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UCSD researcher on misconceptions surrounding mental illness and mass shootings

 July 11, 2022 at 2:08 PM PDT

S1: Research on what drives mass shooters and why blaming mental illness is problematic.
S2: The broader question of , well , what is motivating a shooter has to come down to more than just mental illness.
S1: I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Immigrant detainees strike over working conditions. Now the state is investigating.
S3: Private prison companies have often used punishment to actually force people to perform this labor , doing things like threatening and putting people into solitary confinement , denying food.
S1: Find out what's happening for the Barrio Art Crawl and more in your weekend preview. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Today , Japan is in mourning after the assassination of its former prime minister Shinzo Abe after a rare shooting in that country. Meanwhile , the United States remains on edge after its latest high profile mass shooting on July 4th in Highland Park , Illinois , which resulted in the killing of seven people leaving many more injured. Stories like these beg the question What are the motivations for these acts of violence ? And what can be learned by looking into the root causes behind those that commit them ? Here to talk more about this is Tay Dry , assistant professor of management at UC San Diego's Rady School of Management and co-author of the book Virtuous Violence. Welcome to Midday Edition.
S2: Thanks for having me.
S1: So you recently spoke with the San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Gary Robbins , and in the article you questioned the often immediate labeling of mass shooters as mentally ill.
S2: So if we pursue policies that are really focused on that one , they might not necessarily be effective. And two. What we know is they're just going to stigmatize people who are seeking mental health services.
S1: And your research into the causes of violence suggests there's often a deeper motivation for the perpetrators. Tell us more about that.
S2: I think part of the reason that we have this automatic reaction is to say , well , a person must be mentally ill to do this. On some level , it's kind of comforting to think that , well , no sort of rational , sane person would go out and kill a bunch of strangers , as opposed to kind of trying to think through the possibility that actually there are people out there who have values and commitments that are going to drive them to this kind of action. But what we find when we look at violence across the world , not just mass shootings , but all sorts of violence , all sorts of killings , homicides and everything else is that most of the time when people hurt another human being , they're doing so because they think they have an obligation to do it. They think it's the right thing to do. They think that their social communities are going to praise them for it. And in a lot of cases , their particular communities will. So in the case of this shooter , the community we need to be thinking about is not necessarily you or I. It's the kind of online right wing extremist communities that he was floating.
S2: And gets to part of your introduction to the segment , which is that assassination of Shinzo Abe is very different from a shooter going to a July 4th parade , which is very different from the other gun violence that happened in Chicago that same weekend. We have to kind of tackle these things using kind of different approaches. But I do think the broader kind of question of , well , what is motivating a shooter has to come down to more than just mental illness. That's going to be something where people are seeking meaning through their actions. They're driven by ideological leanings. They're driven to do what they in their minds and what their social communities tell them is the right thing to do.
S2: So particularly in the American context , what we're seeing is young white men driven by misogyny , driven by racism , driven by white supremacy , seeking a way to gain meaning through violence. And so when those things come together , then you get the kinds of shootings that we've seen , not just in Chicago , but elsewhere.
S1: Did your research find any potential tools to counteract these ideological ties that you say can lead to some someone committing violence.
S2: When we're looking at something like mass shootings or just gun violence in particular ? The approaches you want to take are sort of both kind of narrow and broad on the broader level. We're really talking about changing these kinds of cultures that are feeding misogyny and racism and white supremacy to these young shooters. And that's that's a kind of bigger endeavor that involves breaking into these sort of online communities and changing the messaging and changing what people believe as is right in these places.
S1: Your research found that social pressure may be a key piece to combating these motivations. Can you tell us more about what your research experiments found there.
S2: And some of our experiments ? What we've found is that people who commit harm really care about whether. They are signaling that they are committing harm for what they believe their community thinks are the right reasons. And if they think they will be seen as committing harm for the wrong reasons , then they don't want to do it anymore. Or if they think that their communities won't approve of their violent actions and they're not going to want to do it as much anymore. And so really trying to communicate to people that that the violence is not going to be acceptable , is going to be key , and that is actually making it not acceptable within those communities. When we see in successful community interventions , oftentimes it's been the case where people who are prone to violence are confronted by people in their community who are expressing them , that they don't approve of what's going on. And that really does have an effect.
S2: So it's not going to be just punishments and jail time and fines or anything else. It's going to be a combination of material incentives and social incentives that people need to leverage peer pressure from their communities and change those actual social and cultural norms. And that's what's really going to have a big effect. Material incentives on their own just aren't disincentivizing to someone who believes that they're hurting others because it's the right thing to do in their minds.
