Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cho: Psychotic or Evil?

Does the V-Tech murderer deserve a diagnosis or damnation? Would therapy and medication have normalized his behavior and prevented this gruesome violence?

Some people say he was "clearly insane". But aren't all murderers crazy? Isn't it crazy to hunt down or plan someone's death? Heck, doesn't a person have to be kinda crazy to kill in a crime of "passion"?

I tire of the psychological labels. It lets the killer, rapist, abuser, tyrant off the hook. If a person is "sick", we feel sorry for him. Pity. If only he had a better upbringing, or hadn't been picked on by a rich white kid (they all actually seemed to be very nice to him, considering his crazy), or taken his medication.

But this guy did receive interventions. Special tutor, counseling, court-ordered commitment to ascertain mental status. Clearly, the psychologist made a huge mistake. Dr. Helen says, "The level of stupidity and incompetence in the area of mental health is staggering." Or maybe the future murderer was a very good liar, consumed with hate and smart enough to manipulate the doctor. My husband protested, "You know we've seen crazy people over the years. How do you know which one will snap?" No matter, lots of people in authority--from law enforcement to judges to professors to students to school administration knew Mr. Cho was not right.

I went to school with a kid like this. He went on a school break with another classmate and the classmate mysteriously drowned (a proficient swimmer) in mysterious circumstances. Everyone was convinced that the guy killed him, but there was no proof. He didn't strike me as particularily insane. He did, however, send chills up my spine. Loner. Lived in a cult community for a while. Lived in his car because he used his loan money to gamble. Had loads of strange debt. Moved overseas to avoid payment. Crazy shit, but he wasn't crazy. He was evil. Everything seemed very calculated in his very disordered life.

What do you think? If you were forced, which would you choose? Evil implies moral condemnation with possible, but unlikely, redemption. A diagnosis implies potential rehabilitation. Or, do you believe my premise to be wrong?

If you had to choose one, was the V-Tech murderer:
Evil free polls


Anonymous said...

Doesn't truly "psychotic" go into evil? Can the two be separated?

We just found out that a family member by marriage has been "faking" cancer for one whole year. She has been laying on her "death bed" for the past six months. A picture was forwarded to me about two weeks ago, and I noted immediately how "healthy" she looked for a dying person. Two other people also thought the same thing. But how does one dare question somone dying? Her father has been driving to Houston almost every day to be with her, she has confessed with tears to him how horrible she has been for so many years, an ex- priest and his wife have been going there every day - both are older and have health issues themselves. Many friends have come two and three times a week sitting with her. Her lesbian girlfriend as been missing time from work because she has stayed up many a nights changing her diapers and cleaning her vomit up. She also was fooled.

The last two days, many questions have been asked, "where do the needles come from? when does hospice come out? the names of doctors that come out to the house to give pain medication, etc. but the girl friend was only able to say that this person keeps saying it is private information.

All the details are not out yet of how she was able to "fake" bleeding ,tumors on the back of her head, and so on. As you can only immagine, we are all stunned, shocked and heart broken over this. Her father and his wife are devestated. They have practically put their lives on hold , especially this past 6 months. They send out an apology letter to everyone...since so many people have been sending money, flowers, cards, and most of all prayers.

Is this psychotic or is this evil?

Chalmers said...

Evil, in both cases.

I am no psychologist, but these days that may be a positive, not negative...

As a side note, every person I knew personally that was pursuing a psychiatry or psychology degree in undergrad was really messed up in one way or another. It became almost a joke with my friends, "So have you found out her major yet? I'm guessing psych." It was like math majors that had "C" averages, they all became education majors and improved there GPA, preparing to teach our young people to add on a calculator...

This weak man was evil, he planned this attack, he got his rocks off and then, when the police showed up and he was going to have to answer for what he had done, he chose the easy way, offing himself. Cho was the worst kind of evil, cowardly evil.

I would prefer that he have survived to answer his accusers and then be hanged in the quad at VT, but since our sick society would have probably labeled him misunderstood and let him walk after some counseling, I am glad he is dead, even if he did dodge true justice.

Anonymous said...

No, she did not have a degree but is has an extreemly high IQ. A doctor said to the father, that she is one of the smartest people he has ever met. This is a guy with a Phd. She read everything...and remembered everything.

Some great comments on Dr. Helen's blog in regards to Cho.

