Did the Discovery Channel Gunman Have Ties to Atheist Groups? September 2, 2010

Did the Discovery Channel Gunman Have Ties to Atheist Groups?

We had a “Parent Night” at my school last night, so I haven’t had too much time to read about the Discovery Channel Hostage Situation… but the short of it is that James Jay Lee went to Discovery Channel headquarters, took hostages, and was shot and killed by a police sniper after he appeared to take aim at a hostage. The hostages are safe and the crisis is thankfully over.

He had a list of strange demands for Discovery, and they’re now circulating the web.

Lee was also an atheist. I’m sure it won’t be long before certain groups latch onto that fact as if it’s his defining characteristic and what prompted him to act this way.

My friend Shelley Mountjoy works with a number of atheist groups based in Washington, D.C. and she had met Lee (albeit briefly) before.

In one of my first conversations with Lee, he informed me that he moved to the DC area to be involved in political activism… that this was where everything was supposed to be happening and he was disappointed that more was not going on. He certainly did not hide the fact that he thought he could save the world but he never made any statements about breaking the law or using violence to obtain his objectives.

In short, he said he was staying here until he ran out of money — probably this year. (He was not employed.) I was suspicious that he was planning to commit suicide when that time came.

… As I read the media reports now, many of the pieces are coming together and I’m now realizing that today’s events were Lee’s plan for quite some time. I also went back and searched my e-mail and I noticed he used the name “Mister Guerilla” on his account… I hadn’t paid any attention to this earlier.

Shelley will write more today, but I think she perfectly sums up my initial thoughts after hearing about this story:

Atheism is only a statement about one thing — a lack of belief in god. It says nothing about what else you may or may not believe or how you came to lack belief. Some people do not come to atheism through critical thinking and other times those who do, fail to apply critical thinking to aspects of their life outside of religion.

The atheists aren’t to blame. Lee alone is to blame. And good riddance now that he’s gone.

One of the main reasons many of our groups exist is to provide safe havens for atheists who have nowhere else to go. Even if Lee was loosely associated with these groups, there’s no reason to think that any of the members condone his actions.

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  • Pandora

    Thanks for the warning. Yeh they won’t let this opportunity to confuse the issues pass unexploited. Better start preparing my responses, lol.

  • And good riddance now that he’s gone.

    You don’t think that’s a bit harsh? He most probably had serious mental issues.

  • What exactly are we saying, Hemant?

    Is Atheism not a lack of belief? Are there tenants to it, that must be adhered to?

    Atheism isn’t a religion. There is no position to defend here. If the religious cite “Atheism” as cause for Lee’s issues, then they have the problem of drawing a thread through a group of people that “don’t have reason to accept the existence of something”. There is no commonality in this group other than what they “don’t think”.

    When you have a “god”, and that “God” has a record of making pronouncements and rules, then you have a basis to assume commonality.

    The only thing that is making this a topic is our irrational need to be noticed for our lack of superstition and our ability to remain rational in the face of a confusing world.

  • Sorry, meant “tenets”

  • alex

    Some of the demands on that list do make sense, though. We really don’t need to be increasing population at the rate we are, and the dominant militaristic culture also needs to go away. It’s a shame he took it that route; now, nobody is going to even listen to those arguments.

  • Hitch

    It’s politics. Surely people who dislike atheism and don’t shy away from smear politics will try to link him to atheism, just like people who dislike islam and don’t shy away from smear politics will link violence by a muslim to the whole community.

    Best thing to do is just describe it honestly. I still hope for the day that society as a whole gives up this false notion of guilt-by-association. As long as people believe in that notion, it is possible to smear a group by the acts of one.

  • Siobhan in Vermont

    How should our response differ from the responses of the christian community when one of their whack jobs offs an abortion doctor? How can we act/speak in a way that they don’t to distance ourselves from this guy? Or can we? What do they do wrong? Just thinking out loud here…

  • Tony Konrath

    There are subtle differences in language that are important. You can “be an atheist” or you can “be atheist.”

    I think the the first usage denotes a belonging to a group whereas the second simply denotes lack of belief.

    That said, we can all go mad sometimes!

  • It will be interesting to hear what people say about this, but clearly his atheism is only news because normally, those who act out violently have at least some association with a religion. Of course odds would suggest that to be true since the american population is only about 3% atheist, but even when taking that into account, it’s worth noting that more than 97% of these horrible violent crimes are committed by people who aren’t atheist which suggests that one’s lack of belief in any gods is not what makes one likely to be violent.

    It’s an unfortunate truth that people will sometimes do something horrible for what they believe to be a worthwhile cause. Religion is sometimes to blame (such as cases where people attack homosexuals, burn abortion clinics or deny their child proper medical care in lieu of prayer) and there are times when there is no religious affiliation with a group or individual’s actions at all as is the case with many eco-terrorists, stalkers and serial killers. If we look at the latter group and regularly dismiss their personal religious affiliations when they have one, then we can certainly dismiss their lack of one as well.

