The United States is having a mental breakdown. Two mass shootings in a single day is a sure sign that the polarization and viciousness of our politics is a reflection of a broader social sickness. Social cohesion is disintegrating. Mistrust is spreading. Rancorous rhetoric is displacing reasoned discourse. People are seeking refuge in tribal identities and wallowing in hate. Our national psyche is the most venomous it has been since the 1960s — the difference being that we don’t even have a massively unpopular war as an excuse for our divisions.

President Trump is part of the problem. The nation looks to its presidents to unite the country. Trump’s tweets are calculated to inflame his enemies and drive them to excess. And they succeed all too well. Democrats, shouting through their Mainstream Media bullhorn, depict Republicans and Trump supporters as bigots, racists, traitors, and xenophobes. Doubt me? Just watch MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” which feeds its million viewers every day with two hours of invective and bile.

The economy is booming and we’re engaged in no major foreign wars. Americans ought to be feeling good about themselves. But we’re miserable. People have advanced a variety of theories for our increasing division. Gerrymandering, some say, is creating safe districts for extremists in both parties. The fragmentation of media allows people to live in information echo chambers. Those play a role, but I think the malaise runs deeper. Society is atomizing. Civic society is in decline — more and more people are “bowling alone.” More people are feeling disconnected and alienated. The ties that bind us are dangerously fraying. Mental illness is endemic.

This viciousness is most evident in our national politics, but it is increasingly prevalent here in Virginia. One way to combat it is to engage in respectful conversation with those of differing views.

Here at Bacon’s Rebellion, we refuse to succumb to the rhetoric of intolerance. All of our contributors have strong opinions, and we will continue to express them, but we will continue to do so in a civil and courteous manner. Perhaps there is a shrinking market for a discourse based on the reasoned exchange of views, but that is where we stand, and we will not retreat from it.

Update: A column by Jeff Jacoby with the Boston Globe expresses many of my views. Read it here.

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43 responses to “National Mental Breakdown”

  1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I am thankful to have such a forum. Thank you, Jim, for creating it and for your continued maintenance of it.

  2. Andrew Roesell Avatar
    Andrew Roesell

    Dear Jim,

    My comments on the long-range, systemic causes of this subject are those that I posted to the Virginia history article you wrote. In terms of the at least seemingly intensifying nature of these carnages, I would place the cause as being a reaction to the demonizing, and demographical, cultural, and political marginalizing and scapegoating of Whites and Christians with the crazier going ballistic, which in turn provokes the crazies on the Left to reciprocate. This institutional demonization is being done systematically by Globalist elites through their control of the media and education and Leftist politics resulting in this breakdown. I reject and deplore all violence, but the Left has been tearing down society for decades, and Trump has been the first one to really push back against them, for which he then is blamed by them, and which has caused them to become further enraged and tearing harder, which, then opens the way for crazies to go on their murderous rampages. The Left will not let up, nor will opposition to them by Conservatives. The handwriting is on the wall.

    Having said this, I do not disagree with your “bowling alone” assessment either.

    I am very pessimistic about our prospects. There seem to be no “breaks” in this downward slide, only acceleration. The politics, including Trump’s movement, is being driven by the larger tidal currents. God help us all.



  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Once again much of the blame for the intense anger in this nation lies directly on the lap of the MSM. By refusing to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration, which would facilitate the honest and difficult discussion we need as a nation, the Media is enflaming the extremes. One side is going after all immigrants and the other is demanding open borders. We see violence in El Paso and Portland, OR (Antifa). Neither is acceptable.

    Here’s an example from Philip Rucker from the Post.

    Not once does he mention illegal, using undocumented, as if one only needed to file a paper.

    Nor does the media point out businesses that hire people not eligible to work in the U.S. Or that the laws do not permit asylum for people seeking to improve their economic status. Rucker is a disgrace to journalism and fits well with the Post.

    Unless we come up with a plan that addresses long-time residents who came illegally but who have not otherwise violated the law and who pay their back taxes and any fines, protects the Dreamers, and closes the borders to illegal immigration, we may see a second Civil War. We also need to punish businesses that don’t use E-Verify with fines or maybe taxpayer class action lawsuits. It would be nice to see the Media adding clarification, rather than just pushing its left-wing politics.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      This one is largely on the R’s. Such plans have advanced in Congress, with strong bipartisan support until the Limbaugh’s and the Hannity’s and those even more extreme weigh in, and the plans then died. Both sides are to blame, but the Nativist elements on the Right take most of the heat.

