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Monday, 17 December 2012


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"He said nothing to or of Adam Lanza."

I'm wondering if this may have been at the request of the victims' families. I don't know about Newtown, but after the Aurora, CO theater shootings, there was a very strong sentiment that the shooter not be referenced, especially by name. I think it's an outgrowth of the fact that most people still know who Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are. However most people outside of the Columbine community would be hard pressed to name one victim of that event. It seems like there's a grass roots push to quit giving perpetrators of these crimes the notoriety that must surely play a part in their decisions to commit such heinous acts.

The perpetrator need not be named to get my points across.

And I remember Isaiah Shoels. I read an article about him. I remember his father's abiding anger, and that he liked flower gardening.


thank you, right on the money

I appreciate the sentiment but am not sure about the application. Morality is important and should be discussed, but that doesn't mean that everyone is capable of being a moral actor. My father, for example, at the end of his life spent a fair amount of time exposing himself to my wife and yelling at the other nursing home patients. He had advanced Alzheimer's and the portions of his brain that provided restraint and a moral compass had been physically destroyed. I think we need to wonder whether Lanza was capable of making the kind of decisions you suggest, and if not, determine what we as a society are willing and able to do with, and about, people in similar conditions. This is not a simple matter of letting him off the hook by medicalizing his condition, but it's not a simple matter of holding him to account by de-medicalizing him, either.

There is certainly a measure of truth in your comments. The sane among us need to speak up and voice the standards of civilized people.

Mike, I totally agree. We are moral beings, but our morality is highly flexible. I remember my first job at age sixteen, a dishwasher. I was a "do what you are told" kind of guy, and the cooks took advantage of that, leaving unneeded messes in the sinks, expecting me to clean it all up. When I was made a cook I did the same thing to the new dishwashers, until we had a new manager who took one look at what I was doing and chewed me out. I was outraged for a while (didn't he know the system?) but then my behavior changed and it became the new norm.
I believe this nation needs a new norm around guns, gun infatuation, gun fetishes, and gun handling behavior. But it will take a long and thorough chewing out.

Amen Mike...well said.

Amen, brother!

Bravo Mike. Spot on.

Interesting to consider how many people read the comments and whether your effort in editing them is really worthwhile. Maybe you should do a poll. Myself I mostly don't read the comments although I do read pretty well all of your posts.

Do you read the Featured Comments?


Definitely Lanza belonged to the lowest human stratus possible. Just imagine how bad he felt about himself. I feel sorry for him, nonetheless I would be the first to give him the maximum penalty but he was just another casualty of the system. As an outsider I should not tell you what's wrong with your beautiful nation because it could generate nationality issues but I'd like to dare a bit and say that this mass murder has "family disintegration" written all over. I was born and raised in Mexico. As a latin american country we usually get mocked by being too family oriented. It's no secret we leave our parent's home much later (if ever. lol) than in more northern countries. Family oriented societies (for good or bad) have more verbal communication, way more physical touch among siblings than in countries that are not oriented, like USA, where other values are heavily impulsed like being independent both economically and mentally. I wish this great nation takes this time the opportunity to revalue their priorities in life. Nothing is sacred, The mere Constitution should be modified if necessary to construct a safer place for your children to grow up and be happy. I think it is necessary to think outside the can for a while. The quest for happiness should more fun, smoother, easier and safer than it actually is. I think this quest has become pretty much demential (no pun intended). I wish you all happy holidays. Take care and keep tighter.

Spot on. This was a crime. And even if the crime was committed by a sick mind, his family (who paid dearly) should have taken measures, the least of which would be to make sure this fellow has no access to weapons. Society is very soft on criminals and does nothing to prevent potential disasters from happening when it knows certain individuals are unstable.

Mike, the tragedy here is that Adam Lanza deprived the victims, their relations, and society, of justice. Not vengeance, mind you, but justice (which are not to be confounded).
You are absolutely right; even if he took his own life, that mustn't blank his guilt. Neither should anyone excuse him because of his mental disturbance, for he knew what he was doing: had he survived, his eventual psychic condition would not be enough for him to be exempted of criminal responsibility by a court.
However, we must also ask how its education and social environment helped him build his tortuous character, because crime is better fought by preventing it, rather than repressing -, and, in particular, whether these crimes would have taken place had gun control been implemented some two decades ago, or (preferably) earlier. I didn't mean to come back to this issue, which you wrote about earlier, but one can't escape the fact that it takes central place in the debate around the Sandy Hook massacre.

No one should mistake advocates for gun control as apologists for the morally defective. It is just a fact of life that we can not look into every mind and predict with certainty which of us is capable of such despicable crimes. Oh that we could. But it is also a fact that guns enable these people to kill in large numbers. America the world is watching in amazement that you value the "right to bear arms" and not criminalizing the possession of types of guns which are designed to kill humans over then life of just one child. Shame on you if you fail to enact meaning gun control.

