A homicidal psycho right out of central casting

John Dempsey writes:

With all the conjecture in the MSM about the motivation behind the Tucson murderer’s deeds, I’ve yet to run across the word “evil.” This photo of him (appearing at the top of the today’s New York Times main page) says it in spades:

Photograph of Jared Loughner, released
by Pima County Sheriff’s Office

LA replies:

The Times doesn’ tell us whether this photo was taken after Loughner’s arrest, when he had just shot 18 people and killed six.

Either way, normal people will see this face as a face of pure evil, of metaphysical evil, of evil delighting in itself, and thus to their minds it will demonstrate that Loughner has nothing to do with conservatism or politics. At the same time, let us understand that many liberals will see this face as the face of your typical conservative. When liberals look at conservatives, when they think about conservatives, this is what, in their mind’s eye, they see.

LA continues:

The same photo is permanently posted here at the Times. And its caption is different from the version of the photo on the main page. It is described as a “mug shot” of Loughner from the Pima County Sheriff’s Office. Since we haven’t heard of his being arrested prior to this, we must conclude that this is the way he looked immediately after he had murdered six people and maimed 18.

- end of initial entry -

Jim C. writes:

I don’t see evil; I see a paranoid schizophrenic who’s temporarily happy with himself. Let’s see what he looks like in a month, after he begins his medication.

LA replies:

You undercut your own point with your reference to medication. If only mind-altering medications can get him not to look evil, that certainly doesn’t prove that he is not evil. It suggests that he is.

January 11

Nik S. writes:

Loughner does have a prior arrest record—the freaky mug shot of him is from a prior arrest.

Laverne W. writes:

Honestly, I don’t think it’s good to make judgments about people based on a photo. Have you never been snapped with some inane expression on your face? (I certainly have been.) This guy might have been smiling simply because he’s been taught to smile for a photo, or because he thinks it’s best to try to brazen it out. (Incidentally, his head was shaved by the jail staff prior to the photo, and that makes it all the more stark.)

Loughner is psychotic, probably a paranoid schizophrenic. In the Dark Ages people tagged the mentally ill as “evil,” but it’s silly to use such terminology today. Can’t we just agree that the act was evil, put the mentally ill perpetrator in a place where he never can do such harm again, and not waste our breath railing against this poor, unfortunate soul who most certainly did not choose his illness?

LA replies:

Oh, I think he most certainly chose it. He said, “Yes,” to it.

“Snouck Hurgronje” writes from the Netherlands:

The way you look at appearances brings insight. Letting one’s intuition run, one can agree that Loughner’s face looks evil or has an evil aspect. In addition he also looks ridiculous, his face made me think of a clown or August in the way they are schminked (painted) in Western Europe, which is a bit different from the way clowns look in the USA. He looks very old for a man 22 years old.

Something suggests this man will wear a tattoo in his face one day.

James N. writes:

“… put him in a place where he can never do such harm again”

Laverne needs to get it through her head that, under current conditions, THERE’S NOTHING TO DO. Every entity that existed to deal with people like this in 1960 has been defunded or disbanded, and the courts have ruled repeatedly that coercive treatment is unconstitutional. I have seen people like this in emergency rooms for years (not often, it’s not my field).

It is shocking how few resources are available to physicians when they meet a character like this. A busy ER will see a Loughner, or a Cho, two or three times a month. Multiply by 4000 busy ERs, multiply that by $150 000/patient for a year in a State Hospital, add the number of lawyers and judges working to “free” chronic schizophrenics and then divide by the number of votes for politicians who want to spend money on crazy people, well … you do the math.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Since it comes up so often at your site, I will put in my two cents worth on appearances. When it comes to judging people by their appearance, I would say that yes, appearances sometimes can be deceiving, but they usually aren’t. When we’re formulating an opinion about somebody based on his appearance, I like Reagan’s admonition to trust but verify. That is, we should trust our intuition, but be careful to verify that our intuition is not contradicted by other facts (whenever this is practical, which it often is not, such as on an empty street late at night).

