April 20, 2007

The upcoming national campus crusade against weirdoes

There have been many demands this week that colleges take pre-emptive action against odd-behaving students to prevent more mass slaughters like at Virginia Tech.

My initial reaction is that I have very little faith in college administrations' ability to identify the truly dangerous, and suspect new powers would mostly be used to further persecute the politically and socially unpopular and inconvenient.

Perhaps, though, I'm wrong. To evaluate proposed remedies for college shootings, it would be worth better understanding the causes of the rise and fall of high school shootings by students. These began primarily in the 1990s and notoriously culminated at Columbine in 1999, then continued onward for a couple of years.

In March 2001, I covered for UPI the Santana H.S. massacre in Santee outside of San Diego, where a 9th grader shot two peers and wounded 13 more. That night, I counted 31 satellite TV trucks at the improvised media center. At 11pm, I watched nine television reporters simultaneously, side-by-side, begin their top-of-the-hour reports from in front of the makeshift shrine at the Santee sign. My feeling at the time was that we in the press were driving this epidemic of copycat high school shootings through our overkill coverage. By showing up, I was part of the problem and was just going to contribute to the next Columbine-style shooting by some little creep who wanted to get on TV.

And, yet ... after Santana, this whole bloody trend just seemed to peter out. The number of truly Columbine-style kids-shooting-kids massacres in the U.S. dropped sharply. (Gang-bangers keep shooting each other in front of high schools, but white Americans don't really care, as long as they stay away from their kids.) It was like "going postal," which had earlier gone into remission (although there was a recent relapse).

How come? Did American schools actually start to do the right thing to prevent shootings? If so, what was it? Or did it just fade out as mysteriously as it started?

Here's an article I wrote for UPI a few weeks before Santana:

New strategy for preventing school shootings
UPI National Correspondent
LOS ANGELES, Calif. February 13 (UPI) --

Few subjects have inspired so many words and so few insights in recent years as murderous rampages. First, post office employees became notorious for running amok. Then it was middle class high school students. Lately, it's been disgruntled private sector workers. We're only beginning to uncover clues about what causes these small-scale but horrifying fads.

Other cultures have found themselves beset by a tendency for men to suddenly lash out in vicious, often suicidal attacks on the people around them. Running "amok" is the Malay term for man who responds to an insult or humiliation by frenziedly chopping up his neighbors with a machete knife. According to U. of Massachusetts' psychologist James Averill, it was so common in the East Indies in the early 19th century "that all villages kept a long pole with a fork on the end for immobilizing an amok runner." Fortunately, it became less customary in these lands in the 20th century.

In the America of the late Eighties and early Nineties, the urge to massacre one's acquaintances seemed largely confined to employees of the U.S. Post Office. Postal workers first started "going postal" - a bit of pseudo-teen slang coined by Amy Heckerling for her 1995 movie "Clueless - in Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986, when a city carrier murdered 14 coworkers. Through April 1998, 34 postal employees had died in 15 such onslaughts by their colleagues. Since 1998, however, "going postal" seems to have gone out of fashion as mysteriously as it began.

The Postal Service commissioned a 2000 report on the killings by former Carter Cabinet Secretary Joseph Califano. His study downplayed the danger to postal employees. It showed that cab drivers were 150 times more likely to be murdered than post office workers. The report, however, sidestepped the question of whether U.S.P.S. workers were more likely to slaughter their coworkers than the average worker. Further, it did not explain why post office shootings suddenly began in 1986.

As postal employees suddenly became less violent at the end of the Nineties, corporate workers seemed to step in to take up the slack. The recent carnage at the Navistar plant in Melrose Park, Illinois was only one example of a spate of such shootings.

In between the heydays of "going postal" and "going corporate," white Americans became obsessed by a series of school shootings, climaxing in the infamous 1999 Columbine H.S. slaughter in Littleton, Colorado.

Violence in the schools has long been a problem in neighborhoods where violence in the streets is common. But murderous rampages in middle class schools were quite rare until only a few years ago.

