They Kill Because They Kill Because They…


Advances in psychiatric diagnoses as reported in Slate crack the Columbine mystery (see the subhed: "At last we know why the Columbine killers did it"). As it turns out, Columbine obsessive Dave Cullen explains, some experts who, as near as his reporting explains, never met or spoke to the "patients," have authoritatively diagnosed Eric Harris, the supposed leader of the duo, as a "psychopath."

And that, of course, explains everything. Because what is a psychopath? The type of person, consumed with contempt and lack of remorse or empathy, who would do what Eric Harris did (though, strangely enough, also clearly the type of person who almost never does what Eric Harris did).

Says Cullen:

Diagnosing Harris as a psychopath represents neither a legal defense, nor a moral excuse. But it illuminates a great deal about the thought process that drove him to mass murder.

Not really. I especially loved the portentous detail that the docs "share their conclusions publicly here for the first time." It's just an attempt to justify their phoney-baloney jobs by identifying moral qualities that Harris had, categorizing them with a quasi-medical term, and then claiming that the category somehow explains any more than did the qualities that led them to the "diagnosis" to begin with. The term "psychopath" tells us no more than the separate categories did, and leads us nowhere new–and indeed by its nature couldn't, since it is not diagnosable in any way other than by adding up those moral qualities. What these scientists Cullen quotes are doing is literary criticism, not medicine.