Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can evil always be explained?

It is perfectly normal that we try to explain a crime or an act of evil. But the obsessive, opportunistic search for scapegoats often verges on the pathetic.

With the shocking case of the Edlington attacks coming to court, I've lost count of the number of hacks and politicians explaining what turned those two children into "monsters".

David Cameron was quick at pointing the finger at "Broken Britain" and all that is "going deeply wrong" in society under Labour, words that anyone with half a brain would associate with the most distasteful cheap political pointscoring. As if no heinous crime took place when Maggie and Major were in government in the 80s and 90s - something so obvious that it's actually painful to type up.

To be fair, Robert Reiner is even more pathetic. In his view, the fault lies with "the key aspects of neo-liberalism", he writes in today's Guardian, adding that "the embrace of unfettered free-market economics by [Cameron's] party in the 1980s and by their buddies around the world" is to blame. Wasn't there anyone at hand to tell this man that the Moors Murders took place in the early 1960s?

David Wilson follows similar lines. "Boy torturers were already tortured", is the headline to his article in the Guardian. He insists that the two torturers already experienced a background lined with neglect, that they were even allowed to watch porn or gory films like Saw and that they often witnessed their aggressive father in action. All ingredients that would make 3/4 of the UK population potential "monsters" then.

Along the same lines, left and right, the roll call of social services and children boards, blood-spattered movies and porn on tap, Labour's Britain and Thatcher's neo-liberalism, the death of the coal industry and state benefits, narcissism and the underclasses.

However, what if -for once- we stopped our finger pointing and quit digging up explanations at all costs?
Can pure evil always be explained? Could it be that the responsibility lies solely with the perpetrator and that the irrational, inexplicable evil streak that runs through humankind sometimes cannot be deciphered?

Because unfortunately, torturers, serial killers and assorted scumbags have stemmed from all decades and walks of life, pre- and post-Thatcherism, pre- and post-New Labour, in council estates and in more affluent homes, the product of a "broken family" or an apparently solid one. They may have watched horror films or not. They may have been into classical music or Marilyn Manson.

John George Haigh, the "Acid Bath Murderer" wasn't on state benefits, didn't smoke spliffs and didn't have the opportunity to watch Saw as a child. He was brought up a devout Christian and even went to a grammar school. Alas, that didn't stop him from dissolving nine people in acid.

Fred West may have come from a poor family of farm workers with a terrifying history of incest and bestiality, but Harold Shipman was brought up in an apparently stable and religious house, completed his studies and remained a respected and well-paid GP until someone found out he murdered up to 250 people for no apparent reason.

Baby P was tortured and abused by a crack cocaine addict and a sadistic neo Nazi in a manky council flat, but six innocent people were chopped up by Dennis Nilsen, a soldier, then a policeman and then a civil servant in middle-class Muswell Hill.

Some people may argue that he was a loner though, which may have given the game away, but then look at Peter Sutcliffe. His social life was apparently "normal", he had mates, but still he became known as the Yorkshire Ripper.

Mary Bell, convicted of the manslaughter of two boys in 1968, was the daughter of a prostitute and an unknown father. Steve Gerald Wright though, known as the Suffolk Strangler, came from a middle-class family and later became a pub landlord.

So to Daily Mail readers, Thatcher-haters, political opportunists and all the devil's advocates crying out for mitigating circumstances: stop trying to single out water-tight and predictable patterns of psychopathy. Shovelling blame onto others will do no good. As loath as I am to admit it, some people are simply beyond help.


Acidfairyy said...

Nice post! I've never understood why the media always feel the need to blame SOMETHING for all of society's ills. Sometimes, people are plain crazy for no reason.

Anonymous said...

psychopaths are born, they are rarely made.
So yeah some kids are just evil, however hard it is to believe.

septicisle said...

Much as I see your point, and sure as I am that some people are born psychopaths while some, for potentially inexplicable reasons will become one, I think it's impossible to dismiss their upbringing in this instance as at least not having some influence on the terrible crime that they went on to commit.