  • Hitch

    It’s already being politicized. Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute (aka wedge-issue anti-science think tank) tries to link him to Darwin. Nothing new. He already tried to link Darwin to the Holocaust.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/09/james_j_lee_hostage-taker_and_037811.html

  • MakeTheMostOfLife

    “Lee alone is to blame. And good riddance now that he’s gone.”

    …….

    You should be seriously ashamed of yourself

  • Michelle Bell

    And good riddance now that he’s gone.

    Gonna second Simon on his “isn’t this a bit harsh?”

    I am thrilled that no hostages were harmed and that no member of the police forces were injured or killed in the line of duty. That said, the “good” outcome on this was about as sucky as possible. Somebody died; it just wasn’t the hostages or officers. And if we’re only getting one shot at this life thing, than it’s a bit of a bummer than someone’s life had to be snuffed out.

    Even if Lee did have a mental illness, that doesn’t make him any less “worthy” of our compassion or assistance.

  • Great. Now I’m 2 degrees of separation away from this lunatic.

    I’m glad he didn’t hurt anyone.

  • Danny wuvs kittens

    Oh yes, I’m sure lee had no control whatsoever over his actions, so lets not blame him. Oh, but people do have control when they do nice things. Lee going off the deep end was because he didn’t get hugged enough as a kid, so he deserves sympathy for his horrendous actions, but Dawkins deserves the utmost praise for his actions, which he had full and total control over.

    I call bullshit. This is true environmentalism mixed with a shitty human being.

    I do agree that he’s a little crazy:

    overpopulation is a big problem!!!!!111
    no more nuclear weapons and war!!!!!!!111

    but is that really a reason not to celebrate his death?

  • Shannon

    Reading all the links, it sounds to me that environmentalists will get the blame more than anything. Not that it’s right, but that’s the feeling I got from reading all that (especially his demands).

    But then, I’m not an atheist who blames all Christians whenever a Christian does something, even when they do it in the name of their religion. But yes, *some* people will say it does reflect on atheists. That’s their issue.

    I also agree with what some others have said. The man obviously had mental issues. I feel sorry for him, not happy he’s dead. If you read the links, he was at one point ordered to talk to psychiatrists who (according to him) found nothing wrong with him. How sad he couldn’t find the help he needed.

  • You don’t think that’s a bit harsh? He most probably had serious mental issues.

    You should be seriously ashamed of yourself

    Really? The man seemed willing to kill others for his demands. Yes, I’m glad the cops got him.

    I may feel differently if/when we find out about his mental health issues, but right now, I’m still angry about what he did.

  • What Pale Blue Dot

    What Shannon said.

    It’s funny how quickly everyone is jumping to “he obviously had mental health problems” because he’s an atheist when so many jump straight to “that’s what religion does!” when it’s a Christian or someone else. It’s so sickening. People with mental health issues, regardless of their other beliefs, should be given the same regard. And religion, for all its faults, is not the same thing.

    And, yes, you should be ashamed for rejoicing in his demise. I don’t think any death should be celebrated. It is all opportunity lost.

  • Rollingforest

    I think it is natural for many people to be glad that he is dead (Hemant’s language was tame compared with what else you could surely find around the web on this topic). However, I make a point of not celebrating anyone’s death. I would be the first to pull the trigger and kill him if it needed to be done to save the hostages, but I’m just filled with sadness that this is how he chose to live his life.

  • Tim

    I love the double standard here…when a crime is committed, the religious views of the perpetrator are irrelevant, unless of course they’re an atheist. A Christian could murder 100 children and still be called just a murderer; whereas an atheist could kill 1 person and they’d be screaming about how it was because he was an atheist. It’s also ridiculous to say that you can be caused to do something by atheism; as someone else was saying, there are no unifying characteristics, no tenets, no doctrines.

  • Benjamin Kay

    The man’s manifesto/demands contain no references to God, gods, Jesus, or a creator. Although Lee may have been atheist, his crime was evidently motivated by an extremist environmentalist worldview and a fair dose of crazy — not animosity towards religion.

  • I have not yet had a chance to write about this in any great detail, but I did comment on another blog about this yesterday. While he may have been an atheist, his view that Humans are inherently evil seem to be influenced more by Christianity. The Christian claim has always been that humans are all evil sinners right from the start, ever since Adam ate the “apple.”

    While Hemant is correct that atheism is simply a lack of belief, the greater atheistic community tends to focus also on Humanistic values. This guy certainly did not share those values, not with his actions and not with his manifesto. This will probably be the subject of tomorrow’s Dangerous Talk blog.
    -Staks

  • ethanol

    I may feel differently if/when we find out about his mental health issues, but right now, I’m still angry about what he did.