A Secret Service study of 37 Columbine-style incidents found that the first similar incident occurred in 1974. Then, in 1979 a schoolgirl in San Diego shot two people. Her explanation for why she did it provided the title of the Boomtown Rats' nihilistic hit song "I Don't Like Mondays."

Nonetheless, the great school-shooting spree did not begin until the later Nineties. This suggests a copycat mentality, probably spread by the overwhelming television coverage of school shootings. ABC, CBS, and NBC alone aired 296 stories on Columbine.

Even two weeks after that mass murder, one could still turn on the TV at almost any hour of the day and find anywhere from two to ten channels blaring about "Terror in the Rockies." It costs little these days to send a remote truck to broadcast from the scene of the crime. Thus, every channel feels obligated to have their own reporter standing in front of the school building mouthing clich├ęs.

The diversification of media channels due to cable TV and the Internet was supposed to lead to a greater variety of subjects being covered on the Information Superhighway. Instead, we seem to have entered the age of "one story at a time" journalism, where everything else going on in the world is dropped in favor of all the news channels simultaneously broadcasting live coverage of some poor high school kid's funeral.

Not surprisingly, Columbine in turn inspired a rash of planned shootings and bomb plots. Fortunately, many were headed off by newly paranoid police and school administrators.

In recent weeks, three school murder plots came to light when other teenagers snitched on the would-be murderers. Encouraging kids to squeal appears to be the most promising strategy for preventing school shootings. The Secret Service found, "In over three quarters of the cases, the attacker told someone before the attack about his interest in mounting an attack at the school. In over half of the incidents, the attacker told more than one person about his ideas/plans." While workplace murderers are generally stereotypical loners, school killers seem to crave attention and even psychological reinforcement from their peers.

In contrast, according to the Secret Service, the widespread attempts to develop an accurate profile of kids likely to become rampage killers has failed: "There is no accurate or useful profile of the 'the school shooter.'" Unlike workplace shooters, who tend to be fairly well educated middle aged failures with a history of mental problems, the only true common denominator of high school shooters is that they are all boys.

Further, while school slaughterers do tend to be somewhat alienated and in emotional turmoil, that vague profile would cover maybe half of all teenagers. The Secret Service concludes, "The great majority of students who fit any given profile will not actually pose a risk of targeted violence."

This wouldn't have worked at Virginia Tech, however, since the close-mouthed Cho seldom spoke to anybody.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

What I had to say about the weirdos:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there some study showing the postal workers started going postal after they increased the stress of their job or something?

Anonymous said...

The only thing that *might* have prevented these shootings was if he had been locked up or expelled after his professor noticed his disturbances. That seems to be what the media is now encouraging. I can just imagine what that would lead to: locking up everyone who exhibits any sign of depression or any instability out of fear of liability. I'm sure the media would then be all on that story and faulting the schools for that.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we cannot accurately profile which individual will go on a murderous rampage but aren't you minimizing the degree to which we know individuals who will end up in jail.

I know someone who knew this high school student: see wikipedia David Henry Tuck.

As a journalist, could you get a hold of his school records documenting his behavior, diagnosis, medication, family history of incareration, his IQ, and his propensity for violence.

The mental health community appears to be in a real quandary. In their effort to promote humaneness toward the mentally ill, they written laws that have boxed themselves into a corner.

I can't help but fear that they are understating their ability to diagnosis criminality. They loathe the idea that they could be responsible for incacerating, institutionalizing, someone before they've committed a crime and they can't bring themselves to acknowledge that at present there is no effective treatment. It's just a game of hope and fear.

(If I were a parent, I would be sorely tempted to place my child in a private school. I know of one school district who had three registered sexual offenders enrolled in their special education classes... the 14-year old who repeatedly assaulted his 7-year old step sister.)

With respect to Cho, by not intervening they set this kid up for failure. Where did they expect him to go after he graduated with his degree in English - back home to his parent's basement? Out of sight, out of mind, not my problem.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Your title is perfect.