  4. djrippert Avatar

    The two mass shootings were horrible. However, I struggle to find blame for the homicidal acts of crazy people in political rhetoric. Calling illegal immigrants illegal immigrants doesn’t spur sociopaths to go on murderous rampages. I think the blame lies more in the fantasy land of endless entertainment than statements by politicians. The first mass shooting I can recall was Charles Whitman at the University of Texas in 1966 – roughly concurrent with the rise of “a TV in every home”. I grew up watching The Rifleman mow down bad guys with his rapid fire lever action rife. My kids grew up with violent TV shows and violent movies too. However, violent video games took them from viewer to participant. They were no longer watching the Rifleman, they were the Rifleman. Anybody reading this comment who has never played one of the ultra-realistic, ultra-violent video games ought to do so. They are sickening. I’m sure that 99.9999% of children who watch violent movies and play violent video games never become mass murderers. But .0001% of 300 million is still 300. Just enough miscreants for a decades long stream of senseless violence.

    In today’s world of YouTube, algorithm controlled searches, fake news, manipulated mainstream media news, deepfakes, extremely realistic violent video games, paintball battle parks, etc it’s a wonder that anybody knows reality from fantasy anymore. How many ridiculous superhero movies get made every year? I recently saw a video where a conservative “reporter” asked random people on the street what they thought of the Trump kids hunting and killing triceratops, saber tooth tigers and wooly mammoths. An astonishing number of people ranted about how unfair that hunting was and exclaimed that triceratops must be an endangered species.

    There is reality in the world. Nobody is hunting triceratops. We have to educate children in the world of reality. Schools and universities have to walk away from being indoctrination centers and start being education vehicles. In a world where hyper-realistic fantasy is a game player away we need citizens who can differentiate between the real and the imaginary.

    1. There may be something to your theory that people are having increasing difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality. Homo sapiens brains were wired for living in small bands and interacting closely with maybe 150 people. Our brains were not wired to interact in metropolises of millions of people and incredible complexity.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        And Minecraft is far from the most violent of these games.

        At a skeet shooting range in Georgia there are two identical safety warning signs on posts in front of the 5 stand. One has intentionally been blasted with a 12 gauge shot gun shell. In my opinion the blasted sign generates much more safety awareness than the unmolested sign. Guns are very dangerous and movies, TV shows and video games that pretend guns are toys create problems for mentally deranged people.

    2. djrippert Avatar

      I would also say that all “second amendment activists” should go to a shooting range and fire an AR-15 with an expanded magazine. They are killing machines. The US Army soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy generally carried M1 Garand rifles with eight round magazines. Do we really need to let untrained 22 year olds buy AR-15s with 30 round magazines over the internet? It’s no wonder to me that the police in Dayton got to the shooter within thirty seconds and killed him (despite the killer wearing body armor) but not before the sociopath killed nine people and wounded many more. Trained police who have to regularly pass marksmanship tests couldn’t stop the carnage until nine were dead. Does anybody really think that some wingnut with a Glock in his wasteband is going to kill the killer before any innocents die?

    3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      I don’t disagree with your points about video games and movies/TV shows desensitizing young people, most especially males, about gun violence. But do you think that illegal immigration is an important issue that is also dividing the U.S. and that the failure of the MSM to be technically correct and not just politically correct is adding to the split?

      There are a lot people who don’t oppose legal immigration but believe we should also stop illegal immigration and crack down hard on employers who knowingly hire people not eligible to work in the U.S.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        Illegal immigration is a critical issue. I watched Meet the Press yesterday and heard Cory Booker and various assembled talking heads blame Trump’s rhetoric on immigration for the El Paso massacre. Calling illegal immigration “an invasion” was not what compelled the sick-o to kill in El Paso. Nor was it the corporate takeover of government also described in the El Paso psychopath’s manifesto. It was mental illness coupled with being de-sensitized to his actions.

        There were huge debates over immigration from 1900 – 1930. Irish need not apply. There was also an endless supply of guns. For example …

        So, why the unending mass shootings over the last 20 – 30 years?

    4. There was a landmark study that showed a measurable increase in violence in countries starting about 7 years after the introduction of mainstream TV. Since the time of adoption varied by country, it could be correlated.

      The internet, video games, and pocket supercomputers rewire our brain. I have no doubt that this contributes in some way we won’t fully understand for years.

