26 April 2007

"Who Could Have Known?" -- ANYONE.

Cho Seung-Hui.

Dead by his own hand.

4 faculty and 28 students dead at his hands.

Labeled a madman, psychotic, unpredictable. Who could have known he carried such rage? Who could have known he would kill?

Anyone.

Everyone.

In The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker, an expert in the prediction of human violence, explains - clearly, simply, and in depth - exactly how easy it is for anyone to know when someone is likely to act out violently. There are "Pre-Incident Indicators", behaviors that have been linked to violent acts time and again. They are specific; they are consistent.

For example, as Gregory Gibson explains at de Becker's web site, school shooters exhibit certain common traits:
... member of alienated group; appearance of (relative) normality to adults; negative self-image and unstable self esteem; average to above average IQ; covert vandalism and dishonesty; distrustful and secretive with adults in authority; interest in real and fictional violence in the media; motive vengeance and achievement of power; mixed personality disorder with paranoid, antisocial and narcissistic features.

And they always have a "rich inner life": again per Gibson, "in their fantasies, school shooters pre-select victims, witnesses, time, place, location, means and course of action."

Sound familiar? Yes, I was afraid it did. This is not a description of Cho Seung-Hui, but of the school shooter who murdered Mr. Gibson's son in 1992. And it's a fair description of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, whom we remember from Columbine... because the drive to commit these crimes, the motivating force behind school shootings, workplace violence, stalking and spousal abuse, comes from a similar underlying process.

People don't, in other words, "just suddenly snap". There is a process that leads to violence; there are discrete stages, they are identifiable, and they follow a sequence.

Violence can be anticipated, and prevented. The only requirement is that people learn to see, and learn to believe what they are seeing; that we understand what the symptoms are, and what they mean, and what they portend.

Learn from Cho Seung-Hui. Read The Gift of Fear. Learn what to see, and believe it when you see it. Lives may be saved, including your own, and the lives of those you love.

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