This crime has been seized upon not only by the gun-control nuts, but by the promoters of therapeutic dictatorship.

Try wearing a trenchcoat after Columbine. Try writing a creepy student play or novel after Va. Tech.i

Anonymous said...

The reason the school shooting phenomenon petered out after the March 2001 shooting was because of the shadow of 9/11 (as I commented at the time). What creeps like Cho want is attention and celebrity. They want to be a star but there is nothing they could possibly do that would look impressive when compared to Mohammed Atta blowing up the World Trade Center buildings. As 9/11 fades in memory, school shooting begin to regain their shock value and these people can become celebrities again. This suggests that the worst thing we can do is to broadcast Cho's writings and videos. All the other would-be school shooters out there are watching and taking notes. If they want America to sit up and listen to them, they see what they have to do. The best thing that could have been done after the massacre would have been to say as little about Cho as possible. Keep him anonymous and he fails in his quest.

Anonymous said...

As usual, the Onion was there first, with their story "Columbine Jocks Safely Resume Bullying."

...hanks to stern new security measures, a militarized school environment and a massive public-relations effort designed to obscure all memory of the murderous event, members of Columbine's popular crowd are once again safe to reassert their social dominance and resume their proud, longstanding tradition of excluding those who do not fit in.

"We have begun the long road to healing," said varsity-football starting halfback Jason LeClaire, 18, a popular senior who on Aug. 16 returned to the school for the first time since the shooting. "We're bouncing back, more committed than ever to ostracizing those who are different."

Added LeClaire's girlfriend, cheerleader Kellie Nelson: "A school where the jocks cannot freely exclude math geeks, drama fags, goths and other inferiors without fearing for their lives is not the kind of school I want to go to."...

Anonymous said...

I like that gun licenses for professors and grad students idea someone proposed here. That sounds reasonable, and might actually provide some deterrence.

What the gun control types do not understand about real world power is that being armed or generally able to defend yourself projects. Potential aggressors can see and smell that "bad victim, might hurt me" vibe, and wisely decide to remain peaceful.

The benefit of being lawful and dangerous is that it prevents violence by bad people.

Anonymous said...

A father of one of the murdered Columbine victims says, angrily, that they are under gag order not to talk about specific details. He is outraged that the public, instead of getting hard facts, are spoon fed things about bullying which, he says, just aren't true.
In sum, he says there is an extremely paternalistic attitude by our elites and we cannot believe what they tell us. He found out about his own son when seeing a picture of him dead on the sidewalk in the morning's newspaper. And he had been to the school for hours the day of, but was treated like a child and lied to about his own child

Anonymous said...

EXCLUSIVE: Grandad's anger at uni murderer (MIRROR) "Yang-Sun revealed the eight-year-old was diagnosed as autistic soon after his family emigrated to the US."

"College officials say that a growing number of students arrive on campus with a history of mental-health problems and a prescription for psychotropic drugs. But screening for such problems would be illegal, admissions officers say. "We’re restricted by the disabilities act from asking,” (Law Limits Options - NYT)

Austism is a sprectrum illness.

This isn't about weirdos and geeks being harrassed by well-meaning adminstrators this is about administrators being fully informed as to the medical needs of the students on campus.

In high school, this kid had teachers and aides monitoring his behavior closely. This wasn't the case when he was shipped off to college to share a dorm room.

Anonymous said...

By showing up, I was part of the problem and was just going to contribute to the next Columbine-style shooting by some little creep who wanted to get on TV.

Or big creep? Cho caused far less death and misery than Bush and Blair have and continue to do.

Anonymous said...

This silly and useless media circus makes me think the old Sovietski propaganda machine was far superior. "No comrades, no Chernobyl meltdown here ... (weeks later), well, maybe there was a little slip but nothing to worry about ... Move along folks, nothing to see here..."

Mass society, gotta love it. Just like in 9-11, the take home lesson for anyone with a brain is: don't depend on authorities (no matter how well intentioned) to solve all problems, especially in a crisis. How about a little of the good old-fashioned self reliance that founded this Republic?

