On a mild autumn Sunday morning in the quiet tourist hamlet of Port Arthur in Tasmania, on the southern tip of Australia, Martin Bryant drove his yellow Volvo station wagon into the grounds of the old convict prison. He sat and chatted with a tourist outside the Broad Arrow Cafe, and mumbled something about the number of 'wasps' (White AngloSaxon Protestants) visiting the old gaol on that morning. After eating his lunch, Bryant walked into the cafe, removed an AR15 semi-automatic rifle from the tennis bag he was carrying, and began to open fire on staff and customers, including children. In the space of a few minutes, the slightly built, fair complexioned, 'innocent-looking' 26-year-old had shot and killed thirty-five people and seriously injured another dozen. A witness said he 'wasn't going bang bang bang bang – it was bang and then he'd pick someone else out and line them up and shoot them'. 1 The following morning, after an all-night siege in a local guesthouse, Bryant ran injured from a burning building which he had apparently set alight, and was taken into custody and to a hospital.
We would prefer to think of this kind of event as a terrible anomaly. But there is evidence showing an increased incidence of multiple killings over the past twenty years in most parts of the Western world, and most often carried out by men acting alone and seemingly at random. After the Port Arthur shootings and in the aftermath of Dunblane in Scotland or the schoolyard killings in the United States, as the cases move through the protracted legal processes and communities seek to come to terms with the private and public trauma, there is a demand to know how this event could happen – what kind of person commits these terrible acts. People begin to ask whether there is a dark and evil side to modern social life. Are the links which bind a community being undermined by misguided mental health or sentencing policies? Or is there a crisis of ethics being experienced in commercial culture, or by a radical form of economic individualism which seems to have abandoned notions of community responsibility? The answers to these kinds of questions are mostly put to one side against the more compelling
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Publication information: Book title: Personality and Dangerousness: Genealogies of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Contributors: David McCallum - Author. Publisher: Cambridge University Press. Place of publication: Cambridge, England. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 1.
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