Of all the things we know about gunman Chris Harper Mercer, who killed nine people at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, the one that strikes me as most significant was his Internet post about another murderer, Bryce Williams. Williams, a disgruntled employee and “difficult person” killed two journalists during a TV broadcast in late August and also committed suicide. Mercer is reported to have posted this telling comment on the Williams’ murders, “Seems the more people you kill – the more you’re in the limelight.”
Under the old, simple, test for competence – did the accused know right from wrong? – none of the recent mass murderers were insane, they were just angry about their station in life. So, if they were not mentally ill, perhaps they were socially ill.
It appears that this breed of murderer has extreme difficulty with normal social relationships; their families love them, sometimes a parent dotes on them, but who do they love in return? No one.
When socially ill murderers do have a relationship it often becomes overwhelming, the be-all and end-all of their lives, and when that single relationship breaks down they cannot handle it often resulting in uncontrollable, seething, anger.
It used to be that the problematic loners only suffered from exclusion by their classmates and peers. That’s difficult enough. Now, with ever-present social media, they also believe they are being shunned or unappreciated by the world and it’s never their fault, they are the victims. In their eyes, the popular and accomplished are twice as happy with two wonderful lives, a real life and social media life, while the isolated underachiever has neither.
All around them and through the media and advertising the frustrated loners see the lives they want to live, people with friends and lovers finding their place in the world. Little do they realize that everyone has problems and the real difference between themselves and these happier people is that the latter group has learned how to deal with, and in many cases overcome their difficulties. The socially ill never achieve that essential ability.
To the isolated few, life is a never-ending path of loneliness and failures. They want to boost their low self-esteem by showing the rest of us that they are someone; someone who can do something noteworthy even if the act is heinous.
They are not thrill killers, they are attention-seeking killers. Each incident just goes to show that you can be famous for a week or a month if you are willing to break all of society’s rules. The underlying message is, I’m suffering and I can make you suffer too.