Once more, I’m going to ask: In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, do you think anyone will want to have a national conversation about institutionalized misogyny, for which there is a demonstrable link between its pervasiveness and the active mistreatment of women, or just stick to blaming video games?
A court found that Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho was “mentally ill” and potentially dangerous. Then it let him go.
…The evaluation came from a psychiatric hospital near Virginia Tech, where Cho was taken by police in December 2005, after two female schoolmates said they received threatening messages from him, and police and school officials became concerned that he might be suicidal.
After Dr. Crouse’s psychological evaluation of Cho, Special Justice Paul M. Barnett certified the finding, ordering followup treatment on an outpatient basis.
On the form, a box is checked, showing that Cho “presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness.”
Immediately below it was another box that is not checked: “Presents an imminent danger to others as a result of mental illness.”
Of course not. He’d only threatened women.
He’d only spoken to a woman online, found out where she lived and other details about her, and then went to her residence to introduce himself. He’d only freaked out two women enough that they called the police. What imminent danger could he possibly have been to others?
And while I’m busy noting the huge fucking problem that is indifference to misogyny, I think I’ll also just casually point out to a certain someone who thinks that people who make online threats never act on them that, actually, sometimes they fucking do.
JOHN: He – I walked back to my room one night, and there was a policeman in there. And, apparently, what had happened was, he had gone up – or he had started talking to her online first. He found where she lived, started talking to her on AIM. Then he went over there. He was using the name Question Mark, said, hey, I’m Question Mark. And that really freaked the girl out.
TUCHMAN: So, he was stalking her?
JOHN: Yes. He found out everything about her first.
TUCHMAN: And, like, he told this girl all the things he learned about her?
JOHN: I don’t know if he told her that. But he thought they were playing some kind of game or something.
TUCHMAN: And did you know the girl?
JOHN: No. I…
TUCHMAN: I mean, was she freaked out about it? Did you hear later?
JOHN: The – freaked out enough about it to call the police.
Geez. That cowardly bitch should have
quit blogging just moved. I mean, really! If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen already.
I know there are, for various reasons, some guys who just can’t get on the “taking threats against women seriously” bandwagon, but if “Presents an imminent danger to others as a result of mental illness” had been checked because Cho’s stalking of women had been treated seriously, maybe – just maybe – those 32 people in Virginia wouldn’t be dead, including 18 men.
UPDATE: Several people have forwarded Bob Herbert’s column today to me, which is just great. After recounting the story of Charles Whitman – who in 1966 killed his mother, his wife, and then climbed into a 30-story tower on the campus of the University of Texas, from whence he killed 14 people and wounded more than 30 others before being shot to death by the police – Herbert says, “More than four decades later we still … behave as if it was all so inexplicable.”
But a close look at the patterns of murderous violence in the U.S. reveals some remarkable consistencies, wherever the individual atrocities may have occurred. In case after case, decade after decade, the killers have been shown to be young men riddled with shame and humiliation, often bitterly misogynistic and homophobic, who have decided that the way to assert their faltering sense of manhood and get the respect they have been denied is to go out and shoot somebody.
Dr. James Gilligan, who has spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts, and as a professor at Harvard and now at N.Y.U., believes that some debilitating combination of misogyny and homophobia is a “central component” in much, if not most, of the worst forms of violence in this country.
“What I’ve concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal,” he said, “is that an underlying factor that is virtually always present to one degree or another is a feeling that one has to prove one’s manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act.”
…The Virginia Tech killer, Cho Seung-Hui, was reported to have stalked female classmates and to have leaned under tables to take inappropriate photos of women. A former roommate told CNN that Mr. Cho once claimed to have seen “promiscuity” when he looked into the eyes of a woman on campus.
Charles Whitman was often portrayed as the sunny all-American boy. But he had been court-martialed in the Marines, was struggling as a college student and apparently had been suffering from depression. He told a psychiatrist that he absolutely hated his father, but he started his murderous spree by killing his wife and his mother.
…We’ve learned very little in 40 years.