Posted in: Health

Was Mass Murderer James Holmes Mentally Ill Or Seeking Revenge? Experts Disagree

Was Mass Murderer James Holmes Mentally Ill Or Seeking Revenge

Is a mass murderer like James Holmes, the suspect in the shooting at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater that killed 12 people and wounded 59 others, mentally ill or simply seeking revenge for perceived wrongs? Experts who study the motivation of mass murderers disagree on the answer.

According to James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston, most mass murderers are not mentally ill. Fox, who has written several books on mass murder and school violence, told MSNBC:

“It takes a certain degree of clear-headedness to plan and execute a crime like this.”

As Fox further stated in a phone interview, mass murderers like Holmes “often times feel that they are right and everybody else is wrong….They really tend to externalize blame, to see other people as responsible for their problems.”

Rather than mentally ill individuals, Fox believes that most mass murderers simply want revenge:

“They basically want revenge. Contrary to the common misperception that these guys suddenly snap and go berserk, these are well-planned executions.”

One notable exception is Jared Loughner, the man who shot and killed six people in Arizona in 2011 including then-member of Congress Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Other experts, however, disagree about the nature of mass murderers. Dave Cullen, who writes for The New York Times, covered the shooting in Columbine in 1999. Cullen initially believed that mass murderers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were outcast loners who exacted revenge against the jocks for relentlessly bullying. Cullen now believes that Klebold was deeply depressed and turned his anger outward.

Many experts also believe that mass murderer Seung-Hui Cho, the troubled young man who killed 32 people and wounded 25 others at Virginia Tech in April 2007, was also mentally ill.

Nevertheless, the controversy about the motives behind mass murderers still exists. According to Roger L. Depue who oversaw the F.B.I.’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime and who wrote Between Good and Evil: A Master Profiler’s Hunt for Society’s Most Violent Predators, mass murderers like Cho act “out of a distorted sense of unfairness and disappointment stemming from their own actual inadequacies and unsatisfied needs for attention, adulation, power and control.” That is, many mass murderers act out of revenge.

The question remains: Is James Holmes mentally ill, or was the mass murderer acting out of revenge?

The only fact that anyone, both experts and the general public, will ever know for sure is that mass murderers have an “amazing ability to shut off knowledge of the consequences of their actions and of the difference between right and wrong.”

As the Sky Valley Chronicle aptly repeats, Stanton Samenow, a forensic psychologist and author of the 2004 book Inside the Criminal Mind, famously said:

“They [Mass murderers] seem to have an unfathomable ability to shut off knowledge of the consequences, of the difference between right and wrong. It’s critical for us to try to understand that worldview and mental makeup.

They just can shut it off. No thoughts about right or wrong or the consequences.

It is simply the eternal moment for them: no past, no future only the right now and there is nothing wrong (in their mind) with what they are doing ‘right now’.”

Do you think that a mass murderer like James Holmes is mentally ill or simply seeking revenge?

Articles And Offers From The Web


22 Responses to “Was Mass Murderer James Holmes Mentally Ill Or Seeking Revenge? Experts Disagree”

  1. Geral Sosbee

    Intro: The fbi spent 10 million dollars over a decade to violently prevent me from reporting their crimes. Today many refuse to acknowledge that the police state is the enemy of mankind and that all people globally refuse to accept tyranny in any form.

    Mass murder is spawned by fbi/cia/dod.

    Incompetence of police/fbi plus corruption lead to ongoing disasters:


    Reporters dare not report this news:
    See the evidence that the United States of America, through torture & the *threat of torture, seeks to reduce mankind to a trembling, fearful species as may be needed to control earth and space.Some of us refuse to surrender.


    Reporters routinely hide from the public the evidence of true atrocities committed by the fbi/cia globally; thus, petty complaints now regarding 'reporters privilege' are hypocritical.


