Mass Killing in the USA

By Hugo Gilson, Belgium

On May 23, 2014, in Isla Vista, California, Elliot Rodger (the son of Peter Rodger, a Hollywood filmmaker) decided to take his revenge on life and on women. The police described this attack as “premeditated mass murder, spree-killing, murder-suicide, drive-by shooting, stabbing and vehicular assault”.


The attacks

1        First, he stabbed three men to death in his apartment. He was in possession of two knives, a Glock 34 handgun, and two SIG Sauer P226 handguns. In the hours before the massacre, he posted on YouTube a video titled Retribution confession. Seated behind the wheel of his car, he filmed and explained, for nearly seven minutes, his hatred to the world.

He says, “You girls have never been attracted to me, I don’t know why […] I don’t know what you don’t see in me, I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentlemen. On the day of retribution, […] I will slaughter every single blonde slut I see. […] I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am in truth the superior one, the true alpha male (laughing). After I’ve annihilated every single girl in the sorority house, I’ll take to the streets of Isla Vista and slay every single person I see there. All those popular kids who live such lives of hedonistic pleasures while I’ve had a rotten loneliness for all these years. […] Now I will be a god upon you. […] I hate all of you. Humanity is a disgusting wretched depraved species. If I had it in my power I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls and rivers of blood.”

After uploading the video, Rodger e-mailed a lengthy autobiographical manuscript to approximately a dozen acquaintances and family members. The document, which he titled “My Twisted World”, was made available on the Internet and became widely known as his “manifesto”. In it, he described his childhood, family conflicts, and frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women, his contempt for racial minorities and interracial couples, and his plans for what he described as “retribution”.

Afterwards, he drove to a sorority house and shot three female students outside, killing two. He drove to a nearby deli and shot to death a male student who was inside. He began to speed through Isla Vista, shooting and wounding several pedestrians and striking several others with his car. Rodger exchanged gunfire with police twice during the attack, receiving a non-fatal gunshot to the hip. The rampage ended when his car crashed into a parked vehicle and came to a stop. The police found him dead in the car with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

All six murder victims were students at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). They were declared dead at the scenes of their attacks. Fourteen other people were injured; seven from gunshot wounds and seven by blunt trauma sustained when Rodger struck them with his vehicle.

     Repercussions

Several news networks, including ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and MSNBC, limited use of the “Retribution” video posted by Rodger out of fears of copycat crimes. The Fox News Channel refused to broadcast the video. Students and community members gathered at Anisq’Oyo’ Park in Isla Vista on the evening of May 24 for a candlelight memorial to remember the victims. On the following day, more than 20,000 people attended the memorial service at Harder Stadium. One year after, on the first anniversary of the attacks, hundreds of people gathered at UCSB for a candlelight vigil commemorating the six slain victims. The attacks have renewed calls for gun control and improvements in the U.S. health care system. California Senator Dianne Feinstein blamed the National Rifle Association’s on gun laws for the attack and said “shame on us” in Congress for failing to do something about it.

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The victims

 

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Autism as a Unique World

by Klaudia Lubczuk, Poland

Today’s world is full of people whose behavior is difficult for us to understand. Seldom are we drawing attention to these people who, despite having specific disabilities, are unique. One of these disabilities is autism, which is invisible to the eyes. Autism is one of the major issues affecting children nowadays. Although, do we know for sure what the condition involves? Autistic children with language and cognitive abilities is the topic which I would like to raise. This subject is close to my heart, because in the future I would like to work with autistic children, helping them with everyday reality.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that can cause problems with thinking, feeling, language and the ability to relate to others. To the main symptoms of ASD we can include limited ability to initiate and sustain social contacts, deficits in verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as repetitive, stereotyped forms of activity and behavior. Cognition deficits of autistic people relate to deficits in the development of the theory of mind.

“By THE TIME I’d returned to my old school, I was so withdrawn that I had little idea of what was going on around me.  As I gradually emerged, it was once again into a world of things. I became fascinated with words and books, and making outside order out of inner chaos.”

Donna Williams, “Nobody Nowhere”

Helen Tager-Flusberg in 1995 carried out research based on detailed studies of autistic children’s narrative story-telling abilities by PhD Loveland and her colleagues. Loveland asked autistic children to tell the story that they were watching in the form of a puppet show. She found out that autistic children weren’t able to retell the story. Furthermore, some of them in this research failed to understand the events. Thus, we can speak about the lack of cultural perspective, imagination of others intentions, desires or the ways of thinking. These deficits can have a strong impact on fundamental aspects of autism, for instance, participation in social interactions.

