18 takeaways from yesterday’s report

Note: Connecticut’s Office of the Child Advocate released their final report on Adam Lanza yesterday (you can get it here.) These are my reactions having when reading through it once.

Overall, I thought it was a very well-constructed report, and was quite revealing. Several of the gaps in what we know about Adam Lanza have been filled in, particularly in his early childhood.

Given the aims of the report, much of it has to do with formulating recommendations for child care and mental health treatment. I’m going to leave all of that out, since my focus here is just on establishing the facts of the case.

So, here is just a list of the things I noticed in one read-through as they came up.  Note that the official report refers to Adam Lanza as “AL” and I left that abbreviation unchanged in most of the excerpts below.

Eighteen take-aways from the report

1. Adam Lanza’s mental and emotional difficulties did not suddenly emerge in middle school, or even elementary school. He was first identified as having special needs at least as early as three years old, when the family still lived in New Hampshire and where Adam was in pre-school at the time. His difficulties were especially noted in the area of language, and he was even noted as having “made up his own language” at this age, which presented problems when communicating:

The developmental assessment completed by AL’s Birth to Three provider indicated that AL “fell well below expectations in social-personal development.” The evaluator was unable to understand any of AL’s language, needing his mother to serve as an interpreter throughout the testing. Evaluators concluded that AL presented with “significantly delayed development of articulation and expressive language skills.”  The evaluation did note that AL had a good attention span, creative play skills, and that he could  follow adult directions. The evaluation recommended speech and language services to support
communication development and regular pre-school attendance to “stimulate development in all domains.”

This seems extremely significant in light of Adam’s posts as Smiggles, wherein he longed for a “pre-language” existence, or stated “I hate every facet of language, along with the entire concept of aesthetics.” It also may have fueled his despair in trying, and failing, to learn a second (third?) language in German.

2. Nancy Lanza had noticeable emotional/psychological problems herself. In particular, the authors do not seem impressed with Nancy’s frequent claims that she was suffering from some vague terminal illness – they all but call her out as a liar. They also record Peter Lanza has having believed her claims when they first asked him about Nancy’s allegedly-poor health, but specifically note that he changed his mind when presented with medical records. It’s even hinted that Nancy’s neurosis may have encouraged the same in Adam. A significant excerpt:

[We] cannot conclude what may have been at the root of Mrs. Lanza’s real or imagined health conditions. But her email correspondences, combined with the lack of substantial findings in the medical records suggest a fixation with her health and mortality. How much of this was observable or felt by other members of the family is difficult to conclude and authors cannot speculate. A review of Mrs. Lanza’s correspondence however, frequently paints a picture of a woman who seemed preoccupied with anxieties, either about AL or herself. This is a dynamic that continues to be seen as AL moves through adolescence.

3. The authors are not at all impressed with Dr. Fox, who evaluated Adam in the seventh grade and supplied an “excuse note” at Nancy’s behest so that Adam could be taken out of school indefinitely. This was a very unconventional thing to do: withdrawing a student completely and indefinitely from school (which is not homeschooling) and refusing tutors or any interaction with the school system at all. Adam wasn’t homeschooled in 8th grade; he was just home. (I’ll just note here that my speculation about this time period when assembling Adam Lanza’s educational history turned out to be pretty accurate.)

I also detect an indirect implication that Dr. Fox and Nancy Lanza had a sexual relationship. Immediately after explaining that Dr. Fox closed his practice and moved overseas when he was exposed as having engaged in a “consensual sexual relationship with a female patient” (they link to this article from the Courant) they note that what Dr. Fox did for Nancy was unconventional and could not be explained. They didn’t say that she slept with Fox in order to get the note for Adam, but I can’t be alone in picking up on that subtext (note, though, that the confirmed “female patient” was definitely not Nancy.) I’m not saying it’s true either, but it is an interesting possibility (it’s also oddly reminiscent of a scene from Forrest Gump.)

4. Adam Lanza’s fixation on primates as setting examples for ideal human behavior goes back to at least 2006, when he was examined at Yale.

The Yale psychiatrist’s initial report observed that AL presented as a “pale, gaunt, and awkward young adolescent standing rigidly with downcast gaze and declining to shake hands.”

AL’s mother told the Yale psychiatrist that he used to look at people but did not anymore. AL then  asked rhetorically, “Why should I have to.” When the doctor explained all of the information that a person could learn by looking at a facial expression, such as a smile, AL stated that people could interpret smiles differently: “Some primates smile when they are frightened.

This would have been right around the time when he started reading the Columbine RPG forum, though there’s not much at all surviving from that era of the forum to know what he would have been reading there.

5. The evaluators at Yale very accurately predicted the consequences of Nancy accommodating Adam’s desire to withdraw from society, to the extent that it is baffling and very frustrating to know that Nancy ignored their advice. Nancy was told this in 2006 (emphasis theirs):

Beyond the impact of OCD symptoms on himself and his mother, we are very concerned about AL’s increasingly constricted social and educational world. Much of emphasis has been on finding curricular level of instruction. Inability to tolerate even minimal interaction with even older more mature classmates will have grave consequences for his future education and social and occupational adaptation unless means of remediation are found. Inability to interact with classmates will prove increasingly deleterious to education. We believe it is very important to reframe the discussion with school from issues of curricular content to much more urgent issues of how to accommodate AL’s severe social disabilities in a way that would permit him to be around peers and to progress, rather than regress, socially, as well as academically.

[...]

However we believe that there is a significant risk to [Adam Lanza] in creating, even with the best of intentions, a prosthetic environment which spares him having to encounter other students or to work to overcome his social difficulties. Having the emphasis on adapting the world to AL, rather than helping him to adapt to the world, is a recipe for him to be a homebound recluse, unable to attend college or work productively into his twenties and thirties and beyond with mother becoming increasingly isolated and burdened.

Elsewhere, the report confirms that Nancy was preparing to leave Newtown with Adam, and speculates that the massacre may have happened (or at least happened when it did) as a result of Adam refusing to leave this “bubble.”

Perhaps by 2012 Nancy was thinking back to these prescient words from the doctors at Yale, and realizing she had done exactly what she was advised not to do. She tried to pull the plug on the killing machine that was assembling itself upstairs, but by then it was too late.

6. Adam’s hatred of therapists, and repeated references to them as “TheRapists” is almost certainly a lingering resentment over his experiences at Yale. This post from September 2011:

Therapists are secular priests who assert that they have some “truth”, and if your values deviate, then you are “wrong”. Hence, The Rapist. They impose their values onto you through their mindfucking.

…reads to me like Adam thinking back on the same experience (or rather, series of experiences) that a therapist reports to Peter Lanza in 2006 — they are two sides of the same story:

The process of asking [Adam] to talk with me directly about what is going on is  critical. I appreciate that Adam’s view is that he wouldn’t say anything differently if [the father] were in the room, but I think he’s wrong. His judgment about how social/family dynamics work in a therapy situation is no more on target  than his views regarding doorknobs and hand-washing . . . . He wants to control how the treatment goes because his anxiety is nearly unbearable if he can’t feel he knows what’s going to happen. I understand that. At the same time, he can’t control the treatment because his thinking is distorted and irrational. I can’t agree to follow his lead!

In fact, when I talk with him alone he has to respond, and last time I pushed him a bit. I am not surprised that he was angry, that’s OK . . . . I told Adam he has a biological disorder that can be helped with medication. I told him what the medicines are and why they can work. I told him he’s living in a box right now, and the box will only get smaller over time if doesn’t get some treatment.

I’m fine to see him this week at 11. I am OK to talk with him and you at the beginning, but the session to address his issues has to be just him and me. I’d do it differently if I thought it would help, but I’m convinced it won’t. Let me know your reactions.

Unfortunately, this perception of therapy as punishment seems to be another instance where Nancy encouraged Adam (or perhaps was persuaded by his arguments) rather than challenging him:

Mrs. Lanza had great difficulty seeing the value in pushing Adam out of this comfort zone. Her comment that she was “torturing” AL during his Yale evaluation echoes her earlier comment to a school administrator that she was “abusing” Adam by keeping him in the Danbury Emergency Department.

7. Adam Lanza was not a “genius” or at all exceptional in his cognitive abilities. He was an average teenager – although some of his “academic skills were in the very superior range,” this is distinct from having an innate gift. He was very good at things he could focus on and study and become good at.

There are multiple hints that his parents adopted the viewpoint of Adam as a Rain Man-like figure, as a sort of coping mechanism against the stigma of mental illness/disorder (i.e. “our son may be troubled, but in some ways he’s a genius”) and that in the long run this actually did serious harm: in the areas where he was not deficient (but was also not exceptional) he was placed in advanced classes (or college classes, etc.) which took away the few opportunities he had to function adequately and without contributing to his anxiety. This resulted in an environment where, in subjects where he was average, he was still not good enough.

A similar — and probably more damaging — mismatch arises in regards to Adam’s acknowledged disorders vs. accepted disorders as he re-enters the public school system in 2007; the authors of the report note that Nancy and the school staff prepared an education plan for  a student with minor physical disabilities and “high functioning” Asperger’s Syndrome, rather than what the Yale doctors diagnosed him as having: profound and debilitating anxiety, with “special-education/therapeutic needs.”

I don’t mean to be crass, but I am consistently reminded of this humorous flyer for a found “cat” when I read about these repeated under-cooked evaluations of Adam’s abilities:

SHL-catpossum1

I think it’s an apt metaphor for how Nancy viewed her son, and how best to take care of him: you can make your house as “cat friendly” as you want, but that won’t turn a possum into a cat.

8. Adam was seen as a special case, even among school staff who dealt with special cases. This (undated) e-mail exchange, between a teacher and another staff member, is telling::

OH MY GOSH! AL is ready to join my class??? I HAD BETTER GET READY! I’m so nervous! Let’s talk . . . are they starting with a short visit or two or jumping right in and seeing how it goes with the potential to leave early as needed??? What about “prepping” my class before his arrival — today I have an appointment at 2:30 . . . but we can talk on the phone tonight . . .