    Hemant,
    He invaded discovery channel headquarters and took hostages in the service of environmentalism and to oppose their positive coverage of “parasitic human infants”. His previous protest outside the headquarters consisted of throwing $20,000 dollars in the air and letting bystanders pick it up. His mental health issues are not hypothetical and we should be sorry that they were never properly addressed, not happy that he’s gone.

  • Nicole

    Have to agree that this guy obviously had serious mental health issues and despite how horrific his actions were, he ought to be pitied more than reviled, and mocked not at all.

  • ChrisZ

    How about if you’re going to rebut ridiculous arguments, you wait for them to actually be made first? Arguing with straw men makes atheists look silly too.

  • @DangerousTalk
    Stacks, he thought humans were evil because of their destruction to the environment… not for anything stemming from Christianity.

    @ethanol
    He had 21k in his bag when he was arrested. The amount he threw into the air is unknown.

    @Hemant
    Thanks for linking to my post.

  • Luther

    How should our response differ from the responses of the christian community when one of their whack jobs offs an abortion doctor? How can we act/speak in a way that they don’t to distance ourselves from this guy? Or can we? What do they do wrong? Just thinking out loud here…

    The situation is not analogous. As far as I know there were/are no atheist or environment organization leaders calling for killing, especially, not for killing those in the media that somehow could do more. Also I don’t know of any atheist or environmental talk show hosts calling for anything like this. I expect none to applaud it either.

  • Really? The man seemed willing to kill others for his demands. Yes, I’m glad the cops got him.

    I totally agree. This was a point I brought up yesterday before the situation had even come to a close. The 9/11 hijackers were also obviously mentally disturbed, and no one is shows pity on them for their actions.

    His mental health issues are not hypothetical and we should be sorry that they were never properly addressed, not happy that he’s gone.

    Can’t we be both?

  • muggle

    I have to back Hemant up on this. Yes, he had obvious mental problems but, once they reach this proportion, while it’s sad and tragic as hell, good riddance. Before he really has the chance to take another life.

    BTW, his manifesto is here:

    http://savetheplanetprotest.com/

    Read #4 if you think he’s not Atheist. What was that shift to blaming Christianity, Dangerous Talk? That’s a copout. And I’m damned sick and tired of Atheists being automatically equalled with Humanist. I am not Humanist. I find them rather cultlike. I am moral but I am not Humanist. It may be egotistical but, frankly, I’m more moral than those judgmental prigs who look down on everyone who doesn’t proscribe to their manifesto.

    But when a guy singles out religion to condemn to then turn around and blame his mentally disturbed actions on Christianity is just plain dishonest.

    Just stress this is not most of us and most terrroists (as most of society) have not been Atheist. We don’t need to lie about it or spin it. To lay its roots in the predominant religion of our country is akin to Christian ministers laying things at god not being the center of everything. To kids being unchurched. Let’s not point fingers at their dishonesty, then be dishonest ourselves.

  • How should our response differ from the responses of the christian community when one of their whack jobs offs an abortion doctor? How can we act/speak in a way that they don’t to distance ourselves from this guy? Or can we? What do they do wrong? Just thinking out loud here…

    We should respond by pointing out that Darwin never promoted violence, whereas the Bible and Koran quite explicitly demand violence from their adherents. I’ve added my $0.02 here, focusing on Darwin’s spurious influence on Lee.

  • Aj

    Atheism doesn’t motivate people to do anything. An atheist doing something doesn’t reflect on any other atheist. It’s also the reason why we can’t say “you’re an atheist therefore you should do or believe this” because that doesn’t make sense.

    It’s frustrating when people who believe in some of the causes you believe in do stupid or wrong things. I also believe it would be better if the population decreased, and that people don’t take climate change seriously enough. I’m not a damn hippy and despise much of his rant against humanity. So I’m partly responsible for this idiot but even so I’m entirely justified when I try to persuade people because I’m basing my opinion on evidence and reason, it’s also necessary for people to believe it if we’re to do something about it.

    There’s a difference between this and religiously motivated crimes. Religion is almost certainly untrue, it’s irrational, and unnecessary. Those are three things that mean that it’s not justified to spread these beliefs, and that those that do are responsible for what comes of it.

    Mental illness isn’t really an excuse, it’s a description of how someone is, it doesn’t really change my feelings about actions. It is a bit harsh to be glad that he’s dead, I would have been equally pleased if they had managed to secure him.


    This event reminds me of this: We will eat you, after we eat your children

  • revyloution

    @ Alex

    Population growth isn’t as simple as you lay it out. Remember that if fertile, reproducing couples only replaced themselves, the would population would decline.

    There is quite a bit of evidence showing that the population will peak soon, and begin a decline. Every nation that has achieved relative prosperity and security has also seen a rapid decline in births. If we want to control the world population, we need to increase the prosperity and security for all humans. When abundant food, health care, and effective birth control are available, women seem to naturally choose to have fewer children.

