What do we do with the malignant narcissists?

In my previous article on the killing of two Roanoke journalists and wounding of the person they were interviewing, I referred to the video that the shooter made of his act, and today I’m going to address two aspects of what is shown.  If you wish to see the video itself, you may find it here (NSFW).  Be aware that it shows the murder of human beings as you consider what purpose you have in watching it.

As has happened with other high-profile murderers on a rampage, the Roanoke shooter wrote a manifesto.  On Wednesday, the day of his crimes, he sent this document to WDBJ-TV, the station where Alison Parker and Adam Ward worked and from which he had been fired.  In it, we find a list of grievances and mad intentions.  In that, he exhibits the classic signs of what psychologist Erich Fromm labeled malignant narcissism.

Fromm, in the fourth chapter of his book The Heart of Man, describes a malignant narcissist as someone who says, “I am ‘great’ because of some quality I have, and not because of something I achieve, I do not need to be related to anyone or anything; I need not make any effort.”  He goes on to say that such a person “who has achieved nothing will find it difficult to appreciate the achievements of others, and thus he will be forced to isolate himself increasingly in narcissistic splendor.”

What do we do with such people?  Being pathetic isn’t a crime, and the law would be a blunt instrument to deal with that condition, anyway.  The solution here involves our culture, and that is both why it would work so well and why it’s so hard to achieve.  At some point—after my years in elementary school, I’m grateful to say—we decided that everyone was worthy of high self-esteem, regardless of behavior or achievement.  We give out trophies for participation, which may be consequence or cause of the assertion that there’s no i in team.

But there is an i in victory, and that’s the point.  The collectivizing impulse that seeks to make us all feel good together drains the meaning out of achievement by suggesting that what we do isn’t our responsibility or the product of any skill that we brought to the task.  It’s no wonder in this context that narcissists feel pain when the world doesn’t show them the adulation they were told they have the right to expect.  I admit to being idealistic here, but I can’t help believing that we would solve a lot of problems if adults would announce on the first day of school and many days afterward that the justification for feeling good about ourselves comes from how much we’ve made the world better for our having lived in it.  After saying that, those adults should show each student how to accomplish just that.

The second point requires some caution, since it will sound like blaming the victim, but that is not my meaning.  But just as the National Transportation Safety Board and pilots go over the details of an airplane crash, we who carry guns for self-defense need to consider what happens in real incidents.  This does not mean we’ll be guaranteed to survive.  But the reasonable goal is to improve the odds.

The video I named above is 58 seconds long.  The attacker walks tens of yards along a deck toward the interview taking place.  He approaches Adam Ward, the photographer holding a heavy television camera, from behind, but in full view of the reporter, Alison Parker, and the woman she’s interviewing.  He then pulls out a pistol, points it at Parker and mumbles “bitch,” and lowers the weapon while moving around the back of Ward, only to return and shoot.  The time from the beginning of the video to the first shot is forty seconds.  If I’ve read the reports correctly, the attacker is someone known to both of his victims as a disgruntled employee.

In this specific incident, perhaps nothing could have been done by the three who got shot.  Doing an interview on camera requires focus on the job being done.  But this does illustrate the general need for situational awareness—Jeff Cooper’s color codes.  Again, the victims here were doing their jobs and didn’t deserve to be shot, and what they or any of us could do in a particular case is anyone’s guess, but as a rule, walking around in public with headphones plastered to our ears or with our gazes locked on our telephones is a bad idea.  Watching what’s going on around us makes us better able to respond to dangers—and keeps us from bumbling into each other in supermarket aisles.

As I’ve said, the lessons here don’t promise perfect results.  As I discussed in the last article, the ability to make choices means that some choices will be bad.  Unlike the false dichotomy pushed by gun control advocates, we who practice gun rights know that nothing is certain.  There are, however, steps we can take to move the odds of survival closer to one than zero, and this writing is to offer two such steps.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.