It may sometimes turn out to be the case that a tattooed Visigoth with purple hair and a generally menacing appearance is a fine chaperone for your daughter, but this will be so unusual (and the stakes will be so high) that it is not worth the effort of worrying about. Our first impressions about such things do not usually lead us to harm, but making a habit of ignoring them is bound to do so eventually. In this as in almost everything else, liberals like to argue from the exception, and say that because some few people are not what they appear to be, we should always ignore appearances and treat our instincts on such matters as non-data. (This is only a little bit different from the more radical position which says that appearances are trivial in themselves, as some have argued at VFR, but the prescriptive argument is the same—we should treat appearances as irrelevant.)

It makes perfect sense to look into the face of a known murderer and, if he looks like the very face of evil, to say so unreservedly. This is not the same thing as making a snap judgment based on a photograph of a person known to be sweet and benevolent, taken at an awkward moment. Dom Lorenzo Scupoli writes in The Spiritual Combat that our faculty of reason or understanding should be put in the service of our intuition, not the other way around. And unless I misunderstand Plato (which is as likely as not), this was his view of justice in the ordering of our faculties as well. We should subject our immediate apprehension of people to the light of understanding. But this requires we actually think about and discuss our apprehensions without dismissing them outright. Our apprehensions count as real data, even if that data is sometimes corrupted.

LA replies:

Excellent statement.

I believe that only in modern, liberal, technocratic society, which treats everything as an abstract idea, not as a concrete, would people object to the normal human behavior of reacting to people’s appearances and drawing (tentative but generally useful) conclusions from them.

Jim C. writes:

You wrote:

“You undercut your own point with your reference to medication. If only mind-altering medications can get him not to look evil, that certainly doesn’t prove that he is not evil. It suggests that he is.”

Larry, I don’t want to venture into a phenomenological discussion of the nature of “evil.” [LA replies: Interesting that you put evil in scare quotes. Are you suggesting there is no such thing as evil?] Having worked with paranoid schizophrenics in a former life, I don’t think you have any conception just how insidious and powerful their lives are. When they devolve into a raging state, paranoid schizophrenics have no moral compass: their only focus is whatever the voices in their heads are ordering them to “accomplish.” I would strongly recommend that you read some case histories of raging paranoid schizophrenics, and then perhaps we can initiate a discussion on the nature of evil.

LA replies:

I’ve read psychiatrists who say that certain types of persons whom medical science labels as “sick” have, at some point in the evolution in their sickness, made a choice to deliver themselves over to their demons. And then there is the famous book People of the Lie (I’ve read it, have you?) in which psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, provides clinical reports, some from his own psychiatric practice, about mentally ill people who, according to their own accounts, had consciously sold their soul to the devil.

LA continues:
Further, let’s say that you are right and in some cases of schizophrenia destructive “voices” or “forces” take over a person’s mind without his consent and act through him and do terrible things. In at least some such cases, can we not say that it is evil that is acting through that person? And therefore what we see when we look into the face of such a person is the evil that has taken him over, as we clearly see in the face of Jared Loughner (subject, of course, to subsequent correction of our first impressions, as Sage has said).

I am not denying or downplaying the horror of schizophrenia, in which a person’s mind becomes somehow split and he hears, say, the Mafia addressing him through his television set. But it seems to me that you are setting up a model of mental illness in which there is no moral dimension at all, and I don’t think that is correct.

LA to Snouck:

You write:

“The way you look at appearances brings insight.”

Do you mean, the way that “one,” a person (any person) looks at appearances brings insight, or do you mean the way that I (LA) look at appearances brings insight?

In English, “you” can mean both the second person (“you”) and “one,” meaning any person. And often English speakers run into this ambiguity in conversation and have to clear it up to avoid misunderstanding.

In other words, what I think you meant to write was:

“The way one looks at appearances brings insight.”

Which would fit with the subsequent sentence:

“Letting one’s intuition run, one can agree that Loughner’s face looks evil or has an evil aspect.”

Snouck replies:

No. Writing “you” I meant LA. I do not know another pundit giving the matter of physical appearance such emphasis. Additionally you do not fall in the trap of making appearances absolute. I then went from the particularity of your spirit of the appearance to making a general statement on intuiting the evil aspect of Loughner’s face and facial expression. You (LA) can see it. I can see it. So I think everybody can see it. Provided one looks with one’s soul and not with one’s mind.

I have been conditioned not to pay attention to appearances. My education turned out miseducation. Experience taught me that using intuition first and then the mind gives good results quickly and avoids painful and costly mistakes. And you (LA) make that explicit.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 10, 2011 08:23 PM | Send

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