1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Do you feel like you know a potential Jared Loughner or Seung-Hui Cho?

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Double Down, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Now that it's become fairly clear that Loughner -- much like Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter -- was motivated less by politics than the voices in his head, I'm sort of struck by another similarity between the two.

    In both instances, the school they were attending seems to have (at least in retrospect) seen warning signs that they were coming unhinged, and that they could potentially be violent. Cho more so that Loughner, but the signs were still there for Loughner, the way he was shouting out crazy things in math class like "How can you deny math instead of accepting it?" His community college teacher said he felt Loughner was going to shoot him every time he turned his back to the class.

    And it made me think about a handful of kids I went to school with whom, if I read tomorrow one of them had murdered 10 people in a shopping mall parking lot, I wouldn't be able to say: "I never could have seen this coming."

    It makes me a little nervous to think about, but I guess I don't know where the line is when it comes to speaking up about crazy people. As someone pointed out on the Giffords thread, freedom isn't supposed to be easy. You can't really go rounding up all the potential crazies in a free society and locking them up just to ease your fears that one of them might go off one day and start killing people. There is also not that much distance between eccentric ... crazy ... and psychotic. Poet Nikki Giovanni tried to get Cho expelled from Virginia Tech, but school officials said they couldn't really do anything because he hadn't threatened anyone. A lot of people seemed to have sensed that Loughner was capable of doing bad things, but a bad "feeling" isn't really something you can use to even deny them a handgun.

    I don't have any answers. I guess it's made me think about a lot of sad, lonely, angry people I shared classes with in high school and college.
  2. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    There's a certain amount of hindsight to this stuff as well, though.

    The Kentucky and Jonesboro school shootings happened in the heart of my high school years, just a bit before Columbine, which happened the April of my graduation year.

    I had the high-school experience you could expect from a jackass loner with no social skills, who moves from a new town and skips a grade simultaneously, so that he goes from a Christian-school kid 8th grader to a 13-year-old sophomore at a public high school. I'm not going to be one of those people who moans about bullies and how mean kids could be, I brought it on myself by having absolutely no social skills whatsoever. But when everyone claims to have been unpopular in high school, I know only a few of them really lived it. There's a difference between not being in the cool circle and getting thrown into dumpsters in gym class and eating lunch alone every day.

    So when everyone at the time is talking about those school shootings and (wrongly) they start to assume it was bullied kids pushed too far, I enjoyed the nervousness in their voices. I knew I was probably on everyone's minds when they talked about those things. Dipshit angsty teenager that I was, I dropped a few lines like "I can see why they did it" or "I know exactly who has it coming here," just because I wanted them to be a little nervous.

    I got called into the principal's office once for a parent-teacher meeting to be told how I was an angry young man. I didn't say it, but I was thinking "Shit yeah, I'm angry. I got my books dumped in the hallway today twice, a kid twice my size threatened to bounce my head off a wall and I'm not entirely sure he wasn't serious, and someone kept chucking pennies at my head in gym class."

    I'm seriously lucky I wasn't in school a few years later or the school administration wasn't a few years further ahead of the curve, or I would have gotten myself in serious trouble for talking like that.

    If I actually had some sort of mental illness and shot up the school, everyone would have looked back in hindsight and said they should have seen it coming, it was so obvious. But you know what? There was never a chance in a million years I was going to do something that stupid. I was going to put my three years in and get the hell out of that place, and I did.

    I suspect there's a lot more kids like me out there than there are potential Loughners. You can't lock up every angry, angsty teenager in the world. That's why it's so hard to stop these things.
  3. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    When I was in third grade, the biggest bully in school told me after school one day that "Tomorrow I'm going to come to school and shoot everyone." I lived a block from the school, in a town where kids learned how to fire shotguns about the same time they first ate solid foods. He rode by on the bus and made a gun sign outside the window. He was in my grade, though he'd been held back a year.

    I was, of course, absolutely terrified. I contemplated playing sick, thought about telling my parents, but instead came up with a plan to keep my eye on him the next day and run if I saw him acting weird. A long day for an 8-year-old. He, of course, did nothing and never said anything about it again. Through high school he was always fairly popular, though always a bully. Always sort of waited for him to do something. Finally, two days before graduation, he punched the principal out after being confronted about drinking on our senior trip. But just a punch and that was it. Today he's still around town, had some minor arrests, seems like a decent guy. But if I heard him doing something, wouldn't be surprised.