We do have to remember, despite everything, that we're talking about a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, who even if "bad" or even born bad, can still be helped, or whom at least must be tried to be helped. I think there's also a key difference between attempting to explain and blaming, which sometimes and definitely has in this instance overlapped. You can blame the parents but they didn't commit the crime; their children did, and they bear the responsibility, although only just in the case of the youngest.

socialist sam said...

Are you going to write in favour of the bnp next? Eugenetics? How TF can you say people are born evil?

Anonymous said...

I just made a statement that psychopaths tend to be born not made, of course some do end up being like that by something that just makes them 'flip'. I completely agree.

The majority of children who do this are of course NOT psychopaths.I'm not deluded thank you very much. One is more likely to meet a depressed person than a psychopath.These individuals are just a very,very small minority.
And these children tend not to have a very nice background to say the least.

My statement might've sounded a tad crude,that's because my emotions got to me. Evil is a strong word, bad is more favourable and more accepted.i should've said 'some kids are just bad' instead of evil. I agree.

And i think i'm not the only one that got carried away by their emotions...yes i'm talking about socialist sam.
Even if someone does believe in evil it does not mean they're fascist, nor agree with Eugenetics.

Many people who've suffered in the hands of the nazis think that they were evil. Frankly i can't blame them for thinking that.

Selma said...

I'm with sam on this one. You guys should maybe read up on psychopathy before you go making statments of opinion that are so sweepingly general!
Let me tell you about a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Asociation. In that study one of the main conclusions was: ‘If, hypothetically, television technology had never been developed…violent crime would be half of what it is.’ That's just the effect of one technology. As to evil, that word could be more fittingly applied to governments and huge multinational entities that rape and plunder our planet without regard to the future and not, I think, to people who are, mostly, victims of an inhumane economic and social model

claude said...

Have you noticed how, if socialist sam doesn't agree 100% -and I mean 100%- with you, you're automatically a Nazi/fascist/bnp/supporter and you also smell bad?

I guess that qualifies for what it is, which is "pathetic".

I wonder how much television Fred West watched, eh?

Emma said...

Yeah, Selma. Absolutely.

After all, it's common knowledge that Ronnie Kray, Florence Maybrick, John Haigh, Amelia Dyer and friends were all huge fans of the Hostel films and Cannibal Holocaust. Not to mention they liked nothing better than to sit down in front of Grand Theft Auto of an evening and mash prostitutes with baseball bats.

We are talking about people who are born with a psychopathic illness, or 'evil' people. If you simply say that people aren't born evil, they are just made this way by TV and social situations you are, with all respect, a touch deluded.

Violent TV and a below-par upbringing has the potential to exacerbate the behaviour of people with behavioural problems but does it make them evil? No. Nor does living with an abusive parent, being poor, living on a council estate or being allowed to watch horror films below the recommended age.

Anonymous said...

"You guys should maybe read up on psychopathy before you go making statments of opinion that are so sweepingly general!" Selma.

Psychopaths are incapable of empathy, remorse or guilt, because it is believed that their 'amygdala', the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions like love, fear, void, or dysfunctional.

That's what we were kind of refering to, directly or indirectly.

That's not a sweeping statement, nor an opinion, that's a fact.

All of these qualities (or lack of) is what people tend to think of as evil.

And when i said that the majority of psychopaths were born not made. That's also true.
And yes, i've read on this...because well, i studied psychology. Not qualified to teach or treat, but i do know what i'm kinda talking about.

Nick said...

Let me tell you about a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Asociation. In that study one of the main conclusions was: ‘If, hypothetically, television technology had never been developed…violent crime would be half of what it is.’

How the hell would they be able to work that one out? Considering we have been becoming progressively LESS violent as a society and as a civilisation as we have become more advanced (technologically and culturally), that sounds like a really weird conclusion to come to. WW1 happened before violent images were plastered on tv screen. It didn't make it any less difficult to persuade a decent percentage of the population to run around sticking massive bayonets in people they had never met before. In Rwanda, all it took was a few radio broadcasts.