Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day 3: Open Forum for Morons

Ok, overall the media coverage concerning the tragedy at Virginia Tech has been excellent, at least on CNN, I've been avoiding much of my usual trolling of news stations because in this case I don't feel up to dealing with wingnuttery of any flavor and CNN is about the safest of the bunch in that department. I have to give them credit, for the most part (so far) they've picked intelligent and knowledgeable commentators and not given much air time to the nutwing factions.

Thumbs down to MSNBC unfortunately. I watched Chris Matthews cut off a guest who actually knew what she was talking about so he could go to a clip of the roommates. Sorry, I'm sure they are traumatized by this but they weren't the brightest bulbs in the pack about this and they have nothing informative to add to the discussion. Had to change the channel, twenty-something young men with nary a clue about human behavior I might feel empathy for...I'm not interested in listening to them ad infinitum.

Scarborough Country featured the Rev. Franklin Graham, my personal pick for moron of the week.

This is what we have to understand. There is—there is evil in this world. There is a devil who‘s called the god of this age, who wants to seek and destroy your life and my life and every life.

Yes, of course, let's blame it all on some imaginary devil who is out to get us if we don't walk the prescribed Christian path. It absolves us of all personal responsibility and we can turn a blind eye to our culture of violence and other annoying issues like how we fail to care for the sick and frail among us. Instead of working to develop a more effective mental health delivery system we can just call in the occasional exorcist and pat ourselves on the back for being good Christians. Ignore brain dysfunction and hope it will go away. Good luck with that.

Then the one that really got me going, Steve Capus, president of NBC news. I'm not going to pound Capus too hard, he only said what most people think but it 's at the heart of our problem. Referring to his decision to air some of the video sent in by Cho Seung-Hui he said it was "the closest we could get to seeing inside the mind of a killer".

Wrong. The closest you can get to seeing inside the "mind of a killer" is inside your own head. We are all natural born killers. Trying to separate people like Cho from the rest of the pack is the biggest mistake we can make.

Every single one of us is fully capable of behaving exactly like this guy did. A few misfiring neurotransmitters is about all that differentiated him from the rest of us and sent him down the path he took. He was not "demon-possessed" nor was he some unique sub-type of human being, he was 99.9% just like the rest of us.

We have all these myths about mental illness that it's high time we exploded. Mental illness is not glamorous, exciting or exotic. It's mind-numbingly dull and entirely too common. It's living in a perpetual state of fear, superstition and distortion for those who suffer from it. Picture seeing reality through a mental shield of carnival funhouse mirrors or walking around with Anne Coulter in your head talking 24/7 and you get some idea. Do you really think most of us would react much better given those circumstances?

Cho wasn't a freak. He suffered from a disorder that is all too common and he'd probably been suffering since his early teens, possibly even childhood. Life in a neverending state of fear and paranoia that led to isolation and then hatred for everyone and everything outside of himself. The only thing that was freakish about the entire tragedy is that none of we supposedly "normal" functioning human beings ever did anything about it. Apparently we hoped if we ignored him he'd just go away. Now who's crazy?

If the measure of "sanity" is dealing with reality then maybe it's time we dealt with the reality that people who do things like this are not so terribly different from the rest of us and if you're of a religious frame of mind you might do well to remember that "there but for the grace of God go I".

30 comments:

Maxjulian said...

Yes, he was someone normal which means mainly ignored. Normality means your dysfunctional behaviour is normative even when its clearly not. Some people get a pass.

If Cho were a black man, I wonder if his behaviour would have been treated similarly.

And excellent point about people seekng to remove this man from the human race. I always look at these situations as a materialist. We produce these people and then deny that we do, that they are us. THAT's insane.

Flimsy Sanity said...

A poll conducted by Louis Harris and Associates in 1991 found that, while 59% of the respondents would be "very comfortable" when meeting someone in a wheelchair, only 19% would be when meeting someone with a mental illness.
There's been an unfortunate and damaging link between mental illnesses and violent behavior both on screen and in the public's mind, when in fact several studies have shown that, as a whole, people with mental disorders are no more dangerous than the general population. Statistically, you are in far more danger from your allegedly sane relatives, especially if they drink, than you are from all the psychotic people you will ever met.
A 1998 study by Temple University found that over 60% of the mentally ill characters on the screen were portrayed as violent and dangerous; that's three times the rate of the other characters. A poll last year sponsored by the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign found that "three out of four persons surveyed said that mentally ill people were depicted as violent, scary, dangerous and out of control." In reality, however, researchers have found that violence is limited to just a small minority of those suffering from a mental illness - particularly those who have a high intensity of untreated psychotic symptoms and those who are also substance abusers.
The media is in a unique position to positively affect these attitudes. Moreover, showing a familiar character experiencing difficulty coping impresses upon viewers that the line between so-called normalcy and a mental illness is blurrier than many people think. "Mentally healthy" and "mentally ill" are not really two mutually exclusive groups but a range in which everyone falls. On the other hand, negative role models - the "mad slasher", the "crazed gunman", etc. - are likely to grab headlines. This overrepresentation of negative imagery gives the public a one-sided, skewed view of mental illnesses. In real life, the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of crimes than victimizers.

Flimsy Sanity said...

Me Again. The shooter had been shunned from the time he was small so no wonder he was a loner. His silence and refusal to talk was maybe just a normal reaction to people who did not talk to him. His existence was opposite of normal human nature - that of being accepted by the herd (tribe).

field negro said...

LOL at the good reverend. Great post!

cls said...

I watched Olbermann last night and I kept wanting to reach through the TV to a normally comprehending KO who kept asking questions of the "experts" as though to get them to declare a sane (and therefore preventable) motivation for Cho's behavior. Keith, repeat after me, "There is no rational explanation for his behavior except the rational explanation that he was mentally ill."

Finally, the woman psychologist (whose specialty is school violence) came on and basically told Keith to quit worrying about the content of Cho's message, there is/was no rationality in his words. To someone suffering from the sorts of paranoid delusions as this young man appeared to have been, his mental processes of persecution and grandeur are typical. DH's brother is schizophrenic and I have a fair amount of exposure to schizophrenics, and as soon as he and I heard Cho's rantings, our first reaction was that this guy wasn't "depressed," he was schizophrenic. The woman on KO seems to think so too.

Not Your Mama said...

'zactly, it's frustrating to watch usually intelligent people continue to look for "meaning" and "sense" in psychotic ideation.

I especially love the asshats who try to tie his religious ideation into the whole islamophobic kookiness. Anyone who's been around schizophrenics knows bizarre religious ideation is as common as dirt....ever tried dealing with the 2 Jesus' and the Anti-Christ who are all roommates? Fun I tell ya.

Woozie said...

It's people like that reverend that give a a bad name to religion.

pekka said...

Once again, you hit the ball out of the park, Mama! The comments here are also the first class thus rendering yours truly into the blessed, silent admiration. It is refreshing to see people using their heads, every now and then, for something else than just braking bricks and boards.

Ps, Sorry about your inability in the lucrative and exciting field of dog catching! :) Thank you for your astute observation about the male gender at the Adynaton's! :->

RJ Adams said...

Christian America defines Cho as "Evil", thus conveniently transferring all responsibility for his behavior to Satan. He's also the opposite of Christian America, who are all "Good", and wear their guns with pride, hands on heart, while singing "God Bless America, Land of the Free."

'Bout sums it up, I guess.

TomCat said...

With all Cho's bile against Christians, it may well be that he felt betrayed by them, making it more likely than not that he was one. He was not good or evil. He was just sick.

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