April 20, 2013

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A PARADIGM:

Is Boston Like Columbine? : Were the Tsarnaev brothers a "dyad" like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, with a charismatic leader and submissive follower?  (Dave Cullen, April 19, 2013, Slate)

The first thing I learned covering Columbine all those years was that most of the theories that gain traction this week will be wrong.

But we do have an interesting situation developing with a pair of brothers as suspects: potentially, the classic dyad scenario. Notorious dyad examples include Bonnie and Clyde, Leopold and Loeb, and the D.C. snipers. The dyad tends to be a twisted, particular relationship that plays out very differently than the lone gunman or the terrorist team. [...]

The good news: There is a typical dyad pattern. That's in contrast to lone killers, who run the psychological gamut. Every study has drawn the conclusion that there is no typical mass murderer. Mass killers are mostly not loners or outcasts, and the Columbine killers were neither.  

Killer dyads are more consistent. And the popular conception of the dominant, charismatic leader roping a submissive follower into his diabolical scheme--surprisingly, that usually turns out to be true. The leader is commonly a sadistic, dehumanizing psychopath--not always, but far more often than is the case with lone gunmen/bombers, where that personality type is relatively rare. The follower is often depressive, submissive, or otherwise dependent.

When there is a significant age difference--as with one killer just out of high school--we can't be certain the older partner plays the lead role, but it usually works that way.
Dyads usually contain contrasting personalities. A psychopathic killer generally does not link up with another psychopath. Nor do depressives pair up. Thrill-seeking psychopaths have been known to pair up, but most are looking for the qualities they lack.

Here, Columbine is highly illuminating. It's a lousy example for understanding most school shootings, because it's so atypical: It wasn't even intended primarily as a shooting--the main event was the failed bombs. But Columbine is a perfect illustration of the classic dyad: Eric Harris wanted a minion to march behind him; Dylan Klebold was looking for someone to lead a parade.


Posted by at April 20, 2013 8:10 AM
  

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