Presenting What You Want People to See

Once again we have a shooter whose family and friends say they are shocked by his actions, which has lead them to believe he just “snapped.” This is very common after a shooting and it’s not unusual for people on the sidelines to sneer and claim that the friends and family are either idiots who missed something obvious or lying. However, I believe his family and friends need to be cut a significant amount of slack. After all, an individual who is intelligent enough to plan an attack of this magnitude is also intelligent enough to act in an expected manner around friends and family.

There is a book that I believe is relevant here. It’s titled Without Conscience and is an overview on psychopathy. I’m not trying to imply that the Las Vegas shooter was a psychopath as it is defined medically but psychopaths are an example of individuals who are capable of acting in an expected manner to achieve desired ends.

It’s quite feasible that the Las Vegas shooter consciously acted in a way he knew would be least alarming to people because acting in that manner served his ends of perpetrating his attack. There very well may have been no warning signs for friends and family to notice, which is why they’re shocked by his actions.

As humans we tend to want things to fit into simple boxes. If somebody appeared to be “normal” to us, then the tidiest explanation for them acting violently is that they “snapped.” We also tend to want simple solutions. Access to mental healthcare is often brought up as a solution to shootings like this. However, providing access to mental healthcare only works if the subject wants to pursue it. If they want to perpetuated an attack instead, they aren’t going to utilize mental healthcare. Banning firearms is another proposal brought forth after these shootings. However, somebody who is willing to kill is seldom dissuaded by laws preventing them from acquiring a weapon legally. If that were the case, felons and gang members wouldn’t have access to firearms.

Unfortunately, the universe doesn’t care about our desire for simplicity. It throws complicated shit at us. If we refuse to acknowledge that fact, we’re doomed to continue trying to shove things into our simple boxes and are therefore doomed to propose simple solutions that will inevitably fail.