Thus far, nothing of reliable note has been revealed about the motives of James Holmes, the arrested suspect behind the Dark Night Massacre, where a dozen people were murdered and others injured at an after-midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie. What we do know suggests intricate planning, and the planning suggests a rationale, irrational though it may be.
Holmes carried a shotgun, a high-powered pistol, an assault rifle and a knife. He was reportedly costumed in body armor and might even have employed smoke or tear gas grenades. Holmes’s apartment was deftly booby trapped, stymieing police search efforts. In custody, the suspect has so far been unrevealing.
The explanation here might be as simple as a psychotic break with reality, as when Jared Lee Loughner murdered six people and shot 19 in Tucson as he attempted to assassinate Representative Gabrielle Giffords last year. Or there might be more of a narrative behind this, as there was with high school outcasts Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 13 people during an assault on Columbine High School in 1999.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation does not believe Holmes has any connection to terrorism, but for 71 people shot and hundreds who were at risk, terror is no longer just a synonym for radical Islam. Holmes fits the Bureau of Justice Statistics definition of a “spree killer,” which would include all workplace and school shooters, or highway snipers like John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, convicted of a Capitol-area killing spree in 2002.
Writer Mark Ames is the co-founder (with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi) of The eXile, the first alternative newspaper in Moscow, formed in the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. As an underground journalist in the era of Russia’s oligarch-fueled transition toward capitalism, he witnessed all manner of criminality and violence. In 2005 he wrote Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond. Ames contends that what he calls rage killings amount to acts of rebellion against a callous and uncaring society, where the perpetrators of these crimes have been subjected to lives of humiliation and unrewarded sacrifice.