FAILURE & THE BATMAN SHOOTING SUSPECT by Lenore Skenazy

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

He failed a key exam, and a few hours later, he bought a high-powered rifle. I think you can guess who “he” is — the accused “Dark Knight” madman, James Holmes. But can you guess why he did it?

The explanation haunting me is this: He’s a product of the “everyone gets a trophy” generation.

Now, let me hasten to say that I have no degrees in psychology, nor have I examined the man. Let me add that the vast majority of kids, even those with shelves full of meaningless trophies, do not end up shooting theaters full of people.

Nonetheless, as founder of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids,” I’ve spent a lot of time watching our culture trying to convince today’s kids that they have not failed at anything, ever.

There are schools that have outlawed using red pens for corrections, for fear it’s too traumatizing. In Canada, a veteran science teacher was just fired for giving kids a zero on homework they didn’t hand in. Closer to home, my own son brought home a bright, shiny trophy for coming in eighth place in his bowling league.

Out of nine teams. (See below!) Apparently, the league hoped my boy never would notice that when it comes to bowling, he stinks.

Our generation is shielding our kids from failure because we don’t think they can handle it — even though kids always have. Sure, it feels bad to lose a game or get a bad grade, but it is only recently that teachers, parents, principals and coaches decided that kids are too sensitive to bounce back from a single setback.

And then we wonder why kids can’t bounce back from a single setback.

In no way am I excusing James Holmes of the heinous crimes he will be charged with. But we do our kids no favors by shielding them from the fact that they’re not always winners. In fact, we may be turning them into losers.

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82 Responses to “FAILURE & THE BATMAN SHOOTING SUSPECT by Lenore Skenazy”

  1. #1 |  whiskey | 

    Jesus, Radley, who let this asshole have posting privileges on your site?

  2. #2 |  Tim | 

    Let’s all use this terrible, terrible event to ride our own personal hobbyhorses.

  3. #3 |  Andrew S. | 

    whiskey, I’ll have you know that Lenore is responsible for nearly as many nutpunches as Radley is.

    And they were both on P&T Bullshit!, which was just awesome.

  4. #4 |  Failure and the Batman Shooting Suspect | The Agitator | James Holmes News | 

    […] Failure and the Batman Shooting Suspect | The Agitator This entry was posted in Uncategorized by admin. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  5. #5 |  MH | 

    I don’t think we know enough about Holmes’ motivation. Did he go berserk because he couldn’t deal with failure, or was he failing at school because he was losing his mind?

  6. #6 |  Kid Handsome | 

    I think it’s a worthy point to discuss. Putting Holmes aside, is the culture of self-esteem changing the way our children interact with society and one another?

  7. #7 |  mantooth | 

    Hooray! It’s post like a crazy relative day on The Agitator! “Racoons knocked over my garbage can? No, it was helicopter parents!”

  8. #8 |  JBaldwin | 

    When I see stories like this, I’m always reminded of John Quincy Adams who, at age 12, if I remember correctly, worked as an interpreter for a foreign delegation in Europe while his dad was at Versailles.

    We coddle to our children’s detriment.

  9. #9 |  ClubMedSux | 

    I happen to be a fan of the general Free-Range Parenting philosophy, and I also agree that the “everybody-gets-a-trophy” attitude that’s prevalent in today’s society is not healthy. But I agree with Tim that this is a bit of a stretch. According to The Daily Mail, his “credentials were no better than those of an average student” and he carried a B-average. A B-average isn’t bad, but it hardly suggests the guy had never experienced failure before.

    With all due respect, as soon as Skenazy wrote, “I have no degrees in psychology, nor have I examined the man,” she should have realized that she might not be the best person to opine on the topic.

  10. #10 |  Stephen | 

    I have a few trophies but the one that makes me smile when I look at it is the 1st place trophy from where I was on the pothead softball team in summer softball after I got out of the Navy. We did not have the best players but we had the best team. (AND the best parties after the games)

    My son has some trophies as well and none of them make him smile. They might as well be thrown away. They don’t bring him good memories of victory. I hope that one day he can get just one trophy that he is proud of.

  11. #11 |  PBD | 

    I hope Lenore isn’t wearing her journalist hat today, because this is one of the most irresponsible pieces of writing I’ve read in a long time. I’ve seen Nancy Grace go on wild speculation tangents that were better researched. Generally, I agree with Lenore in principle, but to use the sensational headline and speculate on the root cause of this horrible event, is really poor form.