      But there are certainly things that can be done in other areas. What I find most troubling about this day and age is the inability of our government to act on anything significant. They are at loggerheads. If you look back at the most difficult time period in recent history, the late 1960s (with perhaps a peak in 1968), MAJOR legislation was being passed, there was still a fraying consensus on foreign engagement and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The biggest consensus move of today was the agreement to kick the debt ceiling down the road two years.

  5. On the intolerance, part of that is the successful political strategy that defining enemy gets a lot of votes. Reagan gets credit for that strategy, picking Panama as the hate object. Let’s at least give Reagan credit for not picking an American enemy.

    Since then the political parties have refined Reagan’s strategy, finding it more advantagoues to define the hate objects in America itself. The mass media and social media helps to worsen the conflict.

    Seems to me, hate based on racial bias is a bad thing. But also, hate based on any bias is a bad thing. Just because someone has strategy to hate a group of people, if that group of people is a company or multi-racial institution, does not now make it a valid emotion to hate that group.

    As humans, we seem to like to have an enemy, right now that enemy is us. We need to find a good war or something to get a real enemy.

    1. “We need to find a good war or something to get a real enemy.” I get your point, but, God forbid!

      1. It was literary device to say that. Sounds like your book below mauy be similar idea? In Ratchel Maddow’s book “Drift” she talks about how Reagan set the strategy for finding a group (Panama) to hate, and that seemed like it set the template/winning strategy for the future elections. Although I wonder if that cost Hillary, going too far on that theory.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      So does tolerance require the U.S. to abandon its immigration laws? Were the millions of us who followed them just fricking fools? Will open borders lead to a more united and tolerant United States?

      1. No I don’t think it should. But like everything else that issue has become politicized. I am not strong on that issue as far as seeing clearly, but I hear you above saying mass media impact. I know many countries have strict immigration laws, or used to. We do have growing world population so more pressure on that.

  6. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    It will likely turn out that No. 2 went out to kill his sister and her friends, with plenty of collateral damage. It will also turn out that he was a known threat who should have been convicted or hospitalized long ago. No. 1 was a race terrorist, walking proof that “white superiority” is a laughable myth and of course “white supremacy” lost out to demographics long ago. Saints, sinners, winners and losers come in all ethnic gradations…

    As previously noted, I too think the prevalence of the violent games – and also the macho gun culture where these pathetic losers who can’t get dates compensate with deadly phallic symbols – plays a huge role. A movement to simply repeal the Second Amendment or gut it into meaninglessness is going to take hold, and it might succeed. But I hope the quicker reaction is police hotlines are ringing across the country with people dropping a dime on family and coworkers. or facing them directly with concerns.

  7. Jeff Flake’s book “Them” hit a nerve with me. Polarization due to self-selected news silos, stoked by the reality show intentionally generating polarized opinions from and within our government, and the decline of believable alternative sources of factual news reporting. Bowling alone, indeed!

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      And the MSM has simply abandoned any attempt to provide factual reporting. Go read Rucker’s article again. It’s completely irresponsible. The illegal immigration issue is polarizing people and it will continue to do so until it’s discussed in an open and honest way.

      “But I hope the quicker reaction is police hotlines are ringing across the country with people dropping a dime on family and coworkers. or facing them directly with concerns.” I think that a changed culture, something like “See something, say something” could have some improvement. So might making the costs of gun training tax deductible.

      Write it off to the old lawyer in me. But I am troubled at restricting the constitutional rights of the millions of law-abiding people to own guns. I don’t own any modern firearms but that doesn’t stop me from wanting the rights of other people to be trampled. The Second Amendment has its origins in the Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights of 1687. If you don’t like it, follow the late Justice Stevens and push to repeal it. But I don’t think people want to give up the right to own a gun and repeal would result in more illegal weapons not their abolishment.

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Jim’s post, the Boston Globe article he links into, including its long discussion of Reagan, along with all the above comments that follow Jim’s post, all of them are so informed, so devoid of ideology, so laden with rational thinking, and so acutely reflect the reality of “larger tidal currents” that challenge us all today, that for the first time in the past 36 hours, I see some hope and light at the end of our long dark tunnel.

  9. “A movement to simply repeal the Second Amendment or gut it into meaninglessness is going to take hold, and it might succeed.” How much better if we defused that movement by sensible enactment and enforcement of universal background checks and effective restrictions on sales and ownership of military-style automatic weapons. This polarization does no-one any good in the long run.