The reply:

My guess is that he will start with an entire class. In my past experience, observing a class is more difficult than participating in a class. As for your other students—when in doubt – IGNORE AL. Any attention is tough. In terms of prepping them – just think about what you know about AL.
• No loud noises
• No strong smells
• No sudden movements
• No unpredictable actions, noises, smells, etc.
• Speak with a purpose or “Let me work.”
• AL may be uncomfortable around the boys, but I don’t know that for sure.
I am sure he will tell us whatever is a problem . . . . .
Have you talked to [STAFF MEMBER] about the math he needs for your class? Would you like me to do that? So many questions! At least our jobs are never dull.

Another staffer refers to Adam as “the most anxious youth I’ve ever seen,” so this is strong evidence that he was not lost in a multitude of similar cases. So, if he “slipped through the cracks” this is not because nobody noticed his level of impairment.

9. One of the most alarming records in the report, in my mind, is this email from Nancy to school administrators, in which she indirectly admits that she meticulously creates an illusive reality for Adam to convince him that he is a functioning and “normal” high school school student, while at the same time admitting this is far from the truth:

“He will not accept any preferential treatment at all. Since he obviously NEEDS preferential treatment, it leaves me scurrying around behind his back fixing things… i.e. The gym thing. I actually had to make up a story about liability, bureaucracy, and being out of school for over 12 months, etc. … then I have to go to [school staff] and get her to back that up … then I have to go to [another school staff], and get him to go along. Then his … teacher slips up and tells him that his IEP allows him to get out of study halls and I have to get her to recant and say it was a misunderstanding on her part. This is a high stress, 24/7 operation of misinformation. He does NOT have to go to lunch, but obviously I have to come up with a story that he will buy and then get everyone on the same page. Thanks for giving me the heads up… [about lunch]. I will get on it first thing in the morning. I will think of something. He wants to believe that he is an ordinary student, and I think it is important to let him believe for his self-esteem.”

If she’s willing to construct these false facades at such expense just to accommodate Adam, then convincing herself of convenient versions of reality was probably natural for her.

10. The report includes an exchange of some lengthy emails between Adam and Nancy from late 2008. I don’t even know where to begin about these, other than to point out that the emotional distance between the two participants in this conversation is so wide that I find hard to believe they were even on the same planet, much less in the same house:

August 2008 (AL is 16 years old, 11th grade): Email from AL to His mother, 11:25 p.m.

You do not seem to understand that I was attempting to comfort you with what I consider to be a maxim with which to live. You unfortunately probably still do not understand what I mean. As a disclaimer: I type nothing in this that is in a tone that is condescending, vindictive, malicious, snide, malignant, or any synonym that you can think of. I mean well.

If you believe that you wasted your life, as you seem to have insinuated, you will gain nothing from regretting it and will only depress yourself; you cannot change anything from the past. There is something that I can assure you of that will always be true: it does not matter if you live for the next one year, five years, ten years, fifteen years, twenty years, thirty years, fifty years or even 100 years; the day before you die you will regret ever worrying about your life instead of thinking of what you want to do.

Every new year that you do live, you will regret not having started anything that you wanted to do the year prior, only regretting the past more.

What I mean is that you should think of what you want to do today; not starting next year or next month, but today. Thinking that you are not going to be able to do anything in the future will only ensure that fate. Also thinking that you are too “old” is going to ensure the same fate.

It is not as though I do not mean that you are homeless and begging; I would spend my life savings to prevent that out of obligation for what you have done for me. My personality is merely inherently unmoving; I will not be upset over something that you cannot change. And you should not be upset either. What you should do is think about what you want to do.

I also want to mention that I purchased something two weeks ago on Newegg to double your computer’s memory without even saying anything until now. I do not try to avoid doing anything for you as you seem to think. I am glad that I was born, and I appreciate your having taken care of me. (It is not my fault if you have not detected as much of an increase in speed as I would have liked, however; I blame its outdated processor. I would change that if I could, but it’s not possible to do so for your model.) Please read the first paragraph again.

Email Response from Mrs. Lanza, 1:05 a.m.

I appreciate your effort to be a comfort to me. I apologize if I seemed angry or antagonistic. I was simply over emotional and as it is often the case worrying about the future. I admit that I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by my circumstances lately, but in no way do I regret having raised two wonderful children. I have high hopes for you both and will consider my life a success if you and Ryan live happy and productive lives.
There are a few things that I do regret . . . one of the biggest is that I dropped out of college, believing it to be more important to help your father get through college. Financially, it was impossible for us to afford a college education for both of us, and it seemed more important that he receive a diploma. In some ways I regret leaving the workforce as it has severely limited my prospects for the future, but again, it was a decision that I made to take more responsibility for the house and the children, and to allow your father to concentrate on his career. I do feel that I was able to be a better mother and have been able to put great effort into raising you and your brother, so that regret is mitigated in that respect. On the occasion that Ryan or you show some appreciation for my efforts, I feel completely justified in that choice and dually rewarded.

I know that it is harder for you to show appreciation, and that it does not come as a natural response. I really do not want you to feel obligated in that way. I do not expect any help, financial or otherwise, from you or your brother, and would not accept it if it were offered. I am certain that I will not be homeless or begging on a street corner, as your father is obligated by law and morality to see that my 30 years of service and sacrifice are compensated for.

He has assured me that I will live a comfortable life and that my health expenses are covered. He is an honorable man. I am grateful that I was married to someone who honors his responsibilities. He has also taking [sic] responsibility to provide a college education for both you and your brother, so that neither of you will have to struggle and sacrifice as we did.
If you choose to, you will emerge from college with a master’s degree of your choice, debt free, to pursue any career in life that you wish. When I think of what I would like to do for the future,

I think I would like to get my college degree first. I just thought of that tonight, as a direct result of my conversation with you. I think it would be possible as I dropped out only a year shy of my degree, and it seems as I might be spending quite a bit of time on campus waiting for you to take classes, so why not take advantage of that?! I suppose I could take classes at the same time you are taking classes.

I agree with you when you say that I should try to think positively of the future and what I want to do today. There is nothing that I can do about my diagnosis, and I do try to be as healthy as I can, despite the prognosis. I am sure that you noticed that I exercise regularly and do my best to stay in good shape. It’s not like I have the attitude that since I will be crippled anyway I may as well give up and get fat and sedentary now. I am working hard to stay as healthy as I can, for as long as I can.

At some point, I might like to start a business. I sometimes toy with the idea of an internet business like my friend, [L], owns. (Did I punctuate that last sentence correctly?) Her website is [xxx]. You should have a look at it sometime and let me know what you think of it.

Anyway, I would like you to know that no matter what, I am very proud of the person you are. I have no preconceived notion of how you should react or respond. I know that you tend to be more reserved and less emotional and I do not perceive that as condescending malignant, or callous. You are pragmatic and stoical. These are fine attributes. I am glad to know that you are glad to be born and appreciate being taken care of. I love you very much and am more than happy to take care of you in any way I can. I suppose I have felt that you didn’t even notice how hard I try to make things as tolerable as possible for you and that has made me feel sad in a way. I am much happier now, knowing that you do not despise me for bringing you into this world. Above all, I want you to be happy, no matter what you choose to do.

You may not think I notice, but my computer is working faster and I have been able to download bank statements faster and search the websites quicker. I was able to get baseball scores for all the games in a split second, and watch a video clip that a friend sent without any freezing. I didn’t know that you had worked on it, so I thank you for your efforts. You should let me know when you do thoughtful things so that you can get credit! As an aside, I am having a problem that has been ongoing for months. The cursor abruptly moves to a different place in text now and again when I am in the middle of typing a sentence. It is very strange and annoying. Maybe you can have a look at it sometime? Thank you for taking the time to send me this e-mail. I now understand your motive and meaning, and I truly appreciate it!

11. There’s an indirect admission from the authors that they also concluded Nancy bought the guns for Adam. it’s here (page 78):

In later interviews with state police, Mr. Lanza indicated that he had never given or purchased a firearm for AL but that he assumed Mrs. Lanza had. Mr. Lanza indicated that he was unaware that Mrs. Lanza was buying AL his own guns, as opposed to simply doing shooting activities together. Mr. Lanza indicated he knew AL had access to guns when he took him to a shooting range and AL had two long guns that Mr. Lanza believed were purchased by Mrs. Lanza.

Since the authors of the report had access to un-redacted Connecticut State Police files, this is probably just a differently-worded summary of the same police interview with Peter Lanza from last year’s official report. However, last year’s police summary (the actual interview itself is not publicly available) phrases this part of the conversation as:

S/A [Special Agent] Shibley asked Peter if he was aware of Nancy Lanza purchasing and owning firearms to which he replied yes. S/A Shibley asked Peter if he was aware of Nancy Lanza purchasing firearms for Adam to which he replied no. Peter stated he assumed Adam had access to firearms purchased by Nancy because on one occasion he took Adam to Wooster Mountain Shooting Range and Adam possessed two long guns that he believed were purchased by Nancy.

It’s a key difference in wording; the police report gives the impression that the investigators weren’t sure if Nancy had purchased guns for Adam, and neither was Peter. The Child Advocate report implies that investigators knew Nancy did buy guns for Adam, and just that Peter didn’t know she was doing it until the police told him. I suppose it’s for debate which interpretation is accurate, but only one can be.

12. They believe Adam Lanza’s prolonged “Dance Dance Revolution” sessions were a means for him to deal with his anxiety by completely exhausting himself:

Reports were that AL would dance for hours at a time. Per description, he would whip himself into a frenzy, a behavior consistent, possibly, with a need to contain anxiety-producing impulses and thoughts. [...] It is reasonable to speculate from this behavior that AL’s mental health was deteriorating and that he was living with very serious inner turmoil at this time. Dance Dance Revolution served as a complete distraction and perhaps a containing device, as he danced to a state of physical exhaustion, only to return home to his self-imposed isolation.

AL seemed to be dividing his life between various forms of escape in which he made minimal personal contact with other human beings, either dancing to the point of physical exhaustion while noticeably oblivious to other people in the theater, or physically shut off from the outer world in his room while immersed in a fantasy cyber-world.