    Ending war, overpopulation, immigration, or any of James Jay Lee’s other problems must start with education and wealth redistribution for all humans. It is the disparities between us that is the root of our problems.

  • alex

    @ revyloution:

    I understand and actually agree. I don’t necessarily support his proposed solutions (especially the “anchor baby” nonsense), but he does raise some important topics in that list.

    Interesting info on the population peak and decline. I’d like to read about it somewhere. Any pointers?

  • revyloution

    Look at the population charts for Japan, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Those have been (arguably) the most stable nations considering involvement in wars, internal violence, crime, public health (they collectively have the longest average lifespans)and have a narrow distribution of wealth (the poorest and the richest are closer than in all other countries). The native population in these countries is actually declining. The only reason any of them have a positive population increase is due to immigration. I don’t think it’s a far jump to conclude that those conditions encourage people to have fewer children.

    These sites have good information on how accessibility to birth control effects population:
    http://www.overpopulation.org/birthcon.html

    This site does a good job of showing population growth and how it relates to developing economies and developed ones.
    http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/human_pop/human_pop.html

  • VXbinaca

    This is why people should be able to conceal carry at work. One armed person in that building could have put a stop to that psycho.

  • Nordog

    “This is why people should be able to conceal carry at work. One armed person in that building could have put a stop to that psycho.”

    I agree completely with this, yet if I were armed and faced with someone with explosives strapped to his body I would be hoping two things: 1) I’ve been practising my head shots, and 2) I hope he’s not using a dead man switch.

  • VXbinaca

    It sounds like when they shot him and the explosives went off, one of two things happened:

    1. The cop hit his explosive (not likely as they train sharpshooters to plant shots behind the ears preferably, or paralyze when they can’t).

    2. He had a dead man’s switch.

    I think he had a the switch. Either way it would have diffused the situation. We’ll see what kind of damage the blast did. In the heat of the moment though I still probably would have shot him.

  • littlejohn

    I’m about as liberal as anyone here, but what choice did the cops have? He was pointing a gun at innocent people. Were they supposed to have Scotty beam him up to the mental hospital ship?
    Apropos his religious beliefs, does anyone think the media would have mentioned the topic had the man been, say, a Methodist?
    And yes, I’m a convert to concealed carry. I once believed letting law-abiding citizens carry guns would lead to fender-benders and other minor disputes escalate into shoot-outs. But most states now allow CC, and violent crime rates have gone down in every state that liberalized its carry laws. It’s counter-intuitive, but you can’t argue with statistics.

  • Here is my article on this topic.

    @muggle, I didn’t say ALL atheists were Humanists. I said that most atheists within the atheistic community tend to support humanistic values. That doesn’t mean that they belong to a Humanist organization. I go into this more in my article.

  • @VXbinaca

    One armed person in that building could have put a stop to that psycho.

    It seems to me that exactly one armed person was the cause of this whole situation. Good thing there wasn’t some other gun nut in there and the professionals were able to do their jobs.

  • i try not to celebrate death, it doesn’t seem decent. i pity this person more than anything else, and i agree with a previous poster in feeling remorse that society failed this man, who obviously needed help. i’m very disturbed by the way more and more people in this country feel it is acceptable for police to use deadly force as if it were always the only option. i understand this was a situation in which the use of deadly force may have saved lives, but then again it may not have. there have been far, far too many reports of cops shooting people dead only for it to be revealed later that there was no need. so forgive me if i can’t get too excited that the cops killed an obviously disturbed person.

    the fact that he was an atheist concerns me not at all. atheists may have things in common, but responsibility of the actions of each of us is not one of them. and this is in strong contrast to most religions, which frequently posit that believers are supposed to care for one another.

  • Danny wuvs kittens

    “It seems to me that exactly one armed person was the cause of this whole situation. Good thing there wasn’t some other gun nut in there and the professionals were able to do their jobs.”

    No, its a good thing he didn’t decide to shoot anyone, because the Police’s number one concern is the police. The police are(mostly) good people; but they are trained to put their safety before anything else. This is why flash grenades are used. Even though dozens upon dozens of people have died from them, they are still used. Why? Its safer for the police.

    That’s obviously once the police get there. It takes 90-120 minutes to assemble a SWAT team, set up a perimeter, and devise a plan of action.

    Officers on Patrol just try to generally spread out around the building and take cover behind their cars, to try and keep the guy from getting away.

    Look, Police are great. They take a lot of shit, and yet they keep doing a great job.

    The police are not omniscient. They are not omnipotent. They are professional police officers, but they are not soldiers. The man who shot lee? I’d be willing to bet that was the first person he shot.

    You can feel however you want to about police to make yourself feel better, but you’re chances of survival will always be greater with a concealed firearm than without one. Its just like a fire extinguisher. There’s a low chance a fire will even start in your home, and still, a small chance that you’ll be able to do anything effective with a fire extinguisher, but that doesn’t keep you from having one, does it? Its a form of insurance. Its prudent to have insurance(health, homeowner’s, life, car), have safety equipment in your car(window breaking tools, airbags, etc.) and in your home(window bars, security systems, metal doors, deadbolts etc.)