  10. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    It may surprise you, but I agree with most of the above. Being at VT when the shootings occurred definitely affects my reactions to these horrible events. We’ve got to stop them! Change must occur. Clearly our current path of making no changes of substance allows this to just get worse and worse.

    I read several versions of the most recent solution from our state Republicans yesterday. They’re calling for lots of teamwork and use of a program from Boston that has documented benefit. My first question is where’s the documentation of how it works in rural areas? I’m not sure that program is even possible in rural areas, especially with the few resources available.

    However, looking for people who have problems, getting them on the radar screen, getting repeated and consistent messages to them that we won’t accept the violence – a key aspect of the proposal – is important. We need such messages to counter the ones that come from the violent games, TV, movies, social media and everywhere else. And we need to be sure people we know who have issues are recognized and helped. It’s hard to accept that after so many years of increasing mass killings we’ve not yet figured out ways to better identify and neutralize potential killers before they kill. Most seem to come out of nowhere and problems are only recognized in hindsight – which makes our current ways to address the problems ineffective.

    I continue to have difficulty accepting that the 2nd amendment gives us the right to have such powerful killing equipment so readily available to any and all who want it. We require more training and testing before allowing people to drive automobiles. If it’s OK to require some things before driving, it seems it should be OK to require some things before allowing people to have such powerful killing equipment; and not just once, but renewed regularly, just like driver’s licenses. We have zero safety standards for powerful killing equipment and don’t even want data collected that could reveal patterns that could help prevent misuse.

    Balance. That’s what’s needed in everything. Acbar is right “This polarization does no-one any good in the long run” whether it’s about a thing like a gun or a political perspective that allows no compromise.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      “I continue to have difficulty accepting that the 2nd amendment gives us the right to have such powerful killing equipment so readily available to any and all who want it.”

      You should not accept that because it’s not true. In the Heller decision Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion, including …

      “Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

      This language has been used extensively in the 11 years since Heller to defeat challenges to gun regulation. Heller made firearm ownership an individual right but it did not prohibit regulation of firearms. Just the opposite.

  11. Jim Loving Avatar
    Jim Loving

    Lots of great discussion. Too many topics to comment on:
    Immigration (Border Security and path to citizenship/amnesty)
    Civil Discourse and Social Cohesion
    Video Games affect on the young
    Social media’s impact on culture
    2nd amendment and military-style weapons
    Mental Illness and background checks
    US as killing nation for mass murders vs the rest of the world – why?
    The history and continued presence of white power and white nationalists (and their historic connection to anti-communism, see this book review –
    We need an enemy for national unity- once communism fell, “history ended” and Islamic terrorism fizzled out as a uniting cause, just a reason for endless war in the ME (18 years and counting).

    But certainly, we have not been this divided since 1850-65.

    We could use a uniter not a divider or two or two thousand.

    Keep up the good work at the Rebellion.

  12. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I am tired of people, including the President, using the mentally ill as a way of diverting the discussion away from the need for gun control. First, I have seen no indication that the shooters in either of the latest events had been diagnosed with a mental illness, had been seen professionally by anyone trained to treat or diagnose mental illness, or had even exhibited behavior associated with mental illness. Some commenters on this blog throw around the term “sociopath” rather loosely, meaning, I assume, anyone who does something really bad. The mental health profession has a fairly precise definition of “sociopath”, which involves the lack of a conscience. The El Paso shooter had a conscience; he wanted to protect the United States from an “invasion” of Mexicans. The shooter in California said he was “really angry”.

    Second, conflating these shootings with mental illness does disservice to the people who genuinely have a mental illness. The public begins to think that everyone who has a mental illness is going to go out and grab an AK-47 and begin shooting everyone in sight.

    Third, diverting the discussion to the need for treatment for the mentally ill means that not much will be done. How long ago was it that the Commonwealth experienced a public tragedy when Sen. Creigh Deeds’ mentally ill son seriously injured his father and then killed himself? And we are still trying to determine the funding and infrastructure needed to diagnose and treat those with mental health problems.

    As for TMT’s fixation on legal vs. illegal immigration, almost all the attention this year, including the President’s, has been on persons requesting asylum. These are not illegal immigrants. Our law explicitly allows persons from foreign countries to request asylum. They are not sneaking over the border; they are presenting themselves at official checkpoints and requesting asylum, as provided by law.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Dick – most of these asylum requests are bogus. It’s been clear that a desire to avoid crime and/or poverty are NOT grounds for asylum. Heck, even Obama said that back in 2014. Huge numbers are coming for economic reasons and making false asylum claims assisted by left-wing groups in the United States.

