James Lee: A Missing Discovery

“Okay, he clearly does not understand the limits of the media.”

blackandbluesocks on Discovery Channel hostage-taker James Lee

It isn’t just the media he doesn’t get. More fundamentally, he doesn’t understand humanity. There is no centralized location where you can flip a switch and all of a sudden people behave differently. We are people, not robots.

by 'Edward Elric'

I have to view James Lee as a crying soul in the wilderness. He is a dangerous, rabid, hostage-taking soul who may have to be put down to ensure the safety of other people, but still, I would depict him as a crying soul. Fundamentally, he sees a certain problem all too clearly (the environmental impact of humanity) but without the context that leads others to not take such drastic measures. His manifesto has been written against war, against false values, and in favor of awareness of Malthusian biology. Certainly, war is bad, and overpopulation is bad, and triggering certain Malthusian conditions is bad. That is established science.

But why is it bad?

It’s not bad in and of itself. Thomas Malthus was not positing religious truths. Rather, it is bad for strictly pragmatic reasons. Overpopulation is bad because it leads to war. War is bad because it causes profound human suffering. It causes the normal social fabric of life to be rent asunder; it causes uncertainty in people as to whether or not they or their loved ones will survive to see next year. It reveals the primitive, reptilian brain underlying our higher intelligence – the one that thinks in terms of enemies, of killing, of violence and of desperate means taken to survive.

You know, I bet his hostages are thinking a lot of those thoughts.

“He who fights with monsters should take care, lest he thereby become a monster.” – Nietzsche

There is a tragic pattern to the behavior of James Lee. In fact, I would argue that this is the greatest tragedy here: that these events repeat themselves. Between 1978 and 1995, Ted Kaczynski likewise embarked upon a campaign of asymmetrical warfare – or terrorism, if you prefer – in favor of nature and against what he likewise perceived as a monolithic and “unnatural” human industry.

Strangely enough, this quote from Kaczynski’s own writing perhaps best summarizes what Kaczynski, Lee, and others undergo in the transition to terrorism:

The moral code of our society is so demanding that no one can think, feel and act in a completely moral way . . . Some people are so highly socialized that the attempt to think, feel and act morally imposes a severe burden on them. In order to avoid feelings of guilt, they continually have to deceive themselves about their own motives and find moral explanations for feelings and actions that in reality have a non-moral origin.

Ultimately, perhaps, it can be noted of all such men that they wrote manifestos and turned to violence because they were frustrated with their inability to get society to do what they wanted. They took extreme measures for what they felt was “right.”

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Congratulations on being the first person to actually defend this nutjob.

    • Did you actually read the article? I don’t defend him – I suggest that he missed the point of Malthus’s theories.

      Further, I liken him to a known terrorist and suggest that he may have to be shot like a rabid dog.

      How exactly do you get “defend” out of that?

  2. He didn’t just miss the point, he wasn’t in the same zip code!

  3. My mistake, what I took from the line “a crying soul in the wilderness” was an attempt at trying to sympathize with the guy.


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