Although the information superhighway has become one of the most direct routes for reaching the truth, it has of late become littered with lies and fabrications that are steering many well-meaning truth seekers completely off course.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the online discussions about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School (SHES) massacre, where rumor, speculation and outright fraud has taken precedence over common sense, sound research and responsible journalism.
In most cases, the conspiracy theories built around the SHES tragedy are the result of speculation or faulty analysis by unqualified sources.
One theory that has gained considerable traction recently is the notion that mass murderer Adam Lanza was incapable of carrying out the attacks because he had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that can sometimes cause physical clumsiness.
According to Connecticut State Police records, a Yale University professor diagnosed Lanza in 2006 with “profound autism spectrum disorder” characterized by “rigidity, isolation, and a lack of comprehension of ordinary social interaction and communications.”
Although this diagnosis makes no mention of Lanza having problems with motor skills, conspiracy theorists have none-the-less managed to work that into their hypothesis. Those making this claim also frame their argument behind the false premise that Lanza would have to be an extraordinary marksman to kill 26 women and children in about 11 minutes.
However, it’s not as though Lanza was shooting from a water tower. The facts of the case clearly show that the vast majority of his victims were frightened children trapped in small classrooms.
In an effort to get an expert opinion on how Asperger’s would affect Lanza’s ability to execute such a gruesome slaughter, this reporter spoke with Dr. Michael Linden, a prominent clinical psychologist and director of Linden Attention Learning Center.
When asked if he would be surprised to learn that someone with this diagnosis could carry out such a massacre, Dr. Linden replied with a emphatic “No” and added that some with Asperger’s can actually excel in certain physical activities.
“There are people with Asperger’s that are athletes,” he said “They can be very strong or of any size. Athletes with Asperger’s may be a relief pitcher, a goalie or a field goal kicker. They can have good motor skills and if they obsess and are detailed in certain areas—like shooting and computers—they can develop very good technical skills.”
Dr. Linden went on to say that ASD patients typically have “too much high theta brainwave activity,” which often leads to them “getting stuck on things” and “obsessing” over projects until they achieve a desired proficiency.
“They won’t necessarily get bored like most people do,” he said. “They’ll practice a technique over and over until they perfect it…”
This perfectionism to the point of obsession was certainly a defining characteristic of Adam Lanza, as documented in the Connecticut State Attorney’s report on the Shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“The shooter liked to play a game called ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ (DDR), which is a music video game in which the player stands on a platform, watches a video screen and moves his feet as directed by the video,” the report stated. “In 2011 and up until a month before December 14, 2012, the shooter went to the theater and played the game. He went most every Friday through Sunday and played the game for four to ten hours…An acquaintance of the shooter from 2011 to June 2012 said that the shooter and the acquaintance played DDR quite a bit… The shooter had stamina for DDR and never appeared winded unless really exhausted.”
The report also mentions that several videos of Lanza playing DDR “were found on digital media taken from the home.”
While a great many people get discouraged when they are unable to achieve a particular goal, ASD patients tend to persevere. This advantage, said Dr. Linden, can be attributed to the fact that “they don’t have access to their emotions, which is a negative deficit socially, but in terms of performance, they don’t get as stressed out if they don’t do well.”
Dr. Linden went on to say that those with Asperger’s, particularly adolescents, tend to be “very very drawn to computer games” and will “sit around all weekend with that and have no personal social interactions.” Once again, Adam Lanza definitely fits this profile.
In the wake of the shooting, law enforcement sources told CBS News that Lanza was “motivated by violent video games and a strong desire to kill more people than Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.”
In the same report, senior correspondent John Miller, a former assistant director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cited law enforcement sources when describing Lanza’s gaming room: “He takes that game room and completely blacks it out so you—once you close the door, the only reality in that room was him and that TV screen with his tactical shooting game.”
Studies have shown that an obsession with violent video games not only contributes to developing extraordinary hand-eye coordination and dexterity but also subjects one to a conditioning process similar to military basic training.
Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor and leading authority on media violence maintains that interactive point-and-shoot video games introduce children to the “same weapons technology that major armies and law enforcement agencies around the world use to ‘turn off’ the midbrain ‘safety catch’” that prevents most human beings from killing its own kind.
In the Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict, Grossman explained that video games allow players to develop the motor skills to turn killing into an automatic response, “but without the stimulus discriminators and the safeguard of discipline found in military and law enforcement conditioning.”
Contrary to claims by conspiracy theorists, Lanza’s diagnosis was not a handicap that would have prevented him from carrying out the attacks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If he did in fact have Asperger’s, it could go a long way in explaining how this monster detached from humanity and prepared his mind and body to embark on the most horrific mass murder in American history.