    And its equally prudent to have a weapon, at least in your home.

    All of the things I have mentioned, you are unlikely to need(with the exception of health insurance) but it is still prudent and wise to have them.

  • JD

    It seems to me that exactly one armed person was the cause of this whole situation. Good thing there wasn’t some other gun nut in there and the professionals were able to do their jobs.

    For one, the law-abiding really aren’t a problem here. Law-abiding people don’t take hostages, and non-law-abiding people aren’t too worried about laws.

    Also, professionals aren’t necessarily that great either. Heck, there was one case in a deadly shooting by security where the court defense was the security guy meant to use a taser and confused his gun with a taser.

  • The main difference between atheists and religious types are that for the most part, atheists are not afraid to denounce others that are crazy. Religious nuts jobs that do this same flip out scene are normally given a pass from their own.

  • VXbinaca

    @DangerousTalk

    It seems to me that exactly one armed person was the cause of this whole situation. Good thing there wasn’t some other gun nut in there and the professionals were able to do their jobs.

    Yes because anyone who owns a gun that doesn’t receive a paycheck funded by your taxes is bad and must be some kind of Lee-waiting-to-happen.

    And what is a ‘gun nut’?

    Re: “Professionals”

    Check into this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Practical_Shooting_Confederation

    Civilians, Military and Police compete in that from all over the world. Civlians will shoot better and faster than Police or Military because they have more time to put into training. So don’t give me that “professionals” stuff.

  • Anon

    He could not have been a true athiest. He didn’t want to save all the babies for his own dinner plate.

  • ethanol

    MolecularFossils:

    “His mental health issues are not hypothetical and we should be sorry that they were never properly addressed, not happy that he’s gone.”

    Can’t we be both?

    No, not really. If we actually regret that he was not provided with treatment for a mental illness it is because we believe that he was redeemable, that the factors which caused him to do this could have been prevented through medication or some sort of psychological treatment. If we really believe this then we can’t be happy that he is now dead. Only sorry.

    This also gets to the heart of the error in your comparison to the 9/11 hijackers. For all their fanaticism, there is no evidence that the hijackers were crazy, at least not in the sense that they suffered a recognizable mental illness. This can be seen in the fact that while their ideals were bizarre and repulsive, the execution of their plan to further those ideals was coherent and logical. It is right to assume therefore that they understood the consequences of their actions and the desire to carry out these actions could not have been “fixed” through any sort of simple intervention. This is why we do not pity them.

  • ThilinaB

    With or without religion you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things…

    James Jay Lee just happens to be the latter.

    And good riddance now that he’s gone.

    Personally i think that’s out of line, but you’re entitle to to your opinion.

  • Lukas

    And good riddance now that he’s gone.

    Wow.

  • We had a “Parent Night” at my school last night

    The quote marks make me wonder what you and the other parents really got up to last night.

  • Anonymous Atheist

    Comments on some of the comments:

    “Some of the demands on that list do make sense, though. We really don’t need to be increasing population at the rate we are, and the dominant militaristic culture also needs to go away.”

    Definite agreement. But just like the fact that religion is a lie, people as a whole are so dense and stubborn that they won’t be convinced of such any time remotely soon, and it’s realistically impossible to force it, so we just keep hoping for small gradual improvements from little nudges. 🙁

    “if fertile, reproducing couples only replaced themselves, the would population would decline.”

    This is an extremly common misconception. The “replacement rate” of 2 babies per couple would only be a true replacement rate if nobody ever changed couples and decided they should start their baby count over again, AND if ALL parents never lived long enough to become grandparents. The kids get busy ‘replacing’ themselves while the parents they supposedly ‘replaced’ 20 years ago go on living, often long enough to even see great-grandkids born as yet another generation starts supposedly ‘replacing’ themselves. Longer lives must be a tradeoff with much fewer babies, for the population to not continue increasing unsustainably. But of course the problems then would be that old retired people, corporations, and countries are addicted to the pyramid scheme of constant population growth.

    “But most states now allow CC, and violent crime rates have gone down in every state that liberalized its carry laws. It’s counter-intuitive, but you can’t argue with statistics.”

    It’s not counter-intuitive if you realize the value of the deterrence factor. 🙂 The more risk that a potential victim might be able to effectively stand up to them, the less likely most potential criminals are to commit a crime.

  • muggle

    if fertile, reproducing couples only replaced themselves, the would population would decline

    revyloution, you say that like it’s a bad thing.

  • Lukas

    But most states now allow CC, and violent crime rates have gone down in every state that liberalized its carry laws.

    Do you have links to statistics? And related to that, did it have an impact on accidents (i.e. kid shot himself because he found dad’s gun), or on the severity of crimes of passion (i.e. somebody got angry, and instead of punching the other guy, he shot him because a gun was handy)?