    I’ve often wished Lenore would team up with the Freakonomics guys to root out the effects of helicopter parenting. That would be an article I could sink my teeth into.

  12. #12 |  B Mac | 

    I hate “everyone gets a trophy” even though it was part of how I was raised. But this post is complete speculative, lazy bullshit. Tons of people have flunked school and dealt with it, of all generations.

  13. #13 |  mantooth | 

    JBaldwin,

    If I remember correctly that was the experience of most children of the 18th Century. Yep, couldn’t swing a stick without hitting a 12-year old working as an interpreter for a foreign delegation while his Father is at Versailles. Man, how things have changed… for the worst!

  14. #14 |  Bruce B | 

    This is a pitiful excuse for a post – grasping at straws. We know next to nothing about Holmes’ childhood. I didn’t know that we “knew” he failed the exam. There have been a lot of rumors kicked around on this case and it’s clear they are not all true. Rumors of other failures in his life as well.
    Regardless it’s absurd to speculate on his childhood.
    Find a more substantive reason to post about the “everybody is a winner” syndrome, which has been so heavily reported that it’s become a cliche.

  15. #15 |  Bob | 

    Well, certainly Holmes’ blowing his wiring and going on a shooting spree probably has little to do with the “everyone gets a trophy” generation and more to do with the blown wiring part.

    Is that really how we do it now? With a “no failure” mantra? Because that’s just wrong. Failure needs to be accepted as part of the process of success.

    What if Tesla quit the first time his AC motor didn’t work? What if Galoka had said “Screw it, I’ll probably just fail anyway.” right when the Yulus needed to be saved? No! They acted as if… ready to fail and try again.

  16. #16 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Kid Handsome @5- My understanding (based on what my wife as told me–she’s the one who reads all the parenting books) is that it’s important for kids to learn to deal with failure. It’s also important for kids to see YOU fail. My observations and experiences with my own kids definitely backs this up. My 6-year-old is a bit of a perfectionist so I had to really stress to her that trying new things sometimes means failing, and that failing presents an opportunity to improve. With that in mind, I always point out when I have trouble with things so that she understands it’s part of the learning process and doesn’t make somebody “bad.” It’s really helped her to both tackle new challenges and not define her self-image by successes and failures.

  17. #17 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    Because, as well all know, mental illness has everything to do with upbringing and nothing to do with it being a medical issue.

    Really?

    I would recommend you attend a NAMI meeting or two before attempting a leap like that again. Just sayin’. Because, you know, I haven’t diagnosed you, either. But I do know crap when I smell it.

  18. #18 |  The Late Andy Rooney | 

    I recall shooting rampages going back to the early nineties, perhaps even the late eighties (a particularly horrific one occurred in Kileen, Texas in 1991). The folks doing these shootings came of age before the “everyone gets a trophy” era we’re (allegedly) living in now.

    I’ve admired Lenore Skenazy’s work in the past, but this post is a real disappointment. I have no idea what caused Holmes’s alleged actions, and I don’t know that anyone really does at this point.

    What bothers me most here is that it is taken as axiomatic that everyone gets a trophy, gets their self-esteem inflated, etc.). I’m thirty-three, and so am older than Holmes, but I don’t ever recall a constant stream of “you can be anything you want to be” from teachers, parents, etc. Two teachers in particular (one 5th grade, the other a Latin and English teacher in 7th and 8th grade) seemed very gloom and doom, always telling us what an awful world we would inherit (and not, mind you, in a “your generation will take on the challenges of the future” kind of way), as the first generation in U.S. history to be worse off economically than its parents. That, and you’d have to publicly announce your grade after each Friday’s spelling test. If you did poorly, it wasn’t enough to merely say you’d gotten an “F.” You’d have to say how many you’d gotten wrong. This is in public school in suburban Chicago.

  19. #19 |  johnl | 

    Two more neuroscientists self destructed in the last week:
    A UCI rofessor: http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2012/08/rainer_klaus_reinscheid_uc_irv.php
    A writer: http://reason.com/blog/2012/07/31/new-yorker-wunderkind-fabricates-himself
    And then we have this from 2010: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Bishop#Suspect
    It seems like it’s just their turn to be in the news for the wrong reasons.

