The Psychopath Among Us
Sunday night, true evil visited Las Vegas. This wasn't the naughty, oily, glitter-coated, ass-less chaps kind of poor moral choices evil; this was distilled, 99.4% evil. A man who had a house in Mesquite, NV broke out a few windows of a 32nd floor hotel room and fired upon unsuspecting concert goers who were over 1000 feet away. He managed to kill at least 59 and wound at least 527 people. Unlike other mass shooters, he didn't get up close and personal. He did it from a 1000 feet away. He stayed above his victims. And now, everyone is scrambling to understand why Stephen Paddock took 23 guns into a hotel room, and brought death to the Vegas strip.
ISIS has claimed responsibility. They called the shooter "a soldier" named Abu Abd al-Bar. Of course, ISIS likes to claim responsibility for lots of high profile attacks, and most of the time they're right. However, unless the FBI finds the shooter's ISIS membership card, there isn't a whole lot of evidence yet to support this claim.
Lena Dunham blames gender, race, access to guns, and capitalism. So, in Lena's world all white men who own guns and work for self-profit are now just an episode of Girls away from shooting the place up.
And that giant intellect, Joe Scarborough, believes that gun owners want to kill soldiers. Yes, Joe truly thinks that gun owners have this dark fantasy that will only come true if the government tries to take their guns.
Others are convinced that the guns he owned sang a song so seductive that he was unable to resist the impulse to point them at other living creatures and pull the trigger.
Other than ISIS, everyone seems to think this guy snapped and just went on his murderous rampage.
But they all seem to missing a couple of crucial points. This event was planned. Well planned.
As David French of the National Review notes, he had 23 guns in his hotel room and the police found another 19 at his home in Mesquite. He had rented that hotel room since last Thursday, and had been playing a lot of video poker. A lot. Like $20,000 worth of video poker. The weapons he used were either fully automatic (illegal to own without significant background investigations and other legal hoops since 1986), or had been modified. Either way, a lot of time and money was spent. And yet, his brother says that he wasn't "a gun guy."
The Washington Post has published a decent profile about who this guy was. However, it still doesn't do anything to help understand the motive. The shooter was the multimillionaire son of a bank robber the FBI had once labeled as a psychopath. He had no known history of mental illness, no criminal history. His first crime appears to be the worst mass murder in American history, and ISIS is claiming credit for the attack.
So, I'm going to take a stab at it. The shooter was a psychopath just like his dad. He was able to plan and execute the worst shooting in American history because he hid in plain sight. The psychopath walked among us.
Why do I say that? Well, psychopaths walk among us all the time. In fact, you probably work for a psychopath according to a study conducted by Australia's Bond University. About 20% of CEOs are psychopaths, about the same rate as the general prison population. Psychopaths are different from you and me--They lack the things that make you human: empathy, remorse, loving kindness. But they can also function fairly successfully in society by mimicking those traits. In fact, some psychopaths have been described as charming, funny, and nice.
I once worked for a man who could be charming, funny, and nice. He seemed to remember everything about the people who worked for him. He was nice. But when he passed away, his daughter found a card in the pocket of his suit jacket that had the following written on it: Show interest in his hobbies, ask about his wife, ask about his children, ask about his weekend plans. This man had learned in the Army that he should ask personal questions about the soldiers who served under him in order to develop camaraderie and esprit de corps. If he hadn't been trained to show interest, he never would have. He truly did lack empathy, but he hid it well.
The single absolute in determining whether someone is a psychopath is the lack of empathy. They just cannot relate to other people on a human level. They feel nothing in their relationships with others. And I think we will see when more comes out about Paddock that he was an absolute psychopath.
Let's review what we know—he and his girlfriend kept to themselves, often living at casino hotels for months. They didn't interact with their neighbors. In fact, one former neighbor in Reno said that “He was weird. Kept to himself. It was like living next to nothing. ... You can at least be grumpy, something. He was just nothing, quiet.” Paddock owned dozens of guns, but did not hunt. He owned houses and property in California, Florida, Nevada, and Texas, but didn't own a car. So far, he was just somebody with money who kept to himself.
But the neighbor in Reno dropped the biggest clue—It was like living next to nothing. She's pointing out that he had no ability to form a relationship. This is backed up by his brother, Eric, who said he only talked to his brother every so often; and that it was five days after Hurricane Irma hit that the shooter reached out to find out how his family in Florida fared. Now, I might not talk to my brothers all that often, but when Hurricane Harvey hit, both of them were on the phone with me, offering me money and shelter.
Not Stephen Paddock. He waited five days.
No, I don't think we'll find his ISIS membership card. If we're lucky, we might find a journal that details how he planned getting the guns, turning them automatic, the results of experiments with the scope (he did live in Nevada, and there's a whole lot of empty desert that can be used for your gun range), or what bags he needed to use to disguise the guns when he brought them into the hotel. If we're lucky, we might find that he referred to his victims as targets, and looked at the shooting as kind of a fun, mental game.
Stephen Paddock was a psychopath who walked among us. He was evil. He lacked "the milk of human kindness". He needed no other reason to do what he did than that.