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Warnings from VT Professor Ignored

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Thin Black Line, Apr 18, 2007.

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  1. Thin Black Line

    Thin Black Line Member

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    I took a lot of creative writing classes in college and can tell you there was
    some really off-the-wall stuff we read from other students at times since
    everyone critiqued everyone else's work.

    If this professor felt moved enough to make a warning, it must've been pretty
    bad:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/04/18/wcampus1518.xml

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article1668735.ece

     
  2. Thin Black Line

    Thin Black Line Member

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  3. Titan6

    Titan6 member

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    They also had his roomies on the TV last night as well. They said they had turned him over to the campus police for suicide threats and general crazy behavior long before. He had also been in trouble with the police for stalking no less than three women, maybe more.

    It is easy to point fingers now and say what should have been done but as usual the system failed to keep a dangerously crazy person from acting out. All the warning signs were there...
     
  4. Iain

    Iain Member

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    Before we get too excited about this...

    - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6530677.stm

    If anyone has read The Cement Garden they'll know all about Ian McEwan's stuff. Then again, there is Atonement...
     
  5. Thin Black Line

    Thin Black Line Member

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    Iain, quite frankly the stuff in "McBeef" was not unlike the piles of boring tripe
    I read back in the 80s --and would not have warranted a referral by faculty.
    Point here is what exactly did worry Prof Roy? What kind of poetry got her
    attention because it surely wasn't this....

    More warnings ignored?

    This has happened prior to every mass shooting in this country.
     
  6. crazed_ss

    crazed_ss Member

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    What can really happen to someone who writes crazy school essays though? The teachers can complain to the authorities, but in the end what real action can be taken? Can a person be kicked out of school or maybe involuntarily committed for writing crazy essays?
     
  7. Titan6

    Titan6 member

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    They also said they took him out one time and after a few beers he told them that he had an imaginary girlfriend.

    They asked them if they ever thought he could do something like what he did abd they said they were only a littl e surprised as he did not seem violent only depressed.
     
  8. ilbob

    ilbob Member

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    It is very easy to criticize after the fact, but the reality is that we do not know enough about the human psyche to even begin to make accurate judgments about when someone's quirks will turn into being dangerous to others.

    It is tempting to claim that "someone" should have done "something", but even if "something" had been done, there is no reason to believe it would have stopped this madness.
     
  9. Thin Black Line

    Thin Black Line Member

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    ilbob, understood. What I'm wondering about here is prior history w/ the police,
    mental health, and what kind of things were expressed in his writing.

    Example: if someone was stalking women on campus, referred to police for
    it, sent to counseling, and still writing poems about rape/murder/etc of
    women, then what would you want done?

    Is a shoulder shrug the best we could still manage? :scrutiny:
     
  10. Jimmypop97

    Jimmypop97 Member

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  11. JWarren

    JWarren Member

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    I am up in the air on what could have been done regarding his writings. I sat through hours and hours of creative writing classes, and write to this day.

    On one hand, I fully support being able to express yourself-- and that some darker writings are not indicitive of a disturbed mind. Sometimes, it is an exercise in stepping outside of your role and learning to write from a different persespective-- one that may be alien to you.

    Consider this: We give writers of such movies as Saw, Silence of the Lambs, Hannabil, American Psycho, House of Wax, Hostel, Turistos, etc millions of dollars at the box office for writing equally disturbing and disgusting work.

    The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we will commit them or give them an Oscar.


    Now... on the other hand.

    If I had to sit through a class and read the two plays I just read from a fellow student, I would be VERY concerned. There is a difference between creative writing that deals with uncomfortable subjects and deep-seated psychosis. I know that we are ALL experts in hindsight, but I truly believe that I would recognized-- if nothing else-- that this person was dangerous.

    We had an issue somewhat similar to this in my college fraternity. We had a member that was a "genius." He entered college 2 years younger than most, and was a perfect student. He was also one of the most skilled writers I've ever read. It turns out that he was molested most of his life by an uncle. He became an alcoholic and drug addicted. He was struggling with his sexuality, and would routinely be found naked on campus when he drank. When we talked to him about getting help, he said nothing.-- but then went home the next weekend and stole a firearm from his step-father. He came back to school and told a "friend" that he was going to "take care" of the officers of the fraternity (one being me.)

