In the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and others, it is predictable that some self-centered politicians and political commentators quickly assumed the killer must have been provoked by political comments.
Following on that conclusion, they naturally argue (notwithstanding their exposure last week in the House to the reading of the Constitution, including the First Amendment) that whatever political words may have provoked him to his irrational violence should be silenced.
But as news organizations have begun to flesh out the interests and activities of the alleged psychotic killer, I am struck by several non-political factors that may have both shaped his mind and provoked his action.
(When dealing with the irrational mind, we must recognize it may be influenced by anything from a fig to a figment of its imagination: All must be grist for the suppression mill.)
Three reported non-political factors particularly are worthy of consideration for governmental suppression (I would modestly propose): 1) music, 2) literature, and 3) classic Greek philosophy. In later columns, I may discuss those second and third non-political influences on the alleged psychotic killer. (Note the alleged psychotic killer’s admiration for, amongst others: (literature) Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea,” Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”; (classic Greek philosophy) Plato’s Republic, Homer’s Odyssey and Aesop’s Fables — Today Aesop; Tomorrow the world!
In this column, however, I want to limit discussion to the first factor: the unambiguous role music played in provoking the alleged psychotic killer to violence.
According to the Associated Press: “A former Mountain View High School classmate, Gabriella Carillo, 22 … remembered Loughner as a tall, thin, intelligent teenager who was good at basketball, liked to read and worked hard in his high school band classes but didn’t seem to apply himself in other courses.
“I know that he caused a lot of trouble in his classes other than band,” she said. Carillo, who played in the high school orchestra, said Loughner had few friends, and most of them were in band.” (Emphasis added to last six words.) According to the alleged killer’s close friend Bryce Tierney: “He was raised on writing and reading music.”
Apparently, in high school, only his exposure to music and musicians kept his absorbed attention — a key indicator of the real culprit (music!) in provoking him to violence. Note also that his recent social media postings were filled with both music and musical references. Keep in mind that music is intentionally composed and performed to elicit strong emotions in the audience.
Musicologist Julius Portnoy has found that “music can change metabolic rates, increase or decrease blood pressure, effect energy levels, and digestion, positively or negatively, depending on the type of music.
Both hemispheres of the brain are involved in processing music. The music in these studies is not the ‘lyrics’, but the music itself, the melody, the tones, the tunes, the rhythm, the chords, etc.