Ed­i­tor’s let­ter

The Week (US) - - 3 - Wil­liam Falk

Stephen Pad­dock left us a note. It pro­vides no mo­tive, but may still ex­plain why he trans­ported nearly two dozen weapons of war to his Las Ve­gas ho­tel room last week and turned an out­door con­cert into a live video game, fir­ing at 22,000 hu­man tar­gets, killing 59 and wound­ing nearly 500. The note, po­lice say, con­sisted of a se­ries of num­bers that were the re­sults of com­plex cal­cu­la­tions: his el­e­va­tion above the ground, the dis­tance to the crowd, the an­gle of the bul­lets’ drop to the flesh be­low. Pad­dock was “a num­bers guy,” a pro­fes­sional gam­bler who played high-stakes video poker for 14 hours straight and didn’t much like any­one. In City Jour­nal, Seth Bar­ron of­fers the the­ory that Pad­dock’s re­lent­less pur­suit of the dopamine hits that come with non­stop gam­bling left him with “no re­main­ing ca­pac­ity for plea­sure or nov­elty.” (See Talk­ing Points.) So for one last rush in an empty, black­hearted life, Pad­dock care­fully planned and car­ried out a spec­tac­u­lar slaugh­ter. His big­gest jack­pot ever. We may never know for sure what drove Pad­dock to kill, but this much is cer­tain: Mass killings are a malig­nant meme deeply lodged in our na­tion’s psy­che. Pad­dock had no ap­par­ent racial, re­li­gious, or po­lit­i­cal griev­ances, but no doubt felt the same trans­gres­sive thrill as the faux war­riors who shot up Columbine, the Pulse night­club, the Aurora movie the­ater, the Charleston black church, the New­town el­e­men­tary school, the San Bernardino con­fer­ence cen­ter, and other do­mes­tic killing fields. What these mass killers had in com­mon was pro­found alien­ation from a world that seemed in­dif­fer­ent to their pain and hu­mil­i­a­tion, and easy ac­cess to weapons that am­pli­fied their rage. Rad­i­cal Is­lam, white supremacy, and other ide­olo­gies can serve to jus­tify vi­o­lent vengeance, but they are op­tional. Pad­dock didn’t need rea­sons; he just as­sem­bled an ar­se­nal and did the math. For dam­aged souls in whom em­pa­thy has died, in­flict­ing mis­ery can be its own re­ward. Ed­i­tor-in-chief

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