Mass Murder by an individual is undoubtedly the ultimate cry for help, the supreme statement as well as the pinnacle of attention-seeking. There are no reasons or answers. There are no solutions. Like an earthquake, the shooter is a natural phenomenon which is appearing to strike with increasing regularity. Unlike the earthquake though, it is a phenomenon which can never be predicted.
Then we have the “Why?” question. There is no answer. It is what is known as a multi-causal phenomenon. The symptom is without doubt psychological but the root-cause? We just do not know. It could be anything from childhood neglect to incorrect potty-training.
Nature or Nurture? Once again, we don’t really know.
The Mass-murdering shooter differs from his close cousin the Serial Killer in several ways. For instance, one demands publicity whereas the other shuns it.
Derrick Bird, the English shooter’s motives are still unclear. There was a little bit of bitterness and humiliation because he’d been told that a policeman was screwing his girlfriend but why the EXTREME reaction? What turned him into a Mass-killer? In truth, no-one knows.
The Norwegian shooter, Anders Behring Breivik hates Muslims and foreigners but the compulsion to kill was so strong that he did not consider either the outcome nor the personal consequences.
If both killers felt the need for fame or notoriety, they certainly have it but in Brivik’s case, the massacre did not end in the traditional way where the killer either puts a bullet through his own head or is shot by the police.
One of the outcomes of a shooting episode is a government feeling that it has to “do something”. Here in the UK, it happened after both the 1996 Dunblane (Hamilton) and 1987 (Ryan) Hungerford shootings. The “something” that a government usually does is a modification to gun-ownership laws. However, they should have learned by now that most shooters and indeed most shootings are carried out with illegally-held firearms.
So dies anyone have ANY idea what motivates this exclusive Evil Band of Brothers? Evil? No. That is meaningless because there have been many evil non-shooters. Research has shown the possibility of high levels of dopamine and low levels of seratonin – but are they a symptom or are they the cause? It doesn’t seem to matter how many and in which direction the brain is firing neurones or whether the individual has an abnormal limbic system – he is still an enigma.
The shooter is a rare animal and for that reason, the research is very thin. This time however, in Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian authorities have a captive shooter – and they should make the most of it.
There is SOME data. A shooter tends to be male, a loner who not-only feels alone but , more importanntly feels alienated. He has a score to settle and he is angry.
The difficulty is whether such a person has anger and eventually finds something to “hang” that anger on. Or whether his “mission” triggers the uber-anger.
The other phenomenon which all shooters share is that look and demeanour of someone who us “detached” from his crime. Very often witnesses have said “his eyes looked expressionless”, “He seemed very emotionless”.
Shooters tend NOT to be loving men with a mortgage, home-life and 2.4 children.
It has been established that serial killers as opposed to mass murderers derive sexual gratification from their murders. However, it would seem that mass murderes such as Breivik do not enjoy a normal sex life or a normal relationship. Serial killers do it for pleasure, power and for the ensuing chase. Mass murderers convince themselves that THEY are (or could be) the victim and kill only after having developed a quite logical reason for their behaviour.
The My Lai Massacre in Viet Nam exhibited a very similar dynamic to the Norwegian Breivik killings. The victims – about 500 men women and children (and animals) were slaughtered. The main driver of this massacre was 2nd Lt William Calley, a dropout and failure who achieved his fame by persuading the men under him that innocent civilians should be killed. This is the statement which Calley delivered during his court martial:
“I was ordered to go in there and destroy the enemy. That was my job that day. That was the mission I was given. I did not sit down and think in terms of men, women and children. They were all classified as the same, and that’s the classification that we dealt with over there, just as the enemy. I felt then and I still do that I acted as I was directed, and I carried out the order that I was given and I do not feel wrong in doing so.”
He, just like Breivik applied simple logic to a perceived problem and dealt with it like a psychopath.
Whereas serial killers are fuelled by the dopamine side of the brain, mass murderers run on cold personal logic. The difference between the two is the difference between a junkie and a logic-manipulator. One is looking for a “high” whereas the other is emotionally dead, angry and depressed.
Breivik would have been “set-off” by an event. Something such as a personal loss which will have given him a “nothing to lose-everything to gain” mind-set. The “event” does not trigger immediate action but very often is the beginning of a sometimes quite protracted planning process.
Interestingly, mass killers plan everything down to the finest detail. Except how to escape. – Consequently, most of them die.
That is why the Norwegian Shooter should prove to be such an interesting specimen – and should be treated as such.
In the long-term, lives could be saved.