Now I know how the Romans felt when their tough and tight and little functional society turned into a sprawling, decadent mess of an empire.

Cho was a product of an atomized and over-domesticated automatic mass society, and a threat to the same.

Anonymous said...

Exampel of disinformation here:
SOURCE AutismLink

"It is unfair to blame Cho's actions on autism when he was clearly psychologically impaired and likely had another disorder in addition to his autism.

This is a wake up call that stresses the importance of early intervention, research, and appropriate treatment strategies. Many strides have been made in autism spectrum disorders and research has consistently shown that when children receive the help that they need early on they are more likely to become more adept at social and communication skills."

It remains to be seen if Cho had a diagnosis of autism at age 8. It is a spectrum disorder, some are prone to violence. And, despite untold hours of early intervention and allocated resources, most do not become more adept.

If they sent an autistic young man off to college without informing the school and devising a continuance of his treatment it was cold, cruel and ultimately, negligent. (Some high functioning autistic individuals befriend others diagnosed as autistic and find the much needed support, normalcy and affirmation within their community. Dorm life may not have been appropriate for this young man.)

Anonymous said...

The media ritual after these things is a blast. The 24-hr coverage exists only because that's what the market wants- everyone wants to enjoy the 'death porn.' But the media has to help us lie to ourselves; we are too dishonest with ourselves to admit so much, so the "news" gets dressed up in moralistic finery. Like when the National Enquirer published pictures of the dead Columbine killers, they came up with some moral justification, which I'm sure even they don't remember.

I find especially annoying the near unanimous condemnation of NBC for airing Cho's "manifesto", only because its marginal contribution to the likelihood of a copycat murder is so small. The 24-hr news coverage is OK, but airing a video is not? (In fact, the video was quite educational, a wonderful study in full-blown paranoid schizophrenia, though most people are still, OJ-like, searching for the 'real' motives trying to 'understand evil.')

The Video Game General said...

The odds of any single student bringing a gun to school are so incredibly low that attempting to do a statistical analysis over X-number of years will give no meaningful data.

The boy was diagnosed with autism and his family lacked the financial resources to give him the care that he needed.

Steve Sailer said...

And what, exactly, is the care needed for high-functioning autistics? There's no general cure and there are millions of autistics and hundreds of thousands of normal to high IQ ones, plus millions more with Aspergers. Not many of them shoot 32 people.

That's one reason I'm concerned about a national campus crusade against weirdoes.

Anonymous said...

You're all missing the big picture here. Cho did the following in 2005:

1. Stalked two girls.
2. Set fire to his dorm.
3. Scared the hell out of his classmates.
4. Scared the hell out of his Prof.
5. Wrote violent plays about pedophilia and murder.
6. Was committed voluntarily to a mental institution after room-mates reported he was suicidal.

WHY was he not expelled? A CCW student who brought a gun on campus was threatened with expulsion.

Answer: Psych-Cho was Korean. And the University FEARED a discrimination lawsuit.

Our PC-Multi-Culti Civil Rights hyper-rights legal environment left the University which knew well and good this guy was a danger with the greater fear of being sued for millions and losing because Psych-Cho was Korean. So he remained. Out of fear of lawsuits.

Same fear (of being sued/fired for Profiling) left the gate agent who wanted to deny Atta the right to board helpless on the morning of 9/11.

As for the problems of folks like Cho, it's an old one dating back to Classical Greece.

Herostratus? Guy burnt down the 7th Wonder of the World (Temple of Artemis at Ephesus) and was executed, his name and story prohibited from being written or spoken. Naturally that didn't work out so well and he was romanticized constantly. Subject of too many to mention plays, books, movies etc.

Or try Sergey Nechayev. Father of Nihilism who in the 70's (that's 1870s folks) formed the basis of Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky attended his trial).

