Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lunatics, Murderers and the Mentally Ill

There are two cases in the headlines this week of murderers who may have had emotional issues. On the one hand there's Major Hassan, a Muslim who murdered 13 people at Fort Hood. The other one is Jack Teital, indicted this morning for two cases of murder and assorted lesser crimes.

Teital is further along in the legal process: there's already an indictment which spells out what the prosecutors know. The Hassan case probably won't reach that stage for many weeks, so there's more room for uninformed public speculation - on blogs, say.

The responses are interesting. Teital lived in an immediate environment - the Shvut Rachel settlement - which contains animosity towards Arabs. The Rachel in the name of the settlement was a young woman murdered on the nearby road, and the settlement was put there in response. The people there are law-abiding citizens, but, yes, they feel at war. Having said that, however, I have yet to hear a single voice even hinting at any form of exoneration for Teital. See this response from some of his wife's family, this morning:

Avitan reiterated his stand that the family plans to cut itself off from Teitel. "His response at the courtroom this morning proves that the man is disturbed. In any event, we are completely distancing ourselves from this man. A person who does such terrible things should deal with them alone. We have a lot of work to do, each busy rehabilitating our own lives," he said.

Teitel's sister-in-law, Dasi Kreif, commented on the condition of her sister Rivka, the wife of the "Jewish terrorist".

There was no doubt that an indictment would be filed following these terrible actions. We are trying to go on with our lives, but Rivka will have to deal with a great crisis in her life. It will ruin her life. At this stage she refuses to believe as long as she has not met with him privately, looked him in the eye and asked him. Soon she will begin to understand, and it will be very difficult."


Not a word of support for the man or his actions; and even the statement that he's disturbed is a social description, not a medical one. It's intention is derogatory - that man is a lunatic - not exoneration. No-one's saying Teital is a lunatic so not responsible for his actions or anything of the sort. This is as it should be: the man is a murderer and belongs in jail.

Then there is Hassan. Over here you can see how Richard Silverstein and some of his readers already know he's mentally ill; indeed, his illness blocked him from understanding reality. Now, I recognize that Richard and his followers don't represent much - rather like the lunatic fringes of Israeli society don't represent the mainstream. Still, it's interesting to see the degree of bile they're willing to deploy in their race to prove that Hassan is mentally ill and nothing else.

Mental illness, just for the sake of the science, is a horrible thing. The people it afflicts suffer from it hugely. Some manage to live normal lives most of the time, some never manage at all. There have been geniuses with mental illness, though we don't know if there's a connection between the two; perhaps they'd have been even more creative had they not had the illness to cope with. There's the exceedingly rare case where the mental illness may even contribute to greatness - we talked about Abraham Lincoln in this context a few months ago. Rarely, there are people whose illness drives them to violence. But that's very rare, it's not easy to prove, and in any case, no serious person would ever base themselves on some media reports to determine the condition.

Just saying.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, Yaacov, have you seen what Silverstein wrote about Teitel? He has several posts on him, and of course it's all the fault of Orthodox Judaism, Israel-supporters, and most of all, the settlers – Teitel is just one metastasis of the cancerous tumor they are. That's Silverstein at his best and brightest. One of the rewards he is hoping for is some blog award for which he was once nominated, given out by some Muslim organization (Brass Crescent, or something like it). They have one category for non-Muslim bloggers, and if I'm not mistaken, last year he was flattered witless about being nominated, but in the end, the winner was Jews sans frontiers, which, as the name says, is an "anti-Zionist" (ehm) website. Silverstein makes for a very economical study subject: you just read him for 2 weeks or so, and when something like the Teitel story breaks, you can predict with a satisfying 100 percent accuracy what he will write about it.

Bryan Z said...

The lengths to which people will go to excuse murder by Palestinians is only exceeded by the lengths to which they will go to prove that Israelis are worse.

I wonder if anyone is looking at the German- and Italian-Americans we sent to Europe in WWII to see if they went on killing sprees before deployment.

Jim from Connecticut said...

For better or worse, as an American I can say that most Americans view any mass murderer as psychologically imbalanced. While it is clear that the media is walking on eggshells over the fact Hasan is a muslim, the "he must be crazy" meme is not necessarily related. I remember the same discussions in connection with the Virginia Tech killer, Timothy McVeigh and the Colombine kids. The fact that we have heard no evidence of premeditation, only adds to this attitude.

Jim from Connecticut said...

For better or worse, as an American I can say that most Americans view any mass murderer as psychologically imbalanced. While it is clear that the media is walking on eggshells over the fact Hasan is a muslim, the "he must be crazy" meme is not necessarily related. I remember the same discussions in connection with the Virginia Tech killer, Timothy McVeigh and the Colombine kids. The fact that we have heard no evidence of premeditation, only adds to this attitude.

Yaacov said...

Well Jim, of course in one meaning of the term, anyone who coldbloodedly murders people must be crazy; no normalperson would do such a thing. But that's not really a useful thing to say, it's more of a tautology. It certainly isn't clinical, nor is it a defense.

Full-blown insanity, is a legitimate line of defense, even an explanation. But it's very rare, as noted above.

This Is Hell said...

I think you're being too generous. Far leftists in the US want to brand Hasan nothing more nor less than an emotionally disturbed victim of US/Israeli/etc. policy.

Victor said...

This could go one of two ways.

1) He is treated like the DC sniper, who was executed yesterday. No one heard about him for 7 years, until we found out he was dead.

2) The man is about to become a martyr. He's going to get a loudmouth civil rights attorney. He will get in front of any camera he can find to rationalize his actions in ways that resonate with people. He will write a best selling book from prison, "why I did it, and why you should too". I guarantee you some news outlet is already talking to the military about interviewing him.

Anonymous said...

Why do you want to be one of the few token dissenters who post to Silverstein's anti-Israel blog? Do you really imagine it possible for anyone who does not share Silverstein's hateful views to engage in civil, rational discourse with him? If you do, then you are either delusional or you have not read much of what is there. Joachim Martillo, so unmistakable an antisemite that he has even been called out as such by Phil "Mondoweiss" Weiss, feels at home on Silverstein's website, and is even permitted to link to his own website, where he argues why Jews were responsible for bringing about the Holocaust.

As for Silverstein on Hasan, go back a couple of weeks and read Silverstein on Haq, the Muslim who shot up the Seattle Federation office, killing one and seriously wounding others. Silverstein is outraged that a jury hung last year on whether the murderer was not guilty by reason of insanity and that Haq is going to be retried and might go to prison rather than a mental hospital. Silverstein, who pretends to knowledge but is so strikingly ignorant of the medical and legal issues, maintains that the Seattle Jewish community has brought pressure on the DA to retry Haq, though he cites no evidence in support of that charge.

You achieve nothing by posting to Silverstein's blog, but let him claim to be open to differing points of view, though that is so manifestly untrue.