Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Unabomber, The DC Sniper, and Christopher Dorner

Americans over the past quarter century have been paralyzed in fear by four men: Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, The D.C. Sniper, and Charles Dorner. All were perpetrators of seemingly unconnected, random acts of violence. Kaczynski and Dorner issued rambling manifestos, which helped identify them. Muhammad and Malvo spoke with sniper bullets. Ted Kaczynski instilled fear nationally, whereas the D.C. Sniper and Dorner were limited to specific regions of America, but their crime waves were followed nationally. Americans were increasingly scared of flying before the Unabomber was arrested. Americans were scared of traveling to the D.C. Metropolitan area because the D.C. Sniper was loose. Dorner was running wild in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties amidst roughly 20 million residents. The odds of any one individual being killed by the 4 are negligible, but the fear was palpable. Ted Kaczynski is a genius, a crazed genius with a troubled past. He was very young when a disease caused him to be isolated for months. He was unresponsive upon his return. He skipped the sixth grade in school because of his intelligence, which was common decades ago. Only later was it recognized that the practice of early promotion often had a bad effect on social development. He entered Harvard at 16, and graduated at 19. He earned a Ph.D. in math at Michigan and then started teaching at Berkeley in 1967. He resigned two years later, moved back home for a few years, and then built his cabin and bombs in Montana. We now know that he was one of a couple dozen students in a Harvard class, which was billed as a multiple-year personality study, but which subjected the students to emotional brutalization and humiliation. (See Alston Chase, Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber). He was not a fit subject for that study. His growing radicalism would have been nurtured by his years at Michigan and Berkeley. Then he started sending bombs through the mail to professors, students, executives, computer store owners, and the cargo of an airline. Three died and 23 were injured in 13 known bomb attacks from 1978 to 1995. Fear grew as no one knew when or where the next bomb would arrive. The only link between the victims was in the Unabomber’s mind. The D.C. Snipers went on a shooting spree between October 2 and October 22, 2002 in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. They killed 10 and wounded three in October as well as prior killings in Alabama and Louisiana. No commonality seemed to exist between the victims. They were simply targets of opportunity at the wrong place at the wrong time. People were scared of traveling to D.C. The Washington area was terrorized. The two were apprehended in Maryland, but tried first in Virginia, mainly because Virginia believed in capital punishment. Muhammad was executed on November 10, 2009. Malvo is serving six life sentences since he was a minor at the time of the shootings. Dorner’s homicidal rampage ended in a burning cabin in Big Bear, California. It began on Super Bowl Sunday ten days earlier when a young couple was found murdered in an Irvine, California parking garage. The crime was inexplicable until the Irvine Police announced a few days later that Dorner was the suspect. His manifesto reflected decades of built up rage against anyone who might have offended him. Among those identified was the father of the slain woman. He was targeting not only the “wrongdoers” - mostly police, but also their families. That is hate, psychotic hate. Then he proceeded to shoot two LAPD officers in Corona on protection duty for one of the his named targets, followed by killing a Riverside police officer and seriously wounding a second. The police were frightened, which resulted in some understandable itchy trigger fingers on their part in the dark night. We know that Dorner on his final day killed a San Bernardino Deputy Sheriff and wounded a second one. He was not going to be taken alive. Nor should he have been. We are used to violence on TV, the movies, and video games. We probably all know someone who died in an auto accident. We see on the news the tales of gang shootings in cities like LA and Chicago. We realize that terrorists can strike the United States again. These mass killers are different. They come from us, but have struck out against civilization, our civilization, on multiple occasions. By randomly targeting ordinary Americans across all ethnic, social, economic, and demographic barriers in urban and suburban areas, they have struck fear in all of us. They will continue to strike fear with future attacks until stopped. They have called into question the Rule of Law until caught. They have broken our trust in an orderly, civilized society. They have scratched away the thin veneer of civilization. We are powerless against their madness. Fear and panic build. We can see our families and friends among the victims. Even the police seem powerless against their madness. We are not safe, not in our homes, not in our offices. Dorner was a police officer and Navy reservist. He took oaths to protect us. Not only did he break that trust, but he also singled out fellow officers and their families. We have all asked ourselves “Whom can we trust?” Yet, we have to trust! That is our dilemma.

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