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Thursday, March 30, 2006


Posted by on March 30 at 11:10 AM

I’m no psychic, but like everyone else I have a preferred theory about why Kyle Huff killed.

If you don’t like it, well, there’s a ton of other theories to choose from down in the forums (try here and here and here). And in the comments of this post, there’s a theory about why journalists have theories.

But anyway, the theory I’ve found most persuasive, at this point, is the one that Charles Mudede, among others, has been talking about since shortly after the shootings. This theory imagines Huff as some sort of delayed and inverted high school shooter.

Delayed, because while he was teased and marginalized in high school just like a number of this country’s most famous high school shooters, he didn’t act on his feelings of humiliation and rage until age 28. And inverted, because while most high school shooters kill people who represent bullies, or kill the school authorities who turn a blind eye to bullying, Kyle Huff killed people who were at the social fringe, people who would have been teased at Whitefish High School in Montana just like he was. Instead of acting out a revenge fantasy, in which he killed people like those who tormented him, perhaps Kyle Huff killed out of envy, shooting people at the social fringe who’d found acceptance in a way he never could. (And still couldn’t, given that he was now too old to really enter their scene.)

Why do I find this theory most persuasive? Absent a toxicology report—which, when it comes, could show Huff was under the influence of something other than his sad past—it’s just the theory that feels most correct to me after talking to a number of people who knew Huff when he was young.

I talked to those people for this profile, in which I look at Huff’s life leading up to the shootings. But when I look at my own life, there’s probably another reason I find this theory persuasive. When I was younger there was a shooting in my high school, Seattle’s Garfield High School, and two years ago I tracked down the shooter and wrote about him, here, for The Stranger.

For that story, I also tracked down a young woman who was shot in the knee that day at Garfield. Rachel Thompson went on to become a gun-control activist, lobbying Congress and even Bill Clinton when he was president. In the process, she learned a lot about what makes a troubled kid pick up a gun, and told me:

Now that I’m older and I’ve become more educated about it, it’s bullying, honestly… I heard that [the Garfield shooter] was picked on his whole life and he just snapped. Kids being able to bully and get away with it, in combination with the access to guns, is an extremely deadly mixture. A picked-on kid is going to snap one day, and if he has a gun in his hand he’s going to kill people. That’s a pattern in all the shootings.

By all accounts, Kyle Huff snapped on Saturday morning. Perhaps it just took him longer than most to reach his breaking point.

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"...perhaps Kyle Huff killed out of envy, shooting people at the social fringe who’d found acceptance in a way he never could."

Great point, Eli. I totally agree with that.

I agree that the kid-just-snapped years-to-late theory fits best with what I've seen, heard, and felt about what happened.

Putting aside any lame anti-bullying campaigns (I'm talking to you, Peter Yarrow), is there anything that can be done so that these kids aren't stretched to the point where they snap, or do we just have to expect that they'll snap, and shoot people? I don't like that plan, but I don't have a whole bunch of ideas, either.

Did he snap? Yes. Did he snap Saturday morning ... um, then why did he over a period of a few weeks buy lots of guns and ammo, and possibly attend his first rave ever?

I think he had already snapped, he was like a hand grenade with the pin removed already, just waiting to go off.

I think it's a good theory. My only question would be how to fit into it the "What's REALLY going on here" comment Kyle kept making at the house party. Didn't one of the witnesses say he kept saying that? "What's going on here? What's REALLY going on here?"

Incidentally, did anybody else notice that last night on A&E they ran an hour-long special on "rampage killers"? It cited a 2000 New York Times multi-part story/study on teenage or young-adult rampage killers. Your theory meshes very well with what the NYT founds when they dug deeper into the backgrounds of various rampage killers (Kip Kinkel, the Columbine boys, e.g.). It was an interesting show. Sad, but interesting.

I agree in constructing the identity of "the criminal" you'll want to focus a lot on "the other".

It's important to create a criminal identity of someone "not like you and me". And the press has the responsibility to use constructed criminal identity to further social control.

It was unfortunate The Stranger lost the "Red State Outsider" shoots "Blue State Victims" angle. You really had the opportunity there to reinforce the urban-rural division. The pick-up driving, gun toting, red state rustic persona contrasted nicely with the peace loving Madison Market shopper.

So you may be able to rescue a bit of the us vs. them theme with the "lonely outsider" vs. "cool rave kids".

You might want to regergitate some of the media blather about Columbine - they played the "loner outsider" vs. "Football Jock" angle for months on that story.

The main point here is the public wants to be comforted by the thought that murderers are "not like them", that people who hate fiberglass moose art are "not like them."

Nothing is more discomforting for the public to contemplate than the thought that the human mind is a mystery, each and every human heart holds both light and darkness, and even after thousands of years of writing, not a one author has written a single sentence that will take a human being and permanently wash the dark spots from his soul.

Having known and been friends with Kyle both during and after highschool, I can tell you he was not picked on. He and his brother were both 6'5 250+ lbs. Neither of them really got involved in the typical high school fist fights or anything like that. No one picked on them or any of that. He was a good friend to me and my family and I am still at a complete loss to how this happened.

I am no psychologist, but the comment "what's REALLY going on here" sounds schizophrenic.

Morgan is right... He wasn't picked on by anyone. He was intimidating because of his size and the fact that he was so quiet.

He was isolated for whatever reason and he never found acceptance, and it ate away at him. I agree with that take.

Rage isn't produced linearally. We can't assume that, because he wasn't bullied, that Kyle Huff didn't grow more enraged at the world around him, or that he had to be mentally ill to do so. Normal people can build up rage about situations where most wouldn't see the big deal. We all have pet peeves and neuroses and personal frustrations.