S1: Mm hmm. And , you know , ultimately , you say that understanding what draws people to violence is really key to preventing it. Absolutely.
S2: Absolutely. I think that if you want to prevent violence , then the first key is understanding the motives that underlie. And oftentimes , I think people are proceeding from an incorrect view that , well , if someone is being violent , it must be because something is broken in their psychology , they're mentally ill , or they are just sort of seeking out some material incentives or they're failing to empathize with their victims as human beings or something like that. When we need to confront the possibility that actually a lot of the violence isn't driven by a of absence of morality in their minds , it's actually driven by a presence of moralistic and ideological motivation that makes them feel that killing is something they have to do , something they need to do , and something that will be seen later on as righteous in their communities.
S2: And that's why they're there doing what they're doing.
S1: And also in the way that we that we label shooters or people who commit these acts of violence , too. Oftentimes the only people who are labeled as mentally ill when these types of violent events take place are white males when they've committed such atrocities. Sure.
S2: Sure. So there's a broader discussion , and it's a really good point that you're bringing up , which is that when we see oftentimes a brown or black suspect or a foreign suspect , we may be more likely to go to something like terrorism and ideology as an explanation. But when we see a white suspect , then we go to this mental illness. I think this comes down back to people's stereotypes and racist biases that come in where they say , well , hey , in the same way that we don't think that a mentally healthy person would do this , I think there are a lot of people who think , well , we wouldn't think that a well-off young white man would do these sorts of things. It must be that there was something that went wrong in their psychology when in actuality young white men do these sorts of things and they do them for ideological , moralistic reasons.
S1: Do you think that that the way we label these these incidents and the people who perpetrate them stands in the way of how America responds. For example , after 911 , people of the Muslim faith were profiled. Black people are profiled. White men who carry out these atrocities are not profiled or surveilled in the same way.
S2: We do have this problem where if you are going to call a Brown suspected terrorist , then we're going to get profiling. We're going to get restrictions on them. If we are going to look at whites if. Prime Minister's drive and violence and label it as a mental health crisis. Then we're going to stigmatize all the people who seek mental health services , and we're going to miss on preventing violence that's driven by white supremacy because we're not going to be looking for that.
S1: I've been speaking with Tay Drive , Assistant Professor of Management at UC San Diego's Rady School of Management. Professor Rai , thank you so much for joining us.
S2: Thank you for having.
S1: At least two immigrant detainees have been held in punishing solitary confinement for about a week at the for profit private facility where they're locked up in Bakersfield. The men and their attorney say it's retaliation for supporting a peaceful labor strike. For the California report , KQED for Rita. Diablo Romero has the story.
S4: Some people held at the mess of the detention center have been refusing to clean dorms and bathrooms for $1 a day for more than two months , say immigrant advocates. And last week , about eight more detained workers joined the strike. Mohammed Moussa , an immigrant detainee from Egypt , supports them.
S3: I call for him humane treatment and I stand up against the unfair treatment. It's like that slavery rate of $1 a day.
S4: Among other things , strikers are calling to be paid California's minimum wage of $15 an hour. Mousa says he signed his name on a piece of paper declaring they were joining the strike and alerted staffers with the Geo Group , the prison company paid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to operate the facility. The next day on June 29th. Guards moved Mousa to a cell used for what's officially known as administrative segregation. Detainees call it the hole he's been kept since then in a small , windowless cell for 22 hours a day or longer , he says.
S3: It gives you an anxiety. It gives you raise your stress level , raise your your depression level. Yeah , it's a terrible place to be. Slightly dig a grave and throw you in.
S4: The cells about six feet by 12 feet long with a toilet clogged sink and a cot to sleep on , says Pedro Figueroa , a striker who was moved to solitary confinement on June 30th , a day after Moosa guards push meals and sometimes a phone through a slot in the cells metal door.
S3: I chose to not work anymore and voice my opinion on that within my rights. Respectfully and a lot of other individuals on the same.
S4: Detainees like Figueroa often volunteer to work cleaning dorms to help their families pay for phone calls and commissary items. Figueroa said that of four U.S. citizen kids and a former inmate firefighter who fought the Dixie Fire in 2020 , he and Moussa were placed in solitary confinement on charges of engaging in or inciting a demonstration and conduct that disrupts or interferes with the security or operation of the facility , according to geo forums viewed by KQED.
S3: This is what they're doing to retaliate against people who speak English. You know , this is what they're doing to intimidate us , which I'm intimidated.
