain. While identity politics has become an object of conversation in the left-leaning circles of Anglo-American and European political thought, deliverance from today’s disfigurations cannot come from the same quarter. The reason is simple. Not only identitarians but also liberals and progressives who are now anti-identitarian or identitarian-skeptical all agree on one big thing: The sexual revolution is off-limits for revision anywhere, anytime. It is their moral bedrock.

No-fault divorce, out-of-wedlock births, paid surrogacy, absolutism about erotic freedom, disdain for traditional moral codes: The very policies and practices that chip away at the family and drive the subsequent flight to identity politics are those that liberals and progressives embrace.

Then there are related family-unfriendly social realities that they also deem benign. Pornography, which once upon a time some feminists objected to, is now the stuff of their full-throated enthusiasm. Prostitution has been re-defined as the more anodyne “sex work.” And, of course, abortion is—in the unnervingly theological modifier applied to it by Hillary Clinton and many others on the left—“sacrosanct.” In the end, asking liberals and progressives to solve the problem of identity politics is like asking the proverbial orphan with chutzpah who murdered his parents.

Yes, conservatives have missed something major about identity politics: its authenticity. But the liberal-progressive side has missed something bigger. Identity politics is not so much politics as a primal scream. It’s the result of what might be called the Great Scattering—the Western world’s unprecedented familial dispersion.

Anyone who’s ever heard a coyote in the desert, separated at night from the pack, knows the sound. Maybe the otherwise-unexplained hysteria of today’s identity politics is just that: the collective human howl of our time, sent up by inescapably communal creatures who can no longer identify their own.

My very simplified conclusion after reading all of The Primal Scream of Identity Politics is this: maybe all the immature, hysterical acting out going on in this country really can be traced back to the destruction of the family or put more personally, mommy and daddy weren’t there to provide a stable, loving childhood.  Today’s adults were yesterday’s children who were spoiled rotten in many ways, but not given what they really needed to be able to grow-up into mature human beings.

Discernment and Storytelling

Recently, I was doing some research on discernment and came across this article by Peter Kreeft.  Writing about discerning God’s will in both large life choices (what is my vocation?) and small every day decision-making, he looks at discernment in general and then particularly to the clues God gives us in finding the answer to the question: Does God have one right choice for me in each decision I make?

This is interesting and perhaps helpful to someone struggling to discern what God’s will is for them especially if one is struggling with a bit of scrupulosity over whether a given thing you’re doing (or not doing) is important to God’s will for you and whether a fun or mundane thing is worth your time and obsessing over whether you are doing the right thing in all the small choices in life.  If we are sincerely trying to avoid sin and do truly want to love and serve God and do His will, that counts for a lot and we needn’t fear we’re going to accidentally do the wrong thing and ruin God’s plan for our lives (we don’t really have that much power).

Here are just a couple of the clues:

fourth clue is something God did in fact give us: free will. Why? There are a number of good reasons – for instance, so that our love could be infinitely more valuable than instinctive, unfree animal affection. But I think I see another reason. As a teacher, I know that I sometimes should withhold answers from my students so that they find them themselves, and thus appreciate and remember them better – and also learn how to exercise their own judgment in finding answers themselves. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” God gave us some big fish, but he also gave us the freedom to fish for a lot of little ones (and some big ones) ourselves.

Reason and free will always go together. God created both in us as part of his image. He gives supernatural revelation to both: dogmas to our reason and commandments to our will. But just as he didn’t give us all the answers, even in theology, in applying the dogmas or drawing out the consequences of them, so he didn’t give us all the answers in morality or practical guidance, in applying the commandments and drawing out their consequences. He gave us the mental and moral equipment with which to do that, and he is not pleased when we bury our talent in the ground instead of investing it so that he will see how much it has grown in us when he returns.

In education, I know there are always two extremes. You can be too modern, too experimental, too Deweyan, too structureless. But you can also be too classical, too rigid. Students need initiative and creativity and originality too. God’s law is short. He gave us ten commandments, not ten thousand. Why? Why not a more complete list of specifics? Because he wanted freedom and variety. Why do you think he created so many persons? Why not just one? Because he loves different personalities. He wants his chorus to sing in harmony, but not in unison.

I know Christians who are cultivating ingrown eyeballs trying to know themselves so well – often by questionable techniques like the enneagram, or Oriental modes of prayer – so that they can make the decision that is exactly what God wants for them every time. I think it is much healthier to think about God and your neighbor more and yourself less, to forget yourself – follow your instincts without demanding to know everything about them. As long as you love God and act within his law, I think he wants you to play around a bit.