13. They note that Adam increasingly started to engage with the world through his computer, descending by 2010 “into a world where he communicated most often, and at times perhaps singularly, with members of a cyber-community.” Included is an email from Adam’s e-mail to an unnamed “cyber aquaintance”:

It’s amazing how fast time passes. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been this long. I’m sorry about my mood over the summer. I was more depressed than I had ever been before. When I apologized for it, you said that I wasn’t behaving disrespectfully and that I never had been, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as kind toward you as you deserve. I don’t know how much it ever seemed like it, but I’ve always really appreciated your friendship. I’ve pretty much been a complete loner throughout my life but I’m sure that even if I had more friends, you’d still be my favorite person I’ve met. I’d like it if we could do something together again sometime. . . . Please email back and we could figure out something amazing.

I believe this is the only record of a heartfelt or empathic message ever written by the killer. (The content of the message doesn’t suggest to me a “cyber acquaintance” though; this sounds like an email to his DDR friend, especially the part about “doing something together again” which sounds like a real-life encounter. But that’s not how the report describes it.)

14. Adam continued to correspond with members of the Columbine RPG forum for months after leaving it in February 2012. The report never specifies what website these acquaintances were made at, but I think “a small community of individuals that shared his dark and obsessive interest in mass murder” makes it pretty clear.

July 23, 2012 (From AL to Cyber-Acquaintance): “My interest in mass murdered [sic] has been perfunctory for such a long time. The enthusiasm I had back when Virginia Tech happened feels like it’s been gone for a hundred billion years. I don’t care about anything. I’m just done with it all.”

The timing of this exchange is very telling; this was just days after the Aurora theater shooting, and Adam had been away from the forum for over four months. The tone of the email suggests to me that someone from the forum was missing his input on this latest massacre, and sent him an email with some kind of sensational details about James Holmes. Adam’s reply shows that by now (just five months before the Sandy Hook shooting) he was bored with the topic — or, at least, claims he was. This could be a sort of envious dismissal of a mass shooter that he would have seen as a competitor by this point.

I should also note that it doesn’t seem the authors took into account any of his forum posts. It appears they based their evaluations of his online activity through the un-redacted police reports, which examined his email activity, which showed interactions with the same people… but they were not the exact same interactions as seen on the Columbine forum.

This is probably because they were going off of the police reports, which likely didn’t have any forum posts in them either. The official report’s note that Adam Lanza “was a member of several columbine forums” was probably gleaned from the context of these email exchanges, where Adam and the other forum users probably mentioned the Super Columbine Massacre RPG forum in conversation. I don’t think they ever found the forum itself (in fact Shocked Beyond Belief may have been offline when they looked for it.)

15. The contents of his hard drive that referred to pedophilia were apparently research for some kind of college essay:

At some point, AL crafted an undated and lengthy essay, which he identified as a college admission application text, outlining a position that pedophilia should not be considered abhorrent or illegal. His essay, academic in tone, references varying cultural norms across the span of time to support a premise that our modern day attitudes about pedophilia are arbitrarily constructed. Authors are careful to note that there are no other writings that speak to a preoccupation he may or may not have had with pedophilia. There are no records and there is no evidence that he had pedophiliac tendencies. Authors note that there is evidence that he was in possession of video pornography, but that the contents of the pornography was not pedophiliac in nature. It is possible that the essay he drafted constituted an academic exercise that was not submitted for review by any educational professional. As with the “Big Book of Granny”, it was obsessive in both length and tone, 34 pages long even though he stated that the “requirement” was 500 words.

I would here note that one of the documents, listed in warrants as “457.full – Profile of a pedophile,” is actually just a publication from the Mayo Clinic, discussing the diagnosis and treatment of pedophiles (available here: http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(11)61074-4/abstract)

16. A previously-unreleased text from Nancy again describes the “bump on the head” that occurred on December 10th, just before she left for New Hampshire, and just four days before the Sandy Hook shooting.

AL sustained and injury to his head the night before Mrs. Lanza left for a trip to New Hampshire—2 or 3 days prior to the Sandy Hook shooting. Mrs. Lanza describes his injury in a text message reading “bloody, bloody, bloody.”

For comparison’s sake, the previously-released text:

“I was off to a rough start. Poor Adam bumped his head (really badly) and we were dealing with blood at 5:30 in the morning L He is ok.”

17. It hasn’t been released before, as far as I know, that Adam Lanza studied Sandy Hook’s security procedures (emphasis theirs):

The attack on Sandy Hook Elementary appears to have been a purposefully thought-out and planned attack—AL did not just “snap.” He visited the school’s website on numerous occasions. He had looked at the student handbook and viewed security procedures at the school.

18. This e-mail was sent by Adam just 3 days before Sandy Hook shooting. The “bump on the head” already happened, and Nancy was in New Hampshire.

From: (AL)
Date: 12/11/2012 9:56pm
To: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I didn’t really look at the emails you sent earlier, so I guess I ought to respond now. About the Chinese mass stabbers, they blend together in my mind too much for me to say much. Although I guess that should make it even easier to talk about them…I don’t know. Who am I to even say anything on the topic? The inexplicable mystery to me isn’t how there are massacres, but rather how there aren’t 100,000 of them every year. So when it comes to rates and such, causes and consequences, domestic or forging (sic), in whatever context, I’m just going to be completely making things up because I apparently don’t understand any of it.
I’m clueless about Olga Hepnarova. While granting that modus operandi really isn’t that important, I just can’t get into vehicular slaughterers. It seem too mediated, like using remote explosives (too hot). And knives stray too far from the whole “mass” aspect (too cold). The aesthetic of pistols tends to be just (sic) right.
A list of mass shooter suicide notes…I never thought to compile such a thing before. I can’t remember ever thinking, “Whoa, that guy had a suicide note and I’m just finding out about this?! If their existence is every (sic) divulged by the police, it tends to be pretty public knowledge; and if their contents are released, they’re even more prominent. So I’m probably not privy to any information that you aren’t’ already well-aware of. All I can offer is to say that you can probably rest easy knowing that you aren’t overlooking too many lurking Jiverlys.
As far as the Holmies go…well, the .gif of him dancing on a llama was cute. I guess that’s all I can say about the whole Holmie thing since I can’t really relate to it. I don’t understand why there weren’t the “he’s just a poor misunderstood puppy who needs help” type flocking around Jared Loughner since that spiel ostensibly applied to him more than James Holmes. And speaking more generally, I don’t really understand why Aurora shooting was considered such a big deal all-around, as if such a thing had never happened before. It’s not like its 1984.

The sum conclusion from the authors, in reaction to emails like these from the last days of Lanza’s life, is their belief that “his thinking, while highly idiosyncratic and verging on the bizarre with regard to mass murder, was not actively psychotic.”

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An illustration from “The Big Book of Granny”: Adam Lanza’s 2draw from 2005

This is something I’ve been sitting on for awhile. I just wasn’t sure it was worth posting about before, seeing it as more of an odd bit of trivia about the case than anything else, but today’s release of the official report from Connecticut’s Office of the Child Advocate has cast a new level of scrutiny on Adam Lanza’s childhood project “The Big Book of Granny” that he assembled with another, yet-unnamed boy while they were in 5th Grade. So, I’m going to share what they left out: Adam Lanza himself posted an illustration from the Big Book of Granny online.

This will take a bit of explaining.

The official report (both the one released today and Connecticut State Police report from one year ago) provide a description of the Big Book of Granny, but only one actual image from it has ever been released, that being the cover:

SHL-2drawgranny01

…note that while Adam Lanza’s name is unredacted, the “creator of the Granny Picture” is redacted. So, Adam apparently didn’t draw this picture. That will be relevant.

Personally, I’ve never really been interested in this home-made comic book as an investigative lead. Adam would have been in fifth grade at the time, and although the summary of the book provided by police includes a great deal of violence, that didn’t strike me as peculiar for boys in that age group.

The Child Advocate’s report, while it doesn’t include any actual quotes or photos of the book, basically destroys the validity of those kinds of dismissals (emphasis is in the original text):

“Here, “The Big Book of Granny” suggests that while in many ways [Adam Lanza] appeared to be positively developing, by the age of ten, on some level, he was deeply troubled by feelings of rage, hate, and (at least unconscious) murderous impulses. While many children, and especially boys, of this age contend with anger and violent impulses in their play and creative productions, “The Big Book of Granny” stands out, to mental health professionals, as a text marked by extreme thoughts of violence that should have signified a need for intervention and evaluation.”

So apparently, the Big Book of Granny was much, much more disturbing that whatever I was picturing.

Now, we need to jump around in time a bit.

Blarvink at 2draw

I first posted about this drawing back on November 26th, 2013 when the “blarvink” moniker first leaked. One of the pages I found online was of a drawing on the site 2draw, posted on June 8th 2005 and entitled Elder crying over Nuclear Weapon; I thought it was interesting that the user who posted it (as Blarvink, a name which Adam Lanza used in World of Warcraft) later tried (and failed) to delete it, given that Lanza had deleted so much of his online posts in other venues. This is that drawing:

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I had posted that drawing before most of the major breaks in the case took place: just a day after the official report was ever released, before I found the “Smiggles” account, before the radio call was unearthed… basically when Adam Lanza was still a blank slate.

So, about two months later I had read all of the official report, and upon seeing the cover of the Big Book of Granny, noticed the similarity in art style. I updated the “2draw” post with this:

Edit 1/21/2014: a comparison between Adam Lanza’s illustration for the cover of the “Big Book of Granny” and the Blarvink’s 2draw contribution:

granny2drawcomparison

And that’s how it stood. Two drawings that look pretty similar, drawn about 3 years apart. Not a big deal really.

What the 2draw post really is

A few months ago I was browsing through the official report and skimmed the description of the Big Book of Granny (again, this is the only information that’s ever been released about it up until today; there’s no way to actually read the Big Book of Granny) and one description stood out:

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The description of Granny “throwing a match and causing an explosion” is what is taking place here:

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yes, it looks more like a cigarette than a match, and the smoke is coming out the wrong end, but we’re not talking about grading an art assignment here

There are a few issues with this assertion, but I think they actually make this posting more significant.

