Faces of Evil


On the left, James Holmes, who shot over 70 people and killed at least 12 in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.

On the right, Torrence Brown, who was present in the theater (though not injured) and is reportedly preparing lawsuits against:

  • The theater
  • Holmes’s doctors (for “prescribing medication”)
  • Warner Brothers (because the movie that Torrence Brown elected to watch, and that James Holmes had never seen, was “too violent”)

Of course the scale of evil tips sharply to the left. But there’s plenty of evil to go around.

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22 Responses to “Faces of Evil”


  1. 1 1 Roger

    There are also lawsuits for many millions of dollars against Penn State.

  2. 2 2 Bearce

    He’s actually suing on behalf of his friend who was killed during the massacre. Probably not thinking very clearly from the trauma.

    Still, if he does see it through, that is a really $#@%&* thing to do.

  3. 3 3 Dave

    This all comes back to the whole free will thing. The likes of Sam Harris would say that Holmes (and Brown I guess) is also a victim: of his genetic, chemical and biological make up; of his upbringing; of the way society had treated him; of his exposure to certain stimuli and the way his brain reacted to these impulses.

    Harris’s work really does my head in. I feel like yes James made some excruciatingly horrible choices but I also feel like if I was him molecule for molecule (Harris’s point), I would BE him and do exactly what he did even though I go around day to day without a single impulse to even actively try to hurt a fly.

    The key point is that Holmes is unlucky to be Holmes – and we should pity him….If free will is an illusion, we shouldn’t be punishing him because we hate him and want revenge, we should be locking him up (or extremely: executing him) because we fear him…and a public punishment harsh enough may just well be enough of a stimulant to stop some people who are on the margin from pursuing similar acts.

  4. 4 4 Dave

    Edit to my above: went on a bit of a tangent there….what I was trying to say is that my latest readings on the topic make the whole concept of “evil” people (as opposed to evil actions) seem redundant.

  5. 5 5 RPLong

    Haha, for the record, I think this is a much more controversial post than the one about birth control funding.

    But doesn’t it seem like every news story these days is a chapter out of The Bonfire of the Vanities?

  6. 6 6 Alan Wexelblat

    You confuse “evil” and “stupid.”

  7. 7 7 Ken B

    @Alan Wexelblat:
    No, I think Steve’s point is a moral one not a prudential one. The putative plaintiff is trying to cash in, and will in the process make things worse. What for instance will be the effect on healthcare if the doctor has to pay up?

  8. 8 8 Neil

    I don’t see evil. I see mental illness on the left and opportunism on the right. Is that a political metaphor?

  9. 9 9 nobody.really

    Of course the scale of evil tips sharply to the left.

    There’s Landsburg’s philosophy in a nutshell. :-)

  10. 10 10 Silas Barta

    Yeah Dave, I agree, since no one chooses their actions, we should choose not to punish him.

    Wait …

  11. 11 11 Ken B

    @nobody.really: And here I was thinking you usually *criticize* Steve!

    :)

  12. 12 12 ThomasBayes

    Ken B: If you hurry, you can be number 13. ;)

  13. 13 13 Dave

    When did I say not to punish them? I clearly stated that even execution might be an option did I not?

    The dissemination of information influences states of the mind that receives them. It’s the essence of communication. Someone gives you a compelling argument, you almost have no option but to accept it.

    Someone gives you what sounds like trash and you will no doubt reject it. Where is the choice?

  14. 14 14 Michael Rulle

    I agree with Steve’s use of the word evil—-and it does tip to the left side of the page—-but Brown’s opportunism is grotesque.

  15. 15 15 Krishnan

    “But James Holmes was not responsible, so he cannot be sued. He had a bad teacher, bad parents, bad doctor, bad school, bad friends”.

    “James Holmes’ teachers cannot be sued – because they had bad teachers, bad parents, bad doctors, bad schools, bad friends”

    “James Holmes’ physicians cannot be sued because they had bad
    teachers, bad parents, bad doctors, bad schools”

    In short, according to someone who is very intelligent and smart and has solved all of the world’s problems – Nothing is anyone’s fault – and you have to go back to the earliest humans and their environment – and THEN you will find that THEY are not responsible.

    Case closed.

  16. 16 16 Krishnan

    Oh, I forgot to add – “it is someone else’s fault is a corollary of the theorem “You cannot take credit for anything, because someone else did it”

  17. 17 17 Tristan

    While it doesn’t excuse it, you left out the mitigating fact that the civilian had his friend shot next to him and that this prompted the lawsuit. Again, doesn’t make him right, but it makes it more understandable.

  18. 18 18 Dave

    Are you responsible for the construct of your brain? If so, how? And if so, why would anyone choose to construct their brain to be a butcher instead of a volunteer in a soup kitchen? Because they are evil? Why would they choose to be evil?

    I hate paraphrasing him over and over again but as Harris says, if it was discovered that Holmes had a brain tumour located in the exact spot that stimulates psyocpathic violent behaviour and inhibits compassion, would you feel differently about how he should be treated? And if we knew that removing the tumour would remove any future similar tendencies, wouldn’t we just give him the surgery, keep a watch on him but let him go (or at the very least remove execution in the spectrum of available reactions)?

    A brain tumour is a special case of the brain make up. Some people are unfortunately victims of their own minds. In the end, we all are.

  19. 19 19 Bob Apjok Jr

    if the theatre has a “no weapons policy” then they do in fact take on the responsibility of your protection by denying your 2nd amendment rights. As a private business they have the option, but it is then fair to say they share some liability by not allowing you to protect yourself.

  20. 20 20 Steve Landsburg

    Bob Apjok Jr.:

    As a private business they have the option, but it is then fair to say they share some liability by not allowing you to protect yourself.

    If they have the option to forbid weapons, why shouldn’t they have the option to reject this liability (as a condition of your entering the theater)?

  21. 21 21 Advo

    I think the more interesting issue here is: Why is the guy suing in the first place?
    If the US justice system was efficient, obviously frivolous lawsuits such as this one wouldn’t even get filed, because the possibility of profiting from them would be zero.

    At the heart of the problem are the amateur juries – the outcome of any trial decided by amateurs with neither training nor experience is inherently unpredictable and often only marginally influenced by the law and the facts of the case.

    And so there is a small but existant risk of a huge award in cases such as this, which require an expensive defense and often result in completely unjustified settlements.

  22. 22 22 Harold

    I have sympathy with Advo’s point – if the system did not reward frivolous suits, then people would not bring them.

    It is possible that the theatre was grossly at fault. The doctor may have been dangerously cavalier in his prescribing habits. There needs to be a forum to test these possibilities. It seems that the forum currenltly available is unable to distinguish between real and imagined causes. Or possibly it is the media that mis-represents the position, leading people to think they have a chance to win when in fact the courts will reject any such nonsense.

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