I’m happily haunted by Chesterton’s image of the playground fence erected around the children on top of the mountain so that they could play without fear of falling off the side. That’s why God gave us his law: not to make us worried but to keep us safe so that we could play the great games of life and love and joy.

Each of us has a different set of instincts and desires. Sin infects them, of course. But sin infects our reason and our bodies too; yet we are supposed to follow our bodily instincts (for example, hunger and self-preservation) and our mind’s instincts (for example, curiosity and logic). I think he wants us to follow our hearts. Surely, if John loves Mary more than Susan, he has more reason to think God is leading him to marry Mary than Susan. Why not treat all other choices by the same principle?

I am not suggesting, of course, that our hearts are infallible, or that following them justifies sinful behavior. Nor am I suggesting that the heart is the only thing to follow. I mentioned seven guidelines earlier. But surely it is God who designed our hearts – the spiritual heart with desire and will as much as the physical heart with aorta and valves. Our parents are sinful and fallible guides too, but God gave them to us to follow. So our hearts can be worth following too even though they are sinful and fallible. If your heart loves God, it is worth following. If it doesn’t, then you’re not interested in the problem of discernment of his will anyway.

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Clue number seven is an example from my own present experience. I am writing a novel for the first time, and learning how to do it. First, I placed it in God’s hands, told him I wanted to do it for his kingdom, and trusted him to lead me. Then, I simply followed my own interests, instincts, and unconscious. I let the story tell itself and the characters become themselves. God doesn’t stop me or start me. He doesn’t do my homework for me. But he’s there, like a good parent.

I think living is like writing a novel. It’s writing the story of your own life and even your own self (for you shape your self by all your choices, like a statue that is its own sculptor). God is the primary author, of course, the primary sculptor. But he uses different human means to get different human results. He is the primary author of each book in the Bible too, but the personality of each human author is no less clear there than in secular literature.

God is the universal storyteller. He wants many different stories. And he wants you to thank him for the unique story that comes from your free will and your choices too. Because your free will and his eternal plan are not two competing things, but two sides of one thing. We cannot fully understand this great mystery in this life, because we see only the underside of the tapestry. But in heaven, I think, one of the things we will praise and thank God the most for is how wildly and wonderfully and dangerously he put the driving wheel of our life into our hands – like a parent teaching a young child to drive…

God, in giving us all free will, said to us: “Your will be done.” Some of us turn back to him and say: “My will is that your will be done.” That is obedience to the first and greatest commandment. Then, when we do that, he turns to us and says: “And now, your will be done.” And then he writes the story of our lives with the pen strokes of our own free choices.

Kreeft’s image of God as the universal storyteller is appealing.  This God who loves creativity and fun and variety, who wants us to be happy in following His will, not paralyzed for fear of making the wrong choice, is no Puritan.

Is Trump a master of persuasion?

Dilbert creator Scott Adams has come out with a new book, Win Bigly; Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.  Already a best-seller on Amazon, its described as “an unflinching look at the strategies Donald Trump used to persuade voters to elect the most unconventional candidate in the history of the presidency, and how anyone can learn his methods for succeeding against long odds.”  Sounds like we’re talking about rhetoric.

The Amazon description continues, “Scott Adams …was one of the earliest public figures to predict Trump’s win… The mainstream media regarded Trump as a novelty and a sideshow. But Adams recognized in Trump a level of persuasion you only see once in a generation.  Trump triggered massive cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias on both the left and the right. We’re hardwired to respond to emotion, not reason.”

Adams recently came out with an interesting article talking about Trump’s tweets in the Wall Street Journal (you can read the whole thing here): The Power of the Presidential Tweet; Trump’s online missives make his supporters laugh and even his opponents think past the sale.

As a trained hypnotist and a lifelong student of persuasion, I’m often impressed by how much “work” President Trump gets out of his tweets. Most of them are harmless retweets about whatever is going right, and they tend to be forgettable. The good ones are something entirely different, and many are gems of persuasion.

Consider this one: “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked,’ in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”

When Mr. Trump smack-tweets a notable public critic—Ms. Hill has called the president a “white supremacist”—it violates our expectations of his office. That’s what makes it both entertaining and memorable. He often injects into his tweets what memory expert Carmen Simon calls a “little bit of wrongness” to make it hard to look away. If the wrongness alarms you, consider that for years he has adroitly operated within a narrow range of useful wrongness on Twitter without going too far. That suggests technique. In the Twitter environment, strategic wrongness is jet fuel.

Watch for Mr. Trump’s tweets to make you think past the sale, a well-known technique of persuasion. In the Jemele Hill tweet, he makes you wonder if ESPN’s ratings really are the “talk of the industry.” And in order even to consider that question, you must imagine a world in which the primary claim—that Ms. Hill is bad for the network—is true. Even if it isn’t.