      Data from DHS released late last year shows that only 9% of the asylum claims made by Central Americans are found valid by immigration judges.

      To make a legal case one must prove she/he has suffered past persecution or has a well-founded fear of future persecution by their government on account of “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Living with gang violence or in crime filled communities doesn’t cut it except in the mind of the media and the left wingers.

      Citizens of South Vietnam who sided with the U.S. qualified for asylum after Saigon fell. A gay person from a country that has announced homosexuality is punishable by long prison terms of death would qualify. People who want to get out of poverty-stricken Guatemala don’t. People make a false claim, are released with work permits and never show up for a hearing. That’s the same as sneaking over the border. This makes a mockery of the law and the millions of people who follow it.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        And it was reported this year by DHS 90% of asylum seekers don’t show up for their hearings. This is not a legal process; it’s an assault on American sovereignty.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          That number was based on the “rocket docket” pilot project, not all asylum cases.

      2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        According to data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, 85 percent of immigrants requesting asylum “pass” the initial “credible fear” interview and are processed further into the asylum process. Whether their claims are bogus or not, these are not “illegal immigrants”. They are following a process established by U.S. law. As to whether they “never show up for a hearing,” the data is rather muddled on that. It seems to come down to what one is counting.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Back to the mental health deflection, I just ran across this article that makes the same points that I was making, only it references actual research. Even the FBI has concluded that only about 20 percent of the shooters in mass shootings had mental illness.

      And, by the way, research has also failed to find any connection between violent video games and those who commit mass murder.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Your big mistake, Dick, is that you relied on the Washington Post whose agenda is to turn mentally troubled white kids into cold blooded killers driven purely by hate. Look what the Washington Post did to the white Covington High School students wearing MAGA hats in Washington DC. Why in world would you trust Wash Post after that reporting?

        To begin to get decent news, read today’s Wall Street Journal article entitled Mental Illness and Mass Murder by F. Fuller Torrey stating for example:

        “Most recently, in July 2019, the Secret Service released its report “Mass Attacks in Public Spaces – 2018. The report covered 27 attacks that resulted in 91 deaths and 107 injuries. The investigators found that 67% of the suspects displayed symptoms of mental illness or emotional illness.”

        In addition, in the Wall Street Journal article, you will find an intelligent, balanced, and nuanced discussion of the issues instead of the cant delivered by typically uninformed Wash Post reporters spouting the Post’s hidden political agenda disguised as real news.

    3. djrippert Avatar

      The El Paso shooter has a conscience? Really? If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to think that his deluded idea of he and his gun personally defending America from an immigrant invasion was rational then what would a person with a conscience have done? He would have gone to that actual border, waited until he saw people obviously trying to sneak into the US and shot them. But what did he actually do? He went to a Wal-Mart parking lot and indiscriminately started shoot total strangers. He knew that there would be US citizens, legal immigrants and temporary, legal visitors in that parking lot as well as (maybe) some illegal immigrants. But he didn’t care who he killed. He lacked the conscience to care that US citizens would be killed in his delusional effort to “protect the United States”. Sorry but that’s a classic sociopath.

    4. djrippert Avatar

      “The shooter in California said he was “really angry”.

      What shooter in California? Do you mean Dayton, Ohio?

  13. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I have no problem whatsoever when people characterize hundreds of thousands of people illegally crossing a country’s border each year as “an invasion.” That is exactly what it is.

    Indeed, since March, the numbers of illegal immigrants crossing America’s South West border alone are well over 100,000 + per month (up to 144,000+ in May), and these numbers are likely to exceed 1 million this year, to add to the 11 million illegals already here. I think it is quite accurate to call this “an invasion.”

    I also suspect that people telling other people what they can call “invasions” are trying to hide the truth of what is happening in the world by shutting up their neighbors and fellow citizen.

    Telling other people how they can name things in the real world is part of an totalitarian society, and that is where America is headed if it continues on its present course.

    Finally, I have little doubt that these very young male mass killers, some in their teens and hardly twenty, and many other murderers of all ages, most of them, have severe mental problems that need the care of physicians and other experts.

