Newtown’s Unanswerable Questions

At City Journal, Dalrymple writes on the Newtown killings, arguing that it is highly unlikely the killer could have been forestalled through better psychiatric evaluation:
Let us suppose for the sake of argument, however, that the perpetrator did have a psychiatric condition that could have been diagnosed before his terrible act: What follows from this?
First, he was of age (20) to refuse to see a doctor if he so wished, and he might very well have so wished. By all accounts, there were no grounds on which psychiatric attention could have been forced upon him. He was strange, he was socially isolated, his mother worried about him; but he was a good student and had committed no acts that would have justified compulsory treatment, as would have been the case if (for example) he had attacked someone under the influence of delusion.
He provides several more reasons why a psychiatrist would have been ignorant of Adam Lanza’s murderous intentions. It all reminds me of Dalrymple’s explanation, in Fool or Physician, of his decision to resign his post at a psychiatric research facility in London:

It was my powerlessness, as well as my complete lack of comprehension, that began to tell on my nerves. I did not have the self-confidence of the psychotherapists, who believed that by mere cogitation in a chair all would be, or had been, revealed unto them. There never was a case they failed to understand, and yet I found their theories almost as bizarre and convoluted as the behavior they were attempting to explain. It seemed to me that we were playing on the shores of the ocean of human misery, whose depths were still uncharted and indeed unfathomable.

A hat tip to Shishir Y. for bringing to our attention this Steve Sailer blog post on Dalrymple’s piece.

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