  20. #20 |  Dave Krueger | 

    It isn’t just kids. You can’t watch the news nowadays without them warning you that the footage they are about to show you is “disturbing” or “graphic”. Usually the footage has been edited to remove any of the so-called disturbing parts, but that doesn’t stop their editorial expressions of horror or sorrow or shock (in case you’re no longer able to summon those emotions without some kind of cue).

    So, after being shielded from anything bothersome for your entire childhood, I guess it makes sense that no one would want to risk exposing you to anything that might “disturb” you. How are people supposed to be able to make informed choices at the polls and pick the next president who may (almost without question) lead them into the next war if they have been protected from any news that haven’t been dumbed down and sanitized for a 3rd grade audience.

    We don’t live in the information age. We live in the age where information is deemed to be the enemy from which people must be protected.

  21. #21 |  Mattocracy | 

    I’d kinda rather have no posts than bad posts.

  22. #22 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    I have to say that I think the major effect of “everyone gets a trophy” isn’t failing to teach kids to deal with losing (they know perfectly well whether they stink at sports), but teaching them that the Authorities have no interest in Truth if it is hard.

  23. #23 |  Dave Krueger | 

    There clearly needs to be a waiting period after a test before you’re allowed to buy firearms. And probably after your girl friend dumps you as well.

  24. #24 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    As stated, we don’t even know whether Holmes had an “everyone gets a trophy” background.

    The “everyone gets a trophy” thing was an effort to address a real problem– people getting an impression from school that they couldn’t learn a subject (or perhaps any academic subject) rather than that they hadn’t learned a particular thing.

    I’m inclined to think that conventional schooling involves spending altogether too much time in simulation land, where nothing one does actually matters. When you write, you aren’t trying to convey something you care about to someone who might learn from it or enjoy it. When you compute, nothing’s going to fall down if you get it wrong.

    I’m not saying that simulated projects are always bad, but school consists of almost nothing else.

    If everything that’s important is simulated for the people in charge, then their opinion becomes much too important.

  25. #25 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Is “everyone gets a trophy” the reason why kids are always advanced to the next grade in school whether they’re qualified or not? Because, I don’t see that as a very good solution to the problem of the kid feeling like he can’t learn.

  26. #26 |  Lefty | 

    This post is totally inane. The guy was schizophrenic. No need to look deeper into the social fabric than his own messed up biochemistry.

    My god Radley. Are you just sending writers here you think need a slapping?

  27. #27 |  tariqata | 

    I guess I’m a member of the “trophies for all” generation. I remember getting a trophy for a soccer season one year; my team had won one game. Maybe my reaction to that trend is idiosyncratic, but I don’t think it prevented me from learning how to fail and try again (if nothing else, high school calculus taught me that). Instead, it’s left me with a lasting conviction that any positive feedback I receive is undeserved.

    That said, although I really enjoy Lenore Skenazy’s work at Free Range Kids, the connection she’s drawn in this post really isn’t persuasive.

  28. #28 |  Bones | 

    Glad to see so many other commentators pointing out how this particular post is without merit or logic.

    Does a disservice to the whole site.

  29. #29 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    No, the teacher was fired for breaching school policy. There’s a difference.

    (Especially when the Libertarian complaint is usually “we can’t fire teachers for breaking the rules”)

    It’s also downright funny watching posters trying to burn anyone not JUST their shade of fanatic.

  30. #30 |  Pete | 

    Considering her previous work on the subject of actually granting that kids have agency, I’m a bit surprised by Lenore’s conclusions here.

    I find it hard to believe that all but the dullest of our current crop of overconstrained and opportunity-starved children and young adults realized very early on in life that “everyone gets a” trophies given for things they knew very well that they hadn’t invested their time or talents in was at best patronizingly insulting. Of course, this whole game wasn’t really about self esteem. It was more of a hamhanded ploy to mollify kids’ universal desires to quit the stupid dreck their parents have scheduled for them and engage in fun; a concept ironically interpreted as selfish misbehavior by a generation that was essentially defined by selfish misbehavior in all aspects of life and society. The second order effect of him being of the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, as you call us, might be the important one: nihilism and paranoia learned young.

    I recall only one incident of “everyone gets a trophy” in my childhood. I was eight. It was demeaning to everyone involved.