    (Honest questions, btw. I’m in favor of CC on ideological grounds, but I’ve never seen any data on the actual impact it has.)

  • ethanol said:

    If we actually regret that he was not provided with treatment for a mental illness it is because we believe that he was redeemable, that the factors which caused him to do this could have been prevented through medication or some sort of psychological treatment. If we really believe this then we can’t be happy that he is now dead. Only sorry.

    First off, I’m not happy he is dead. I’m happy he is no longer threatening violence on innocent people. When you become a threat to others, especially by strapping explosives to your chest and waving a gun around, the police have a responsibility to neutralize your threat, even if that means taking your life. Why? Because using lethal force prevents you from harming the 3 other innocent people. They were negotiating over the telephone for hours, and only killed him when he drew his weapon. You or I can’t know if he would have killed those 3, but killing Lee first was one way to ensure he didn’t cause anymore harm. Therefore, I am not sad.

    Secondly, I find your views on “redemption” puzzling. Lee’s behavior (and everyone’s behavior) is controlled by the brain, and if some sort of neurochemical imbalance caused him to become violent – well then, that is what caused him to become violent. End of story. Treatment might have helped, but as far as we know, he never sought treatment. This is why I find the idea that society somehow failed him to be puzzling. If I have a problem regulating leptin (instead of a neurotransmitter) that results in my becoming obese (instead of violent) and eventually leads to my death, no one blames the nebulous concept of “society” for not recognizing I had a problem. Its my responsibility to seek treatment. The difference is that Lee’s problem caused him to harm other people. Obese or violent, we are still responsible for our actions.

    Of course the situation would have been better if he had wound up in a hospital rather than taking hostages, but it didn’t happen that way, and that is regrettable. However, I don’t fault anyone but Lee.

    This also gets to the heart of the error in your comparison to the 9/11 hijackers. For all their fanaticism, there is no evidence that the hijackers were crazy, at least not in the sense that they suffered a recognizable mental illness. This can be seen in the fact that while their ideals were bizarre and repulsive, the execution of their plan to further those ideals was coherent and logical. It is right to assume therefore that they understood the consequences of their actions and the desire to carry out these actions could not have been “fixed” through any sort of simple intervention. This is why we do not pity them.

    What is it exactly about killing yourself and 3,000 civilians in order to get 72 virgins in heaven isn’t recognizable as a mental illness? Some would argue that getting the discovery channel to stop making shows about war is a far more rational request than the complete downfall of western civilization. And what leads you to believe that Lee didn’t understand the consequences of his actions? Or that some sort of “simple intervention” would have prevented those actions? Both of these terrorist acts were perpetrated by people out of touch with reality, and I don’t see much of a difference.

  • Lukas

    Secondly, I find your views on “redemption” puzzling. Lee’s behavior (and everyone’s behavior) is controlled by the brain, and if some sort of neurochemical imbalance caused him to become violent – well then, that is what caused him to become violent. End of story. Treatment might have helped, but as far as we know, he never sought treatment. This is why I find the idea that society somehow failed him to be puzzling.

    The same problem that makes people require help often prevents people from actually seeking help.

  • I can’t believe that you say “good riddance” now that he is gone. He was a facebook friend of mine who posted all the time on my wall. We shared a love of squirrels and concerns about the environment. Yes – his beliefs were extreme compared to my moderate views, but still, it’s tragic that he had to die. Please be more sensitive to those of us who connected with him, and be more careful with your words.

  • The police are not omniscient. They are not omnipotent. They are professional police officers, but they are not soldiers. The man who shot lee? I’d be willing to bet that was the first person he shot.

    my point is not that there are no good and professional cops. my point is that once upon a time in this country, there was at least the pretense that cop shootings should be relatively rare, and only in last resort. slowly, with the help of an increasingly pro-law enforcement media stream, people have come to accept that execution by cop is a normal, “good” part of our justice system. it’s not. and if one makes a point of following stories such as these in all their forms, not just the ones with “happy” endings, you’ll see that abuse of citizen by police including to the point of death is far, far too common. please understand: there are several court officers in my family and i grew up with cops in my house all the time. but i don’t mistake ‘Law and Order’ for what really happens in our justice system.

  • Lukas said:

    The same problem that makes people require help often prevents people from actually seeking help.

    Hmm…ok, good point. But help or no help, we are all still responsible for our actions.

  • Hitch

    The guy is obviously deranged. He closes with:

    “These are the demands and sayings of Lee.”

    Sayings? Oddly pseudo-prophetical language. He kind of made himself god there. In fact if you replace Lee with the other three letter word, it basically stands as advertised.

  • Matt

    re: “good riddance”

    This statement disappointed me. I’m angry about what he did too, but it’s unfortunate that his mental well being wasn’t addressed before this event. A human life was taken, and arguably it could have been prevented.

