On The Questionable Wisdom Of Pathologizing Criminality

I’m numb with all of the media diagnosing of the Arizona killer going on. Just imagine, he’s not being convicted by the press, he’s being diagnosed. Do you want to know what’s wrong with the mental health/illness system? Given one incident such as this one, all sorts of people are saying the man was “sick”. Our state hospitals are filled with people who would be better off somewhere else all because of the kind of over zealous over reaction you get to the perpetuation of these violent incidents. For every Jared Loughner in the world, there are thousands of people imprisoned in state hospitals across the land. Those people are imprisoned there primarily because of the media frenzy and public outcry over a matter such as the one we are discussing. This one man has managed to dominate the mental health news coverage in all 50 states of the union and beyond. If he had not targeted a politician and her followers this wouldn’t be the case. The story would have been much smaller, and would probably not have made the front pages in most places. I have a feeling that Jared in a way achieved his objective. Killing was his way into instant celebrity status. He can now read about himself for hours every day of the week.

The obvious point has been made that this kind of media reaction is going to increase the “stigma” attached to people labeled “mentally ill”. It is certainly prejudicial. Rather than holding the gun man accountable for his actions, people are going to say that he was “medically sick” and in need of “help”. This is another reason either to pump more money into the relatively ineffective and broken mental health system, or to make mental health law tougher, and suspending constitutional protections even further, more restrictive. Both solutions aren’t likely to completely materialize. Given the economic crisis from which the nation hasn’t totally recovered, the country doesn’t have the money to throw away on low priority mental health “care”. On top of which, the laws governing mental health in Arizona are some of the strictest in the country. Tighten them any further, and you’re going to have to lock up even more innocent and non-violent victims of these absurd laws based primarily on social intolerance.

When are we going to stop becoming a nation of refugees from the notion of personal responsibility? This notion of responsibility is a fitting complement and adjunct to the notion of liberty. Should people as individuals not be held personally accountable for their actions, then we have to blame them as members of a group. When you blame a group you are skirting the issue of responsibility. The crime was committed by an individual, and it was not committed by a group. Jared Lee Loughner was guilty of the crime of premeditated murder. It’s kind of difficult to put forward a plea of innocent by reason of insanity when all the evidence points to you planning the crime, and then executing your plans. People labeled “insane” are usually too disorganized and too disoriented to pull that kind of thing off successfully. Jared’s crime is not a good excuse to further violate the rights and freedoms of an entire segment of society. He committed his crimes alone, and he alone should be the person to pay the price for having committed those crimes. Excusing him, acquitting him, on account of his eccentric fashion, faulty upbringing, and troubled past is as absurd as it sounds. Using him as an excuse to lock up innocent people for having hard times is not going to make this world any safer than it was before. We will always have to be looking over our shoulders for the growing number of people managing to “slip through the cracks” in the new medical political dictatorship we have managed to create. Catching criminals before they commit their crimes is a much harder thing to do than you may happen to suppose. This is going to be a very daunting task, even if we call such pre-criminal behavior “mental illness”.

6 Responses

  1. You make a very valid point! Could I have your permission to re-post this on another blog…if you would like, I will do so under your current moniker, or your real name. Please let me know. I will honor your wishes if you do not want this re-posted elsewhere. What you are saying is important!

    • Thanks. Sure, Julie, go ahead and re-post if you like. You can do so under my real name, Frank Blankenship, too. I have no reason to hide my identity.

  2. This one man did a lot of damage.
    First, to the people whose lives he took, and others who were injured.
    Secondly,to their families, friends, loved ones.
    Third, to freedom.

    The first two are best handled with love, outreach, prayer.
    The third requires more vigilance.
    Vigilance to protect freedom.

    Not to push for tougher gun laws.
    Not to push for tougher treatment advocacy laws.

    Vigilance to protect freedom requires seeing this for what it was.
    The violent actions of one man.
    We do not all lose our freedoms because of the violent actions of one man.

    If someone appears to be a threat.
    They get their day in court.
    With an attorney.
    And the burden of proof (of that threat) rests on the state.
    As it should be.

    Liberty or death,

    Duane Sherry, M.S..

    • I agree with you in the main. Jared isn’t exactly the only person doing damage to liberty. This damage is part of a process that has been going on for some time now. The increasing medicalization of society, just think big pharma, is a testimony to this damage. This damage being done to liberty is the result of a whole school of thought at odds with the schools of thought current during the enlightenment that resulted in the American and French revolutions. When we attribute action to dark and subconscious forces beyond our control, well, that sort of thinking has a way of self-fulfilling itself.

      The second amendment guaranteeing our right to bare arms, given different interpretations, remains a matter for debate. That right, as I see it, exists so that people can protect themselves from bad government. The feeling among our forebears was that a revolution might once again prove a necessity. I’m not sure this interpretion is appropriate to our current state of affairs. Weapons of war are not appropriate for recreational use. Automatic weapons, and other non-recreational firearms, we could easily do without. Outlaw those weapons, and you would save a hell of a lot of lives. Jared could not have inflicted the damage he did without his Glock 19. The need for armed rebellion is not such as it was when England was over taxing colonists to the poor house.

      I don’t believe in pre-crime laws. I think we have to do something about the society that created a Jared Lee Loughner. When we have a more non-violent, caring, and morally responsible culture, people are going to be less likely to commit that kind of violent crime. It’s this flight from freedom and responsibility that I’ve pointed to that generates and perpetuates this kind of criminally irresponsible malicious behavior that we have to do something about. When violent crime becomes fashionable, violent criminals abound. Crime is about breaking the law, and this is not so much about breaking the law. There are too many of those anyway. This is about violence, and a violent culture. Strokes, and other concrete signs of affection, are at a far remove from gun shots.

  3. Thank you for posting this, as well mindfreedom…I agree completely. The public should not have access to assault weapons.

  4. Frank,

    You mentioned both freedom and personal responsibility in the same sentence.
    The two go hand-in-hand.
    Always have.
    Always will.

    Even in a complex world.

    My best,


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