  31. #31 |  Jess | 

    Well I for one think Lenore tried really hard here with this post and it is after all one of her first guest posts and it seems many of these comments aren’t very concerned with her feelings and I just think we should be very welcoming and appreciative of her efforts instead of using our words in ways that might cause disappointment and hopefully if we keep affirming our belief in her then she’ll develop more of a belief in her belief in herself and she’ll keep trying to do the sort of job that we just know she can and in the long run over the rest of this month I’m sure that maybe she’ll find some other topics that are “provocative” enough to get our juices flowing so we can pretend we aren’t going to just vote for one of the two approved choices but not so “provocative” that we’ll have to feel bad or confused or angry at the wrong people or be reminded of that scamp Patrick or whatever because after all who wants that and with a not-too-hot-not-too-cold-just-right sort of topic I suspect Lenore can really believe that she can make the diving catch for the three-point play on a corner kick that the rest of us really believe she can and then in no time we’ll start seeing the sort of writing of which we all hope we can approve and really can’t we all just get along?

    Radley, can we get her a trophy or something?

  32. #32 |  el coronado | 

    Interesting post. I suspect the writer is on the right track, because in what she admits is a speculative piece, just spitballing & thinking out loud, she gets the following responses: “irresponsible piece of writing”; “speculative, lazy bullshit”; “bad post”; “totally inane” & on & on. That kind of overly angry aggregate response is oftentimes indicative of an unpopular truth hitting a nerve on the current orthodoxy.

    You might be full of crap, Lenore. Hell, you admitted up front you’re not a shrink. Then again, you might right on the money. You *sure* stirred up a hornets nest of (evidently) True Believers in Self-Esteem. Whee! Oh, just _one more thing_…..for those busy proclaiming Holmes’ non-excessive-self-esteem-induced craziness/schizophrenia, etc…. didja notice the spaced-out zombie staring & drooling in court is the exact same 150+IQ guy in an “elite neuroscience graduate program” (USA Today)? Who, immediately upon his arrest, “lawyered up” (Aurora CO police chief Dan Oates)? How crazy is THAT, knowhatimsayin’? Looks a little like maybe Holmes is playing the crowd for suckers. Or maybe not. Who can say?

  33. #33 |  (B)oscoH, Yogurt Eater | 

    Interesting angle, bro. Trust me, the kids keep score. Trophies for participation are much more about the low cost of trophies than coddling fragile egos. And if you supply the league with trophies, the contract is more lucrative if you’re shipping to all the kids rather than the best team out of 8. To me, commercialism is the more important driver than intention to turn our kids into über-cooperative pussies.

    As a kid, I was on teams that kicked ass and teams that sucked ass. So maybe on the teams that sucked, we played one or two fewer games. But playing was still a lot of fun, and on the team that sucked the worst, I got more opportunity to experiment at different positions and develop into a better player. I amassed enough trophies and certificates that I truly deserved, on and off field, but they never really mattered to me. And the ones that were basically manipulative, like “citizen of the month”… I saw through those immediately.

  34. #34 |  alldayeveryday | 

    unfortunately, killing sprees are not new-
    see: Pogroms

  35. #35 |  Z | 

    #1: We have no idea why Holmes did what he did.

    #2: We can also flip the argument: Holmes is the product of the testing generation where kids are tested, re-tested, held back, advanced and so on based entirely on their ability to fill in scantron sheets.

    #3: Both arguments obscure the fact that the U.S. is starting to resemble South America circa 1970: a lawless society ruled by an unelected oligarchy.

  36. #36 |  PeeDub | 

    I missed the HuffPo forum crossover event, I guess. Commenters really disappointing me today.

  37. #37 |  demize! | 

    Uhm wasn’t this dude a brilliant doctoral post graduate researcher in a highly technical field in his early twenties?

  38. #38 |  johnl | 

    I just notice that James Holmes was adopted.

  39. #39 |  Radley Balko | 

    Listen up, gang:

    You need to be respectful to the guest bloggers. You aren’t always going to agree with them. Not only that, but you’re occasionally going to disagree with them in different ways than you’re accustomed to disagreeing with me. It’s why I asked them to blog here. To give you some different viewpoints.

    Debate and discuss with them all you like. But they’re doing me a favor. And they’re my guests. Hence the term “guest blogger.”

    So knock off the personal attacks. And tone down the nastiness.

  40. #40 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Yeah, Radley should really pick guest bloggers who live up to the astronomically high social and intellectual standards of his audience as so aptly demonstrated by a number of the comments here. LMAO!

  41. #41 |  demize! | 

    PS. I was constantly told that I would be a bum, never amount to anything, and I have persevered and exceeded all ecpectations. #welp

  42. #42 |  johnl | 

    Dave wins.