  • illdoittomorrow

    “For one, the law-abiding [people] True Scotsmen really aren’t a problem here. Law-abiding people True Scotsmen don’t take hostages, and non-law-abiding Not True Scotsmen people aren’t too worried about laws.”

    Fixed that for you.

  • illdoittomorrow

    “It’s not counter-intuitive if you realize the value of the deterrence factor. The more risk that a potential victim might be able to effectively stand up to them, the less likely most potential criminals are to commit a crime.”

    Right! Just like gang violence. The deterrence factor and likelihood of violent and ongoing reprisals, coupled with criminals’ well-honed impulse control, have really nipped it in the bud.

    Oh, wait…

  • VXbinaca

    @illdoittommorow

    Doesn’t change the fact that I have a human right to defend myself, even if it offends your sensibilities.

    To all who bash Hermant over his ‘good riddance’ remark:

    Good fucking riddance to that psycho. In civilized society, there are some basic and common standards of etiquette. One of the big no-no’s is taking hosties and wearing bombs to bitch about over-population and how the world doesn’t work like Avatar.

    When you cross that line of threatening violence with two implements that can cause serious harm or death to people, you cease to be human to me and can be put down. There is no reasoning with that kind of person. If I could get away with wounding you neutralize you as a threat, fine. Thats usually not the case.

    I’d have shot his ass in a New York second if I was in the building. If you wanna imply I’m not an athiest, as people are so fond of doing on this blog, for defending myself or preventing psychotic assholes in the act of threatening lives, well dunk me in water and put a bible in my hand cause I must be christian then. *rolls eyes* I wouldn’t have gloated about it afterwards like some tough-guy, it’d be getting done what needed to be done.

    I don’t give a god damned mother fuck about his mental issues, or how ‘we all let him down’. I don’t need to either. Get over yourselves, really. He’s in the building, trespassing, taking hostages, using the threat of murder (twice over with the bomb) to try to get his way. I don’t give a shit is planet earth is standing room only we’re so over-populated, doesn’t make what he did right, doesn’t make him suddenly a worthy person. He stepped over the line.

  • p.s.

    When you cross that line of threatening violence with two implements that can cause serious harm or death to people, you cease to be human to me and can be put down.

    So hostage negotiators are just a waste of space, huh? and there is absolutely no situation in which a good, albeit misguided/mentally ill person could conceive that violence would solve certain problems? It’s not worth attempting to talk them down? I’m not saying this is necessarily true of lee- I don’t know much about the guy- but the whole “shoot first ask questions later” attitude is ridiculous.

  • VXbinaca

    Usually negotiations are a two edged sword. On one hand they do get people to stop and give up among other things, but tactically they stall the nut and allow people to storm the building or at the very least seal it so he can’t escape.

    Lee is insane and has a firearm and bomb and threatening to use it.

    No I take it back he wasn’t insane. If he built a bomb that shows premeditation. Extreme pre-meditation, I know some electrical engineering as well and you don’t just solder up that dead mans switch in an afternoon (actually that still proves my point), let alone mix the chemicals for the explosive. There was planning in his act.

    Lee wasn’t insane but clear of mind and conscious. He took the time to plan his actions.

  • p.s.

    intelligence and thought does not mean you aren’t insane. Plenty of the criminally insane put thought into their actions.
    And yes, I am aware that negotiators often just buy more time. But I think it’s worth taking the time to try and get through to someone before going in guns blazing. sometimes it works.

  • VXbinaca

    But I think it’s worth taking the time to try and get through to someone before going in guns blazing.

    He was wearing a bomb and had a gun aimed at a security guard. What more do you need to see he’s a mortal threat to all those around him? You can wound people with knives but guns and bombs, you shoot to kill.

  • p.s.

    I don’t think I’m making my position very clear. I’m not necessarily saying that shooting him was a poor choice, or that there aren’t any situations when taking out the bad guy is the right thing to do. This is the sentance that bothered me:

    When you cross that line of threatening violence with two implements that can cause serious harm or death to people, you cease to be human to me and can be put down.

    I think if you are about to kill someone, you should be very conscious of the fact that he or she is human, and may have complicated justifications for their actions. I think if a negotiator feels like they could get through to someone they should have that opportunity. I don’t think threatening someone automatically means you can’t be reached and must be “put down.”
    The ideal situation is for everyone to get out alive and unhurt. It may not always be possible, and I do think that the hostage’s safety should come first, but that should be the goal. Usually, the “us or them” mentality is a false dichotomy.

  • VXbinaca

    I may have misspoken. I didn’t mean it to come across like that.

    However, you make your point sitting comfortably in your computer chair at home.

  • p.s.

    well yes, but so do you. I honestly can’t imagine a situation in which I would wish someone would die if it was avoidable. If there is a choice between talking someone down and shooting them, you should always talk them down. I don’t think it’s a good idea to shoot before you evaluate your available choices. However, I want to be very clear that I am not condemning the person who shot lee or anyone who has shot in self-defense (or in the defense of someone else). I’m just outlining what I think should be the proper train of thought in these situations. We are all human, and empathy and understanding are valuable traits.