First, as I noted above, Adam Lanza didn’t actually draw the “Big Book of Granny” cover. The other boy (who the Child Advocate report notes is now living in mental health facility) drew it, and confirmed so in interviews with police. While this may not be the most reliable account (given the passage of time mostly, but also due to the co-author’s mental state) the cover of the book records the same, so it’s probably true.

If that’s the case, though, that means that Adam Lanza was sufficiently impressed (or obsessed, or interested, or whatever his emotions were) with the drawings that he wanted to duplicate them and pass them off as his own, at least in an online, anonymous situation, three years later.

Which brings us to the second point: the “Elder Crying Over a Nuclear Weapon” drawing is not literally a drawing from the Big Book of Granny. It’s a hand-drawn recreation, which actually shows a much more significant level of interest in the Big Book of Granny by its co-author, three years after it was originally drawn. 2draw (from what I can tell, not to mention the name of the site) is not a place where you can cut-and-paste art. You have to draw it in-browser (comparable to something like the app Draw Something.) The 2draw post itself notes that he took 44 minutes to put it together.

In other words, Adam was still obsessing over the violence in his (5th grade) book by the time he was almost an 8th grader. And I think that’s far more significant that quibbling over whether the original drawing was by someone else, or differed from the 2draw post. That he wanted to recreate it after so long, and put so much care into doing it, speaks to a deeper issue.

Anyway, I haven’t finished reading the report yet, but will have my overall response to it up tomorrow. In the meantime, here is the full description of The Big Book of Granny, from the official police report last year (my only changes are splitting paragraphs for readability):

On 08/16/13,1 was assigned to review documents returned from the FBI-Behavioral Analysis Unit. A review of box #3 of 5 boxes revealed a spiral bound booklet called “The Big Book of Granny”, which appeared to be created by the shooter. The book is bound in a black plastic spiral binding and covered on the front and back with a clear plastic sheeting. The book starts with a list of 85 Granny Jokes. All of the jokes are degrading statements beginning with “Granny!”

Following 3 pages of Granny Jokes, the book lists “Granny Products of the Future”, which includes advertisements for Granny Action Figure, Granny Action Figure 2, Granny Action Figure 3, Granny Action Figure 4, Granny Action Figure 5, Granny Action Figure Set (includes all 5 Granny Action Figures), Gran Spam, Granny Oats and Granny’s Granny. Each of the products is described in an advertisement format with monetary cost and
phone number to call to order.

The next section of the book is labeled as “Granny’s Clubhouse of Happy Children.” This section is a typed dialog from an imaginary TV show. The main characters feature Granny, her son “Bobolicious” and several children. In the show. Granny and Bobolicious are talking to the group of children as if in a group. In the first episode. Granny punches one boy in the face, throws a match and causes an explosion and threatens to shoot and kill the children.

The second episode, Granny’s Clubhouse of Happy Children 2, starts out with Bobolicious speaking to the children. Bobolicious said “Hi! I’m Bobolicious the Explorer….. Remember last time when everyone was slaughtered!? Well…You bread-brain leeches gave me 75 years of prison for that so called “Tragedy”! I was having fun!” The third and final episode. Granny’s Clubhouse of Happy Children 3, introduces two new characters, Dora the Beserker and her monkey, Shoes. Bobolicious says that they are going to play a game of “Hide and go Die.”

The next section of the book is labeled “Adventures of Granny.” There are eight chapters labeled “The Adventures of Granny” through “The Adventures of Granny 8.” All eight chapters are dialog between Granny and another character identified as Granny’s Son with various persons added in. In the first chapter, Granny and Granny’s Son rob a bank, Granny shoots people with her rifle cane, and then blows up the bank with dynamite. After the robbery. Granny’s Son shoots Granny in the head with a shotgun. In the second chapter. Granny and Granny’s Son go on a boat ride. Granny falls out of the boat and Granny’s Son throws her a cement floatation device which forces her to sink to the bottom of the ocean.

In the third chapter. Granny and Granny’s Son try to capture a boy and stuff him, to put on the mantle. Granny kicks the boy into the fireplace and he begins to burn. The boy jumps out of the fire and Granny punches him in the face. Then Granny shoots at him three times with her rifle cane and misses him. Granny then throws a Granny Action Figure to the boy. The boy gets distracted and the action figure comes alive and shoots the boy. Granny’s Son says “Yay! Now we can hang it!” In chapter four. Granny and Granny’s Son go to a hockey game. Granny goes onto the ice and punches one of the players and then shoots him with her rifle cane. After the hockey game, Granny and Granny’s Son go to Duchess restaurant to eat. In chapter five, Granny goes to Marine boot camp and meets up with Dora the Beserker and Swiper the Rackoon. Granny asks Dora if she would assassinate a soldier at midnight and Dora agrees to do it. Dora says ” I like hurting people…Especially children…” Granny then shoots multiple people with her rifle cane.

When Granny escapes boot camp and goes home to Granny’s Son, she tells him that she left boot camp because she killed the entire Marine legion. In chapter six, Granny and Granny’s Son are picked up from the side of the road by Dora the Beserker. Dora tells Granny that she can take her wherever she needs to go, after they go to the daycare center. When they arrive at the daycare center, Dora sends Swiper the Raccoon inside to distract the children. Then Dora enters and says “Let’s hurt children.”

In chapter seven. Granny and Granny’s Son go to visit Dora the Beserker. Dora takes them on an adventure to find Drunk. In the adventure, they encounter a rooster and have to call upon their bag to get a shotgun. In their bag is a handgun, AK-47, M-16, rifle, rocket launcher, musket and a shotgun. Dora uses the shotgun to shoot the rooster and Swiper the Raccoon. Later in the adventure, Dora accidentally shoots her monkey, named Shoes, Lenny the Cow and Tico the Chipmunk. Dora eventually gets arrested for possession of 6 guns and murdering 4 animals. In chapter 8, Granny and Granny’s Son use a time machine to go back in time. In their travels, they meet The Beatles. Granny kills all of The Beatles and says that she kills every bug she sees. Granny and Granny’s Son get arrested and sentenced to 75 years in jail for killing The Beatles. (See attached copy of the cover of The Big Book of Granny)

CASE STATUS:
This case remains ACTIVE pending further investigation.

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Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate releases their official report

It’s here (top link on the right.)

I won’t have a chance to read the report until later, will post any thoughts I have on it tomorrow.

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Anarcho-Primitivism at the Columbine RPG forum

The few known hints that Adam Lanza left behind about his motive in the Sandy Hook shooting are all rooted in anarcho-primitivist philosophy; he linked to John Zerzan’s essays in his last post (in which he linked mass violence with anxiety and alienation) and he called Zerzan’s radio show to explain his interpretation of the Travis the Chimp incident.

It hasn’t been clear, though, exactly how Lanza stumbled across anarcho-primitivism; given the lack of attention the other forum users paid to his postings about Travis the Chimp (Smiggles several times contributes replies to the thread, despite there not having been a reply from anyone else, so he was essentially talking to himself) and similar topics (his post on trans-humanism) I had assumed that anarcho-primitivism was a subject that he brought to the forum, and it simply didn’t catch on as a topic of discussion.

I’ve discovered that this is not the case. Reviewing the Web Archive of the first instance of the forum, Super Columbine Massacre RPG! Discussion, it can be seen that Anarcho-primitivism was discussed on the forum in 2008, three years before Lanza was doing the same (the tone of the conversation I’ll be quoting here suggests that this is not the first time it has been brought up, either.)

Lanza didn’t even register until a year after the thread in question, so it should be noted, then, that he confirmed that he was already reading the forum as of late 2006, in the thread How did you find this forum?”:

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Thus, while Smiggles was not around to contribute to this conversation, we can be pretty much certain that the read the thread. And after reading it, the content of the thread leaves no real doubt.

The conversation that introduces the topic of anarcho-primitivism (or at least the earliest one that I could find) was the thread Columbine, Fight Club and the copycats, posted on 25th December 2008. In the initial post, the forum user Sabratha compares “copycat” killers such as Pekka Auvinen to the dumb followers of Project Mayhem in the book Fight Club.

I just feel like making a rant.

Remember that day when you heard about the first shooting in Finland when it was Auvinen?

I do. I remember getting mad, then sad, then astonished when I found out it was someone I’ve seen on youtube.
I remember his movies, him in his “Humanity is overrated” shirt, him shooting in the forest like Eric, him making pseudo-darwinistic rants like Eric did, his name in the news when he was dying in the hospital after he shot himself. Just like Eric.

I remember the day Saari made his shooting, I remember seeing him on TV, in his backwards black cap like Eric, shooting his gun then pointing at the camera. I remember hearing his name on the news as he was dying in the hospital from a delf-inflicted shot in the head. Just like Eric.

Somewhere, inside something there is a whole ton of misunderstanding, pain, fanaticism. The more I know about the perpetrators of the last few shootings, the more I realize that they are like the blind worshippers of Cassie Bernal and Rachel Scott.

TV gave them their saints, the internet provided them with their relics, the media gave them their blessing.

The copycats didn’t understand what columbine was about and didn’t see al thelies and myths the media made and they didn’t see the faults in Erics reasoning and his writing.

Its like fight club. The 10 year anniversary of columbine is approaching and I have a dreadfull feeling that somewhere out there is a group of people who are mindlessly chanting a name over and over and its not “Robert Paulson”.

I can hear them:

“His name was Eric Harris, his name was Eric Harris, his name was Eric Harris…”

Sabratha, recall, is the user who was involved in the making of the film Bullet Time that suggested aspiring shooters join the forum (I’ve covered it in detail here). Adam had a particular liking for this film, and he consistently referred to it as “Sabratha’s Bullet Time” – the film and the forum user were closely linked for Adam, and so it follows that he had a particular respect for Sabratha. He would have been reading Sabratha’s posts.

The first reply to this thread is from the user columbin - this user is the owner of the forum, and the creator of the game the forum is named after: Super Columbine Massacre RPG. In his post, he quotes directly from Fight Club, a passage where the cult-leader-like character Tyler Durden describes a sort of post-apocalyptic hunter-gatherer society, and columbin suggests that it as a desirable existence:

That’s a really interesting comparison. In the Fight Club analogy, we should think about how to prevent the mindless adherence to Project Mayhem by space monkeys. Despite this, Tyler’s vision is a promising one:

Quote:
In the world I see – you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.