I remember the faces of the Aurora murderer, the Gabby Giffords murderer, the Virginia Tech murderer and now this one.

And someone out there knows these 'celebrities' too, and wants to be be added to the list. We need to stop the celebrity and the power we give to these turds.

Instead, what if all we knew them by was 'the murderer in Colorodo', 'the nobody from Arizona' and 'the coward in Virginia'. Report the name the first day buried in the middle of the article, maybe a small photo, but after that its not needed.

From now on in my mind and in conversation, this one will be called 'the little shit', and I will not look at his photo.


You might not be the greatest orator, but that remains to be seen.

But you're a hell of a writer!

You really hit the nail squarely on the head with this one.

Thank you,,


I read the featured comments sometimes. But the comments themselves, well there's just way too many, for one thing, and generally speaking, they're less interesting than the original posts, or maybe I'm just not that dedicated. I read a lot of blogs and don't read the comments on most of them either.

Mike et al, I am too worn down to read much more on this so I will admit I have not read all the comments from either post. So forgive any duplications here said.

There is a real danger in looking deeply at Lanza. One contributing factor in mass shooting crimes is their copycat nature. Seeing all of the public attention others have received can encourage more. We need to approach any public discussion with this in mind so as to minimize that. How? I admit I don't know. But it sure doesn't mean we should stop talking about the criminal.

I agree with you that he did not "understand" a lot about his life, his emotions, and his options. But that is at the very heart of mental illness or personality disorders. People who are that screwed up by their very nature don't have the capacity to understand or cope effectively with it. And no one could make him make himself get better, short of locking him up which these days means prison.

I always read featured comments, and will read all the comments if a topic particularly interests me. I did not read all the comments on the gun control article because I didn't have the heart. I get enough exposure to the "cold, dead fingers" crowd where I live.

While I agree with much of what you said I would remind you that the majority of people with mental illness are not violent and that wholesale institutionalization is an irrational overreaction on the scale of interning all people of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor.

Atrocities are by definition shocking. Since they are understood by all moral persons to be wrong, in our shock and disbelief we may not immediately speak condemnation. And we may think that a perpetrator is deranged or so lacking in morality that the horrible may actually be attractive. Will our condemnation deter such people?

I agree with your condemnation, but I'm sickened and confused by these events. I appreciate the thinking and comments from TOP readers.

Mike, I expected a lecture on gun control, but not one reference to guns. Congrats to you for transcending the typical knee-jerk response although it didn't look promising in your previous blog.

Well said. I think it’s about time we stop blaming everyone/thing else for these peoples actions. But part of the blame as to also be put on his mother. I am all for the 2nd amendment, but if you are a parent of a child like him with is "difficulties" you cannot have firearms in the house. I’m sorry you need to pick another hobby lady.

Hear hear.

I'm very surprised at this..... Seems to me that anyone could see that this kid was mentally ill. You can't reason with mentally ill people, tell them to pull their socks up, get their acts together, or just me a man about things. Anyone who's dealt with a close friend or family member suffering depression, narcissism, paranoia, or any other severe, painful, debilitating psychotic condition has learned that. If "everyone's an amateur physiologist" these days it's just because there aren't enough real ones to go around. Blame the people who should know better - the mom "gun enthusiast" who left an arsenal laying around the house, the overburdened sign-blind heath care professionals who rubber-stamped him through school, the NRA-supported politicians who call this some kind of "freedom"... but this kid? How could he not be sick? I know it's hard to conceive, but I don’t see how he's not as much a victim as anyone.

And for de-institutionalizing people, since when was that JFK's fault? I was a teenager then, but not dumb, and I don't remember it even being on the radar. It wasn't until Regan's first term that I saw obviously unwell people shuffling around the streets talking to themselves... it seemed to happen overnight.

Even mentioning his name gives him more fame than he or his sick ilk deserves. Not only was the president right to leave him out of his comments, the rest of the so-called news media should be chastised for the fetishistic level of detail they are putting out. They are giving this self absorbed sociopath just what he really always wanted. Attention.

This turd joins a long list of "ones whos name should not be mentioned"..a non human who committed an inhuman act.

Calling this killer out, posthumously, might make us feel better. We can't bring back the victims, but we can curse the memory of the perpetrator.

Sadly, as has been mentioned, the unintended consequence of this might be to spur on other deranged individuals to act on their fantasies, too.

We are nearly one-third of a billion souls, we Americans. We are also awash in guns, awash in images and accounts of violence, and impoverished in regards to abundant and affordable mental health care. Given a small but predictable percentage of sociopaths that will emerge from such a population, a clear path to eliminating the possibility of these events does not seem likely. Not soon, anyway.

