Accused mass-murderer Sgt. Robert Bales’s lawyer says the U.S. soldier may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury when he killed 16 civilians, including 9 children and 3 women, in Kandahar while they slept, but CNN’s mental health expert says that’s unlikely. Apparently, in reality, there is rarely a medical or psychiatric explanation for bad behavior, including male violence and extreme male violence, and indeed, when the perpetrator in the current case is examined closely, things start to fall into place.
From the article:
In the case of Bales, if he is guilty of the massacre, his actions may eventually be found to be related to a clearly causative organic factor. But my clinical experience tells me not to bet on this. It happens, but pretty rarely.
When people behave in unexpected ways for no good reason, it often turns out that when the full story of their lives is understood, the behavior no longer appears as unexpected. That which is neither clearly linked to either a medical or psychiatric illness is very likely intertwined in a person’s longstanding personality.
So, I suspect that if 100 psychiatrists were told that a previously normal service person massacred 16 civilians and was neither medically impaired nor psychotic, the majority of them would immediately suspect that the person in question might not have been as normal across his life as initial reports suggested.
So even though the majority of psychiatrists would automatically suspect that the perpetrator was not sick and would recommend that the details of his life and previous behavior be examined for predictive indicators, we are always confronted with the montage of confused neighbors who say how great a guy he was and how all of this atrocious male violence came as such a shock. Why does this meme persist in the face of evidence that it is simply not reality-based, and people who study this for a living know this? Unsurprisingly, this case is no different, although weirdly, the doctor seems to buy into it himself:
It now appears that he was involved in fraudulent business dealings. What makes the case so strange, however, are the multiple contrasting reports of his remarkably caring and selfless behavior on numerous occasions and his status as something of a small town hero.
The confused-neighbors montage is “strange” now? I thought you just implied that this kind of stuff shouldn’t confuse you because you know better? What this doctor appears to be saying, when he says that this is “strange” even though it is actually extremely common, is that it doesn’t make any “psychiatric sense” meaning that where the perpetrator is “neither medically impaired nor psychotic,” it is simply out of his area of expertise — as a psychiatrist — to comment on.
In other words, there wasn’t anything wrong with Bales, and it was simply consistent with his history to commit mass murder . So why all the mealy-mouth in this article? Why not just come out and say it: that there is nothing that unusual about most men who commit extreme violence, that there is probably nothing unusual about this one either, and in fact it could’ve probably been predicted beforehand, if not just easily explained afterwards, if we only knew (or paid at attention to) how Bales and indeed all men behave every day?
The doctor himself seems apologetic for his mealy-mouthedness, and ends with a pretty revealing question:
I seem to end many of my CNNhealth pieces with some type of comment about how unsatisfying our current level of psychiatric understanding is. This pieces, [sic] alas, is no different in this regard. Frankly, at this point nothing in Bales’ actions makes psychiatric sense. On the other hand, how many highly admired, hard-working, patriotic, caring small-town heroes are embroiled in financial fraud or may have other dark behaviors in their backgrounds?
An observer who was actually invested in preventing male violence might conclude that therefore, men need to be monitored closely and punished severely or deterred by whatever means for all transgressions and “dark behaviors” because they are predictive of future violence, including extreme violence.
But yes, it is an excellent question, however it is phrased: how many allegedly “good men” really aren’t? Taking it a step further, one might reasonably wonder whether there are any men out there who don’t have “dark behaviors” in their pasts and presents, including behaviors which average people generally regard as “dark” but also including other things that only radical feminists would see as particularly harmful, such as putting girls and women at extreme physical and psychological risk through dangerous male-centric sexuality, or doing this by-proxy by using porn? In other words, doesn’t all male violence make perfect sense, and particularly men’s known propensity to commit violence as opposed to women’s, if we are going to use previous instances of putting people in harm’s way as a predictive indicator of future violence, where essentially all men put people in harm’s way all the time, particularly through dangerous male sexuality?
And this excellent question is coupled with a revealing point: psychiatry is simply not implicated in very many cases of male violence or extreme male violence because male violence and extreme male violence are not medically or psychiatrically abnormal (for men). Read: it’s normal, or “typical” if you prefer; medically and psychiatrically healthy men do this. Even though people clearly wish the reverse were true, and keep asking psychiatrists for psychiatric explanations and excuses when the facts do not warrant it. Indeed, in reality, it seems like asking a psychiatrist to explain male violence is like getting a plumber to help you hang wallpaper. They just aren’t that helpful.
Of course, he very obviously does not address whether banking fraud and other “dark behaviors” when women do it, would be predictive of future female violence, especially mass murder.
There is nothing wrong with these men, they just do it, and it’s completely predictable too. This appears to be what this doctor is saying, albeit hesitantly. Being a man himself, perhaps he is particularly compromised here to tell the truth about men and what men do and what men are, and CNN itself is a tool of the patriarchy, hence the mealiness.
But the thing is, we can all read, and we can read between the lines too.
No wonder men love their “privacy” and the separate spheres so much: because that’s where they can behave “darkly” and where no one ever knows about it except their wives and children, who very often are economically coerced into not turning their husbands and fathers in on the spot, and where no one would believe them anyway if they told the truth about what a male “upstanding citizen” acts like when he thinks that no one that matters is watching.
But also, how nice it must be for all men that almost everyone regards the most common expression of disdain for girls and women, and an obvious manifestation of men’s “darkness” where they place others in harm’s way — men, sticking their dicks into other people, particularly female-bodied people — as essentially harmless, or even an act of love? Cue the confused-neighbors montage. “He was such a great guy, a family man.” When in reality, the man placed his wife in harm’s way repeatedly, and the numerous ambivalent or unwanted children are the proof.