Nonetheless, I think this would be a pretty great world to have. In fact, it may be an inevitable world to have by the 22nd century.

The next day, the user NamelessMuse replies critically to columbin’s post, and this is where anarcho-primitivism is specifically brought up (although the previous post essentially was advocating it in all but name, and NamelessMuse is expressing doubt about its merits):

I disagree Columbin and I don’t find Tyler’s description to be great at all.

While major social change is inevitable for better or worse it is never a permanant thing. If we achieved your ideal world it would not last.

I don’t understand the love for anacho primitvism. Part of the philosohpy is that modern society alienates individuals Which it does but I don’t see how dying in some cold forest is somehow better.

Some may say that our consumption based lifestyle is a bad thing and leads to shallow pleasure but how would living day to day like the unibomber be any better? I like security in my life as well as medicine and the internet. Such a lifestyle would not lead to a deeper spiritual happiness but rather simple reward based happiness. That sounds even more shallow.

Secondly anarcho primitivists who wish to activley cause the world to be thrown into a state of chaos are selfish assholes because who gave them the right to decide we need a revolution?

They are talking about killing millions of people and there is no way around that. The earth cannot support the level of people it has now if we all reverted back to a hunter gatherer lifestyle. The agriculture revolution I would argue is a great thing. I know you disagree.

Anarcho primitivists also seem to cherry pick what they consider modern. Why not just choose regular anarchism? “Modern” is a social construct of little real meaning anyway. I like things like medicine tampons and video games.

What would happen to the arts in such a world?

Exchange one extreme for the other Material based consumerism vs. minimalist survivalism. They both fucking suck.

Its not the lifestyle you need to worry about its human nature that is the problem.

Again, it’s apparent that this topic came up on the forum before, so this is probably not the specific thread where Adam first learned about the subject of anarcho-primitivism. The point is that this is another instance where Adam Lanza derived his personality and his motives from his study of mass murder, rather than a philosophy that he studied separately and then connected to his obsession.

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Research from SandyHookLighthouse now at SchoolShooters.info

You can now find some improved versions of my research over at SchoolShooters.info – this is a site maintained by Dr. Peter Langman, a leading researcher on school shootings and author of School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators and Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. 

My contributions are here: http://schoolshooters.info/adam-lanza

I’ve always felt that the information uncovered about the Sandy Hook shooter at this blog should be studied by mental health professionals, and it’s been my goal for a long time to make that happen. I’m very proud to have achieved that here.

As far as the actual content hosted there, it’s mostly the  same as you’ll find here, except:

  • The index of “Smiggles” posts includes the complete threads they were posted to, so you can see the context of the conversation. This has not really been possible since the Google archive of ShockedBeyondBelief.com went offline last Summer, and I’ve been meaning to make my saved pages available ever since, so there they are (with a few exceptions, as I didn’t save every single page.)
  • The “Adam Lanza Timeline” document has some entries that I’ve been meaning to add (such as Lanza’s post about Anders Breivik, and his final post before leaving the forum) as well as a few other tweaks and corrections.  I’ll be making these same updates to the timeline here soon.
  • All the documents are in a vastly more readable format. I’ll admit I don’t run the most visually appealing blog out there.
  • There’s  also a transcript of the 2011 Anarchy Radio call, transcribed by a pro, Ilana Masad (I had posted my own transcription back in January, but I’m sure it wasn’t perfect.)

So, take a look if you’re interested in researching this case, or the subject in general. Much thanks to Peter and Josh Langman for hosting this information, and their patience in helping me to improve it over the past few weeks.

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A few new Smiggles posts, and a note on teddy bears (yes, really)

I’ve been looking through the Internet Archive of the old SCMRPG discussion forum, looking for posts from Adam Lanza that didn’t show up in the Google archive of ShockedBeyondBelief. Posts that have slipped through the cracks, in other words. I’ve found three, and all were in the same thread: Non-Columbine Spree Movies.

I’ll post them here, with some brief explanation for context.

The conversation takes place on July 5th and 6th, 2010 and concerns – as the title of the thread would suggest – movies that depict incidents of mass violence other than the Columbine shooting. The content of Lanza’s first post is familiar, in that he recommends two films which we already knew were favorites of his:

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My favorite two are Bloody Wednesday (It was significantly better than The Shining even with its many editing errors) and Stalking Laura. It’s impressively detailed for a “The following is based on a true story.” movie, like it’s the more fictionally-oriented Richard Farley version of Zero Hour. It’s my favorite movie of any genre.

Smiggles recommended Stalking Laura, in addition to expressing a strong admiration for the real-life mass killer, Richard Farley, whom the film is based upon, in several other threads that I’ve already covered. However this is the only time where he goes so far as to declare it his “favorite movie.” The film Bloody Wednesday, meanwhile, he previously mentioned among his favorites in the thread “Favorite Films.” He also referenced it in the thread “Earliest movie portrayal of a mass/spree shooting?” – a topic which he started himself to discuss the 1968 film Targets:

I don’t know how I can describe it. It’s like a blend of Bloody Wednesday and Stalking Laura. It isn’t serious in the various ways that those two can be taken (Yes, I just called Bloody Wednesday serious in some sense), while still being sincere. It’s like what Duck! should have been. I think it’s the most pleasurable movie about a mass shooting that I’ve seen.

Back to the “Non-Columbine Spree Movies” thread, another user responds, touching off an exchange of two more posts. In the first, Smiggles again admits that Bloody Wednesday is not a film that most would consider to be of quality:

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ForumUser: Ooh, Farley and Huberty! Thank you!

Smiggles:I’m probably the only one here who would like Bloody Wednesday, but Stalking Laura is completely different. You should definitely see that one.

The same user replies again, as does Smiggles:

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ForumUser: Are you kidding? Very Happy That was awesome. Took a while to warm up to it, but it had me at the teddy bear Russian roulette scene. Great shooting scene, too. Though it reminded me more of Hennard than Huberty.

Smiggles:I had the same reaction. I was wondering “Where is this going?” when he was being chased in the hotel, and then the teddy bear suddenly blew me away.

I originally found out about the movie by looking up George Sodini videos last year. One of them was the restaurant shooting scene with a title like “Pittsburgh shooting caught on security cameras”.

Bloody Wednesday is a movie about a delusional, probably schizophrenic man who experiences delusions of committing murders in between being attacked (or hallucinating being attacked) by street thugs and snakes, and it ends with him committing a mass shooting at a diner (supposedly inspired by the James Huberty massacre at a McDonalds in California.)

The “teddy bear Russian roulette scene” refers to this sequence, during which his teddy bear commands him to kill, with a gun that he produced from inside the same bear:

This is enough to recall the teddy bear that investigators found perched atop the gun safe in the Lanza home, positioned to watch Adam Lanza while he was plotting his own mass shooting:

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…but I’m inclined to think this was either a coincidence, or just a sick joke (to himself) on the killer’s part, rather than a sign that he actually heard voices from his teddy bear.

The admission that Smiggles was researching George Sodini further cements the notion (although I don’t think any reasonable person is disputing it at this point) that Smiggles is indeed the same person that posted as Kaynbred on wikipedia. I analyzed Kaynbred’s fixation on George Sodini here.

I’ve found a few other discussion threads that I think are important in this archive, but this is the only one that Lanza actually participated in. And I’m pretty sure these three posts are all there is to find as far as Smiggles posts that haven’t already been uncovered, since I checked (I think) all archives that were made during and after the time Lanza was posting.

But if anyone wants to look for themselves, just click through the archived links here. There’s almost 27,000 pages. Good luck.

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Bullet Time: a review (part 2 of 2)

(This is the second half of my review of the film Bullet Time. For part one, click here. For an overview of what the film is and why it is relevant to the Sandy Hook shooting, click here.)

Picking up where we left off, Micah Duczyk and Jan Kossakowski have just celebrated New Years Eve, and declared 2009 the “Year of the Rat.” The date of their planned massacre is drawing near.

Geared Up

It is daytime, and the guys are driving again. Kossakowski films from the passenger seat. They have big news: guns.

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Micah announces with glee that they’ve indeed acquired firearms, the main implement with which they plan to teach the world a lesson. His phrasing “we have the damn guns, we have shooters, yes sir!” is likely a nod to the Columbine killers, whose journals document the lead-up to their real-life massacre; on 22 November 1998, Eric Harris recorded the date they finally got their hands on firearms:

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Well folks, today was a very important day in the history of [Eric] today, along with [Dylan] and someone else who I won’t name, we went downtown and purchased the following: a double barrel 12 ga. Shotgun, a pump action 12 ga. Shotgun, a 9mm carbine, 250 9mm rounds, 15 12 ga slugs, 40 shotgun shells, 2 switch blade knives, and a total of 4 10-round clips for the carbine. We …….. have …… GUNS! we fucking got them you sons of bitches! HA! HA HA HA! Neener! Booga Booga. Heh. It’s all over now. This capped it off, the point of no return.

Gaining possession of guns is also felt as a “point of no return” for the guys:

MICAH: Now you can kiss the foreman’s royal butt. The end. It’s over. You had a chance – the greatest – to stop this. You had it. And now what? Now nothing. Now, unless we do something majorly stupid, and we won’t-

KOSSAKOWSKI: We won’t.

MICAH: -then… No one… Then no one can stop us.

The placing of guilt on the future-victims of their massacre, with the claim “You had a chance – the greatest – to stop this. And now what? Now nothing. ” also recalls the manifesto of the Virginia Tech shooter, who wrote “You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours.”

Anticipating how the shooting will unfold, they foreshadow the student who was interviewed at the beginning of the film, who recalled surviving the massacre behind a locked door, the handle of which was jiggled by one of the shooters:

KOSSAKOWSKI: Perhaps you won’t do me the favor and line up.

MICAH: Too bad.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Too bad indeed, but…well… for a man to get some exercise…

MICAH: They’ll keep cowering under the desks, frozen with fear.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Yup… That would be the best option.

MICAH: That’s how it’ll be. Just as long as the shitheads don’t lock themselves in the damn room.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Maybe it’s for the best, actually, because if… If the game is too easy then it loses its pleasure factor.

