Well…I spent the day listening to Lt. Col. (Ret) David Grossman’s “The Bulletproof Mind” presentation at a nearby state university. For those not familiar with Grossman’s work, he is a career soldier and former Psych professor from West Point who appeared on the radar after publishing a book titled “On Killing:The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society”, which was nominated for a Pulitzer. In a nutshell the book states that humans have an innate aversion to killing and will avoid it at all costs unless one is a sociopath, that this aversion can be overcome through training but at a psychological cost, and finally that the reasons for increased school/mass shootings is due to the operant conditioning of our children via violent imagery in media and video games. He has leveraged the success of this book into other books as well as becoming a topic expert and motivational speaker on the issue of killing and the mental preparation and training of “warriors”. The “Bulletproof Mind” speaking series is intended for LE officers/Military Personnel and deals with “active shooter” incidents and how “sheepdogs” can deal with death and killing.
A brief synopsis of the presentation:
- A listing and narrative of multiple mass homicides. With critique of school and LE preparation (or lack thereof) and responses.
- Overcoming denial – The “It wont happen here” thing. (almost to the point of inducing paranoia IMO..but more later on that)
- A speech about measures and techniques that can be taken to deal with/prepare for mass homicides.
- How violent media and video games play a role in the increase of violence and mass homicide shooters.
- How the Police and armed citizenry are the first line of defense. The Sheep/Sheepdog speech.
- The physiological/psychological reaction to combat, combat breathing and dealing with PTSD.
- The “You are our Warriors..go out and fight for all that is good in our world” hooyah! Send off.
This was a day long presentation and I am not going to rehash his entire speech. I have seen his entire work offered on youtube for those looking. What I will say is that he does a good job of taking a few basic principles with valid implications and making his point with them and that is part of my criticism of his stuff as well. I think that sometimes he takes valid points and stretches them a bit too thin in order to cover a large issue.
I think that in “On Killing” Grossman points to some anecdotal evidence and uses it to support his theory regarding mans inhibition against killing his fellow man. One instance is the “multiple loading” of Civil War era weapons. He states that many rifles/muskets were found double or triple loaded (which there were) and that this is evidence that soldiers loaded and aimed their weapons to please their peers/leaders but wouldn’t pull the trigger, so they just loaded another round on top of the old one. Perhaps…but it avoids another more likely scenario that Civil War soldiers were scared shitless facing off at spitting distance, forgot to put a cap on the nipple and pulled the trigger thinking they did fire in all the fear, noise, smoke and confusion. This is just one lone example, but there is a thread of this sort of thing that I found in some of his work.
The same thing can be said about the video game issue. I have no doubt that the media DOES play a role in school violence, but life is not so simple that one thing can take all the blame. Where are the parents in the equation while Junior is spending all day watching Saw and playing Grand Theft Auto after setting the cat on fire?
So as a general critique of Grossman’s work, I detect a hint of using “evidence” to support a preconceived concept vs. forming an opinion based on evidence. There was also a hint of fear mongering. While I accept and agree with the premise of preparation and not falling into the “It won’t happen here” trap, there was a large chunk of overstatement of the “IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN!!!” type going on. School shootings and terrorist attacks ARE statistically rare. The odds of any one of us being affected by one IS slim. That does NOT mean that it could never happen to us. The people of Columbine could have rightfully thought the same thing up till 1110hrs on April 20th. The question is how much of our life, freedom and stomach lining should we sacrifice to that possibility? Mr. Grossman referenced Gavin DeBecker’s book the “Gift of Fear” as being seminal, but he seems to have missed explaining DeBeckers point about being prepared but not “living in unwarranted fear”.
That is not to say that much more of what the man had to say wasn’t dead on. We DO have to get our heads out of our asses and look at public safety and security as being as vital as fire safety. Mr. Grossman repeatedly makes reference to all of the fire safety measures we have in place; fire drills, alarms, sprinklers, fire codes, signs, hoses, extinguishers, etc. and how we accept them and their added costs even though the odds of dying in a fire are minuscule. Conversely, when we talk about taking safety precautions like, lockdown drills, locking doors and having armed security in schools/malls we are accused of being paranoid. I agree that trained and armed citizens and off-duty officers are the best and probably only chance to stop these crazies before they can kill the next record amount of victims. He states that we rise and fall to our level of training and that “force on force” training with simunitions and airsoft is perhaps the best tactical advancement of our generation…right on! He’s also a big proponent of hunting as instilling warrior traits, much as I have stated previously in this blog.
Perhaps the most interesting thing he said as it relates to the topic of this blog was the following… “Screw Golf!!!”
If I heard him correctly, Col. Grossman stated that he was publishing a work of science fiction and a line from it was “Screw Golf…a golf course is a waste of a good rifle range.” His point was that Warriors…people asked and expected to move towards the sound of the guns and deal with the wolf at the gate…should not waste their free time doing frivolous activities. If a “warrior” wants to have a “fun time” hobby to unwind it should be something like shooting, hunting, fitness training, martial arts, weapons training and other “warrior hobbies”…or at least reading or writing about them. Perhaps a bit overdramatized for effect, but I get his point…as anybody who reads the stuff here can tell.