Narcissism, Media Cited In Virginia Tech Massacre


Analyzing the psychology of the Virginia Tech killer, Time asks, “What is it that makes individual members of a usually empathetic species turn rogue?” and “can we figure out how to prevent such things from happening?”Stanton Samenow, a forensic psychologist and author of the book “Inside the Criminal Mind,” says, “They seem to have an unfathomable ability to shut off knowledge of the consequences, of the difference between right and wrong. It’s critical for us to try to understand that worldview and mental makeup.”

Time says the profile of the mass killer looks a lot like the profile of a clinical narcissist. Narcissism is defined mostly by disablingly low self-esteem, requiring the sufferer to seek almost constant recognition and reward. Time partly faults the media: “It may be uncomfortable for any journalist to admit it, but the flood-the-zone coverage that usually follows mass murders simply confirms a potential killer’s belief that what he sees as his small and inconsequential life can end on a large and monstrous chord.” Killings in the U.S. involving five or more victims represented under 1 percent of all homicides 25 years ago, and still does today. The number of children under 17 who commit murder falling 65 percent between 1993 and 2004. Mass killing, says Diane Follingstad, a psychiatry professor at the University of South Carolina, “is a low-rate-base thing. It just does not happen very often.”


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