If you believe in Karma, this is not over for Cho. If you believe in only one life but hell and heaven afterwards, this is not over for Cho. He has set terrible things into motion. Very troubling indeed!

Melissa Clouthier said...

The idea is prevention. Can these acts be prevented without a huge loss of civil liberties?

carol said...

I voted for Evil but I have no doubt something happened to this kid..perhaps rejection in his earliest school years, maybe feeling a little alien in a lily-white town, who knows.

But it comes to a point where it doesn't matter. Legally, he was able to methodically do all he needed to do to carry out the mayhem. It's far from a crime of passion, which is a more sudden, unpremeditated act. Someone who was "crazy" should not have been so calculating about it all.

What good does it do to brand someone psychotic, except to lock them up?

I tend to agree with the Thomas Szasz thesis, that "mental illness" is just our modern, materialistic way of designating those whom we really don not like for whatever reasons. It's no more useful than saying someone is evil, except as our legal system is set up to treat, commit or punish someone.

Anonymous said...

Psychotic or Evil?

Why not both at once?

Melissa Clouthier said...

Why not both at once?

Okay. So, if evil is the answer should a priest be called for a exorcism? Although psychiatrist Scott M. Peck asserts that those "possessed" are usually good people, evil people calculate more.

What is to be done with an "evil" person?

And if psychotic, could he be rehabilitated? Would a commitment in a mental institution help? Would kindness in 7th grade have helped?

jess said...

Man, I have really wondered about this. If it's a spiritual (demonic) issue, then it seems like it could be handled spiritually. But usually you have to hit it from the natural and the supernatural fronts, you know?
I think sometimes people have physical/chemical issues that make them more susceptible to supernatural activity. Just a theory, and not one I've really thought out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for an interesting discussion. First, I actually think there is something absurd voting about a diagnosis of psychosis.
Psychosis, which is the hallmark of schizophrenia, has in both the DSM-IV and ICD-10 (American and WHO psychiatry diagnosis systems) very precise definitions. The diagnosis of schizophrenic psychosis is based on so-called psychopatological findings often through conversation. The purpose of this is to be able to offer the optimal help and care for the mentally ill person.
There is a reason for this diagnosis. The reason is, that a lot of scientific research NOT DONE IN LABAROTORIES but done in clinics with mentally ill people show, that there is in fact certain common traits of psychosis and scizofrenia. Therefore, to be psychotic is something factual, not something subjective, which is why I provocatively say there is something absurd to this vote (of course I think the discussion it opens is highly relevant, and thank you for that!)

When talking about people’s mental health situation we can often only discuss things on the basis of “how do I feel here and now about this?”. Such a discussion, however, can be very primitive, I think, and based on here-and-now emotions and ideas rather than on knowledge and valid research. (Pure valid research is not about professors trying to look or seem smart – but is about understanding and uncovering reality).
Science of psychology tells us, as far as my studies have led, that in fact there are explanations of even the most seemingly diabolic actions one can think of. These explanations may be extremely complex, and is not only about traumatic upbringings but can also include for instance genetical explanatins. Genocides have taken place, where even normal “un-psychotic” persons like you and me (in for instance WW2 and Rwanda) did brutal actions because of very complex psychological environments. A lot of thorough research have been done about this. So “non-psychotic” brutalities are well-known within psychology, and have their explanations, perhaps incomprehensible to some. Even the personality disorder known in the ICD-10 criterias as a the “dissocial personality disorder” (formely known as psychopathy, which has nothing to do with psychosis) has it’s explanations, based not on theory but on research.

Due to these complex etiological explanations of behaviour it is often simpler to categorise people as “good” or “evil” when we observe an action and wish to understand it.

In my view, calling someone evil is a primitive and misleading simplification of something that is actually a highly complex chain of cause-effect. With our limited knowledge about the chains of cause-effect we humans can at least, however, gain confidence that cause-effect interventions are possible. To call someone evil would in my view be the inhuman and primitive way of dealing with a very serious problem in our society. To foster compassion and care, in the light of cause-effect explanations, for even those “deemed as evil” would, however, be the human and reality-based (science-based) way of focussing on problems in society.
I would say that I feel so sorry for all those who were killed and their families in this atrocity - but I feel no less sorry for Cho. And I think society has a responsibility to act upon knowledge about cause-effect to help especially those in society who can obviously not help themselves, like Cho.