  43. #43 |  Lefty | 

    I apologize to Lenore. The argument laid out in the post is a stretch though.

    A schizophrenic goes on a shooting spree. Maybe it’s because kids are patted on the head too much. That just doesn’t track for me.

  44. #44 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Cool. I checked these comments to see who would call “bullshit” and everyone did.

    Lemme simplify: X didn’t happen because of Y if Y happens to be a personal issue with you.

  45. #45 |  Lefty | 

    - el coronado

    My reaction to the post doesn’t imply i’m some self esteem apologist. It’s actually a reaction to seeing one person after another blame this event on their personal pet peeves and social prejudices. This one just seemed off base right from the start. A schizophrenic shot up a movie theater because he got too many trophies as a kid isn’t something I can take seriously.

  46. #46 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Sure, it feels bad to lose a game or get a bad grade, but it is only recently that teachers, parents, principals and coaches decided that kids are too sensitive to bounce back from a single setback.

    And then we wonder why kids can’t bounce back from a single setback.

    In no way am I excusing James Holmes of the heinous crimes he will be charged with. But we do our kids no favors by shielding them from the fact that they’re not always winners.

    Stated premise is not fully supported and is untrue. Instead, I see the following:

    1. Coaches: less yelling, more fun…especially for young kids. Push is to get everyone involved instead of just letting the best kids take all the playing time. Personally (as a coach and parent), I’m glad we’re moving far away from telling 4th graders they are nothing more than benchwarmers. This is when they form some pretty serious identities, so let’s try to make them good ones. Coaching is constantly improving, so the fact that today’s coaching does things like sandwiching praise-correction-praise instead of telling kids they suck…that’s a good thing and it is having tremendous results. I personally know over 50 coaches and none of them would characterize kids as “being unable to bounce back from a single setback.” If a kid has that issue, today’s coaches are taught to challenge that kid in that particular way (rather than coddle). I’m sorry, but the OP’s characterization of coaching here is ignorant…maybe knee-jerky-and-uninformed.

    2. Parents…meh…what are you going to do. Parents run the full spectrum. I still see hard-asses and pushovers and everything in-between. What I don’t see is any one dominant style that is producing kids unable to handle rejection or failure. I see plenty of kids at 8-20 amaze me at how they handle things. However; I (and everyone else) will always (I SAID ALWAYS) be able to criticize parenting no matter what the year, decade, or century.

    3. Teachers/Principals: IT IS THE UNION’S FAULT! Even I (as anti-state as the next voluntarist) can’t claim this to be the full story. A lot goes into this. I will tell you that the private schools that I “use” teach plenty of kids about setbacks and failures. These are challenging schools.

    Hey, you know what is really almost directly to blame? Schizophrenia.

  47. #47 |  rich | 

    Free range, so a few kids get abducted and society stretches it beyond reason and now kids cant stand on the front lawn alone.

    This alleged phyco fails a test and your Free range experience tells you its because of the everyone gets a prize culture. what the fuck!!! do you know the first thing about where he grew up or his teachers or even if that is that is how he was raised!! DO YOU? Your spewing bullshit. Maybe he was raised by the leader of Cobra fucking KYE and failure wasn’t a option. YOU DON’T KNOW JESUS CHRIST ALMIGHTY!!!!!!!!!

    FAIL!!!!!!!

  48. #48 |  B Mac | 

    I apologize for my tone too. Other commenters made my same point in better prose.

  49. #49 |  el coronado | 

    “YOU DON’T KNOW JESUS CHRIST ALMIGHTY!!!!!!!!!”

  50. #50 |  el coronado | 

    Shit. The point there WAS gonna be, “neither do you, rich.” Interesting how a mere speculative theory got you so worked up, though. Why is that?

  51. #51 |  ShelbyC | 

    The shooting quite clearly happened because of gay marriage.

  52. #52 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Now, let me hasten to say that I have no degrees in psychology, nor have I examined the man. Let me add that the vast majority of kids, even those with shelves full of meaningless trophies, do not end up shooting theaters full of people.

    See, right about here is where you should have realized the entire post was specious.

  53. #53 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    @Balko:

    You need to be respectful to the guest bloggers.

    So I guess all the guest bloggers get a trophy? Lenore should be happy the commenters aren’t letting concerns for her self esteem to dull their criticism of her performance, allowing her the opportunity to experience failure.

