This is the piece that put a huge crack in the foundation of my reverence for Malcolm Gladwell (yes, it’s about school shootings). I’m not sure Winkler’s recommendations at the end of the piece add up to much, either, but there’s no question she’s right about the flaws in comparing school shootings to riots. Since reading this, I’ve noticed Gladwell often has the fatal structure of superficially compelling argument based on a messed-up premise. Of course, the New Yorker goes ahead and reprints his essay about school shootings as though nobody had said nothing.
I have, surprise, two positive notes about the end of this psycho:
He has come to be viewed, not as a transgressive antihero or the depraved underside of all rebellion, but as a freaky product of freaky times.
Unlike what a lot of people feared, he’s become a smaller and smaller footnote to the story of the Beatles. Not least because their work remains undiminished.
A Japanese serial killer. The piece notes the utterly low rate of homicides in the country. I wondered about that context, and so read the stories of a couple of Japanese multiple-slayers. Most chilling: they were exactly like the sexual-sadist psychopaths from the US, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, you name it. This is a poisonous combination of characteristics, nothing special to do with the environment. One biggest advantage for a serial killer in Japan is that murders are so rare the police aren’t looking for them. I mean, they found this creep out almost by accident.
Well, time’s up (didn’t seem to generate a lot of interest). (I take it back — had not checked in a while, and there seems to be considerable hits.)
The answer is that Norman Mailer (Henry Abbott), Gunter Grass (Johann “Jack” Unterweger) and William Buckley (Edgar Herbert Smith Jr. — just died this year) all vigorously promoted the early jail release of convicted murderers who then went on to murder again, or, in the case of Smith Jr., attempt murder. Unterweger was the worst — he checked into the Cecil Hotel Room 1402 because it was where Richard “Night Stalker” Ramirez lived, and then went out, fooled the LAPD into giving him tips, and slaughtered three prostitutes.
The extra added dark laughter is that all three monsters became notable writers and flattered their famous-author mentors as faves (Smith was by far the most minor scribe). Why, a fine writer couldn’t be a psychopathic human-reaper, right? I don’t know about Unterweger, but I do know the other two played on the egomania of Buckley and Mailer to get their way with them. Anyone who admires me this much must be a fine fellow, right? The final detail is that Smith Jr. thought Buckley was such a tool that he contacted him after his victim got away, expecting Big Man to cover for him. Instead, Buckley contacted the cops and turned Smith in. Without, however, covering himself with shit and walking the streets for a week.