    The fbi/Mafia serial killers (hit men) are homicidal sociopaths and are often in the witness protection program; the fbi learns from them how the mafia uses violent, deadly and inhumane practices against Targets.
    In order to understand the emergence of the fbi/MAFIA phenomenon one may consider the following:

    One may also list characteristics that the members of the fbi clan share in common with the MAFIA.

    fbi & MAFIA Must:

    remain loyal to group and its values.

    use violence:


    engage in widespread criminal activity:

    hysterically seek limelight:

    demonstrate 'no fear' and that they are the meanest & toughest in the world:

    take decisive action against anyone who breaks ranks:

    In summary,
    no more heinous cowards have been hatched and nourished by the USA than the clandestine assassins of the fbi and cia.


  2. Tom Maier

    Professor Fox,
    Your assert that most mass murderers are not mentally ill is self-contradictory. Your description of their characteristics matches quite closely, in fact, the symptoms of mental illness, particularly cognitive disorders.

  3. Anonymous

    Skewed perception is only one symptom of most cognitive disorders. Symptoms also include problems with learning, memory and problem solving so saying the fact that most mass murderers are not mentally ill even though most externalize blame is not contradictory.

  4. Patricia Scanlon

    Sounds like you are saying that mass murderers have the same sort of world as do malignant narcissists–malevolence, superiority (masking inferiority), entitlement, power/control/attention hungry as well as lives completely lacking human empathy nor natural human consequences. So basically they are nearly the same as all these men who are killing their ex spouses, children and then themselves in such great numbers this year, the mass murderer just acts to punish as many people as they feel justified in wiping out? Pretty likely one or both of the parents will be found to be Narcissists, as well, and that the father more likely than not modeled empathylessness, superiority, arrogance and control over others–evil and control are taught at home. And there will pretty certainly be more white men committing unspeakable acts of depravity here in the US. At some point we have to face the epidemic of male violence and rampant narcissism in this country, both of which are growing much more prevalent and much more lethal.The men who stalk and kill their wives and children, who spend thirty years sexually assaulting young men at Penn State, who wipe out throngs of innocent strangers–all have made plans and carried out detailed steps they have thought out before executing. We ought not excuse evil by looking for mental health labels to fit–malignant narcissism is basically human evil taught in narcissistic families and it gets worse with each generation–small wonder the dads who were scout leaders, volunteered at church and were roundly considered to be the greatest guy turn out to have been thoroughgoingly evil within their own homes and upon their own "families." No one wants to believe that the false man who makes sure to be seen doing good all over town is such a monster behind closed doors, but we have to judge people by their actions, and when you murder people, you are a murderer and not else. Evil men ALWAYS act nonstop to cultivate witnesses to their manufactured goodness, we have to pay closer attention to notice that they NEVER EVER do anything good UNLESS it is going to be witnessed–this is universally true of all abusive/controlling/evil people.Evil people count on others not wanting to face human evil, so most people quickly jump on the bandwagon of blame rather than ever actually use critical thinking for themselves. Women and kids CANNOT cause what an abusive man chooses to do, it isn't at all possible for this to be so–only he causes what he chooses. Yet MOST people and nearly all news reports blame the victims , women and kids, of intimate partner violence, rather than he who chose to act violently. Similarly, guns/video games do not choose the violence a mass murderer chooses–ONLY the murderer does. So, how about we start looking straight at the violence and straight at the men choosing such hideous violence so that we can hope to find out why so many men in this country choose deplorable acts of violence upon others and so hope to end the violence?

  5. Tom Maier

    I also have a problem with Professor Fox implying that the ability to develop and execute a plan of action excludes mental illness as a possibility. Ted Turner, for example, has done quite well doing so despite having bipolar disorder. And there are many other such prominent examples. Check out Kay Redfield Jamison, too.

  6. Laura Tompkins

    Tom, this argument actually supports Mr. Fox's assessment. Having mental illness does not mean the person is likely to murder. Quite the opposite. Most of our great artists, historians, inventors, philanthropists and media moguls (Turner) thrive because of their ability to treat their illness and use it to their creative advantage.

  7. Maritess Simmons

    Narcissism aka selfishness in American culture is unfortunately viewed by many as "cool" and something to strive for (competitive sports brings this out in many, cut-throat "business practices" are accepted if it helps the bottom line, even church leaders/politicians engage in self-serving behavior in the "name of God or country". ) It is an epidemic – and it is homegrown. Ironic that anyone can be a parent, but you need a license to drive a car.

