The article I’m reading in Slate is from 2004, and it’s about what the FBI ended up concluding about why Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot up Columbine High School. It wasn’t because they were bullied; they weren’t. Klebold was depressed and suicidal, and Harris was a psychopath.
It’s not just that his private journal bristled with hatred. It was more than that.
It rages on for page after page and is repeated in his journal and in the videos he and Klebold made. But Fuselier recognized a far more revealing emotion bursting through, both fueling and overshadowing the hate. What the boy was really expressing was contempt.
He is disgusted with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he’s not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority. It may look like hate, but “It’s more about demeaning other people,” says Hare.
And those are the people who are truly frightening.
He lied a lot, often for fun. He had zero empathy.
Harris’ pattern of grandiosity, glibness, contempt, lack of empathy, and superiority read like the bullet points on Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist and convinced Fuselier and the other leading psychiatrists close to the case that Harris was a psychopath.
It begins to explain Harris’ unbelievably callous behavior: his ability to shoot his classmates, then stop to taunt them while they writhed in pain, then finish them off. Because psychopaths are guided by such a different thought process than non-psychopathic humans, we tend to find their behavior inexplicable. But they’re actually much easier to predict than the rest of us once you understand them. Psychopaths follow much stricter behavior patterns than the rest of us because they are unfettered by conscience, living solely for their own aggrandizement.
That’s interesting. So non-psychopaths are less predictable, because we keep being confused and pushed off course by empathy or scruples? In-ter-esting.
None of his victims means anything to the psychopath. He recognizes other people only as means to obtain what he desires. Not only does he feel no guilt for destroying their lives, he doesn’t grasp what they feel. The truly hard-core psychopath doesn’t quite comprehend emotions like love or hate or fear, because he has never experienced them directly.
“Because of their inability to appreciate the feelings of others, some psychopaths are capable of behavior that normal people find not only horrific but baffling,” Hare writes. “For example, they can torture and mutilate their victims with about the same sense of concern that we feel when we carve a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.”
I’m interested in psychopathy.
Addendum: As people on Twitter reminded me, the article is by Dave Cullen who wrote a very good book on Columbine. Called Columbine.