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Monday, April 16, 2007



At the outset let me correct this. Violence is alive and well in the United States. All too frequently, we in the United States refer to ourselves as Americans. But, since I moved to Panama, I am getting a better appreciation of the word American. I am now a Panamanian and I am an American.

Today we experienced the 32 senseless and dastardly killings at the Virginia Tech College. Such a tragedy leaves us mourning innocent young men and women who are attending a college considered very safe by any means. And then all of a sudden, early in the morning someone armed to the hilt goes crazy eventually killing 32 and wounding others.

When we analyze other such massacres we find that the perpetrators were very sick individuals who were acting out fantasies which they have harbored for a long time. This conclusion can be drawn from analyses of such things as their personal computers and previous lifestyle once pieced together albeit too late to have averted the tragedy.

Within the next few days the authorities will find out more about the individual shooter today.

Several years ago I wrote a treatise on Childhood Suicide especially as it related to what was then one of the most dangerous games popular among many youths at the time. The very dangerous game was: Dungeons and Dragons. Analyzing children playing the game revealed that many children who played the game actually believed that what they were playing was real. In part of the game one could die then come back to life again. You, the reader, and I know that there is no coming back from death. But some of these impressionable young teenagers as part of the game would kill themselves thinking that, as part of the game, they would subsequently return. I personally investigated several of these suicides and appeared on a National Television program with other authorities discussing the problem.

The mind and brain is a most beautiful complex. It provides us with experiences not appreciated by any other animal. But the mind/brain complex can also be a source of aberrant thinking. This, I believe, occurs when the subconscious part of our mind believes something which can not be justified by the conscious part of the mind which is the only part of our mind which can separate fact from fantasy. Just as a young teenager cannot separate fantasy from reality in Dungeons and Dragons, individuals such as the shooter today as the shooters in the Columbine High School and several others similar incidences were unable to separate reality from fantasy.

It has been shown in previous situations, and I believe may also be shown here, that these individuals have been playing dangerous mind games available on the market today. There are games which can be played which mimic the Columbine incident. It is little wonder that these bizarre behaviors are not re-programmed in impressionable young minds only to be acted out at some later date. This is a reality of what was popularized in the movie The Manchurian Candidate. A human can be programmed by others AND by himself to act in good ways and bizarre abnormal ways. How we act in our later years depends upon how we are brought up and taught by our parents and teachers.

Another thing upon which I would like to comment today is how angry people in the US are. I do not see this behavior in Panama where I now live. Every day I take my life in my hands driving my car in Panama City. Everybody cuts each other off at every turn. But I am beginning to understand that there appears to be a rule which is established amidst what would appear to be mass confusion. I will not share with you the rule. What I want to say is that here there are people cutting everyone off with horns blowing left and right. But, nobody is getting mad at each other. Everyone is accepting what is going on without negative emotions. In the United States one has to be very careful that at the next light someone does not get out of his car and shoot you. Do you get the message?

Many individuals in the US get mad at everything and our leaders do not give us good example. The Democrats fight Republicans and vice versa. But it goes beyond that. Democrats do not want to get along with Republicans and vice versa, because it is all about turf and who might be ruler of the hill next time around. And so all our leaders are fighting, frequently over insignificant things. These leaders of ours do not realize it but they are role models and, in part, they set the tone for the nation. Is this not sad? Unfortunately, I do not expect things to change..

nicola michael Tauraso, M.D.


Anonymous Ryk E. Spoor said...

I'd be interested to see what methodology you used in your prior study. All of the reputable research I know of shows no particular connection between any RPG -- D&D or any of its descendants -- and such total disconnects from reality, or indeed any behavior or attitudes which might be considered dangerous. The few people involved with such things who DO perform seriously antisocial acts appear to have been predisposed in that direction, and all the games did was provide a particular structure for their problem to show itself; absent D&D, they would have manifested the same basic problem, just with a slightly different surface appearance.

Similarly, it appears that the correlation between violent behavior and things like violent video games is actually reversed; video games don't make you violent, but violent people will tend to play violent video games. (note that this is purely a statistical matter; no individual person playing a violent video game could necessarily be assumed to be predisposed towards violence).

As an author, a long-time (30 years) gamer, and the holder of three degrees, one of them in psychology, it disturbs me to see claims of this nature repeated when I have yet to see any of them substantiated with solid research. I am aware of cases in which D&D has been used as a therapeutic tool, and at least one study that actually appeared to show a NEGATIVE correlation between suicide and gaming (i.e., gamers appeared less likely to commit suicide than their peers). For the most part, it's a harmless entertainment with some strong potential positive features. I have, as I said, been a gamer for three decades, and in that time I have never encountered any such delusional people who had developed those delusions based on the game. (in fact, those who believed in things like magic and bringing the dead back to live generally were amused by the game, because it DIDN'T work the way they thought such powers "really" did work)

It weakens your entire statement to bring in such highly questionable material -- rather out of left field, as far as I can tell, since there appears to be no relevance to the matter at hand other than to make a very weak analogy.

April 17, 2007 at 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Tauraso,

You are only partially correct. Violence is alive and well in the U.S. It is also alive and well in Panama, and whether you believe that to be true or not, is irrelevant to determining the root cause, and preventing said activity.

He didn't just snap. This was a well planned event. The current phenomenon of massacres in the U.S. is a social expression, and is rooted in social causes. In this case, specifically the indifference experienced firsthand by the shooter, the inherent cultural biases in place against him, the American fascination with competition, winning, status, and determining a social pecking order.

He was in a place where he was automatically placed somewhere way down on that ladder. I'm sure he felt, that in the long term, he was an expendable resource that was to be fully exploited for his engineering proclivities.

Finally, at the last, I would be willing to wager that he (the shooter) didn't have a single American friend or mentor. A person who would with some frequency invite him to participate in and share rewarding social and recreational activities.

Perhaps if he had one more real friend, a friend who simply accepted him as a friend, this whole event could have been prevented.

It is unfortunate that genuine goodwill at school has been replaced by a culture focused on the almighty dollar... a place where students typically outnumber the faculty in class by 30-1 or more...

After, you see the remorse... The candlelight vigils for the fallen (but not for the first fallen), the fear, hysteria, and lack of trust that was once only in the mind of the shooter... has been successfully transferred to the masses at the last.

Perhaps he needed (and all the other victims too) needed him to have just one more friend...
The upright right friend.

With Regards,
Dirk Collins

April 18, 2007 at 8:39 AM  

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