  54. #54 |  Patrick from Popehat | 

    This is a thought-provoking post that isn’t about what a few of you seem to think it’s about.

    I enjoyed writing here, when I was writing here. I think most of the regular commenters are pretty sharp. But Radley lacks the time to weed his garden of idiots who can’t read between the lines, and sometimes that shows. This is one such case.

    Fine debut, Lenore.

  55. #55 |  HoldingTheFire | 

    Fuck you.

  56. #56 |  Radley Balko | 

    I’ll just make this as clear as I can: Act like a grown-up, or you won’t be commenting here anymore.

  57. #57 |  CyniCAl | 

    Baseball is the greatest game because failure is written into the code of the game. Even the best players fail, up to 70% of the time.

    It is also why some kids can’t be good baseball players. They simply cannot handle failure with equanimity.

    My son has become an excellent baseball player. I am proud of his ability to handle pressure and treat success and failure with grace.

    May baseball continue to contribute to the emotional development of America’s youth.

  58. #58 |  Lefty | 

    - Patrick

    If there’s something deeper to be gleaned from the post beyond the comparison between a mentally ill person who went on a shooting spree and trophy kids I’ve missed it. I don’t think this is a normal guy who just never learned to handle failure. So the comparison is a stretch at best. If there’s something between the lines I’m missing I’d appreciate being told.

  59. #59 |  Mantooth | 

    Circle the wagons! Wasn’t there “biting” satire posted here immediately after the shooting making fun of people who project their hobby horse onto every tragedy? I must be one of the duller visitors because this struck me as just that. Looking forward to more posting as I’ve enjoyed the guests but I must have missed the point.

  60. #60 |  Reggie Hubbard | 

    This read like bad armchair psychology. It might very well be the most poorly written thing I’ve read on this site.

    There may be validity to Lenore’s statement but with nothing but snippets of hints of the Aurora gunman’s psyche, this is just a moronic thing to write and seems to be an example of somebody taking a major news story and making it fit their own shallow narrative. This column could simply have been Ms. Skenazy giving us highlights from her blog/book. Instead, it became an infuriating proofless rationalization of a horrifying event. It kind of reminded me of all of those ‘victim’s name law’ stories we see on this blog where a single rare event is used to push a tangentially related idea.

  61. #61 |  Jess | 

    Lefty, I think Patrick means that lamentably few of the commenters here ever read any Foucault. Not only is “mentally ill” a concrete category for them, but the mere suggestion that this event is due in some small part to the structure, habits, values, and choices of our society has been enough to send most of you to Crazy Town. If you find yourself unhinged from all norms of decorum and courtesy by a novel hypothesis (rather than in response to someone else’s rudeness, although even then…), you require more practice at civilized discourse.

    It piques the curiosity (of those who possess such, anyway) just how fast Holmes has been relegated to the mental ward. Those in the media we pay to keep us asleep, how do they see so clearly our need for protection from this individual and the questions that his actions raise? When we’re titillated by every trivial factoid of the approved narrative of the inquisition du jour, what scab are we really picking?

    Why does Holmes’s potential sanity challenge us so? What does it reveal, that we would keep hidden?

    If you really want to appreciate Radley’s project, then you should try to be more sensitive to the contrived nature of most of the categories and institutions that enslave humans, whether we’re talking drug prohibition, the mental health industry, or any of the other topics he and his guests cover.

  62. #62 |  Lefty | 

    I doubt this is some conspiracy to keep whatever message or meaning he may have had under wraps. Holmes was already seeing a psychiatrist. A guy who specialized in treating schizophrenia. And the speed with which he’s been relegated to the nut house probably has something to do with all the people he shot. If he was out on bail that would pique my curiosity.

    Is it at lease possible that after days seeing post after post on blogs and facebook people would call bullshit on another person dragging out their novel hypothesis (pet peeve) and poorly associating it with a tragedy?

    I’m not afraid of this guy’s theoretical sanity or whatever set of conspiracy theories you’re implying. Im also not fascinated by every trivial factoid of this event. I am fatigued by the bandwagon effect and the concrete category of people who jump on it.

  63. #63 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I don’t find amateur psychoanalysis that disagreeable. Deny it all you want, but everyone analyzes the motives and intentions of people they come into contact with, see on the news, or hear about from other people. It’s practically a necessity to survive and succeed in life. If you’re a parent or an advice columnist, you do it a lot. We speculate on this blog daily about what motivates cops, prosecutors, and their victims.

