Is Violence “Crazy”?

via The Awl by Choire Sicha on 1/11/11


by Choire Sicha

I've become more and more uncomfortable with "Boy that Jared Loughner is craaaaazy" talk. Like Time's diving in to be servicey: "If You Think Someone is Mentally Ill: Loughner's 6 Warning Signs." Time says it's "easy to see" that he's crazy: because he laughed randomly a lot and posed strange questions! That's literally what those mental health experts over there suggest. Which: uh oh? Am I headed for a psych eval again? But people's first rationale for Loughner being crazy is that he shot a bunch of people. (Their second is that he believed that language enslaved you—yeah, well, so did bell hooks—and something something the gold standard—which, have you been to rural Vermont recently, for instance, or other parts of the U.S. where these beliefs about currency are actually rather common?) So the point is that people commit heinous, antisocial acts of violence all the time and we don't think they're crazy. And on the other side? Most of society's "crazy people" (which range from perhaps you and I to a number of less "functional" people) don't actually commit violence. But in our minds, thanks probably to the TV, people are most crazy when they are 1. weird and 2. mass murderers. But then you have to start asking hard questions, like: is bin Laden a murderous monster who knows what he's doing? Or is he "crazy"?

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