Some bullies are born mean. They have a hole in their soul. Or so older generations always believed.
But most bullies are defined by their environment; neighborhoods, schools, community. For generations those venues culled the “bully” out of most kids while still young so that they could go about the real work of getting a job, getting married and raising a family, for the most part without the benefit of law enforcement, let alone state psychologists. A tour in the military, or even a 14-week waltz through boot camp took the mean, anti-social bully out of 99.9% of those who came through their programs. They were leveled.
Bloody noses were often involved.
In the 1991 film “Boyz in the Hood” a black father tried to deal with his son’s growing involvement with gangs, in light of their growing use of knives and guns. Dad tells his son, “In our day, we did the manly thing and just duked it out. Never had to cut anybody to prove we were a man.” My son, who saw the movie at the time, said that was the main takeaway from the film.
But there’s no surefire way to tell one from the other.
Mean for the sake of mean bullies are cut from a different cloth. Head cases. Most mass shooters in the past several years; Virginia Tech, Tucson, Sandy Hook, Aurora Theatre, were all already known to have mental disorders but in one way or another fell through the cracks and were able to get guns anyway. It was not the Founders nor the NRA who dropped the ball, but more usually government agencies.
And virtually all mass shootings occurred in gun-free zones, where no one else could lay their hands on a weapon to return fire….which, with the possible exception of the Texas Tower sniper in 1966, could have snuffed the shooting rampage out more quickly. But even the Texas sniper, Charles Whitman, an ex-Marine, had sought psychiatric help for violent urges, but received none. (An autopsy showed that he had a hypothalamic brain tumor.) The comedian, George Carlin told the joke that what might have sent Whitman over the edge was that someone had put a bottle of Scope in his mailbox, which I still think was a funny insight into our pop culture in 1971.
By the time of the Columbine shootings in Colorado (on Hitler’s birthday) in 1999, because these were the acts of privileged high school kids who had been given full run of their lives without much parental oversight, their murder-suicides were viewed differently. They were similar to that Blasey-Ford girl and her crowd in the 1980s, who everyone compared to “Valley Girls” from that decade’s principal culture distributor, Hollywood teenage sex movies, only these two boys preferred violent video games and guns, exciting different urges other than admiring young girls’ navels. But I recall that the absence of parental guidance caused such a stir among the Colorado privileged class that Bill Clinton had to make a special trip out to Aurora just to absolve all those absentee parents, saying it just wasn’t their fault.
With help like this, from the president, to state government, certain medical institutions and schools, and finally, some police departments, the distinction between “social bully” and “just plain mean” bully has been blurred.
Murder is often portrayed differently in the media, depending on the social class.
Or did anyone notice, by 2018, that the shooter at Parkland, Nikolas Cruz, who could have been stopped by a 16-year old with a 12-gauge, let alone a trained cop,
was a victim of student bullying, not a cause of it?
And it was all via social media, which as everyone knows, is virtually impervious to knuckle sandwiches.
The reason I even mentioned the Texas sniper is that he was one of the few mass shooters to predate the computer and the social media culture.
The power of the state to intervene would quickly evolve because of Whitman, so that any person who came into any shrink’s office with a twitching left eye would be scrutinized and reported. But all that did was place the authority to build a case file, and hand that case file off to a plethora of state agencies who would then watch over the subject, much like a county probation officer, who would only pull the file out the day of the next appointment, and never report him/her until after the third missed appointment. With that safety net, the Virginia Tech shooter still fell through because someone had mislaid his file.
Parkland may hold more questions than answers about the role social class played in its shooting, and how, according to one of the “stars” of the Parkland survivors, Emma Gonzalez, Cruz was “bullied” by her clique of friends, all of whom must have been pieces of work. They were the “in crowd”, he was “way out”. A lot of media disputed her factual claims, but the fact of her bragging about it tells us much about her cynical, indifferent, even mean worldview, actually bragging that what she and some friends did online caused this kid to go out and kill 17 students and wound 15 more. She was bragging. (David Hogg has not yet formally accused Cruz of being one of the seven who’ve made attempts on his life.)
Well known, did it ever cross the minds of the huddled police outside, never daring to go in while shots were being fired, that it might be Nikolas Cruz, a kid they knew about, might be the one inside shooting the place up?
The whole story about the cops’ non-roll in that shooting smells to me, for police, above all others, know that most shooters are themselves scared to death, and even one shot can cause them to turn their attention away from their would-be victims and toward cover. Cops are trained for this. Or so we’re told. Good ones could have distracted Cruz with a garden hose in one hand and a pistol in the other. I’ve seen videos of store clerks being robbed at gunpoint pull a pistol from a drawer, then fire, totally discombobulating the thief, whose first return shot goes straight into the ceiling as he crouches, trying to find the door out. It’s the store clerk who is the more composed.
Viktor Cruz never had to confront a composed Broward County police officer.
So the Parkland shooting raises the specter of how social elites can incite crime, while standing on the sidelines, leaving no fingerprints, then gain fame as “survivors” while snickering about the fate about to be levied on their mark, and the cruel joke they may have accidentally heaped on 32 of their schoolmates.
“Hole-in-the-soul mean” means never even considering such consequences, or indifference to them, and that is the sense a couple of clique leaders there have conveyed as much as Viktor Cruz. Bad kids have to be caught, but we know, for a variety of reasons, rich kids rarely are. Their class ties run too deeply into the institutional fabric of the community. So rich kids usually get away with it. It’s always been that way.
Nikolas Cruz’s trial is scheduled for September, 2019. The only issue will be whether he gets Life or the death penalty.
So first consider two rich genius kids from Chicago, Nathan Leopold, age 19, and Richard Loeb, age 18, in 1924, who murdered a kid, age 14, just to prove their intellectual superiority by being able to commit the perfect crime. For sport.
The Chicago cops pinned the murder on them quicker than Jussie Smollett could tie a noose around his neck, so they were quickly nabbed and charged with capital murder. Their parents hired Clarence Darrow, who had them examined by a renowned psychiatrist, the sort none of my clients could ever afford, who testified both had mental disabilities associated with their high IQ’s and privileged station. (The testimony of the expert witness is found here. It’s instructive if you’re interested in what it takes to beat a death penalty if you have the connections.)
Instead of pleading the kids “not guilty” Darrow pled them “guilty” which meant he could argue for leniency in front of a judge instead of a jury of ordinary citizens.
The judge gave both kids life without parole instead of the electric chair, but it was still Capone’s town, and Loeb was murdered in prison in 1936, while Leopold was paroled in 1958, at age 54. I would love to have been able to find out what he’d learned. If anything.
Viktor Cruz had no such social connections. Even the victims’ families are conflicted about the death penalty. But the Broward District Attorneys office come from the same protective culture as the Broward Police, so my guess is, the other fingerprints on those students’ deaths, much like Columbine, will go unmentioned unless the defense raises the issue.
And it seems the Broward County Public Defenders, who are tasked with defending Cruz, are having second thoughts. If some light can’t be shined on the social circumstances of some of Broward’s finest in helping define this young “killer” and I doubt anyone on Broward’s payroll ever will, the die is cast.
It would be nice if a good pro bono Clarence Darrow would step forward. There is an issue to cling to.
Personally, I hope someone steps in, for the power of social media to kill indirectly is growing, and the ability of a knuckle and bloody nose to deter it simply unavailable.