Thursday, July 23, 2009

Evil children

One quote in this article, about how children were "easier to control" before television "exposed" them to the "world of adults," is pure bullshit. Ask any parent or teacher, from any era, and they will tell you that any child is a challenge. In my experience working with children, I know that they can be demanding, unruly and even vicious (particularly toddlers and toddlers with hormones, aka adolescents). Anyone who's read The Lord of the Flies is familiar with the fear that, if left to their own devices, meaning outside the influence of television, children will devolve into pre-civilization savages.
This is probably one of the reasons the "evil child" is such a compelling narrative device. Children, with still developing senses of empathy and morality, feel they can act without consequence and, as a result, are very self-centered. The evil child is a regular child's selfishness and occasional cruelty taken to its logical extreme.
The portrayal of the young Lord Voldemort in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is mentioned, and, connoisseur of evil and deviance that I am, while watching, I noticed the signs of a psychopath in training in the portrayal of young Tom Riddle. As a child, he is cold, unfeeling, with an inflated sense of his own self-worth and a tendency to bully other children and torture animals. Animal torture is, of course, one sign of a future serial killer. As an adolescent, he uses careful flattery and superficial charm to get what he wants, the psychopath's mask of sanity.
My obsession with crime began with Columbine, a mass murder perpetrated by two teenagers. In a new book on the subject, the author interviews a forensic psychiatrist who concludes that Eric Harris, one of the killers, was a fledgling psychopath, a cold, manipulative egomaniac who considered everyone else inferior and, therefore, deserving of their fate. His partner, Dylan Klebold, was suicidally depressed and angry at the world, but with the inertia that comes with depression, was unable to act on his feelings by himself. When the psychopath with something to prove collided with the depressed boy with a death wish, they exploded.
The scariest "evil kid" I've read about is Jesse Pomeroy, the "Boy Fiend" of Boston in the late 19th century who, at 14, was sentenced to life in prison for two torture murders. At an age where most serial killers are still dismembering dead dogs or tormenting family pets, Pomeroy, the product of a poverty-stricken family and a viciously abusive father, had already graduated to human victims. He tortured several children before killing a four-year-old boy and a ten-year-old girl. Most teenage killers fall under the categories of school shooters, going into their school with guns to let out aggression, or thrill killers, bored kids who kill for profit or out of twisted curiosity. But Pomeroy was disturbingly focused on his own sadism as his motive, his murders matching the savagery of adult murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer or Andrei Chikatilo. Even before television, the moral watchdogs of the time found a sinister pop culture object to blame for Pomeroy's crimes, in this case the lurid dime novels popular among the nation's youth. When he was captured, Pomeroy was originally sentenced to death, but, because of his age, this caused a public outcry, and his sentence was changed to life in prison.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Patrick Burris: the South Carolina spree killer

Patrick Burris, suspected as the killer who had been terrorizing a South Carolina community for the last couple weeks after being killed by police during a burglary investigation, has been linked by ballistics to the shooting deaths of victims in five different murders.
The article doesn't reveal much about Burris' motives or background, but neighbors recall him as "scary" and "someone you didn't want to cross," unlike the "nice, ordinary" men who later end up in handcuffs after opening fire at their workplaces or with bodies in their basements. Burris had been in and out of prison for burglary-related offenses for much of his adult life, and he reportedly intimidated a victim he tried to extort money from to the point where the victim wouldn't testify, and the case was thrown out.
A former FBI profiler commented on the case, saying that Burris didn't have the "mentality" of a serial killer, noting the random victims and shooting method. Most serial killers have at the very least a gender or age preference for their victims while others, like Ted Bundy, had specific physical characteristics in mind. But Burris' victims, like those of the Zodiac or the Night Stalker, were random, victims of opportunity. The relatively short span of time between Burris' crimes indicates that he was a spree killer, not a serial killer. Serial killers usually kill one victim, have a cooling-off period, then get the urge to kill again, sometimes with an "escalation period," where they kill in quicker succession. But Burris often claimed more than one victim at one crime scene, and killed in rapid succession, suggesting a man on a rampage, not a calculating murderer, as does his method of shooting. Serial killers usually prefer the more personal methods of strangulation or stabbing, where spree and mass murderers, who want to get their rage out fast, are inclined to use firearms. With Burris dead, we may never know the motives for his rampage.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Connecticut man burns down house with ex-wife inside

Yet another man who couldn't accept that his wife wanted to leave him. The list of men who murder or attempt to murder their wives, or kill their wives and others in one blow, or lash out at strangers after being left by their wives, is far too long, especially since, according to popular psych theories, women are the ones who become emotionally clingy and can't let go. I think that sending an ex-wife threatening messages saying, "We are not getting divorced...we are married until death do us part," constitutes not being able to let go. There is an interesting twist to this rather standard crime story; the disgruntled ex-husband got a priest to perform last rites on his wife before setting their former home on fire with her inside. Another odd element: the man gave himself up, instead of taking his own life or goading the police into shooting him, as often happens in cases like these.
Personal news: I have a new boss at the learning center where I work, and she is taking her new position of authority way too seriously. She sent an email about the teacher meeting last night, saying at least twice in three sentences that it was "mandatory," even though, with all the changes happening in the three weeks since last being reminded of the meeting, many of us forgot and had made other plans. Plans which, of course, we now had to rearrange. And, after I had emailed her telling her that I had to make an effort to arrange my schedule to be at this "mandatory" meeting, which ended up covering the same old bullshit at least four times over in slightly different wording, taking almost an hour of our time, when I showed up for the meeting, my new boss said, with false gratitude, "Thank you for being here." She also has an annoying habit of smiling whenever she speaks, which she probably thinks sells her "sincerity."
I bring this up because, this morning, it took said boss almost one hour after the center opened to post the schedule for the day, meaning that the teachers who came in on time (which she self-righteously reminded us to do at last night's meeting), had no idea where we were supposed to be, and had to divide the tasks among ourselves. The core of this is, bosses rarely feel the need to hold themselves to the same standards as their employees. Employees are raked across the coals for being five minutes late or not properly filling out forms, but when the directors are an hour late posting the schedule, or schedule employees for times when employees have said they're unavailable, or ask us to stay an extra hour, or, worse yet, just expect it, because they've screwed up the schedule and don't have the balls to tell parents to stick to their kids' previously determined schedules, the employees are just supposed to accept it. It's not right.
Some good news: a friend offered to give me a chance to review albums for his music site, ReGen: I just sent in my first review, and am waiting to hear if I made the cut. It gave me something to do while waiting to get a job and for my boyfriend to stop working and my so-called friends to acknowledge my existence.