    And given the history of professional psychiatry which cooks up and discards “disorders” by popular consensus and then freely (for a huge fee) sticks those labels on people (especially children) almost at random (do any two psychiatric diagnoses ever agree?), I don’t think the word “professional” necessarily carries a huge degree of scientific credibility in this particular field.

  64. #64 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Not sure I buy this “everyone gets a trophy” tope. Sure I goes on in some instances. However try swimming for kids. First – third, a medal. Fourth eighth a ribbon…after that, nada. At the larger meets the top 8 finishers get medals, the next 16 get consolation certificates (keep in mind that a single event can have over 100 swimmers). And they’ll DQ swimmers for messing up. Even little kids (5,6,7, and up) crying still get DQed for messing up a stroke. You either do it right or the race doesn’t count. And at the big meets if you miss your event…sorry, that was now your last event (including relays).

    However, the notion that “everyone is a winner” is something promoted in swimming, but with a different angle than giving everyone a meaningless medal or trophy. You “win” if you improve your times (often no trophy/medal). You “win” if you come in higher than your seed position (often no trophy/medal). You “win” if achieve a time standard goal that you set for yourself (often no trophy/medal). In other words, you “win” if you work hard at getting better and actually do get better and there isn’t always a trophy there if you do achieve your goal.

    I’m sure when kids get into other sports in a serious manner it is similar.

  65. #65 |  Steve Verdon | 

    the next 16 should be the next 8…basically the top 16 finishers at big meets get some sort of nod to their performance.

  66. #66 |  RT | 

    Holmes planned this long before he failed that test.

  67. #67 |  bill | 

    wow. if this article was serious , then, wow. If this was parody ,it was very poorly done.

  68. #68 |  Other Sean | 

    It’s not the article that’s a parody, it’s the thread.

    Whenever some cop does something vicious (or even just something stupid), the comment gallery here can’t psychoanalyze him fast enough. Everyone knows with total certainty that he must be a power-crazed, racist steroid abuser with a 3 inch dick and a 2.20 GPA. Go try to introduce a little nuance into one of those threads, and see where that gets you.

    But let a brand new guest blogger venture a bit of (perfectly cautious and perfectly polite) speculation about a current event, and HOLY FUCKING SHIT!, the intellectual quality control goon squad just appears out of nowhere, ready to smash down anything that falls short of peer review in a medical journal.

    And speaking of new things…when did you all discover this profound respect for and deference to the mental health industry? These are the same people who, for better than 40 years now, have done far more than their patriotic part in keeping the drug war alive.

    Whenever a behavior is deemed undesirable, they stand ready to classify it as a disease. Whenever an illegal drug is an danger of becoming socially accepted, they can be counted on to deliver new “research” proving that it is still, and always will be, the devil’s favorite poison. Whenever they’re not doing either of those things, they’re out pumping people full of legal but unproven drugs, in response to totally un-falsifiable diagnoses, on the way to an endless series of unsatisfactory patient outcomes.

    By all means, let’s hear what THEY have to say about James Holmes. They can’t keep letting us down, if we don’t keep letting them try!

    I mean, it’s not like Lenore Skenazy ever did anything positive for anyone’s mental health, by helping them develop the capacity for independent thought and action. It’s not like that at all.

  69. #69 |  Jess | 

    Lefty, the conspiracy is between your ears. Or perhaps lodged in them.

    I bet you’re a big Jim Bohannon fan.

  70. #70 |  Lefty | 

    Had to google him. Looks like a doofus.

  71. #71 |  Lefty | 

    I’m an Ed Brayton fan. Which is how I found my way here.

  72. #72 |  UvalDuvalCuckoo | 

    Man there’s a lot of Butthurt going on here. Other Sean hits a bullseye on this. I happened to think the post as a little stretch but many of the responses are ridiculous (how many other threads has Radley had to step into?) The Snotty comments about how not being complete a-holes == giving everyone a trophy is pretty lame too. Grading ONE freaking test on a small curve is hardly the same as putting a kid with a 50% average on the honor roll. The post is food for thought and from what I saw, it looked like something to just start a discussion. All the guest bloggers have been great and I’m willing to bet this one will be too.

