Cho Seung-Hui: A Lone Deranged Gunman?

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Cho Seung-Hui: A Lone Deranged Gunman?

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<p>Thursday, April 19. 2007</p>
<p>As all of America mourns the deaths which occurred on the Virginia Tech campus, bloggers are drawing comparisons to the body count that issues daily from Iraq. See a particularly poignant post from Floyd Rudmin of <b>commondreams.org</b> titled "32 Senseless Deaths: A Chance for Empathy, Change of Heart, and Change of Course" which concludes:</p>
<blockquote>The tragedy at Virginia Tech was caused by lone gunman, probably deranged. It was a one-time event. It is finished. The tragedy in Iraq was caused by the US government, with the over-whelming support of the US Congress, most of the US media, and much of the US population. This war was planned and executed by rational men and women, none of them deranged.</blockquote>
<blockquote>The US decided to start the war against Iraq.</blockquote>
<blockquote>The US decided to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq.</blockquote>
<blockquote>The US decided to destroy the Iraqi government and to disband its police and army.</blockquote>
<blockquote>The US decided to send too few soldiers to secure the nation after doing these destructive deeds.</blockquote>
<blockquote>And the tragedy of Iraq is not a one-time event. It is not finished. It continues, apparently without end.</blockquote>
<blockquote>By many reports, the US is now preparing to start another war, this time against Iran.</blockquote>
<blockquote>Americans feeling the shock and grief of the tragedy at Virginia Tech should look into their hearts and realize that they through their government are bringing this same tragedy again, and again, and again, and again, and again, endlessly and needlessly, to other people in the world who also have hearts that can be torn out, who also feel grief and loss when family and friends are suddenly killed when doing ordinary things of life, like going to school.</blockquote>
<blockquote>Tragic deaths force us to feel our humanity and to see we are similar to others in the world. The tragic deaths in Virginia might serve to motivate Americans to curb their militarism and to minimize the tragedies of sudden death that they have been bringing to other families in the world.</blockquote>
<blockquote>Read the <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/18/593/">full article</a>.</blockquote>
<p>It is heartening to witness a vigorous debate emerging online as people come to terms with these killings and their significance, not only for the victims and their families and friends, but for an entire culture. As Americans draw comparisons to Iraq, we who are not American are reminded that America is a house divided. I sometimes catch myself drawing hasty generalizations, styling all Americans as arrogant war-mongerers. But the comments I read online remind me that, in fact, those who share the president&#39;s world view stand in a minority. I must pause to recognize that most Americans grieve for the state of their country and fear for their safety abroad. As non-Americans, our generalizations merely implicate us in the sins we condemn.</p>
<p>Perhaps a more difficult task comes in moderating the generalizations we make as we consider Cho Seung-Hui who was the perpetrator of these killings. Every account I have read thus far refers to him as "deranged." Doubtless a person who commits mass murder is mentally ill. But the use of this particular epithet continues the media habit of drawing a causal connection between violence and mental illness. This is an oversimplification, much like the suggestion that American troops are in Iraq to stabilize a country that has no infrastructure of its own.</p>
<p>The media&#39;s continuing association of violence and mental illness perpetuates the stigma which haunts millions of people who suffer from major mental health issues. In fact, mental illness is <b>not</b> a significant indicator of violence. See this pdf document from the <a href="http://theoblog.ca/serendipity/archives/www.camh.net/education/Resources_communities_organizations/addressing_stigma_senatepres03.pdf">Centre for Addiction and Mental Health</a>. Indicators which are more significant include: youth, male gender, and history of violence or substance abuse. Let me make that a little clearer: if you are a male, that fact alone is a stronger predictor of violent behaviour than if you suffer from schizophrenia. A non-clinical list of indicators might also include such factors as availability of weapons and exposure to desensitizing materials (e.g. video games, movies, media that televise a killer&#39;s manifesto and cell phone video of shots being fired, etc). From the CAMH document comes this quote:</p>
<blockquote>"While it is true that some people who have a mental illness do commit crimes, public perceptions of mentally ill persons as criminally dangerous are exaggerated. In fact, 80 to 90 percent of people with mental illness never commit violent acts. <i>They are actually more likely to have acts of violence committed against them</i>, particularly homeless individuals who may also have a mental illness." (Italics added.)</blockquote>
<p>If the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violent acts, then it is possible that Cho Seung-Hui only became a risk <i>after</i> he was, himself, victimized. Following the shootings at Columbine, it was revealed that the shooters, Harris & Klebold, were victims of significant bullying. The same is probably true in this instance. See here for a <a href="http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070416/school_shootings_070415">profile of Cho</a>.</p>
<p>Let&#39;s not perpetrate a generalization about mental illness. Let&#39;s seize this moment as an opportunity to put an end to a cycle of violence by putting an end to our fears of mental illness. I would invite Floyd Rudmin and <b>commondreams.org</b> to revise their post. There were 33 senseless deaths. To state that there were 32 reveals a stigmatizing bias that we must reckon with. Otherwise, our generalizations merely implicate us in the sins we condemn.</p>
<p>Posted by <a href="http://theoblog.ca/serendipity/authors/1-David-Barker">David Barker</a> in <a href="http://theoblog.ca/serendipity/categories/8-HealthMental-Health">Health/Mental Health</a> at <a href="http://theoblog.ca/serendipity/archives/248-Cho-Seung-Hui-A-Lone-Deranged-Gunman.html">23:08</a></p>
<p>--</p>
<p>Original Source: <a href="http://theoblog.ca/serendipity/archives/248-Cho-Seung-Hui-A-Lone-Deranged-Gunman.html">http://theoblog.ca/serendipity/archives/248-Cho-Seung-Hui-A-Lone-Deranged-Gunman.html</a></p>
<p>Licensed under <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/">Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5</a>.</p>

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David Barker

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2007-06-06

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Brent Jesiek

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eng

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David Barker, "Cho Seung-Hui: A Lone Deranged Gunman?," in The April 16 Archive, Item #401, http://april16archive.org/items/show/401 (accessed April 19, 2014).