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What happened to Stephen Paddock?

On October 1 Stephen Paddock gunned down 58 people and injured 489 by firing semi-automatic weapons from his Las Vegas hotel room before killing himself. The mass media followed up with accounts of the man's life and character in an attempt to figure out why he did it.1

Paddock, as it turns out, was not an aggressive man. He had no known prior history of violence. A piece in The New York Times calls him 'nondescript.' He was a loving son to his elderly mother. As a landlord he treated his tenants fairly and had repairs carried out promptly. Apart from his interest in guns, his main leisure pursuit was gambling. The worst that anyone has to say of him is that he was a loner.

However, those close to him did notice that he was changing for the worse in the months preceding the massacre. In the words of his brother Eric, 'something happened' to him. His woman friend Marilou Danley told investigators that he 'seemed to be deteriorating both mentally and physically.'

What caused this deterioration? 'Is it possible,' speculates journalist David Eagleman, 'that there were changes in Paddock's brain, such as a growing tumor?' There had been a previous case of this kind. Or perhaps he had a brain injury or dementia as a result of degeneration of the frontal or temporal lobes? Only after a discussion of these rare conditions does the journalist give a passing nod to the possibility that 'drugs, alcohol, or medications' may have played a role. In fact these are much likelier causes: many millions of people routinely ingest mind-altering substances of one kind or another. Especially now that the autopsy has shown no brain abnormalities,2 this factor should surely be a central focus of further investigation.

The toxicology report on Paddock is not yet available; if it ever does become available it will be overlooked, as public and media attention will have shifted to the next sensation (or the one after that...). However, Dr Peter R. Breggin, MD, who has done so much to expose the enormous harm caused by psychiatric drugs, has some information for us. In one of his e-mail alerts he tells us that according to records from the Nevada Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) on June 21 Paddock was prescribed benzodiazepines in the form of fifty 10-milligram diazepam (Valium) tablets. Dr Breggin continues:

I have also received an unconfirmed report that he was prescribed antidepressants, which are commonly given along with benzodiazepines. Unlike Valium, antidepressant prescriptions are not reported by physicians to the PMP, which monitors scheduled narcotic-like or addictive drugs. For decades, it has been known that benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax and Klonopin can cause impulsivity, disinhibition, or loss of self-control resulting in violence.3

A three-factor model

I suggest that a massacre like that perpetrated by Paddock becomes possible when three factors occur together:

1) technical means are available to a potential perpetrator;

2) the potential perpetrator has rehearsed the massacre in imagination (fantasy);

3) the inhibitions that would ordinarily prevent the potential perpetrator from enacting the fantasy have been removed.

All three factors must be present. The fantasy cannot be enacted if technical means are inaccessible or if there is effective inhibition. Rehearsal in imagination also seems an essential aspect of necessary preparations: I do not see how unprovoked mass murder of strangers who pose no threat could occur spontaneously.

All three factors are in abundant supply in our society. Means of mass murder are easy to come by, and the moderate measures of gun control currently under consideration in 'mainstream' politics would only make their acquisition somewhat more difficult. Disinhibiting agents -- alcohol, street drugs, psychiatric drugs -- are in very wide use. Equally widespread are cultural products that feed fantasies of mass murder, although the Paddock case suggests that murderous fantasies can arise without direct exposure to these products. Paddock was too busy gambling to watch action movies or play violent video games. Loners develop an especially rich and powerful fantasy life, so I suppose they do not need additional stimulation from such sources.

In order to remove the conditions that facilitate massacres like that committed by Stephen Paddock we would have to tackle a whole range of commercial interests -- not only those associated with the gun lobby but also the 'entertainment' industry and the psychiatric-pharmaceutical complex.  

 

Notes

  1. http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/02/us/las-vegas-attack-stephen-paddock-trnd/index.html; David Eagleman, 'The mystery of Stephen Paddock's brain,' CNN, October 5, 2017; Sabrina Tavernise, Serge F. Kovaleski, and Jule Turkewitz, 'Who was Stephen Paddock?' New York Times, October 7, 2017.

 2. Lucy Pasha-Robinson, 'Stephen Paddock: Las Vegas gunman's autopsy results released,' The Independent, October 12, 2017.

 3. Dr Breggin has presented fuller information on this subject in his book Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide, and Crime (St. Martin's Press, 2009).

 

 

 

 

 

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