Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer by Unni Turrettini *

The secret of reading tea leaves is that given no data, you can say anything you like. The The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer by Unni Turrettini is an exercise in reading tea leaves: an interesting mix of fact and fiction ultimately based on … nothing.

The book is based on the lives of  Kaczynski b. 1942, McVeigh b. 1968, and Breivik b. 1979, three lone wolf killers, three men over 50 years from a population of one billion. Given something that such men occur so infrequently, any conclusions are certainly conjecture. This book proves that point.

That said, with (in)appropriate suspension of disbelief the biographies if these three intelligent, isolated, and ultimately sad, men make for interesting reading. Just don’t expect any solutions to the mystery.

How confused (arrogant) can the people investigating this tiny population be, and how willing are they to generalize from these three data points out of the lives of the billion plus people living in North America and Europe? Here is an example: When discussing online gamers, specifically people playing World of Warcraft (disclosure: I played this game for many years with over 10,000,000 others), they conclude, “All of these people who live online are dissatisfied with their person-to-person contact in real life.” To this I can only respond ROFL and maybe STFU.

Looking for data where there is none: “if one were to examine it closely, [Breivik’s early life] offered hints as to how he might have veered from what is frequently viewed as ’normal’ behavior.” Here the author veers from the humorous generalizations about online gamers to the dangerous idea that these three men could have been detected by their childhood behavior. These three had troubled childhoods not dissimilar to millions of other. No matter how “closely examined,” no childhood examination is going to spot these three without snaring many, many false positives into the same net.

The author takes her self-appointment as expert and seer even farther to embark on a long diatribe against gun control mixing fact and fiction, and another in favor of citizen surveillance. The citizen surveillance is supported with the idea that over a period of a few years 100s of lone wolves have been identified (by the FBI) and stopped (?) and placed into psychiatric care (?). This is all stated without any thought as to why a phenomenon that happened three times in fifty years, now occurs every three days.

If you were ever curious why people are trading away their civil rights for some vague assurance of safety, here it is. Enjoy.

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