Published on December 17th, 20121
The School Massacre in Newtown Connecticut
It has happened again. The facts are unbearable. One person, Adam Lanza, killed twenty-six people and twenty of the victims were children from the age of six to seven. The United States is once again in a mixed state of shock and grief. There have been several shooting massacres in the US lately, and the question naturally comes up: how do we explain the unexplainable?
This time most of the victims were children, something that has left the Americans with a strong collective trauma. So close in time to the incident it may seem cold and emotionless to try to explain such a tragedy with rationality and “cold” science. Even so, when such tragic incidents take place we as human beings have a natural need to seek for explanations.
Is it possible that people who are considered normal can perform such acts? A lot of the research indicate that there are psychiatric reasons behind such atrocities. It seems to be a psychological pattern that emerges in other school shootings, which also have a lot in common with the massacre in Connecticut. A common factor behind such acts is that the perpetrator has a breach of reality. The person often has a view of the reality, that makes him or her act according to these erroneous beliefs.
It is important to point out that these beliefs are much stronger than what one may spot in others with a psychiatric diagnose. They are often hallmarked by strong anxiety and self-doubt, both in themselves, and concerning others evaluations. Even if it is a little early to draw strong conclusions, several of these patterns seem to be attributable to this latest perpetrator. The tragedy of such incidents is that that they are difficult to predict, and therefore difficult to avoid.
Following school massacres it is often stated that events like these are unpredictable, and that they may be compared to natural events such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Such statements indicate that they may be understood as natural forces which we have no control over whatsoever. But there is still a difference between natural events out of human control, and social events. Such an attitude is therefore all too fatalistic, and does not invite for a deeper understanding of the phenomena. Since school shootings are so complex, they become even more important to understand across differing social and cultural contexts. For example, there is a need for comparative research across nations and across historical periods.
We in Popular Social Science conclude by expressing our deepest condolences to the families of the Victims in Connecticut.
Joachim and Tor Georg
Cover photo by Nancy Pelosi.