    When I was six, we lived in a trailer park next to a guy named Dewey, who was very troubled. One day I stepped outside the door with my dad and we saw the local doofus deputy sneaking around Dewey's trailer with a shotgun, like he was an Allied soldier advancing on a machine gun nest. There were about five other cops on the other side and they hauled Dewey away. I heard whispers that the entire trailer was filled with holes from where he threw a knife. Dewey haunted me until I was like 10, even though he never returned to town. My parents told me he was "barred" from town. A year ago or so I finally asked my mom, "What the hell did that mean? Couldn't he have just driven to town and shot everyone?" She said they told me that to make me feel better. I don't know where Dewey is today but would definitely not be surprised to hear him doing something like this.

    And certainly have worked or gone to school with others who would fit the bill. At the same time, I have friends and relatives who are also lonely and one is severely bipolar, always saying very weird things. But he has never expressed a violent thought. Ye I still think about him snapping someday. I feel bad thinking it, as it does play into horrible stereotypes about mental illness.

    Whenever I've worked with someone like the ones who always seem to go off, I usually try to figure out how the hell I'd get out of the office if they came in with guns a blazin'. I guess that's a trait I've kept from third grade.

    There are certainly days on the subway when someone acts up where I'm like, "Yeah, wouldn't be surprised if he pulls a Colin Ferguson some day."

    I think everyone probably knows someone who they wouldn't be shocked at hearing went off. Like you said DD, there aren't any answers. You just hope that people get some type of mental health help, although sadly so many never do. And if they do, you hope it works. And if they don't? Well, hopefully they don't take that next step that turns their inner rage outward.
  4. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    I wasn't too popular in high school, but by the middle of my junior year, the other kids, with a couple of exceptions, had accepted me and respected me. I even became friendly with most of them.

    But this one friend of mine who was in the same type of nerd clique that I was, who had also been bullied, wasn't so willing to forgive and forget. He remained isolated throughout senior year, even though some of our class had tried to reach out to him. In a way, I understood. After being rejected for so long, it's like, "Why do they get to decide that now I'm acceptable to them?"

    But at the same time, I wanted to have fun my senior year, and I didn't think it would be good to hold onto all the anger. Most of the kids who bullied me had apologized. Yet, my friend wouldn't accept their apologies.

    By the end of senior year, for the last school newspaper edition, we put in our senior memories and predictions. One guy predicted that my friend was going to "Come back to our 10th reunion with a machine gun, shoot us all, while screaming 'Don't call me names!' ".

    Whenever I heard of the school shootings, I thought about my friend, who, after HS graduation, I lost touch with. He's never had any interest in any reunions with the class. Can't say I blame him, but still, it's been a lot of years.
  5. Herbert Anchovy

    Herbert Anchovy Active Member

    Being pissed off in high school is understandable. These two guys were almost into their mid-20s.
  6. spikechiquet

    spikechiquet Well-Known Member

    My friend is 33 years old, socially akward and very quiet. Lives with his parents, watches porn and sci-fi; plays nothing but video violent videos game while listening to death metal and knows how to shoot a gun very well.

    Yet, not really scared that he'll wig out one day. But it wouldn't surprise me either.
  7. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I went through grade school with one of the saddest, scariest characters you could imagine. Really creepy looking kid, the worst acne, bullied by everyone including teachers....slammed into lockers, humiliated, did not have one apparent friend. He would just sit, slumped over, scribbling these crazy dark drawings, elaborate cartoons that were probably incredible, but just brought more teasing and ridicule. I can't ever recall him looking up and participating in a class, smiling, laughing...he just slumped and scribbled. We'd talk about him as the 'guy most likely to shoot up a locker room.'

    Never saw him again after high school, until a few years ago. Heard his name on TV, and realized it was the same guy....winning an Oscar (for short animation or something like that).

    Important, I think, to differentiate between people who are unhappy or isolated or peculiar, and those who show violent or seriously inappropriate tendencies.
  8. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    I agree with everything Rick said.

    I'll also say this: It kind of reminds me of the witch hunt that followed 9/11 -- except "crazies" don't often stand out, unlike the "brown" people and people who wear headscarves. So now every kid who looks askance in class will be taken out of school and forced into counseling.

    I'm definitely not condoning Cho or Loughner, but a lot of this stuff is pure Monday Morning Quarterbacking BS.

    YGBFKM Guest

    We should start an internment camp for weird kids and Republicans.
  10. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    I really thought you were talking about Boom. And the punchline was going to be that you adopted him. But then you surprised me with the Oscar story.
  11. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    I've read too many stories about mass-killers to delude myself that I don't know someone who has that potential. It would be great if there was a physical trait or something to identify, but there isn't.
    Some people just break.
    And I'm really surprised there hasn't been one of these incidents at a newspaper, given the stress and uncertainty in the industry.
  12. Herbert Anchovy

    Herbert Anchovy Active Member

    One trait appears to be not having a whole lot of sex.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page