    Obviously, we were told. He was expelled from the fraternity. His family had him committed for his problems and I didn't see him again for over two years.

    Skip ahead two years from that threat. I was on a date at a local Mexican restaurant. The waiter comes up to take our drink order and (Oh Snap!) it's him. He acts like he doesn't know me, but I see him look over at our table oddly as he left (maybe my imagination.) I gave the date a Cliff's Notes version of what happened as I dropped a few dollars on the table, and we rapidly left the building. There was no way I could have eaten or drank anything that he served to me.


    To get back on topic, I guess there is no real easy answer to the issue of creative writing. I'd rather disturbed persons DO write. It would (A.) Possibly allow these persons to ave a "pressure release valve" that would allow them to contain themselves and (B.) allow them the opportunity to "slip up" and give us a real indication of future events. We simply must learn the warning signs.


    John
     
  12. nico

    nico Member

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    I've thought about this too. If one of the girls he was stalking had filed a restraining order against him, or if they had pursued the matter when he started a fire in the dorm, he might not have been able to buy the guns legally. That being said, a sociopath bent on killing people will likely find a way, and it's a lot easier to say things in retrospect than to predict what's going to happen.
     
  13. ilbob

    ilbob Member

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    It is very easy to claim he was a stalker, or crazy, or whatever after the fact. And in fact he may well have been all of the above. It is not so easy to make that judgment beforehand with any reliability.

    A lot of people are sent to counseling. We laugh and joke about it every day when someone says something that is a little un-PC. "You will have to go take the class". Does that mean we should lock up eveyone that is not PC?
     
  14. Master Blaster

    Master Blaster Member

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    Harris and Klebold had been reported to the local police in Columbine Co, for Blowing things up out back of Harris house with pipe bombs, breaking into a neighbors van (led to an arrest).

    They had also video taped themselves shooting stuff in the woods, pretending they were shooting people and passed that around.

    And other odd and dangerous behavior.
     
  15. Titan6

    Titan6 member

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    JWarren you bring up many excellent points. I agree in no way should the first ammendment be restricted, especially if someone has issues they are trying to work out.

    Consider this though; This lady was head of the department. She has sat through countless hours of drivel and craziness from hundreds if not thousands of students for years on end. How many do you suppose she sent for counseling? I am willing to be it is a very, very small number.

    Like I said it is easy to go back now and be the Monday Morning Quarterback.... It won't change a thing.
     
  16. Beren

    Beren Moderator Emeritus

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    While riding down the apartment elevator today, one of my neighbors, a little old lady, commented on the VT tragedy. "Don't you think they could have done something to prevent this from happening? There were signs."

    My response was short (in tone, I hate mornings): "You can't do anything about it until they actually do something wrong. Once it starts, you'd better already be armed."

    She was a little put back by my response, but that was fine. We'd already reached the ground floor.
     
  17. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Member

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    I wrote a short story, in my junior year of college, about a soldier sent in secret from a space colony to make trouble for the oppressive earth government, to including blowing up military transport ships as they lifted off and assassinating earth military leaders.

    Professor liked it, but said it was a touch cliche. That it was.

    We have to be careful about this. It's very easy to head down the road of wanting to expel people for writing things that one doesn't like. Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, my favorite one of his books, is an emotionally wrenching story of the dark side of human nature, and of redemption. It provided a lot of the inspiration for my stories posted online.

    So did films like Kill Bill and the Boondock Saints, come to mention it. Some of you may have noticed that I have a particular interest in stories where the characters are morally ambiguous and there's no clear-cut right and wrong. That's kind of like real life, I suspect.

    People say that stuff glorifies violence. I suppose it does; so does every action movie out there, especially the "light hearted" ones (Die Hard, anyone? Kill a badguy, crack a joke! What fun!).

    We've come to accept that. I know I have; hell, my story would've been pretty damned boring without any of the gunfights. (I don't think I've glorified violence too much; my character, Valentine, is pretty messed up, up to and including having severe PTSD.)

    Conflict is part of human nature, and is the crux of all story telling. At some level, every story involves good guys and bad guys struggling, even if the "bad guys" aren't really characters, but are other obstacles that the protaganist must overcome. No conflict, no story, period.

