Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Inadequate Assassin

"You've got an 'inferiority complex.'"  Or so I've been told.  So it gives me pause when I read criminal profiles of inadequate loner types who fantasize and then kill.  The recent mass murder in Colorado at New Life Church and the Youth With a Mission training center, involving Matthew Murray, is an example of an extremely shy, awkward teenager, with limited social maturity due to having been homeschooled, and with an underlying psychosis:

    Richard Werner, who was Murray’s roommate at YWAM in Arvada in 2002 for missionary training, recalled Murray as an odd 19-year-old who was painfully shy and displayed extreme “mood swings.” Werner said Murray, who growled and spoke to himself in the middle of the night in strange voices, had trouble socially with other young people.

Clearly here are personality traits that are shared with other mass murderers, including the Columbine killers, the Virginia Tech killer, and the recent Omaha Mall shooter, who may have been instrumental in sending Murray over the edge. Martin Bryant, responsible for the worst mass murder in modern Australian history is described as "a quiet lad and a bit of a loner." 

What separates these types from other inadequate loner types apparently comes down to three things: 1) proximity of guns or other weapons (one mass murderer used a tank), 2) a psychopathic belief that his needs trump those of other human beings, 3) a stressor that sends him over the edge.  The stressor trigger is often "the straw that breaks the camel's back," yet also the result of months or years of slowly building rageful feelings and homicidal and suicidal fantasy. 

When confronted by an armed security guard, Matthew Murray shot himself in the head.  He needed to control the outcome completely.  While he sought out unarmed and defenseless victims, when challenged, he opted out of confrontation because it wouldn't have fit his fantasy of slaughtering a hundred or more church-goers.  He was a coward.

The two sisters at New Life Church were his perfect targets, representing other happy, well adjusted young Christians which he felt estranged from and victimized by.

    “If you’re an extrovert, and popular, then yes, there is plenty of love waiting for you in christianity,” Murray wrote May 8. “If you ask questions and want to understand things and/or desire a real and deep spirituality, or if you’re just not popular . . . well . . . you are considered as one of the horrible people and are either going to be abused or kicked out by ‘holy spirit love filled’ christians.”

One of the great treasures of my life has been connecting with other introverts.  I have sought out and bonded with people who share my interests and understand my feelings.  I have also succeeded enough in my pursuits to avoid the damning inner voice of the "critic" which would indeed motivate me to violence if it wasn't held in check.  This sometimes manifests as an interior verbal monologue of self-criticism, or of painful memories from my past, projected into my mind's eye, usually at a vulnerable moment.  I have learned to deal with this phenomenon, which is a symptom of depression.  I am not the only one who suffers.  My own treatment has involved heightened awareness of the voice, when it is speaking or showing me embarrassing or stress-causing images.  I take a moment to stop and confront the unreality of the negative thoughts.

For various reasons, the killers above did not have the coping skills necessary to avoid their violent codas.  Three things can be done: 1) Learn to recognize underachieving loner types and reach out to them.  This can be harder than you think.  In the case of the Virginia Tech killer, one of his professors took extraordinary steps, including private seminars and counseling, to reach him.  She failed.  He was too far gone.   2)  If you're introverted, seek out other introverts.  You both will benefit.  Have the courage to say hello.  3)  Don't buy guns, no matter how strong, capable, macho and in control of things they make you feel.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Borat Sued Again

The producers of Borat will be defending against another lawsuit.  Another disgruntled individual, duped by the producers of the smash hit film, is fighting back.  The producers make my teeth grind with statements such as this:

"He signed a release, and we have an agreement," [producer] Brilliant said. "Now, 2 1/2 years after giving his consent and more than one year after the movie was released, Mr. Psenicska has decided to file a lawsuit, citing the financial success of the film, in spite of our agreement."

First, there's a statute of limitations involved: probably 3 years.  Mr. Psenicska likely filed suit in order to preserve his claim against the producers.  Allowing the statute to run would negate any legal standing he has.

Second, Mr. Psenicska signed an agreement to be in a documentary about foreign born people adjusting to life in America, and this is clearly not the film Mr. Brilliant or the other producers of Borat planned to make.  The producers lied in order to coerce cooperation from Mr. Psenicska, because if he had been in on the joke, it would never have been as funny as his reactions were while being duped.

Other filmed entertainment has met this same litigious fate.  Candid Camera was sued.  More recently, Scare Tactics was sued.  I don't know, but I imagine there are bad feelings and billable hours concerning Punk'd. 

You can't lie to people to induce them to sign a contract.  You don't even have to go to law school to know that one.  If Mr. Psenicska was not fully informed, he could not have made an informed choice entering into the agreement.  The contract is null and void.  If he suffered damages, he deserves to be made whole. 

All Mr. Psenicska is asking for is $100K plus punitive damages (which are usually less--but this is likely a California venue, so who knows?)  That's chump change.  Mr. Brilliant complains that it was only because Borat was successful that Mr. Psenicska is suing.  Well, that stands to reason that the more successful the movie was, the more people saw it, and thus the more damage was done to Mr. Psenicska.  I see no profiteering motive here since the damages prayed for in the lawsuit are so freaking LOW.  Because the damages are so low, I imagine the case will settle and quickly.