By Dr David Laing Dawson
There will always be young men whose sense of unfairness, disappointment, failure, and loss can be shaped into a delusional world view, a fantasy of causation, of blame, of a specific enemy, and of their own fantasized role righting these wrongs.
At what stage in this progression can we act to prevent tragedy? At what stage in this progression do we actually have the tools to prevent tragedy?
1. The asocial, narcissistic, vulnerable young man.
2. Social reinforcement of the delusional solution.
Not long ago this would mean reading pamphlets and joining a group, or a clandestine group, a rebel group. But today such groups are readily available on our computer screens. And my guess is that joining a “rebel group” in real life brings about some reality checks and some socialization, (ISIS excepted), while joining an internet group does not.
3. Avoidance of social groups that could counter the developing delusion.
Perhaps easier to achieve now than 50 years ago, with more and more young people staring at a screen all day, and with the development of silos or bubbles of manufactured reality and personalized news feeds.
4. Finding information to support one’s developing delusion.
In the past this might have entailed reading some history and philosophy, attending talks in basements. Today it is shouted at us in podcasts.
5. Finding “heroes” to emulate or imitate.
Again we no longer need prowl through libraries and read history. The exploits of others are readily available at our fingertips.
6. Being encouraged by the careless words of leaders (Presidents) and opinion leaders.
These words, careless or self-serving, or downright racist, are no longer found on a second page column, but repeated in endless news cycles and social media.
Many serious crimes follow a period of desensitization through the commission of smaller crimes. It is a way of managing anxiety and fear. Again, today, a perfect desensitization process can be found in First Person Shooter video games, with the “targets” becoming more life-like every year.
8. Secrets must be shared.
After each mass killing we find bread crumb clues, shared ideas, internet postings, and full manifestos that hint at what is to come,
9. Acquisition of serious weapons, assault rifles, ammunition.
The weapon available can make the difference between a couple of injuries and 49 deaths.