  14. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Reed, rather than reflexively rejecting something because it appeared in the Post, you need to read the reporting itself. One of the sources used by the reporters was a report by the FBI. In that report, which covered shooters between 2000 and 2013, the FBI “could only verify that 25% of the active shooters in Phase II[of the study] were known to have been diagnosed by a mental health professional with a mental illness of any kind prior to the offense.” The conclusion: “In short, declarations that all active shooters must simply be mentally ill are misleading and unhelpful.”

    In contrast, the Secret Service report covered a much smaller population in only one year–2018. Nevertheless, the conclusions were not significantly different: 44% had been diagnosed with, or treated for, mental illness. The Secret Service report did say that two-thirds of the shooters had shown symptoms “indicative” of mental health issues. Included among those symptoms was depression, which is a broad category. Not every person who is depressed over what is going on in his life is mentally ill. The Secret Service report concluded: “Mental illness, alone, is not a risk factor for violence, and most violence is committed by individuals who are not mentally ill.”

    So, it would seem that most of these shooters are not “mentally troubled white kids”, according to both the FBI and the Secret Service.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      What a bastardization of the statistics. First, the National Alliance on mental illness estimates that fewer than one in 25 Americans suffers from a serious mental illness.

      Let’s use 4%.

      You quote, “… 25% … known to have been diagnosed by a mental health professional with a mental illness of any kind prior to the offense.” We’re already at 6 times the national average. But then … “known”, “mental health professional”, “prior to the offense”. How many mentally ill Americans go undiagnosed? That statistic is worthless.

      You then admit a Secret Service statistic of 44%. That’s 11 times the national average and still begs the question of undiagnosed mental illness.

      Reed gets closer to a usable statistic writing ” …67% of the suspects displayed symptoms of mental illness or emotional illness.” Now we’re at 17 times the national average.

      Yet all of these statistics are misleading because they all describe mental health diagnoses or mentally ill behavior BEFORE the mass killings. What about after? Your conclusion that most of these shooters are not mentally troubled white kids doesn’t follow from the facts because it doesn’t take into account the diagnosis of the shooter after the shooting. I’d say that 100% of gunmen have displayed “symptoms of mental illness or emotional illness” after they kill four or more total strangers.

      David Berkowitz was seen by a psychotherapist in his youth but not diagnosed as having serious mental health issues. Then his neighbor’s dog told him to kill people – which he did. By your logic the Son of Sam was not a troubled white kid because he wasn’t diagnosed as crazy before he did the dog’s bidding and killed 6 total strangers.

      Finally, you write, “The public begins to think that everyone who has a mental illness is going to go out and grab an AK-47 and begin shooting everyone in sight.” Nobody thinks that. Nobody. The fact that most mass killers display mental health issues does not infer that most people who display mental health issues become mass killers. The fact that most professional basketball players are tall does not infer that most tall people are professional basketball players. You know better than that and so does everybody else. Also – go out and grab an AK-47? I give up … where would one be able to do that? An AK-47 is a fully automatic machine gun. Five states ban them outright. The other 45 require that you need to be a citizen of the USA, you have to have a specific license (which can be tough to obtain), you have to pass the intense and rigorous background check (you essentially cannot be convicted of ANY misdemeanor, period), the item has to be manufactured before a certain date, and you need the deep pockets to do it.

      I am guessing you meant AR-15 rather than AK-47. The semi-automatic AR-15 is astonishingly easy to acquire.

      Instead of trying to argue that people who mass murder four or more total strangers are perfectly sane it might be better to argue that certain very powerful weapons like the AR-15 should be regulated like an AK-47 rather than like single shot shotguns or pocket sized derringers.

  15. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Sorry, Dick, it does not compute. Come back in a week or two after you have given these matter some serious thought.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Meantime, here is something to think about – when one’s family, place, identity, community, society, human friendships, and standards of conduct and expectations and their enforcement, collapse around vulnerable people and when, at the same time, all those critical supports are replaced by virtual reality, then, in such horrible circumstances of disorientation and collapse, human beings, especially young males of the human species (no matter their race, color, or background) will go wild, feral, and quite literally crazy.

  16. LarrytheG Avatar

    To Dicks comment about mental illness and someone who is “mentally ill” slaughtering people with 100-round magazines :

    1. – If this is actually true – what solution is being proposed? Are we saying that we should deny the purchase of guns (and 100 round magazines) to those who are mentally ill?

