The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

VIDEO: Florida School Board Shooting

Posted on | December 14, 2010 | 29 Comments

Following up on our earlier report:

The man who is seen on the video trying to talk Clay Duke out of it is school superintendent Bill Husfelt:

Duke talked about how his wife had been fired by the school system. But Husfelt and the members of the board told Duke they did not remember his wife or why she had been fired. Board member Jerry Register promised to get her a job. Ultimately, Husfelt tried to bargain with Duke to let the other board members go, pointing out that he was the one who signed the termination papers.
“Let them go. I’m the one that did it,” Husfelt said. “I don’t want anybody to get hurt.” . . .
Duke raised his gun and pointed it at Husfelt.
“Please don’t,” Husfelt said. “Please don’t.”
Then Duke fired several shots directly at Husfelt. . . .
Deputy Chief Robert Colbert said Duke’s bullets struck the podium. Husfelt and the other board members dived for cover and Mike Jones fired at Duke, striking him several times in the torso. While Duke was on the ground, he grabbed his weapon and shot himself in the head, Colbert said. . . .

I’ve written up a just-the-facts-ma’am account at The American Spectator.

UPDATE: Here’s George Stephanopoulos telling the story on ABC News:

UPDATE II: The New York Times reports Duke “painting a mysterious red encircled ‘V’ on the wall,” but of course it’s not “myterious” at all. I’m not even a movie buff, but I immediately recognized this as referring to V for Vendetta, a 2006 film in which the protagonist uses terrorist tactics to fight an oppressive government.

I guarantee if Duke has displayed, say, a Gadsden Flag, the New York Times would not have found that “mysterious.”

UPDATE III: Checking SiteMeter just now, I’m getting a lot of Google search traffic based on the simplicity of the title, but I’ve also gotten at least one visitor who was searching for “Clay Duke connected to Tea Party.”

No evidence of that, of course — quite the opposite: On his Facebook page, Clay Duke linked a “progressive” Web site. But I’ll take the Google traffic. Hits is hits, I always say.


Holly George says she and her mother have known Duke for about two years.
“My mom said he had borderline personalities,” George told 10 News Reporter Janie Porter early Wednesday morning.
“It always creeped me out when he asked me to shave my head like Natalie Portman.” . . .
Before the shooting, witnesses say Duke drew a red ‘V’ on the wall of the meeting chambers and then circled it.
It’s the same symbol used in the movie V for Vendetta.
George said that was Duke’s favorite movie.
“He’d watch it over and over again,” she said.

Linked by The Lonely Conservative and The Busted Nut.

UPDATE V: More background on Duke’s criminal past:

Ben Bollinger represented Duke when he was convicted in 1999 of shooting into a vehicle, aggravated stalking and wearing a bulletproof vest. Duke was sentenced to five years in prison on each count and his sentences were served concurrently. As part of a plea agreement, Duke was required to complete psychological counseling.
Bollinger said Tuesday that Duke was waiting in the woods for his wife with a rifle, wearing a mask and a bulletproof vest. She confronted him and then tried to leave in a vehicle, and Duke shot the tires of the vehicle.
“The guy was like, just out there,” Bollinger said. “He had some bad problems.”
In January 2009, Duke wrote a letter to Circuit Judge Dedee Costello, stating he had come before her in 1999 and 2000, “as a mentally ill man who had committed crimes. … While in prison I was diagnosed as ‘adult-onset bipolar condition’ and given proper therapy. With that therapy and good behavior, I was released from prison after serving 85 percent of my sentence.”
He went on to ask Costello to terminate his probation early.

Which is to say, Clay Duke was a violent criminal with a clear history of mental illness. The bipolar diagnosis was probably an error. The guy seemed to be suffering from a form of paranoia, which is a type of narcissistic personality disorder.

I’ve previously explained the etiology of paranoia and its origin in the narcissist’s search for scapegoats to explain his own failures. Duke’s identification with V for Vendetta and his self-pitying conception of himself as a martyred victim of the “wealthy” are entirely consonant with the narcissism-paranoia complex.

As with other similar criminals, Duke lost himself in fantasies of achieving significance through violence. In the same way that Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris sought inspiration in The Basketball Diaries (which has a fantasy sequence of trenchcoat-clad Leonardo Di Caprio slaughtering his classmates), Duke was inspired by the terrorist hero of V for Vendetta.

This is not to blame filmmakers for the acts of criminals. Rather, it is to say that paranoid personalities are drawn toward popular entertainment that features heroic (or at least, sympathetic) characters who dramatically act out the revenge fantasies that brew in the imagination of the frustrated narcissist.

The fundamental conflict of the narcissist is between his own inflated self-concept and the reality of his insignificance. The narcissist compensates for this feedback mismatch through fantasy, imagining himself to be a person of tremendous power and historical (or even cosmic) significance, so that those who ignore or demean him are engaged in unjust persecution.

A similar tendency (which psychologists call grandiosity) is present in the manic phase of bipolar disorder, but is distinct from delusional grandiosity of the paranoid type. The key feature of paranoia is a sense of persecution, which results from the ego that the narcissistic personality has over-inflated — “I am so important, so special, that other people are out to get me” — in an attempt to reduce cognitive dissonance by rationalizing failure. The threatening “them,” those shadowy others who supposedly conspire against the paranoid, are in fact imagined scapegoats whose psychological purpose is to explain the paranoid’s own problems.

Seeking inspiration in works of fiction is common to paranoid criminals like Clay Duke. Recall that John Lennon’s assassin, Mark David Chapman, was inspired by The Catcher in the Rye, while the would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley, was inspired by Taxi Driver.

The manifestation of Duke’s paranoia was different than Hinckley or Chapman. Duke didn’t try to assassinate someone famous, but engaged in a crime that he knew would be recorded on video, providing him with a guaranteed audience for his final gesture, his desperate attempt to achieve the significance he craved.

Duke was acting out his fantasy. He expressed his grandiosity by painting the V for Vendetta symbol on the wall, and then proceeded to lecture the school board about the wrongs they had (allegedly) done to him. And you will notice that it was after the superintendent described what Duke was actually doing — a suicide-by-cop stunt — that Duke leveled his pistol and opened fire.

Nothing enrages a narcissist worse than being exposed for what he actually is. Calling attention to his self-pitying nature — pointing out that his scapegoats are not to blame for his failures — aggravates the cognitive dissonance that is the root of the narcissistic paranoid’s problem.

UPDATE VI: At long last a Memeorandum thread, with commentary by Donald Douglas of American Power among others. No Instalanche yet, which goes to show that Professor Glenn Reynolds is out to get me!


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