  73. #73 |  Windy | 

    This link is to a poster (the paper kind) suggesting some kind of conspiracy. I don’t think I can buy into the kind of conspiracy suggested, but the differences between the before and after pics are striking. It is pretty obvious the pics are of the same dude (the ears, the beard line, the jaw, shape, the adam’s apple). What kind of incident do you suppose triggered the change in personality which caused him to color his hair; what happened to turn that easy smile into an expression of such pain, uncertainty and deep sadness? What was it that broke his mind? A mental illness? A physical illness? A tragic incident or accident? Or could there be something more sinister behind it?

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=500644379961905&set=a.422029994490011.117542.114974668528880&type=1&ref=nf

  74. #74 |  Windy | 

    I intended to emphasize the word “could”, not saying I actually believe it (it is so far out there) but the photos do raise questions about the reason for such a rapid alteration.

  75. #75 |  el coronado | 

    Well, that’s one way to look at it, Windy. Mental illness, tragic accident…..Here’s another: maybe this was – to quote the *actual* Joker – “Aaallllll part of the _plannn_”. This was a guy with a genius-level IQ. He was certainly planning to get away: all reports I read mention he was taken at his still-idling car. He thoroughly booby-trapped his apt. for the cops he knew would be busting in. The only reason they knew to look for ‘em was he told ‘em they were there: maybe because he knew the cops would (literally) beat him to death if the bombs took out a cop or 10. But that’s ALL he told them: remember, he lawyered up instantly upon arrest – and he was arrested without resistance, despite being heavily armed. Once he was arrested, he employed every logical and legal means he could use to protect….him. Is that indicative of mental illness? Protecting his own sorry ass any way he could? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he’s just a very bright sick fuck who should have been drowned at birth.

    And near as I can tell, no one ever remembers him acting nuts – save for a weird voicemail greeting – until after his arrest. Then & only then does he start acting and looking like he’s the real Joker. Spitting at guards. Asking how the movie ended. Appearing spacey and ‘not there’ in court. All of which can be easily faked, even by a non-genius.

    I submit – with no more evidence than any other internet schmo proclaiming the guy was schizo – I submit the crazy act he’s showing us now is his Plan B. “If I get caught, better to do the time in a mental institution, where odds are I’m *much* smarter than the docs who’ll be ‘treating’ me, than in a max-security hellhole prison. A prison where I’d be a target 24/7. If nothing else, I’d get lots of drugs: might be fun, & they’d sure help the time pass.”

  76. #76 |  Fnord | 

    Oh, come on.

    I just spent two weeks reminding people agitating for gun control, censorship of media violence, etc, that these types of events account for only a tiny fraction of the violence in the United States and also nothing new. Using them as commentary about popular trends or as motivations for policy is a bad idea.

  77. #77 |  FWB | 

    Want to see a sad sight? Watch a kid who has just entered college and fails that first exam. I’ve had so many just devastated ’cause “they always got A’s in school” and “they might lose their scholarship”. I just remind them college ain’t public school and tell them to go study.

    Life’s hard. It’s really hard when you are stupid. – John Wayne.

  78. #78 |  A. N. | 

    He did NOT buy a hi powered rifle. An AR15 may look scary to non-gun types but it is hardly hi powered. It shoots a .223 or 5.56×45 projectile which is tiny relative to nearly all other rifle cartridges.

    In fact, .223 is not legal in most states to hunt deer with because of the lack of killing power. Its typically used for small game and varmints.

    Let’s not parrot the anti-gun crowd’s ignorance with regard to firearms and phrases they don’t understand.

  79. #79 |  Articles for Saturday » Scott Lazarowitz's Blog | 

    […] Lenore Skenazy: Failure and the Batman Shooting Suspect […]

  80. #80 |  digamma | 

    Find a more substantive reason to post about the “everybody is a winner” syndrome, which has been so heavily reported that it’s become a cliche.

    In Bill James’s HIstorical Baseball Abstract, he put together sets of quotes from each era (going back to 1900 or so) saying that “the ballplayers of today” are not up to the standards of the previous generation. I suspect a similar principle holds for kids’ being coddled. The kids of today are always being unacceptably coddled.

  81. #81 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    and “they might lose their scholarship”.

    This is a legitimate concern. If we truly want kids to be able to learn from failure, then we need to provide an environment where they can fail. Financial ruin is not a natural consequence of failing a test.

  82. #82 |  Miranda | 

    I worked with inmates for over five years. Some of them I got to know very well, including their upbringing and family histories. None of them – not one – had his life screwed up by being uplifted or complimented too much. Quite the opposite, no on had ever told them they were special or mattered. They never won a damn thing.

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