Nihilism and the urge of young men to destroy as Steve notes has been a big problem in all cultures and the West has been no exception. It seems to get worse when leisure, too many nihilistic ideas are romanticized, and lack of physical exhaustion allow unhealthy plots to form. Psych-Cho romanticized Klebold and Harris the Columbine Killers.

I agree that the shadow of 9/11 made this nihilist guys fade back into the woodwork because they could not compete. Astute insight.

What these nihilist young men crave is STATUS. They hope to achieve it posthumously, and it's their main motivation. Steve is right: don't cover it and they won't commit it.

Worth noting btw: UT shooter Charles Whitman had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball, Prof. with Deer Rifles in their offices took shots at him to pin him down. Eventually killed by a rookie cop aided by a civilian.

But culturally we have not since Classical Greece been able to handle a small but dangerous minority of young men going nuts with nihilistic behaviors.

Anonymous said...


Usually, there are rules that say "Do X and get expelled," and then there are a lot of things where you either get treatment/appologize/etc. or get expelled. It sounds like Cho had done many of the second class of things, but not the first.

I doubt that's about being a Korean. If he'd been caught with the gun on campus, I bet they'd have expelled him. (Though this wouldn't remove a dangerous nut from the world, just from the campus.)

Anonymous said...

You make a reference to Brenda Ann Spencer early on in your article, but then state that the only common denominator for all these school shooters is that they are boys. Yes, you did say "high school," but that Spencer's act took place at an elementary school does not make it remarkably different. A little sloppy Steve.

Anonymous said...

How about this for care:

Untreated autistics can grow very, very distant and anti-social. Untreated high functioning autistics are often misdiagnosed as schizophrenics along with a raft of other personality disorders. Autism itself is not a mental disorder, persay, but certainly left untreated can LEAD to personality disorder.
(lifted from a commment at http://autism.about.com)

There may be no cure but there is treatment. Treatment does not entail harrassment of weirdoes. People by and large are accepting of oddballs - they're in every family.

Who knows if Cho had a diagnosis that predated enrollment at Virginia Tech. It's entirely conceivable he was under the care of a doctor who prescribed medication during his years at Virginia Tech. We don't know. The problem may lie in that this information may have been precluded from being shared with university adminstrators who needed to make a determination as to whether his behavior warranted more than one-on-one tutoring and not having his poems read in class.

Anonymous said...

None of the above:

I'm not the only one to suggest that it was fear of a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination that led VT to allow the nutcase back on campus. [It was suggested on O'Reilly last night by his guest. I never watch O'Reilly ordinarily because he's a blowhard idiot but was surfing around and caught that bit.]

How else can you explain the disparity? The one student (white) violated no law but did VT's anti-gun policy. The nutcase set fire to the dorm. Stalked two women. Both would seem to me to be violations of Virginia State Law and grounds for expelling him.

I can say that in the Corporate World minorities who underperform are almost never fired. Same in the governmental world. That's just a fact of life.

Anonymous said...

So it's actually a good thing that it took two days after the massacre for the media to start devoting themselves to covering Alec Baldwin harassing his daughter on the telephone? (Not to mention today's shooter in Houston.) I can buy that.

Anonymous said...

So Cho was most certainly autistic and schizophrenic. In my expert opinion, probably ADD as well. He watched too many movies, so OCD. Childhood teasing: acute post-traumatic stress syndrome. Also TMTVS (Too Much TV Syndrome), WPRS (Wierd Play 'Ritin Syndrome), advanced PMNLMS (Poor Mee Nobody Likes Me Syndrome), and - worst of all - UIFSNS (Using Illegal File Sharing Networks Syndrome).

What a sicko was loose in our society. Why didn't educators intervene earlier?

Instead of chalking it all up to some "illness," call bad behavior what it is. Who cares why someone behaves badly? The kid harassed other students and didn't participate properly in class. Guaranteed that if people had more balls in not permitting this BS, that shooting would not have happened. Kick his butt out of school and stop pandering to kids' misbehavior.

Anonymous said...