They then get more specific about the timing of their planned massacre, as Micah observes “Right now, we’ve got six weeks left at most.”

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The Game

Kossakowski films Micah over the shoulder, as he plays a PC game called “Office Rampage II.”

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They mock that talking heads in the media will accuse them of “practicing” on a video game, even while admitting that they are indeed doing so.

Micah narrates his simulated rampage, offering tips such as “If you’re doing a school shooting, it’s worthwhile to take a look around, [to see] whether or not someone’s standing behind the corner” and “it pays to have two firearms…
And reload them when there’s nobody around.” and finally “do not spare the wounded.

When confronted with a room without any living victims, Micah observes that “if you’re left with a few bullets, you can fool around. You can destroy something” and then shoots a computer monitor.

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This is itself reminiscent of a real-life office rampage, that committed by Richard Farley in 1988, when Farley continued stalking the halls of his former employer after his killings were done, firing at random computer hardware. A Lifetime Movie based on the shooting, Stalking Laura, was released in 1993.

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A scene from Stalking Laura

Adam Lanza had a particular fixation on Richard Farley’s office rampage, and indeed even recommended this same TV movie on the SCMRPG discussion forum on 30 December 2009, in the thread “Lifetime Movie About Lauren Townsend’s Mother”:

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The best movie I’ve seen about a mass shooting was from Lifetime. Other than the issue of portraying Richard Farley as a cute engineer instead of a creepy technician, its immense amount of accurate details warrants its “based on a true story” status.

The video-game demonstration is concluded with one final bit of advice: “Don’t let yourselves get caught with the last round in the chamber. Always reload your weapon.”

Micah’s address

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Kossakowski has twice already confided in the viewer about his motives and emotions; playing the Dylan Klebold role, he is the more sensitive one, more prone to guilt and introspection.

This is Micah’s turn.

Friggin’ 1am. Now I had to feel like confiding.

I know that one of the main questions that most of you will be asking is – why, what for, what was the cause, what was it about?

You know… there’s this old, old, old, old game that citizen Socrates used to play. That is he walked around Athens and asked various people he came across: “Why? Why? What for? What’s the cause of that?”

And that is… that is quite a particular game which I recommend you try and play once in a while.

If anyone states one’s view, or an opinion, or says that one will do something, then often… then you can easily ask him or her: “what for?”

Then he or she will say something.

Then you continue asking – what for is…? This.

One will state a cause.

And why is it important, you ask.

If you keep on asking long enough, then finally it will turn out that after… the question is whether or not someone is intelligent; if one is intelligent, then after thirty successive questions (if one is of little intelligence, then after a few) then at some point…the guy…whatever… the gal…won’t know what to say. Will lose self-assurance.

It will turn out that there is no cause. After the first, third or tenth question it will turn out that something is simply because “I want.”

You know what?

The joke… the underlying joke is that people act rationally, but only within a certain scope. The basic desires, the basic stimuli, the basic urges, the basic actions, always are baseless, truthfully, from the logical point of view.

One always arrives at a point where, if one wants to speak the truth, one must say “well, yeah, I did it because I wanted to.”

And why?

“Eh, I don’t know. I just felt like it, it was pleasurable for me, I wanted to do it.”

And that is… that is the basic…the primary issue – I’m not afraid to say it, that I’m doing this because I want to. Simply, this is the final resort, the primary axiom. Because I want to.

Probably, you’ll probably ask me in a moment, why… why don’t I want the same thing that everyone else does. Why don’t I want to play the game known colloquially… continued, glorious, wonderful life.

That means…

Should I tell you? I’ll put it this way: if I got my bearings straight quick, then in a year I’m writing my MA. I’d have written my master’s thesis a year from now. Then doctorate studies. The doctoral thesis and good day, we’re staying at the university.

And what then? Well, nothing.

I’d start earning money on an even keel, I’d buy myself a…[???] you know. The… The whole lot – an apartment, a wife, kids… a house with a garden, a dog, a cat… Retirement. The third pier and other such nonsense.

And you know what?

And I don’t want a wife, kids, a house with a garden, a dog or a cat.

I don’t intend to fool around with such things. I don’t want to. I want to… I want to start as I’ve already started, do what I’ve already done. You know, I don’t worry about anything that already has been. I’m not ashamed of anything, I regret nothing.

I intend to end it in such a way…That… I… such a way that I will finish it in. You know what? There, at the department, gun in hand, it’s I who’ll do it. I will pick the moment I die. Time… and place. And in what way I will do it.

Yes. Some of course will come at me, that… that “suicide is cowardice.” It’s such an old folk tale.

You know, take a look at that who we usually call heroes. And so, heroes, as a rule… you call people who wanted to do something, didn’t succeed, they’ve let themselves get killed… and that’s it.

Take a look at this. What kind of a hero is Roland from “The Song of Roland?” God help us… or, I don’t know… Pulaski, who’s let himself get killed by the English at Savvanah?

Or the Warsaw insurgents who’ve let their asses get kicked by the Germans.

You know what? Heroes you usually call people who’ve had too little… who were too stupid, had too little intelligence. Or had too little ability to survive. They’ve just let themselves get killed.

Someone who wanted to achieve something, didn’t achieve it and let himself get killed is a hero?

And somebody who wants to – by himself! –  choose the time of death, and to inflict it upon himself by himself, and that’s what he wants to achieve…Then what? Then he’s a coward?

It all makes no sense. It’s all one big pile of drivel. The world… The world… The world is as it is. I’ll put it this way…the world has, dear citizens…  the world has gotten into my bad book. And now that I have a gun, then I have the ability to kick its ass. And that’s what I’m gonna do.

And you, at best… will be able to watch a live media feed from the place where the event takes place.

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True to psychopathy, Micah’s attempt at introspection is just a critique of society. Looking inward, he finds little but his hate for the world reflecting back, and so in explaining his motives, he says almost nothing about himself. In keeping with the Klebold/Harris dichotomy, Micah’s monologue is much more menacing and disturbing, despite Kossakowski (Klebold) trying so much harder to appear a remorseless psychopath. Micah doesn’t need to perform; he’s the real deal.

Shocked Beyond Belief

We now come to the scene that is probably most directly linked to Adam Lanza: Kossakowski’s endorsement of the SCMRPG discussion forum for aspiring school shooters.

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Jan is sitting at a computer desk, with the “Super Columbine Massacre RPG Discussion Forum” open in a window over his shoulder.

This scene shows the forum exactly how it looked when Adam Lanza was an active member, under the username Smiggles, rather than the “Shocked Beyond Belief” format that would later host his writings, by which point he was no longer an active user.

Even in recommending the forum, Jan has some tips on how the aspiring shooter should mask his or her intentions:

You are not yourselves. This is the Internet. Anonymity reigns, so… Log yourselves through a proxy, install a firewall…And create a new persona for yourselves.

He then points out that, if the shooter is going to ask incriminating questions, they should only do so after establishing a benign presence on the boards beforehand, burying the suspicious postings in a haystack of meaningless interactions.

If you absolutely have to ask questions about… Let’s call it the technical aspect of the shooting… then don’t drop it on people suddenly, like some bomb.

First work a bit…the people on the forum. Get them used to your existence, and then post this question as, let’s say, the fourth out of five totally random questions, more or less related to the subject. So that it doesn’t stand out.

Alright. The same applies to pretty much…the rule of the medium. That is, we said that you rather shouldn’t do it, but if someone absolutely wants to leave his mark on the Internet, then really, don’t make a super-flashy, hooray for the 20th of April, or something of the sort, cause…of course they’ll eat you alive again.

This method of posting uninteresting threads to the SCMRPG forum in order to blunt the impact of the user’s actual area of inquiry is perhaps reflected in Lanza’s posting history; of his surviving posts, most (especially those early in the timeline) are basically fluff. He posts about hamsters and Disney movies and 80′s music, then sneaks in a suspiciously knowledgeable post about Kimveer Gill or Jared Loughner. At first glance it may seem that he was only superficially interested in mass violence at this point, and was not yet planning his own massacre, but when viewed in the context of Bullet Time (which he almost certainly watched before registering the Smiggles profile) it seems likely that the bulk of his posts were probably just an attempt at hiding his tracks.

Jan then turns to the subject of acquiring official documents associated with mass shootings (a very popular activity on the board):

If someone wants to, for example, download the memoirs of Dylan, Harris, or any sort of notes by any of the shooters, then, well…Yes. People, check if it’s on Rapidshare first. Really. I know that for some Rapidshare is a labyrinth/fortress and if you don’t get bearing for a particular file, then… it simply isn’t there for you, but… seriously, there are search engines for those things.

Rapidshare was a very popular file-sharing website at the time, before lawsuits forced its operators to change the site’s policies in 2010, effectively killing it. On 24 February 2012, in one of his last posts, Adam Lanza references this turn of events in the thread “Topic for all Columbine-related movies/tv shows” when he mentions “Anyway, since Megaupload is gone, here’s Mad_Bomber’s list” before providing a link to a list of films in line with the thread’s topic. So, Adam Lanza was definitely a user of the service, for apparently the same purposes as the characters in this film, on the same forum depicted in the film.

Lanza also made use of another file sharing site, MediaFire, which advertises itself as “a simple to use free service for that lets you put all your photos, documents, music, and video in a single place so you can access them anywhere and share them everywhere.” In the official Sandy Hook report, investigators detail that they discovered his account, and deleted it with the permission of Adam’s father, Peter.

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There’s no suggestion of what exactly was found there, but the phrasing “based on the content found under Adam Lanza’s MediaFire account, investigators concluded that it was best to have the account removed” suggests to me that it went beyond just images or videos of previous shootings. It may even have been the “Images of the shooter holding a rifle to his head” described elsewhere in the official report, although this is just a guess on my part (and it would certainly beg the question of who exactly Lanza was sharing the images with.)

Close Calls

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Kossakowski and Micah film a brief scene in the Psych building. This again shows the locations where the shootings will occur.

A conversation takes place between Micah and a girl who must be one of the shooting victims being interviewed at the beginning of the film; her face is never shown during this exchange, but the conversation is roughly similar to what one of the girls had described.

