Why Adam Lanza Did It

Adam Lanza
Before Adam Lanza killed 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, CT, he spelled out his twisted motivations for all to see Ct. Dept. of Justice/REUTERS

Everyone is talking this week about the creepy audio recording of Newtown, CT shooter Adam Lanza sharing his views on Travis, a chimpanzee who became famous after tearing the face off of a woman in 2009.

Lanza posted the audio clip on a mass-killer website, devoted in large part to the Columbine shooters, on December 20, 2011. But lost in the public expression of shock at hearing the articulate, deliberate voice of the infamous killer for the first time, are the nearly 300 other postings on that site by Lanza, which, along with that audio recording, provide the clearest answer yet to the question many of us have been asking since that horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012: Why?

We all knew Adam Lanza was twisted with mental illness. In my book, Newtown: an American Tragedy, I document, through almost a decade of his mother's emails, Adam's downward spiral as he gradually lost his tenuous connection to reality. In 2010, his illness became so severe he broke off relations with almost everyone in his life and secluded himself in his bedroom, where he spent lonely hours playing violent video games and obsessing over mass murderers.

Newtown: An American Tragedy
Newtown: An American Tragedy, by Matthew Lysiak Gallery Books

However, what remained unknown was the harrowing depth of the despair and paranoia that fueled his delusions.

Adam joined the mass-killer website, Shocked Beyond Belief, creating the screen name "Smiggles" on December 29, 2009. It wasn't long before he began to express his paranoia, and his belief that society was trying to manipulate him into following an immoral value system that led millions to both mental and physical sickness.

When Adam talked about that chimp's act of violence that nearly killed a woman as an enviable act of self-liberation during his call-in on Anarchist Radio, a counter-culture Oregon radio station, on December 20, 2011, less than a year before he walked into Sandy Hook, he also laid out his justification for mass shootings:

"Look at what civilization did to [Trevor]. It had the same exact effect on him as it has on humans," Adam told the host in a steady, machine-like voice.

"And his attack wasn't simply because he was a senselessly violent, impulsive chimp, which was how his behavior was universally portrayed," he continued, "He knew that [his owner] was trying to coax him back into his place of domestication, and he couldn't handle that, so he attacked her, and anyone else who approached them."

Adam later said society's pressure to conform to its immoral value system could make any living creature snap, and perhaps commit a mass shooting to express their outrage.

His attack can be seen entirely parallel to the attacks and random acts of violence that you bring up on your show every week, committed by humans, which the mainstream also has no explanation for, and-–and, actual humans… I just- just don't think it would be such a stretch to say that he very well could have been a teenage mall shooter or something like that.

Adam understood, felt, that chimpanzee's anger and frustration over trying to conform to society's values. Adam, whose illness made bright lights, loud sounds and certain textures unbearable, never had the opportunity to experience the best of what society had to offer. Instead, he believed the human race was trying to control him, even confessing in one of his posts that his "wet dream" was "living in the wild with apes."

Adam's alienation from himself and all around him was nearly absolute. He hated the sun. He hated holidays, with the exception of Halloween, which he reasoned "is the only widely-observed holiday with the potential for despair." Not even ice cream was immune from his scorn.

On February 26, 2012 Adam posted this:

I hate how life-apologists say 'Life isn't all suffering. What about the simple pleasures, like eating ice cream?' They always use that example. Even if I didn't recognize the flaws in their assertion, when I think of ice cream, I can only see a repugnant lump of pus crushed out of cows' bloody nipples, who spend their entire lives confined in filth, where they're periodically raped so that they're incessantly pregnant… I always ride the pessimism train down different tracks until it inevitably leads me to contemplating over 500 million years of animals cannibalizing each other. Excuse me for not being thrilled by the extra jimmies on my ice cream cone.

Adam blamed his misery on society, not on his mental afflictions or life-choices. He believed that an increasingly controlling and immoral populace was pushing more and more people to commit mass shootings. In an online discussions of mass shootings on February 28, 2012, he wrote:

…[school shootings] always occur in contexts which involve some permutation of alienation, which has been part and parcel with societal 'progress.' This relationship can be seen with the Chinese mass stabbings. There were some sparse incidents throughout the 20th century, but the rate began to rise in the 1990s and erupted in the early 2000s, corresponding to China's rapid 'economic development,' culminating in the infamous spate of elementary school stabbings of 2010.

In another post, he speculated about the increase in mass murders, and hinted at another possible motivation: fame.

If you were trying to measure alienation in a society, what could be a more blatant indication? And it's glib to dismiss them as not being indicative of anything just because there have been over a thousand of them instead of over a hundred thousand, or however many you think are necessary, because mass murdering is so ridiculously over-the-top of a response that very few people are prone to do it under any circumstances. But just look at how many fans you can find for all different types of mass murderers and beyond these fans are countless more people who can sympathize with them; and beyond these are millions more who never think of relating the circumstances of their lives to anyone else but instead just go through the motions of life incessantly dissatisfied with their environment.

When Adam Lanza wrote that post, law enforcement believe he had already begun planning his Newtown massacre.

In his posts on Shocked Beyond Belief, Adam may have also answered the most perplexing question: Why did he target children?

The conventional wisdom in law enforcement is that Adam was just trying get the most kills, but his postings suggest another answer. In Adam's Matrix-like world, children were indoctrinated from a very young age to become part of a sick-machine that was self-perpetuating. They were manipulated to live unhealthy lives. In Adam's deranged world view, they were already doomed to live in a joyless world that would use and abuse them. By killing them, he'd be saving them from the hell he was enduring.

On Dec 7, 2011 he posted his disdain for society:

Enculturing human children is already terrifying enough, but enculturing other apes is something out of the cruelest nightmare. I don't know of anything more worthy of crying over. Rest in peace, little buddy. You're free from the rape of civilization now.

Thinking of this society as the default state of existence is the reason why you think that humans would be "not well" for "no reason whatsoever." Civilization has not been present for 99% of the existence of hominids, and the only way that it's ever sustained is by indoctrinating each new child for years on end. The "wellness" that you speak of is solely defined by a child's submission to this process... When civilization exists in a form where all forms of alienation (among many other things) are rampant... new children will end up "not well" in all sorts of ways. You don't even have to touch a topic as cryptic as mass murder to see an indication of this: you can look at a single symptom as egregious as the proliferation of antidepressants.

Other posts read like a trail of flashing red warning signs:

How about how Mad_Bomber has been here for three years and he still hasn't gone on a rampage? I thought he would've been on my catalog of mass murderers by now. (smile icon)

And this:

I'm still waiting for a mass shooter who eschews 9mm pistols and instead buys an AK-47 pistol, 30 30-round magazines, and 1000 hollow points….

Perhaps most troubling of all was that this severely mentally ill young man, obsessed with violence and surrounded by automatic weapons, who had cut out almost everyone he cared about, made all these terrifying posts on a public forum.

No one said anything, and no one tried to stop him.