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Hinging on the foregoing research, Helen Tager-Flusberg wanted to verify autistic children narrative abilities. She asked 10 autistic and 10 developmentally typical children to narrate a story from a wordless picture book. The book was telling the story about a boy, whose lovely frog ran away at night. This is a typical task for examining the theory of mind. In narrative stories, it was difficult to identify the character’s emotions, and only 4 of the 10 children reported a solution to the character’s situation. Autistic children were using very expressive language, they were minimally narrating picture stories, not describing the main characters. In their stories there was lack of cause-effect relationships. Henceforth, we can see the deficits in understanding others intentions and mental states. The empathy level of autistic children’s is relatively low.

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Whenever we are raising the narrative abilities issue, we need to remember how big an impact it has on the theory of mind. Autistic children’s stories represent particular deficits in understanding both mental states and other’s emotions. Deficits in emphatic behaviors can be broaden by usage of strong expressive language which, widely considered, is inadequate to socially agreed standards. Furthermore, deficits in the theory of mind can bring many complications. In 1992, Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues had put forward a hypothesis that autistic children have problems with understanding other’s desires, beliefs and intentions. These elements concur to support the theory of mind which is indispensable to understanding and predicting other’s behaviors. Baron-Cohen mentioned as well that autistic people can perceive the world as chaotic or even intimidating. Not only social contacts but also attempts to understand them will end up in failure. The motivation to begin social interactions is very common for autistic children, nonetheless, the biggest barrier is misunderstanding the function of communicating, as well as their limited skills in people-to-people contacts.

In essence, autistic children have many difficulties with everyday reality. Despite having motivation to communicate with others, they cannot understand the process of communication. Perceiving the world as chaotic or even intimidating should not affect autistic people. Our duty is to make their life easier, because they see the world  in different colors than we do.

Social Anxiety

Lysiane Sublet – Switzerland

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder in which the person has an extremely fear or nervousness in social situations as speaking in front of others, being the center of attention or having a date, for example. The person is scared of being judged, criticized or looking bad. Anticipatory anxiety is also present in social anxiety. An event that is simple for most of people can be very stressing for people who suffer from this disorder. They can get nervous just because they have a phone call to make and stress about what they are going to say to their interlocutor. Another example can be when the person has to
make a presentation in public. They get nervous weeks before, sometimes months before and are like paralyzed just by thinking at this event.

Video – social anxiety disorder

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What can explain social anxiety?

There is a model, which is called skills deficit model that assumes that the anxiety in social situations is caused by a lack of social skills. The result of that is the establishment of a vicious circle. Because of their inappropriate social skills, people with social anxiety are getting in aversive social situations and the experience of bad social situations will convince them a little bit more every time that they do not fit in society norms and that they are not made for social situations.

Another approach, the cognitive self-evaluation model, states that this anxiety results from the representation of the person’s inadequacies. A research proved that socially anxious people estimate their social skills as more negative that they are in reality, have also a more negative perception of themselves and evaluate the regard of others as less positive that he really are.

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A third model, the classical conditioning model, assumes that social anxiety is conditioned when some neutral stimuli are matched with aversive social consequences.

For example, someone makes a class presentation and a classmate laugh during his presentation. Maybe his classmate laughed because he wasn’t listening and was talking about something funny with his neighbor, but the person who does the presentation might think that he makes fun of him because his presentation is bad or because he is bad. This person will associate presentation in public with a consequence of humiliation.

Finally, there is a fourth approach, the personality trait approach, that suggests that social anxiety is just a personality trait. Some person might have a disposition to shyness and anxiety.

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 Are there any treatments to social anxiety?

Treatments involve especially psychological counseling, to find some ways to reduce the anxiety in social situations. Just taking medicine, like antidepressants, is not enough because it won’t help to reduce anxiety, it will just stabilize it and that is not the purpose of the treatment. Psychological counseling and medicines can be used together for a long-term efficiency, but at one point it is better to stop medicines, in order to be able to live without taking any pills and just be well in our skin by working on how accepting ourselves and do not be afraid by the regard of other anymore. The more important thing is to be ourselves and to enjoy it.

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