In an interview with their school newspaper just before the release of Bullet Time, the filmmakers claimed that one of the actresses left the production after the Finland school shooting (which occurred during production) made her uncomfortable about the subject matter; maybe that actress was supposed to be in this scene, and so they fudged what should have been a more significant on-screen meeting. Who knows. At any rate, their conversation is overheard while the camera films a class schedule on the wall.

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Back at the apartment, Micah then relates a story about how his father had borrowed his car to go grocery shopping, and almost discovered the recently-acquired shotgun he was stashing in the trunk.

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This event recalls a close call that the Columbine killers experienced, when one of their fathers received a phone call from a gun store, informing him “your clips are in.” He simply replied “I didn’t order any clips,” not realizing that the call was actually for his son.

Micah eases his father’s suspicious by telling him that the gun was just an airsoft paintball gun. He admits to us here that it was a bad cover story, but it worked: “Well, my father has a load of trust for me. He’ll regret it.”

Micah’s second address

Micah is again alone, addressing the camera. And again, a calendar hangs ominously over his shoulder, reminding us that we headed toward a scheduled event, and one that we already know was successfully executed.

In this brief speech, Micah refers to “the world out the window” just as Kossakowski did near the beginning of the film. But, while Kossakowski expressed exhaustion and envy with the happiness out the window, Micah’s take is much different.  It’s apparent by this point that both of the shooters mimic each other when together, but retreat to their opposite ends of the psychological spectrum when alone: while Micah is playful and sarcastic around his friend, when he has the stage to himself, he is pure malice.

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 I’m not doing this because of hatred. Meaning, I know very well that most people, who wanted to do something like this, did it exactly because of hatred.

I wanted to say that I don’t love this world outside the window. I don’t love these people, contrary to popular belief. On the contrary even – a whole lot of them I extraordinarily despise. However, this is not… H… hatred is not an adequate reason to do something like this.

And I did have moments in life, when I really…really hated. How many times in middle-school did I lie on the steps, bloodied? I’ve been… kicked.  Beaten. Called a fag, and a Jew, and…

But I didn’t want back then to do all this. Really. Foregoing the fact that I’d have a problem with buying weapons, finding stuff, but I did not want to. Pure and simple. That has been a wise decision because… to do a shooting is… To make this decision you need, from a certain perspective, to look at the deal from a certain perspective. Somewhat impersonal. See beyond your own feelings. You need to see… to see in all this an aesthetical depth, which is there.

And you need to… need to recognize the consequences. Know what you’re doing. One needs to be able to tell oneself that… Live through twenty… The twenty-odd years the way you have lived it, is a lot better than to live Sixty, seventy, eighty years drifting downstream like some trash…

This sentiment, of old age being a waste for the aspiring shooter, is eerie given it’s timing. This video was posted on April 6th, 2009. At this same time, George Sodini, the “Collier Township/LA Fitness” shooter, was sharing his own philosophies on his blog, which documented his preparations for a mass shooting that unfolded just four months later:

April 24, 2009:

I predict I won’t survive the next layoff. That is when there is no point to continue. Right now, life is bearable and I can get by indefinitely. Something bad must happen. The paycheck is all I have left. The future holds nothing for me.

Twenty five years of nothing fun. I never even spent one weekend with a girl in my life, even at my own place. Also unlikely to find another similar job. I guess then is when I take care of things. I don’t have kids, close friends or anything. Just me here. If you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.

We know that Adam Lanza read this journal, just as we know that he watched Bullet Time with great attention. And both served as an impetus for the emergence of one of his online identities: Sodini’s website was the topic that first brought Kaynbred to wikipedia, while Bullet Time finally brought Smiggles to the SCMRPG forum.

King Kong

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Micah sits on a desk, as Kossakowski films. Micah announces that they will be showing off their arsenal now, and it proceeds in ascending order of firepower.

First, the top drawer of the desk, which Micah says is the “Little Terrorist Set.”

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Micah emphasizes that “everything found in this drawer 100% legal. For this, you can kiss my ass, not put it in jail.” Though the only bomb ingredient specifically mentioned is sulfur.

They move one drawer down, to more “serious matters.” Then Micah starts producing several duct-tape covered “pipe bombs” from their hiding spot.

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They go over the ingredients used to make a pipe bomb (first of all a pipe, naturally) and conclude with the explosive compound, noting “we use good-old black powder.”

It’s interesting that Adam Lanza stashed the small pile of black powder he had extracted from shotgun shells also in the bottom drawer of his desk…

SHL-shotgunpellets1…but I’m hesitant to read much into this similarity (where else was he going to put it?)

They continue discussing their bomb-making process for awhile, advising which store departments sell which ingredient, before heading to the balcony to test out a fuse.

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Using his cell-phone to time the rate at which the fuse burns, Micah observes that “it burns faster than I thought. We’ll have to make corresponding adjustments to… Our fun.”

They then head back inside and write on some of the pipe-bombs with Sharpies.

SHL-BT3-04During the graffiti session on the pipe bombs, Micah’s cell-phone chimes. Apparently, it’s a girl. Kossakowski is surprised to learn that “Magda” is still in touch with him.

This touches off a brief moment of tension between the two. Without really saying so, Kossakowski stammers about how he thought Micah’s relationship with Magda was done with, so that Micah would dedicate himself to the mass-murder/suicide pact he had formed with Kossakowski.

Here there’s  a hint of homosexual undertones, as Micah professes that he has chosen Jan (death) over Magda (life).

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This is not without precedent in the world of Columbine-inspired film. Gus Van Sant’s 2003 film Elephant apparently (disclosure: I haven’t seen it) portrays a fictionalized version of the Columbine killers, engaged in an overtly sexual relationship.

Adam Lanza alluded to this film on 21 September, 2011, in the thread “Origin of the name ‘Nixon’ on the tape?” (the title of the thread refers to the label on a videotape left behind by the Columbine killers.) In the thread, another user is mocking author David Cullen’s book Columbine (this was arguably the most popular activity on the forum) and especially how it analyzed the Basement Tapes via transcript rather than first-hand viewing:

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Are you implying that you believe the Elephant interpretation of their relationship?

Kossakowski’s third address

Fresh from his quarrel with Micah, Kossakowski confides in the camera while listening to loud, droning music (Theater of Tragedy – To These Words I Beheld No Tongue.) He once again claims that “it’s not worth it” to record his thoughts, while recording his thoughts, in true Kleboldian melodramatic fashion. He then goes on to explain why he will not be leaving any writings to explain his motives, despite the video is currently making; the point of all of it is to satisfy himself, and not society.

Because I haven’t recorded anything in quite a while, I kept thinking, what interesting things could I say? But, I came to the conclusion that it’s not worth it, you know?

Yes… We make references, we do parodies, we comment this or that. But, in reality… well, I don’t know about Duczyk. But I’m doing this for myself, not for you. And I mean basically that… alright, maybe differently…

Before we started doing this, we’ve read through a lot of material on our our predecessors. Dear Lord… I never thought people like that can write such voluminous tomes. One could think Dostoyevsky taught them how to hold a gun.

But… I don’t intend to do anything like that. I don’t intend to write down my thoughts, my whatever, because it’s not worth it.

I don’t even really care whether or not you’ll be h-…will you find it to your liking. Because, I won’t be here by then. And I simply mean, that one of the underlying themes, of any such party, is have fun. Enjoy yourself. But it doesn’t apply to you, it applies to me. Us. Duczyk and I.

And that’s what I intend to stick to. And that’s why I don’t care about satisfying you to any larger degree. This party will be a real blow-out, but… we’ll be the ones doing the out-blowing, and remember that.

There will be Colorado

The next scene opens with an in-joke buried in the subtitles, as Micah is shown reading a comic book, and the English subtitles (written by the filmmakers) riff on the trope that the media consumed by shooters (video games, music, etc) brainwashes them into committing their violent acts.

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They then announce that it is March 31st, 2008. And now that the planned day of Judgement draws near, they can confirm it to their viewers: “Tomorrow.  At the department. Tomorrow, on the 1st of April, there will be…There will be Colorado, ladies and gentlemen.”

They then laugh and joke about finishing their Psychology homework, and generally engage in gallows humor.

MICAH: Listen, this is the main advantage: tomorrow I won’t have to worry about doing the dishes.

KOSSAKOWSKI: *scoffs*

MICAH: The problem with falling asleep and getting up will finally be resolved.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Yup.

MICAH: That… That has its advantages, despite everything.

KOSSAKOWSKI: All existential woes shall disappear.

Before signing off for the night, Jan takes one last glance out the window, and films an overcast sky. He remarks that he had “planned to document the last sunset I’d seen in my life, but, as you can see, life has denied me eve this tiny pleasure. Alight, life… I’ll peck out some ‘due pleasure’ from you by myself tomorrow.”

Due Pleasure

The lads meet up again just after midnight, as it is now the calendar day of their planned massacre. Kossakowski mentions that the day, April 1st, is also the biblical figure Judas’s birthday. To this, Micah expresses exasperation.

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This leads to an extended exchange between the two shooters, riffing on their motives for the shooting and the expected aftermath. Their personalities here start to mesh: not quite Kossakowski, and not quite Duczyk. The formula that produced the shooting came from the combination of these two doomed lives, and that combination speaks almost as one voice in this scene.

JAN: We don’t consider ourselves heroes. We do consider ourselves, however - and we consider to have a good reason to consider ourselves - the worst…nightmare…of every…student. Yes, dear students. Unfortunately for you, there shall be no other end of the world.

MICAH: It is us who shall be your apocalypse.

JAN: Yes. That apocalypse, it will be a sort of… deliverance.

MICAH: It is I, who will choose the moment, when I’ll deliver the world from Micha Duczyk.

JAN: Yes. Tomorrow the world shall become a better place.

MICAH: Yes. Because today…today the contemporary world, contemporary civilization, society… slowly, gradually take away our creativity, individuality and humanity. There is no place left for anything. Pure functions. Pure forms. Zero content. We’re turning, slowly, into soulless automations. Uniforms. Live Turing machines.