" (Gang-bangers keep shooting each other in front of high schools, but white Americans don't really care, as long as they stay away from their kids.)

While I like this article, I have to object this comment.

So white people don't really care about inner-city violence as long as their kids are safe? Is that true of just white people? Or do most people tend to ignore violence that exists in "another world" far from their daily experience?

Is there any evidence that white middle class suburbanites care less about the tragic, violent deaths of other Americans than, say, black suburbanites, or Latino suburbanites, etc?

I read any number of articles that make such generic claims about "white people" -- writers (I think) resort to it out of laziness, and its a habit which apparently is supposed to impart a kind of edginess to writing.

If it's true -- that whites are appreciably less concerned about the deaths of black fellow Americans, than are other races, then maybe this warrants pointing out, and could be an article in its own right. But to just toss it off like that to fill a word or issue quota does a disservice to your readers. Just my opinion.


Anonymous said...

I blame of World of Warcraft. ;-)

Anonymous said...

CB -- I think there is enough empirical evidence to support Steve's assertion.

Take LA. Only when gang-bangers invaded Westwood and shot up the area around UCLA including a young woman named Karen Toshima (killed in the crossfire) did LA take action and crack down on the gangs.

Do "white people" in the aggregate care about gang violence? I would say yes but the solutions: lots of law enforcement and jailing gang bangers has zero support from the minority community and would result in the sort of Duke LaCrosse Mau-Mauing that Sharpton and Jackson specialize in.

The White Elite (media, political leaders) recognizes this and has left the ghettos to their own thugs as they've demanded. The White middle class has reacted by well, moving away to places like Utah, Texas, Colorado etc. as minority areas grow and prices increase and crime edges outward, slowly, and the futility of political action in Coastal states is clear.

Prop 13 was likely the last gasp of the middle class white homeowner. Priced out of the gated communities by wealthy boomer millionaires, and pressed on the other side by either dirt poor minorities or poor but upwardly mobile immigrant minorities with nepotistic kin-networks that provide an impenetrable web of mutual support and keep out those who are not kin (everyone else).

As to why African-Americans and Latinos want the gang-bangers left alone? Partly racial pride but mostly as the foot soldiers against gentrification. High crime keeps housing prices down and enforces racial separation. A constant concern among African-Americans first and foremost but also Latinos particularly Mexicans (Cubans seem a bit more relaxed on this score).

"La Raza?" anyone.

Anonymous said...

That's because Cubans often have money, coming (apart from Mariel) from more affluent origins.

You've got a good point. Gentrification means poor minorities can't live there anymore. Gangbangers are dangerous but prevent poor blacks from losing their homes. Awful, huh?

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is LA's future:

From The TimesApril 23, 2007

US to seal off danger zones with more wallsJames Hider in Baghdad
The US military is building concrete walls around five of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Baghdad, most of them Sunni, in an attempt to halt car bombers and death squads.

Work on five “gated communities” has already begun. The aim is to enclose whole districts behind high concrete blast walls with access granted only through heavily guarded checkpoints.


A US military spokesman insisted that the walls were being built after consultation with local councils. “We’re not sealing off neighbourhoods — it’s to control access,” Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Bleichwehl said. “It makes it harder to bring in weapons and car bombs. This is a temporary measure.”

Nonetheless, the plan has triggered comparisons with Berlin, Belfast and Nicosia, where “temporary” walls scarred capital cities for decades, dividing communities and enhancing already virulent mistrust and animosity. Abu Moamar, a Sunni professor of international relations, said: “It will intensify sectarian feelings and the sense of separation between the two sides. Instead of one mixed Iraqi society it will be two societies, Shia and Sunni. This will be reflected in the next generation. At any time in the future you can expect a war between the two sides.”



Anonymous said...

Prop 13 was likely the last gasp of the middle class white homeowner.

Prop 13 has actually fueled the CA housing bubble and hastened the worst features of gentrification. Given its widely recognized detrimental effects, I think it's unfair to call it "the last refuge of the white middle class".

Unknown said...