So what can we learn from this? ... still thinking about that, but I think being open to communication with others, without being patronizing or condescending, is a start.

Kyle never really came across as one of those people desperately seeking acceptance or validation or any of that, he had his group of friends and so on. He may have been quiet in some situations, but if you knew him he was easy going and pretty carefree. I never saw him with any REAL MALACE for anyone. The knee-jerk reaction is to want to want use logic to create theories to figure this thing out, but it defies logic. There are hundreds of people being effected and so many lives ruined. I hope more answers will come but think however much anyone tries senseless acts like this may never be understood to a point that will satisfy the victims or Kyle's family and friends.

My best friend's old best friend was an easy going and carefree guy... in person. My best friend tells me he learned via IM conversations that he actually had some very radical ideas about the media and politics, and was very angry at people... which of course belies the easy going and carefree outward persona.

The last time my best friend went to see his buddy, about a year ago while visiting home, said buddy snapped during a night out and tried to choke him out. They haven't met or spoken since.

Basically, one can present a positive persona, while bottling up very tightly feelings of anger and resentment. Yes, it defies logic. I understand that. I also understand that the surface, no matter how deep it seems, can always belie reality.

Maybe if we treated bully's like we did in my day. (kicked there ass' because we were sick of it.) Then this sort of shit wouldn't be happening.

Now days people are afraid of lawsuits, or authorities or society just saying thats wrong.. Kyle with his size could have put a head on anyone if they were picking on him.

why were my posts removed?

communist bastards, thats why. it wasn't that they didn't appear... I SAW them... it's that they were removed, and weren't even inflamitory. you've lost at least one reader. good day.

While this idea might be true and I more or less can agree with it, I find this quote dubious:

"A picked-on kid is going to snap one day, and if he has a gun in his hand he’s going to kill people."

That is just not true. Saying something like that with such certainty is not a good idea. "That which not kills us makes us stronger" holds some truth in this respect. You can also grow to learn from experiences like being picked on, and grow to be a better and stronger person. One should realise that often kids bully other kids because they are different, which makes the bullies feel insecure. Often that difference is actually a positive thing, like the person is a lot smarter. The realisation that kids bullied you was because you were actually better in some ways can help a lot. I think though that bullying has to be handled firmly by those who see it (teachers etc.) and not be permitted if it happens. I mean of course some positive type of handling, as opposed to blunt punishment.

People want to label this as another Columbine but its not. He wasn't picked on in highschool, other factors need to be looked at. Being bigger than everyone else with a twin brother the same size, they could've kicked most people's asses, but didn't do any of that. If anything, a little bullying could've given more of a sense of empathy and knowledge about what its like to be helpless or victimized, but it's hard to say, people can go either way. Being bigger like that can make you feel different, but two people given the same experience can take it in and spin off in totally different ways. People think it was the first time he went to a rave, but what is a rave? Basically a party with music and eccentric drugs. Had he been to a "zombie rave" before, probably not, however Kyle went to concerts and so on since highschool. He was definately exposed to countless other types of party's and similar people in the past. He did more than his fair share of partying. Was there something about this scene? Some reason why did he flipped out at this one? Was it this particular scene or were there other factors that lead to this explosion independent of the situation? He probably wasn't exactly happy with pizza delivery and the way things were going, who would be. Why he did what he did instead of following the route available, finishing school, moving on... Was this some sort of drug induced psychosis or a planned out act? The way the thing happened with spray paintings on the sidewalk, going through the house systematically with bandoliers on, saying "theres something for everyone", it sounds like a video game or movie. We watch Quinton Tarantino flicks and its cool just to spout out smart quips and blast someone. Its romanticized violence. Of course we're supposed to know the difference between movie and reality, but that kind of shit definately portrays an accepted view of killing. Kane not suspecting anything like this says a lot. Is it possible Kyle got the weapons after the rave BEFORE the party (after taking some bad drugs) or was he relatively sober and planning this thing. The toxicology will reveal a lot.

The Stranger does occasionally censor comments not in harmony with the publication's tone.

Remember every U.S. publication practices self-censorship in todays media environment so I'd be especially wary of publications that trumpet "Free Press".

It's especially disingenuous for a supposedly "alternative" publication to mislead it's readers with claims of "we print the unvarnished truth others are afraid too."

In America today no publication is free to print whatever they want. In this dangerous time a reader must first abandon the comfort of thinking what they are reading is free of corportate, government, or military forces influences.

You are reading a publication funded by the liquor and tobacco industries. It's core purpose is to deliver the coveted attention of the 18-30 year old affluent white male to tobacco and liquor industry advertizers.

If online journalism is the future, why not end publication of the paper copy of The Stranger today? And why not urge the New Yorker to stop printing on paper? Or the New York Times? Why only the P-I?

Because the fact is only a small portion of the population has ever taken the trouble to read daily newspapers. Eli Sander's goal is not to encourage the 18-30 year old affluent white male to become better informed, his goal is to flatter the 18-30 year old affluent white male into thinking he doesn't need to read the daily papers - that dull daily digest of the foibles of the human race. All the news he needs is on the Daily Show and in the weekly tobacco and alcohol industry broadsheet called The Stranger.

And thoughtful readers realize that many in government, industry and the military would love nothing more than to have a huge population of 18-30 affluent white males, uninformed about political issues, unable to analyze an ordinary daily paper.

One of the first steps to Fascism is to cultivate smug satisfaction among the 18-30 year old privledged males of the society, assure them that all they need to do is go on smoking a cigar, drinking a microbrew, and watching a stripper. All that stuff they write pages and pages about in the daily papers is for boring old people.

In America as the war drags on, and the government slides towards fascism, the government will not even have to bother shutting down the daily papers. "Alternative Publications" like The Stranger will have done it for them.

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