    But stuff that glorifies violence against women? Pedophilia? Rape? What about torture? If you enjoy movies like SAW and Hostel you are comfortable watching horrible scenes of torture and mutilation (personally, I can't stomach such movies).

    Jim Webb published some stuff like that and still got elected to the Senate. So I guess it just depends on what circles you travel in. I certainly don't believe Senator Webb to be a woman-hater or a pedophile.

    We've pushed the boundaries so far in our society I think it's rather hypocritical to turn around at this late date and say that such and such should've been considered a warning sign. I think they're trying to play the blame game again. If not this, then it'll be "he played violent video games!" (so do I) or some such crap.
     
  18. buzz_knox

    buzz_knox Member

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    It's one thing to write about unusual or strange topics (although some of the writing might itself indicate issues, such as expressing a desire to commit violence against nonfictional characters); it's another thing to combine those writings with exceedingly strange or aberrant behavior, including suicide threats or delusions.

    As for discussions of whether the shooter would act this way, some students are coming out saying they wondered long before what they would do if this guy walked into class with a weapon.
     
  19. nico

    nico Member

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    It's already being done. An hour or so ago, there was a "school shooting expert" (where do you go to school to get that degree?) on Fox trying to blame Counter Strike. Some mass murderer in Germany played CS, and apparently the Washington Post has an unsubstantiated article claiming that the killer at VT did too.

    I liked Counter Strike (as to 10s, if not 100s of thousands of people) and would probably play it (or at least Half Life) now if I had a computer that could support the newer versions.
     
  20. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Member

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    Valid points, all.

    Personally, if someone wrote multiple stories about, say, a character that raped women, and glorified that, then I'd have to wonder about the author.

    As an aside, I wonder about Japan sometimes. LINK LINK

    All the same, we have to be VERY CAREFUL not to stray down the road of PC thoughtcrime. That's all I'm saying.
     
  21. Titan6

    Titan6 member

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    Little things, big things, lots of things. Warnings from classmates, roommates, teachers, women he was stalking. And yet, I bet if we look hard enough there is not a major college campus in America that does not have at least one person that resembles this guy in nearly every way.

    There is no magic crazy detector that we can point at someone and say he is a step away from climbing the clock tower with a rifle and high powered scope.
     
  22. buzz_knox

    buzz_knox Member

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    The question is do we chalk it up to the inevitable or start thinking about how to weed out the crazy but relatively harmless from the crazy and about to go off?
     
  23. solareclipse

    solareclipse Member

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    well i've written some weird stuff for one of my drama/acting classes (free elective i had to take ages back) but at least i had style.

    i skimped over those 7 pages of actual play and it made me cry, how poorly written it was.

    :p

    you can't really persecute people for what they write... if you do that, most of hollywood would be behind bars on death row.

    there is no fine line here. you either persecute people for creative expression, or you treat it like so without question. this kid has been in trouble before, but then again, so have many people. not quite sure what profile one can make to accurately predict mass murderers.. we have the people who snap at an instant and the people who plan it. the later do not really fall in a profile.
     
  24. Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler Member

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    Not to mention rappers.
     
  25. Caimlas

    Caimlas Member

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    That's odd and dangerous behavior? I guess it probably would be by the time a person reached high school, to some degree. But it was common occurance from what I recall about my peer group (of social rejects - people who didn't fit in any of the popular scenes in high school such as sports, drama, cheerleading, ALP, etc.). Nobody acted out on any of it, and many of them had access to guns, but I know quite a few of them would draw violent depictions of both teachers and students in their notebooks up until (through?) high school. Most of them were A students and are now pretty successful, some having served their country.

    If I might be so bold to say so, I think part of the reason 'big' things like this happen is that people who are borderline sick - ie, not criminally sick in the traditional sense, but just enough nuts for things to build up and get broken under the surface - aren't allowed the little things anymore which can indicate sickness. There is no gradient, it's either "he's OK" or "he's nuts" - and I think this is largely due to the fact that any sort of perceived violence is so heavily shunned by society. In other words, its societally unacceptable to get into a mutually engaged fist fight to settle an argument and let off steam. Instead, people will brood indefinitely until they snap.
     
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