Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: The Real Super Villains

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: The Real Super Villains

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: The real super villains

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published July 24:

The suspect in the Batman movie shootings in Colorado was said to be a "weird loner" -- where have we heard that phrase before? -- but it is of course an observation that explains nothing. Many people are loners -- aren't they all a little weird? -- but it doesn't follow ipso facto that they pick up assault rifles and kill as many strangers as possible.

Many people are depressed and angry after experiencing failure -- Hitler the failed artist who wanted to be an architect is one example, and there are many others. But again it doesn't follow automatically that they turn violent. Yet there were no obvious failures in the life of James Holmes, 24, which makes understanding his behaviour more difficult.

It's possible Holmes, who once aspired to be a medical doctor, suffered a severe mental and emotional breakdown when he armed himself with automatic weapons, booby-trapped his apartment, and headed to a movie theatre in search of victims, but such an explanation has not been offered. He was apparently imitating one of Batman's foes -- the Joker, a highly intelligent psychopath -- but that is hardly an insight to his crimes.

If Holmes does offer a reason, it's unlikely it would be satisfactory, unless he was in the grip of a schizophrenic episode, but there is no suggestion so far he was driven by other voices. Similar events usually spark cries for more police, tougher sentences and more robust mental-health programs, but it seems unlikely any of these measures would have prevented the disaster.

Nor is it valid to postulate that such crimes can only be committed by the insane, particularly when there is so much evidence that simple evil is frequently the prime motivator in mass or serial killings.

Paul Bernardo, for example, to name just one loathsome character, was not criminally insane -- he knew it was morally and legally wrong to rape and murder young women -- but he did not care because his own sense of depraved satisfaction was more important. Another scary figure was Anders Brevik, the Norwegian racist who killed more than 70 people to draw attention to his white supremacist ideology. …

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