Children there and children there ... http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/17/us-killings-tragedies-pakistan-bug-splats

I don't think Adam Lanza should be pigeon holed as an aberration. I think more attention needs to be given to the media and culture from which he emerged. Take the comments of the Texas senator yesterday who defended gun ownership as necessary to prevent a tyrannical president from seizing power. The underlying message is that if one has a problem with authority, it's OK to reach for an armed response. Popular culture encourages the dramatic action of the individual but rarely encourages the considered trust in the institutions. Bit by bit the authority of institutions of government are eroded. Our trust, our belief in the supremacy of our democratic processes is being destroyed. Combine the cult of the individual with the gun laws of the USA and you have a toxic mix. The actions of the individual were undoubtedly a crime but it isn't too difficult to see how the individual might develop a perspective to take such actions and feel better about themselves by doing so.
Society cannot pre-empt this kind of action by identifying all the likely individuals in advance but it can do something about gun controls and it can do something about the way it discusses issues and its institutions. Once the genie is out of the bottle however it is very difficult to reverse these realies.

Ancient Rome, and Venice, has something called "damnatio memoriae", where specially heinous criminals' names would be expunged from public mention. This might deter copycat killers, but it is debatable how practicable it is:

Perhaps the answer is to offer gun nuts the opportunity to trade their weapons for a camera or hi-fi system to fetishize over instead.

Well said, thank you.

Maybe this has been addressed already--- I'm catching up on the comments but am moved to post my response to Richard, above:

I'm one who very much does read the comments on this blog, enjoy them immensely, and even go back to older posts to see what new things have been appended. This site, for me, is one of the rare forums where I generally find the comments of its readers to be thoughtful, nuanced enough (though--- let's not be too serious--- with a nice mix of the tossed off and the rolled from the cuff), and regularly provocative.

Whether it's a testament to Mike's editing, his stewardship, or the example he sets with his writing (and as a result, that of his readership), I'm not sure. It's probably all these things, and really that we're seeing the result of a lot of care and attention, and time, on Mike's part.

I'm sure many of us would give anything to have a site like this for all of our myriad other interests and obsessions.

Speaking of this kind of talk, Mike, would you put up an end-of-this-year/start-of-the-next kind of post that provides a place where we can contribute a voluntary subscription amount?

'Tis the season.

Another take:


[Careful, though--it doesn't take much digging to find this. --Mike]

FWIW- This guy was sick beyond his control, sick beyond any measure or manner of reason or humanity- and that's not meant as an excuse. His brain, its processing, reasoning and reaction totally defective.

That said, and as you've alluded to- we as a society do nowhere near what we should to help treat or offer these people alternate environments which would minimize harming themselves, or us. We then compound that situation by allowing these people easy access to weapons of considerable destruction. This guy was sick beyond his own comprehension, the environment that allowed his depravity to manifest is a responsibility shared by all.

Facing this head on requires money and commitment. We'll get neither. What we got is yet another pretty speech, and maybe another cosmetic assault weapons ban down the road. Cosmetic because all the last one did was change the rifle stocks while the actual weapons remained the same, as did their acquisition.

They'd be seizing the bull by the horns right now if they were serious. Ban any and all weaponry that can be converted to fully automatic, require serious background checks, safety classes, and waiting periods, ban all selling at gun fairs. And most importantly- initiate, fund and deploy proper, comprehensive mental health programs nationwide.

Expect more of the same cosmetic and ineffective legislation, more smoke and mirrors. Expect more deaths...

Nothing should be off limits in describing a crime as horrible as this one. Condemn the criminal by name. Investigate everything about him, so we can learn to stop such people in the future.

As this is a photography site, let's talk about the role of photography. Photography can honor the victims by telling the truth about what happened. Showing press conferences and memorials is not enough. Show the bodies at the crime scene. Show the funerals. Show the tears and the horror. Not to sell newspapers, but to tell the whole horrifying story. Let everyone see it and be terribly discomforted to their core, and then see if the laws don't change. If photojournalists can show such scenes from other countries, why not from at home?

The gun lobby are quite happy that we don't see the consequences of their lobbying; that makes it much easier to move on to the next news story. Photography can shock the conscience and move the public, and shame politicians that enact stupid laws that allow Bushmaster rifles and 30 bullet magazines.

Player wrote "not one reference to guns. Congrats to you for transcending the typical knee-jerk response"

We simply do not know enough about how the human brain works, and how it malfunctions, to do more than speculate about the sort of health system, the sort of moral admonishments, the sort of society needed to prevent this sort of crime.

But this is not speculation: if that nutter/criminal did not have access to weapons designed to efficiently and quickly kill many people he would not have been able to kill those kids and teachers in the way he did.

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