Sunday, October 28, 2018

Proximate Causes of Mass Murder

Still not done with the data input.

Causes are proximate causes of the crime. 

·       Robbery is a mass murder performed as part of a robbery or to eliminate witnesses to the robbery.
·       Mental illness includes all crimes where either contemporary accounts describe the murderer as insane, or where the nature of the crime makes other explanations implausible (this is necessarily a judgment call, on which my experience with mentally ill relatives and friends informs my opinion).  Remember also, the legal definition of mental illness is much narrower than the medical definition.  Through most of U.S. history, the McNaughton Rule (sometimes spelled M’Naughten) defined legal insanity as: "at the time of committing the act, the accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or, if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong."[1]  A person who did not know he was doing wrong, was insane.  Persons who are medically mentally ill sometimes know that they are doing wrong and try to escape arrest and conviction (perhaps because the “aliens,” or the CIA or KGB “agents” that they have just murdered are still after them).  Such persons are legally sane, while in any conventional sense, they are as “mad as hatters.”
·       Resist is a criminal resisting arrest. 
·       Unknown describes a very large number of crimes where either the motivation is unclear or the newspaper coverage is silent; this also includes some mass murders where the inability to identify the murderer makes cause impossible to determine. 
·       Religion is mass murders committed as part of religious persecution.  (And yes, in America!)
·       Racism is its frequent cousin.  In some cases, these include revenge or retribution against Indians for crimes not, or at least not necessarily, committed by the victims. 
·       Politics are terrorist acts committed to advance a political cause. 
·       Revenge are mass murders committed to take revenge for real or perceived injuries by the murderer, his family, or acquaintances. 
·       Indian are crimes between Indians and settlers that are not official acts of war, but that might have been seen that way by the murderers.  I have classified all attacks against peaceful travelers and settlers in this cause.
·       Poverty is a strange subclass of family murders committed, usually by a parent concerned their family is about to become impoverished, who then “protect” them from that suffering by mass murder.  In some cases, this seems to be a form of mental illness: at least one example below involved a mass murderer who was in no way in such danger of impoverishment.
·       Labor are crimes committed during labor disputes, sometimes against strikebreakers, sometimes against labor unionists.  (One lesson to be learned: do not  upset miners!)
·       Quarrel are incidents that start out as some relatively minor dispute before escalating into disproportionate response.
·       Cult refers to mass murders committed by oddball religious cults, of which I was surprised were widespread in the early 20th century.
·       Rape are mass murders committed to eliminate witnesses to a rape.
·       Greed are mass murders carried out to obtain wealth other than by robbery, often by inheritance from the deceased.
·       Divorce is a subclass of Revenge; someone is being divorced or has been and is seeking retribution.  My understanding is that those who have been through such an event will immediately understand the rage.
·       Adultery: a subclass of Revenge.
·       Jealousy: should be obvious.
·       Intoxication are crimes attributed to alcohol or drug-induced stupidity.  As mentioned above, the strong overlap between mental illness and substance abuse makes some of these hard to distinguish, especially 150 years after the crime.
·       Bullying is a recent category, and one that I suspect reflects some deeper mental illness; I was bullied as a child, had access to low-grade explosives and never even thought of mass murder.

[1] “The insanity defense’ and Diminished Capacity,”

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