More Thoughts on Virginia Tech

My emotions are high.

What nobody has observed (at least as far as I can tell) is that this is the first American mass murder along these lines (at least that I know of) in which there was absolutely no ego involved. This madman did not want to be recognized. He didn’t carry an ID. Didn’t carry a cell phone. He willfully disfigured his face. He was not Charles Whitman shooting from a tower, knowing full well that his handiwork was going to be discovered. He was not Eric and Dylan getting vocal revenge on classmates. There was no ego.

And beyond the family and friends of the victims and the wholesale incompetence of the Virginia Tech Campus Police, who had jurisdiction here, to call in city, county and state police to contain this situation, that’s what creeps me out the most about this. There is absolutely no human component to this. This guy went in and, as far as we know, just started shooting the shit out of people. There is nothing that we can empathize with here. Not a common grievance that saner humans can identify.

I’m still sifting through the information, stunned that this happened and trying to find some trigger effect. But there’s nothing. I’m wondering if there was some kind of personal connection between the shooter and his victims. But the more articles I read, the more it looks like this was a carefully calculated plan of evil upon the human race.

And that’s what scares the hell out of me. That a person walking this earth would be incapable of even the tiniest sliver of good. That a person would butcher so many without even a warning. That the blood of this killer may very well be colder than a year in Eureka, Nanavut.


  1. Seems too soon to say killer had “no ego.” Who knows what letters, online ravings, and other stuff will turn up?

  2. A horrible event, but I think you’re probably jumping the gun here a bit. We have no idea what the motive (if any) of the shooter might have been. There are very very few if any killings that happen sans motive. Even the most depraved psycho and sociopaths act out of motive, even though those motive seem incomprehensible to the rest of us.

    I think you’re likely wrong about “no ego being involved as well.” Ego is not synonymous with the desire for attention or grandstanding. Self-centeredness and self-regard can be an intensly interior phenomenon as well. In fact, it’s a weak ego that seeks attention. When you look at people with narcissistic personality disorder, you actually see a curve in terms of degree of attention-seeking where the lower end of those with the disorder tend to seek out attention, but those at the very highest levels neither desire, nor need attention because they are fully satsified with their delusions of themselves.

    You also have a mistaken and outdated notion of the Columbine killers. The pyschological forensic research paints a very different picture than Kelbold and Harris acting as revenge killers.

    Harris was a literal (by clinical definition) pyscopath. He had a screw loose and had extreme delusions of grandure. He had a runaway narcissism. Klebold was a depressed, troubled kid who fell under the sway of Harris. Slate has a good summary of the final forensic reports here:

    In terms of the gunman not having ID, there’s a thousand speculative guesses as to the psychology of that decision, as well as a number of practical ones.

    In the end, all of these events have human components because they’re carried out by humans. Sometimes the trigger is depression or loss or rage. Sometimes its faulty wiring or mix of brain chemistry. The killer’s blood may have run cold during the killings, but it was unlikely that it was always thus. Perpetrators of these sorts of events that live often describe carrying out the events in a fugue or disassociative state, which is entirely possible here.

    That he apparently took his own life also indicates a human angle. It’s an ultimate awareness of consequences, of a future beyond this person’s actions. He, apparently, could not, or would not confront that future. Not an indication of “cold blood.”

    I don’t think there’s any reason not to react emotionally to these sorts of events. They are the very definition of horror, but as someone with a stake in understanding these sorts of things, I hate to have us mistake our horror for understanding.

  3. I have to see it differently: the fact that he shows no visible sign of an ego does not indicate to me that he is showing us the truth about himself or his motivations. Masks and mental illness go together, for instance. Have you ever had a conversation with a severe schizophrenic? There can be no satisfying reason for us to understand, but, unfortunately, in his mind there was reason.

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