***

When Candidate Trump said he would make Mexico pay for the wall, he was making us think past the sale. If you’re thinking about who is paying for the wall, you’ve already imagined the wall existing. And that makes it easier to convince you it should exist.

I also see the president as employing a modern version of humor. When he goes after one of his high-profile critics, his supporters laugh and reach for the popcorn. This is gonna be good! Voters who preferred Hillary Clinton are not laughing, of course. But they aren’t the audience for his tweet humor. And that makes it even funnier for his supporters. His base is in on the joke, whereas his detractors don’t even know humor is happening.

In the 1940s, humor was mostly about corny jokes with punch lines, and loads of slapstick. By the ’70s, humor evolved to be whatever the public found most inappropriate and shocking. Half the fun of watching “Saturday Night Live” in those days was waiting for the naughty parts. By the late ’90s, humor evolved into more of a reality-focused art. When you watch your favorite reality TV show, you’re probably laughing. When you read comics, you laugh hardest at the ones that speak to your personal experience.

Reality and humor have effectively merged. President Trump came to us through the reality TV world, and apparently he has a good grasp of modern humor. His critics will wince at my suggestion that his tweets are intentionally humorous, or even funny. But ask one of his followers about them. Notice the reflexive smile when you bring up the topic. They see it as weaponized humor. Likewise, they recognize Mr. Trump’s sticky nicknames, such as “Low Energy Jeb” and “Rocket Man,” as both intentionally humorous and effective.

Humor is an extraordinary tool of persuasion. Things that are funny are easier to remember, and humor creates a bond with anyone who shares the laugh. In my opinion as a professional humorist, Donald Trump is the funniest president in the history of the republic. Perhaps Abe Lincoln was second.

Again, there are no jokes of the old-fashioned punch-line variety in the president’s tweets. The humor comes from our shared reality, their inappropriateness and—for his supporters—the fun of watching their shared critics take pies in their faces.

Mr. Trump also has a knack for getting into his critics’ heads. Consider this tweet: “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” The odds of a tax law change targeted at the NFL are low. But are they zero? Once that risk is in your head, you reflexively treat it as real even if your rational brain says it isn’t.

See a similar technique in the next tweet: “Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!” It is deeply unlikely any major network will lose its station licenses, but now the idea is in their heads. Everything I know about persuasion tells me it will nudge the networks toward friendlier coverage out of self-preservation.

If you think Mr. Trump’s tweets are nothing but thin-skinned reflex, you’re missing a great show. Historians and trained persuaders will be analyzing his extraordinary Twitter game for hundreds of years, wondering how much of it was based on training and how much was pure instinct.

Did you catch me making you think past the sale just then?

He Will Not Combust Us

Just when it seemed like Shia LaBeouf had abandoned us, failed miserably, and locked his precious flag in a closet, that madman is back.  This time in France!  The He Will Not Divide Us flag is flying high (so high they need a crane to get to it) and thankfully (for Shia) made out of some kind of flame-retardant fabric.  Because /pol/ is right behind him.

Shia LaBeouf’s ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ Flag Targeted with Flaming Drone

American actor Shia LaBeouf’s artistic protest against US President Donald Trump has been attacked again — this time by vandals using a flaming drone in western France where it went on display this month.

The project, which features a white flag with the words “He Will Not Divide Us” filmed round-the-clock by a camera, has already moved several times from New York, to New Mexico and to Liverpool in Britain because of security problems.

Now installed above an art gallery in an old biscuit factory in the French city of Nantes, the flag came under attack overnight Tuesday-Wednesday by a drone, which attempted for several minutes to set it on fire.

The remotely-piloted arson attempt failed when the drone crashed.

It just doesn’t stop being funny.

No Trend in Mass Murder?

Study Finds Mass Killings Not on the Rise Over Past Decade

Research by of University of Illinois professor has revealed a surprising trend about mass murder in the United States.

Contrary to what you might think, mass murders are not on the rise, according to computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson.

Jacobson said there were 323 such killings – in which four or more people are killed in one incident – between January 2006 and October 2016. The mass killings appeared to be evenly distributed over that time, meaning their rate remained stable over the past decade, and did not spike during any particular season or year.
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The professor used a decade’s worth of data from USA Today that was cross-checked by the FBI. He said his analysis also found public shooting sprees like the Las Vegas massacre are not the most common type of mass killing.

“Family mass killings are over three times more likely to occur than a public killing. So what we just saw in Las Vegas is actually not the most common type of mass killing,”

I wonder if it makes any difference if he used three or more victims instead of four.  Other people define it that way.