You know what’s worst? The worst is that it’s an avalanche that can no longer be stopped. I’m a victim. We are victims. You…You… You’re victims of it all as well. What can be done now?

Right now, one can only rebel. We can have our revenge. The only logical solution, the only way of keeping a human identity, is a categorical disagreement with being. If the last human thing that can be done is killing, then I shall go and I shall kill.

From kitsch, there’s only a single means of escape. Death.

JAN: Yea. Speaking of kitsch, here is a bit of advice for various police psychologists and other such types, who’ll analyze these recordings from some weird point of view: don’t… You will be looking for something linking us to the potential victims, or those who’ve somehow managed to survive.

I know you won’t listen, but some good advice: give it a rest, save yourselves the time. You won’t find anything like that there. It’s not that we grab our guns and go shoot at an ex-girlfriend, to some mean professor, who we consider unfair, or to the bureaucratized Ms. Ania from behind the desk in the secretariat.

No. We go to shoot at random people. If, at the department, I run into someone I know…Tough.

MICAH: That’s not what we’re about. Jah and I are simply going to get up and go. And you, dear titans of kitsch, shall continue to twirl around in your hell of pure form.

But, at least, perhaps at least for a moment, you’ll tear yourselves away, rub your eyes and see. You’ll see that your dear, beautiful, wonderful, orderly world. [Is held] only on tape and glue. And that the truth is, that you’re alive only because every day, someone has decided not to kill you.

That is the truth. The truth will hurt you. It will hurt you a lot. And you’ll want to kick our asses for that. But you know what? We won’t be here by then.

Vogue

The lads then engage in a photo shoot – propaganda, really, as they note it’s “purely for the media.”

Kossakowski strikes a pose, at Micah’s prompting to “do the Korean.”

SHL-BT3-10“The Korean” is reference to the Virginia Tech shooter, who left behind photos of himself posing with the two handguns he used in his campus rampage.

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Micah then takes a moment to explain the benefits of wearing a glove when committing a school shooting.

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“This is a common glove. The kind like, you know, for bicycle riding. Can be bought in every store. Does it look silly? Let it look silly. It’s supposed to work.”

SHL-BT3-13Exhibit 833B: A fingerless “toesox” glove worn by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook. The manufacturer recommends this glove for “Pilates, yoga, kettlebells, trapeze, rowing, or cycling.”

Goodbye

After bragging to the camera about their prowess as killers, the guys abruptly shift tone, and record a message for their loved ones.

MICAH: Hi Mom. Hi Dad. Listen…How should I break this to you? There’s only hours left till the apocalypse and I wanted to say goodbye to you. You’ve been extraordinarily cool parents. I’m sorry for causing all that crap to you.

Because…But there’s no… There’s no other way. I know you’ll take hits for this and I feel stupid because of that.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Maybe I should apologize as well, but, in all honesty, I wonder if it will accomplish anything. After all, people who by me are to become screwed… Well, maybe not directly, but because of what we’re pulling here in a moment, they’ll have enough on their plate as it is and nothing I’ll say now will particularly change that fact.

Well, I am sorry, but… The sad end to a sad life.

MICAH: This is…now then, yes…Pawelku, if you’re watching this, then know that you can have that Fallout, and you can have that Oyster Head you’ve borrowed from me.

No problem. If you’d want anything from my room, when it comes to games or music, then report to my parents.

Magda. Awkward. It turned out rather awkward. It could’ve… It could’ve been different, but now… it’s… it’s a bit too late now. I want you not to worry with what will happen, cause…I die, as I wanted to die.

KOSSAKOWSKI: Oh well… Tomek, you don’t need to pay me that money back anymore.

What else… well… sorry that we won’t go out for a beer. The person I’m talking about knows who it is.

MICAH: Alright. Thanks to everyone who made my shitty life was for… At least for some time worth taking part in. Farewell.

Several of the notes struck here (the bizarre housekeeping over ownership of CDs in light of the gravity of the crime they are about to commit, the awkward  expressions of love for parents, etc.) are references to the same “goodbye” tape left by the Columbine killers (on the tape labeled “Nixon” that Smiggles referenced earlier) on the morning before their school shooting. For comparison:

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are once more in the family room of the Harris home. Eric is filming. Dylan is wearing a black baseball cap on backward, exposing a “B” embroidered in white on the back of the hat – the Boston Red Sox logo. He’s wearing a plaid shirt, either dark blue or black with white; the shirt’s untucked. He’s wearing black BDUs (military-style pants) tucked into military-style boots. There are several bags on the floor, including a large maroon one.

Eric: “Say it now.”

Dylan:Hey mom. Gotta go. It’s about a half an hour before our little judgment day.I just wanted to apologize to you guys for any crap this might instigate as far as (inaudible) or something. Just know I’m going to a better place. I didn’t like life too much and I know I’ll be happy wherever the fuck I go. So I’m gone. Good-bye. Reb…”

Dylan takes the camera then and begins filming Eric. Eric’s also wearing a plaid shirt that’s either dark blue or black with white, with a white t-shirt on underneath. His lower half can’t be seen.

Eric: “Yea… Everyone I love, I’m really sorry about all this. I know my mom and dad will be just like.. just fucking shocked beyond belief. I’m sorry, all right. I can’t help it.”

Dylan: (interrupts) “We did what we had to do.”

Eric:Morris, Nate, if you guys live, I want you guys to have whatever you want from my room and the computer room.”

Dylan adds that they can have his things as well.

Eric: “Susan, sorry. Under different circumstances it would’ve been a lot different. I want you to have that fly CD.”

Eric: (eventually) “That’s it. Sorry. Goodbye.”

Dylan: (sticks his face in the camera) “Goodbye.”

The Final Countdown

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The guys swing by a postal box, and send out a “media package” to various news outlets, containing addresses and passwords to access their footage. (Probably the filmmakers are taking artistic liberties at this point, since presumable the “media package” would contain the very video file they are still recording to.)

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They then return to their apartment for one last earthly chore: feeding the dog. Micah jokes that “the little apocalypse is no reason for the dog to go around parched.”

The guy then pack up their gear to take to the school. The larger bombs are concealed in a garment bag. The smaller fit in a messenger.

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Leaving the apartment for the last time, they lock up and say goodbye, with the barking of their dog overheard as they descend the steps.

Getting in the car, Micah goes over their plan one last time: the bomb in the trunk of the car will go off one hour after they arrive at the campus. During that time, the bomb in the auditorium will have gone off, at the same time that they have begun indiscriminately shooting students. Like the Columbine killers had intended (but failed) to do, the coup de grace will be to wipe out the first-responders, well after the killers are already dead.

Jan confirms the plan. Micah starts the car.

Prepping the Scene

Arriving at the Psychology building, they quickly post a video to Youtube (it’s not clear what exactly they’re posting, since the title is in Polish and the monitor’s screen flickers, not being coordinated with the frame rate of the camera filming it.)

Clearly on a schedule, Kossakowski hurries into the auditorium, where he is filmed placing the large duffel-bag bomb; the imminent victims are oblivious to the  bag’s contents.

SHL-BT3-17Kossakowski plants the bomb among his fellow students.

Bullet Time

In the closing minutes of the film, we cut to an alcove in the pscych building’s hallways. Jan is filming Micah, who is reaching into his bag for his pistol, just about to kick off the shooting, when Jan’s cell-phone rings.

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It’s a text; Jan tells Micah to wait as he checks it, and it turns out to be mass-email from the Catholic church, asking the receiver to “light a candle of memory and gratitude” on the third anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s death (the Pope indeed died on April 2nd, 2005, although whether this text message was made up for the film or not, I don’t know.)

Micah bemoans that “Kitsch is haunting me even here.” Jan responds “It seems you’re doomed to kitsch.”

Micah draws his pistol, and announces “farewell to kitsch.”

Micah takes control of the camera. They proceed down the hallway, and their assault on the school begins in earnest.

http://youtu.be/mCxpNPJovng?t=4m10s

They come across two students, who see them holding guns and ask what’s going on. After an awkward pause, Micah says “You know what? We’re just shooting like that” just as Jan lowers the barrel of his shotgun, and fires.

The camera drops, sparing us a bloody (and difficult to film on no budget) scene. Two more shotgun blasts ring out. Filming the floor, the camera records Micah’s boots as he paces over to the wounded girl, raises his pistol (again, out of frame) and fires.

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Shock Protection

There is then an abrupt jump forward. Micah, still holding the camera, complains to his friend that the reverberations from the gunfire caused the camera to turn off (drop detection being meant to quickly power-down the camera before the impact of a drop can cause damage to its moving parts):

MICAH: Jahu, you know what? We’ve been cut. We’ve been cut by the drop detection. Fuck. I mean…The camera was shut off, probably, I don’t know, by some shock or a shot…A shot.

KOSSAKOWSKI: You know what? Fuck this. Turn it off.

Another jump forward. They’ve traded handling of the camera. The guys are strolling down a hallway, and seem to be almost in a trance. Police sirens grow in the background.

Micah pauses to take a drink of soda from a bottle abandoned by a fleeing student, in only last allusion to the Columbine killers.

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Micah asks if they should “head downstairs” to continue their massacre. Jan declines. Appropriately, the psychopath wants to continue killing, while the depressive is in a hurry for suicide.

JAN: No, no. We’re done. We’re done.

MICAH: Enough?

JAN: Enough.

MICAH: The end?

JAN: Yea.

MICAH: This is the end…

JAN: It was nice while it lasted.

They settle on a spot in the hallway floor as he place to end it. Micah positions the camera on the sofa facing them to record their dual suicide. Micah places the gun in his own mouth, but Jan interrupts him. He’s unsatisfied with the staging for their exit scene.

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Micah thinks it over for a second, then reluctantly says “okay, fuck it” and, just before turning the camera around to face a blank wall, tells his audience “Alright people. Good morning. Actually, goodbye. We won’t meet. Kitsch everything. Kitsch. Kitsch.”

As the camera is spun around, we hear Kossakowski shout “sit down.”

With the camera facing a blank hallway wall, there are a few moments of silence. Then a pistol shot.

Then another.

Credits play over the blank hallway wall.

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And that is Bullet Time.

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