  • Lukas

    Good fucking riddance to that psycho. In civilized society, there are some basic and common standards of etiquette.

    Such as “you’re not allowed to be mentally ill, and if you are, shooting you is a solution that makes me happy.”

    People are not saying that it was necessarily wrong to shoot this guy in this situation. Perhaps it was the least bad choice in a horrible situation. People are merely saying that expressing happiness or glee at this outcome is uncalled for. This was very likely a severely mentally ill person who needed help, was unable to realize this or act on it by himself, and died as a result. This is not something anybody should be happy about.

  • VXbinaca

    Such as “you’re not allowed to be mentally ill, and if you are, shooting you is a solution that makes me happy.”

    Or making shit up and putting it in my mouth?

    His insanity wasn’t the problem I had with him. Taking hosties was my problem with him.

  • ethanol

    VXbinaca:

    Let me try to explain my position with a scenario. Imagine that a diabetic person who, through there own inattention, goes into a state of hypoglycemic psychosis. Such a person would act as if they were extremely drunk and would be completely unreasonable. Imagine this person was driving a truck. They would weave across the lanes at random and if the police tried to pull them over they might even try slam them up against the guard rails (I’ve actually seen a video of exactly this scenario) Now imagine, (and this is purely hypothetical) that the person crosses into the oncoming lane of a freeway, causing great danger to numerous motorists. Lets imagine they actually kill someone. Continuing the scenario, lets imagine that the police shoot out the tires but the truck goes out of control and crashes, killing the driver. Would you then say, of the driver, “good fucking riddance”? Certainly it would seem an appropriate statement if the person was sane, and if they were just trying escape the police for some other reason. But I for one think it would be pretty harsh for the diabetic person, who was merely out of their senses. Certainly the discovery channel attacker was not in diabetic shock, but it is likely that his judgment was likewise compromised by factors outside of his control. I’m not trying to argue that the police shouldn’t have shot him, just that “good fucking riddance” is pretty harsh.

  • VXbinaca

    I might be able to go along with that except:

    – He built a bomb. Those take lots of time to build. That takes premeditation and intention, regardless of any state of psychosis whether or not it’s his fault. I don’t accidentally build a TV-B-Gone to shut off TV’s.

    – Cops would use spike strips which take out pairs of tires at a time, which don’t disrupt the center of gravity as much on the truck which going at high speeds down a freeway. Plus you have the chance of a bullet ricocheting and hurting someone.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Cooper#Firearms_safety

    Always remember all four Firearms rules, and the fourth applies to this hypothetical situation especially. Pistol cartridges lack th, penetration, speed and stopping power to take out a tire. In fact, why shoot the tires when shooting the driver would make more sense? It’s 3 less bullets in the air. Because then the vehicle would have zero control.

    -Your situation isn’t comparable to this because the person is using a vehicle and isn’t stationary.

    Him being shot was right. I could understand that once the situation was known to the police that he had a bomb and gun, asking him a few times to give up, after that it’s too long to wait for everyone to come out alive.

    I think the commander made the right decision in taking him out. Should have happened sooner.

  • ethanol

    VXbinaca:

    you might find this uselful:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_experiment

  • p.s.

    I think the commander made the right decision in taking him out. Should have happened sooner.

    why? I can understand saying that if he injured someone before he was shot, but he didn’t. I’d rather they ask questions first and understand the situation before shooting, assuming no one gets hurt as a result. clearly no one did.

  • Lukas

    His insanity wasn’t the problem I had with him. Taking hosties was my problem with him.

    The second was a result of the first, hence what I wrote:

    Such as “you’re not allowed to be mentally ill, and if you are, shooting you is a solution that makes me happy.”

    I don’t think it’s a straw man. It’s essentially what you’ve said.

    From what you’ve written in your “Those take lots of time to build” post, I’m now actually not entirely sure you understand what a mental disorder is, though (people with something like schizophrenia are perfectly capable of doing complex things that are a direct result of their illness, thus they can not be held responsible for such acts any more than somebody who dies of cancer can be held responsible for his own death). So I can see why my point would seem like a straw man to you.

  • Revyloution

    @ Muggle and Anonymous Atheist

    Hey Muggle! I said ‘decreasing population’ more as just a statement, with no positive or negative connotations. That said, there will be quite a few problems that pop up if we start declining as a species world wide. Mostly economic problems, but also environmental ones like, what would we do with all the extra housing? But that’s an entirely different discussion.

    Anonymous Atheist, the 2 child per couple average isn’t just some hypothetical figure, it’s a real number in populations. The average family in the Scandinavian countries only has 2 kids, and their whole population is declining slightly every year. Japan and parts of Russia have similar statistics.