    2. – There are over 200 countries in the world and all of them have mentally ill people. How many of them have mentally ill people slaughtering innocents on a regular basis like we do?

    Folks can blame this on the media or MSN or whatever – but IMHO that’s evading the realities that we do have a problem and we are refusing to face it, refusing to accept some responsibility for basically advocating doing nothing and laying blame to deflect the fact that we refuse to act.

  17. Policy Student Avatar
    Policy Student

    Here is the American Psychological Association’ president’s perspective: “Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness. The rates of mental illness are roughly the same around the world, yet other countries are not experiencing these traumatic events as often as we face them. One critical factor is access to, and the lethality of, the weapons that are being used in these crimes. Adding racism, intolerance and bigotry to the mix is a recipe for disaster.” I do not know enough to weigh in here. But from a research perspective, I think “mental illness” is a much too general variable to be useful. We might as well say “human brains” are a variable in mass shootings.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      “Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness.”

      Violent acts or mass shootings? I am very confident that the vast majority of people committing violent acts have not been diagnosed as mentally ill. Some undoubtedly have undiagnosed mental illness but the run of the mill wife beater is an evil jackass but probably not mentally ill.

      If you define mass shooting as an attack with a firearm where at least four people have been killed or injured by the firearm there have been 8 mass shootings in Virginia this year. The only one of the eight that has received widespread publicity was the Virginia Beach killings at a government facility. In that massacre the shooter, Dean Craddock, was facing disciplinary action for a violent fight at work previous to his mass shooting. Was Dean Craddock mentally ill? Not was he diagnosed as being mentally ill before he killed 12 people. Was he mentally ill when he started pulling the trigger to kill those people? He launched the killing spree after brushing his teeth and exchanging pleasantries with a fellow engineer.

      Should officials in Virginia Beach have mandated a mental health evaluation for Craddock after he got into a violent fight with a co-worker? Do you think they may have found something amiss in a college educated civil engineer who was described as being “jacked” from going to the gym getting into a violent altercation at work?

      It seems to me that there was something spiraling downwards with Craddock before he became a mass shooter. There were certain signs of mental illness once he started mowing down everybody he could find as he methodically walked the halls of his place of employment.

      1. Policy Student Avatar
        Policy Student

        Thanks for responding! I will not debate you on Craddock’s mental health. I do prefer we not treat mental health as a binary variable; I’m not sure what we can do with this information, other than throw money generally at mental health care. The full APA statement suggests there is a “mix” of factors at play in gun violence/ mass shootings; I think that’s where I was going. I appreciate your thoughts.

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      As best as I can discern based on past pronouncements, including one or two earlier referenced on this blog, there is reason to suggest that the American Psychological Association is today a highly politicized organization. And, of course, the discipline has long been highly controversial and subjective by nature, although great new research is emerging made possible by new high tech tools and a relative few outstanding clinicians and researchers (see book Becoming Human), but most research in the field today is littered with junk science.

      See for example,

      “‘Spin’ found in over half of clinical trial abstracts published in top psychiatry journals

      by charles the moderator / 3 hours ago August 6, 2019

      Findings raise concerns about potential impact on doctors’ treatment decisions


      ‘Spin’–exaggerating the clinical significance of a particular treatment without the statistics to back it up–is apparent in more than half of clinical trial abstracts published in top psychology and psychiatry journals, finds a review of relevant research in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine.

      The findings raise concerns about the potential impact this might be having on treatment decisions, as the evidence to date suggests that abstract information alone is capable of changing doctors’ minds, warn the study authors.

      Randomised controlled trials serve as the gold standard of evidence, and as such, can have a major impact on clinical care. But although researchers are encouraged to report their findings comprehensively, in practice they are free to interpret the results as they wish.

      In an abstract, which is supposed to summarize the entire study, researchers may be rather selective with the information they choose to highlight, so misrepresenting or ‘spinning’ the findings.

      To find out how common spin might be in abstracts, the study authors trawled the research database PubMed for randomised controlled trials of psychiatric and behavioural treatments published between 2012 and 2017 in six top psychology and psychiatry journals.

      They reviewed only those trials (116) in which the primary results had not been statistically significant, and used a previously published definition of spin to see how often researchers had ‘spun’ their findings.

      They found evidence of spin in the abstracts of more than half (65; 56%) of the published trials. This included titles (2%), results sections (21%), and conclusion sections (49%). … End Quote

      For balance of article see:

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