  8. Davy Slenderass

    How can you quote that mass murderers have an “amazing ability to shut off knowledge of the consequences of their actions and of the difference between right and wrong” and yet fail to do enough basic research on psychological disorders to note that what that quote describes is likely sociopathy (also known as anti social personality disorder – the chief symptom of which is a life without conscience), or possibly any number of other things such as malignant narcissism? As if it is as black and white as you make out: Insanity or revenge. I thought this site was "the inquisitor"? You only have to be a little bit inquisitive to find out about 100 times more about psychology than you have bothered to try. How lazy

  9. Glen Antonio

    That should be the correct answer 😀 It is simply the fact that in my opinion that knowledge is power. Once there is too much knowledge, a person is simply a tickin timebomb where a person can snap and plan an mass murder off the bat without any thought. So i wouldnt be surprised if James Homes is classified as insane.

  10. Jeffrey Alan Craig

    It's bad enough when the general public associates stupidity and incompetence with mental illness, but now we've got "experts" doing the same? His level of "clear-headedness" would have nothing to do with whether he was mentally ill or not. The mentally ill are not invalids. Psychosis is a thought and perception disorder, not a intellectual disorder. It's actually the side effects of the neuroleptic drugs that make them at times seem "out of it" like he looks in court. You can be 100% psychotic and still be intelligent and completely competent.

  11. Samantha Snellen

    If I may be so bold, if James truly believes he is indeed the Joker then why are we assuming it couldn't be mental illness? The Joker from the Dark Knight says himself that "he is not a man with a plan, he just does things". Wouldn't it make sense to evaluate him with the Joker's characteristics and views on chaos and destruction instead of comparing mass murderers to him to try and find a reason behind all of this. Just another perspective to think about.

  12. Samantha Snellen

    Not necessarily mom, that is all theories as of right now. And there are even saying that he could have a mental illness and in that state he wouldn't have been able to form such a complex plan. But then again some disagree and believe what you are saying. He still lives within his delusion as of right now and everything that has been printed is based on what they believe is actually the case. I agree that he has made an irreversible mistake but no one, at least from what I have read so far, is looking at what he idolizes which is the Joker from the movie series and the psychologists and people are looking at the similarities between him and other mass murderers which I believe is wrong because he is "acting" as someone that only exists in a comic book.

  13. Samantha Snellen

    In short, immediate death would leave so many unanswered questions about his true motives or what exactly is wrong or not wrong with him. Too interesting to let him just die without knowing the whole truth.

  14. Satina Pavia

    I could not agree with you more. I have been arguing since saturday on FB with 2 men that insist that ALL mass murderers have mental illness, I said he(the shooter) was just plain evil.

  15. Satina Pavia

    Why is it because this person chose to cause harm to others he must be mentally ill? Does no one believe that people can just be evil? I do. If you can believe in a heaven and a God, why then can"t there be a hell and evil?

  16. J Howe III

    Laura: what?

    While some people with certain types of mental illness occasionally rise to prominence despite or by dint of their disorders, they are the exception, not the rule. Consider the number of people with depressive disorders who eventually kill themselves. 20-30 million attempted suicides occur each year. Around one million people manage to actually kill themselves. Of these, an estimated 87-98% suffered from some form of mental illness, mainly depressive disorders and alcoholism (from Wikipedia's article on suicide).

    While at least 870,000 mentally-ill people kill themselves every year, there are only six Nobel Prizes, 29 Oscars, somewhat more than 100 Grammys, 21 Pulitzer Prizes, and 4 National Book Awards. The Fortune 500 lists the companies of potentially 500 CEOs; the Forbes 400 is a list of the 400 wealthiest people in the world.

    There are plenty of people with mental disorders who live healthy, wholesome and productive lives, and some who flourish. There are plenty of others who kill themselves, and a few who do terrible things. They may not be uniquely capable of evil, but they are just as capable of it as anyone else, even if it apparently requires meticulous planning.

Around The Web