S4: A spokesman with GEO strongly rejected the allegations that the company is retaliating against the detainees. He repeatedly denied there's even a labor strike , arguing that the work program is voluntary. But the spokesman declined to say what demonstration Moussa and Figueroa are charged with inciting.
S3: These private prison companies are profiting by the millions up to the billions of dollars every year by using these voluntary work programs.
S4: Eunice Choi is an attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. She says GEO and other private prison companies nationwide often use the $1 a day program to do the things they need to run immigration detention centers like cleaning , laundry and maintenance.
S3: Private prison companies have often used punishment to actually force people to perform this labor , doing things like threatening and putting people into solitary confinement , denying food. This , of course , obviously is unconstitutional punishment.
S4: That's because immigrant detainees also have freedom of speech through the First Amendment , says Cho. Now , courts in California and other states are deciding whether these practices constitute forced labor or violate minimum wage laws and whether companies like GEO are accountable. A spokesperson for U.S. Senator Alex Padilla says the reports of potentially exploitative work at mess everyday are alarming , especially if detainees are facing retaliation for protesting the conditions and that the senator's office is working together. Additional information. ICE did not immediately return requests for comment. I'm sorry that Javier Romero.
S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. This weekend in the Arts , you have your pick from Southern Gothic Blues at the Casbah , a last chance to see improv hip hop at the Old Globe. Plus The Barrio Art Crawl , including a Frida Kahlo birthday celebration. Joining me now with all the details is KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Julia , welcome. Hi.
S4: Hi. Thanks for having me.
S1: All right. So let's start with the Barrio Art Crawl on Saturday. There's multiple new exhibitions opening up at Bread and salt. But let's start at the former LA Bodega Gallery in the heart of Barrio Logan. Tell us about what's on at Corazon del Barrio. Yeah.
S4: Yeah. So Corazon del Barrio is the new name. The space is now primarily an event venue , which is something that Lab Ortega Gallery also did really well. But they do have exhibitions from time to time. And this weekend , they're celebrating Frida Kahlo's birthday with Viva La Vida. This is an exhibition with all Frida themed work. There's 50 local artists in it , and the artist list is that really great combination of some names that we do know and some that we don't. And I really love that about these big themed group shows. So at the opening , there'll also be music from Betty Bangs and other deejays. There's food from places around Barrio Logan and beer from Harry's brewhouse. They'll also be flower crowns and a Frida Kahlo lookalike contest. So if you want to dress up , you can enter that. That all kicks off on Saturday at 5:00. Okay.
S1: Okay. So now tell us about what's on at bread and salt , multiple new art exhibitions and even some live graffiti painting. Yes.
S4: Yes. So this is the cross-border graffiti duo known as Hem Crew , where HEM stands for Echo in Mexico , and they're opening an exhibition at the Athenaeum Art Center. That's called Making Echoes with Lions. And part of the exhibition will be a live graffiti painting event that's going to happen during the Barrio Art Call on Saturday. And that Athenaeum Art Center is kind of tucked in the back of bread and salt , but it's a big open walk through space between the main gallery and best practice and the courtyard outside. And speaking of best practice , they are opening a two person exhibition called a BCD that has work from Nathaniel Clyne and Brody Albert. This is a lot of found object works and some video. I especially like one of their video projects in the exhibition. It's a series of scenes of color sorted things , all things found at the Dollar store and in the main Bread Art gallery is a solo exhibition from painter Melanie Taylor. This will feature works on paper as well as paintings. And I really love Melanie Taylor's natural landscapes. She paints trees and branches with so much movement. There's a lot of energy in those pieces. So yeah , most of these exhibitions and receptions are from 5 to 8 or so in the evening. But the Barrio Art Crawl actually kicks off at noon , and there are plenty of shops and open studios and food and music to find all day. And this thing happens every month. Wow.
S1: Wow. Now , at the Old Globe , it's closing weekend for Freestyle Love Supreme , which was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda. And tell us about this. Right.
S4: Right. So this is something it was actually devised during rehearsal breaks for Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights. And it's basically an improv comedy and hip hop performance. But it also went to Broadway in its own right and even got a Grammy nomination , I think , in 2019. And in each show , audience members can give suggestions , and the performers will incorporate those into the show. It makes the progression between the songs and the movements unique. It's an otherwise narrative free script , and no two shows will be the same. But there are just a few shows left at the Old Globe. So there's tonight at eight. Saturday at five and nine. And then Sunday at two and seven.
S1: And finally , some music idea. Victoria performs at the Casbah on Sunday. Tell us about her. Yeah.
S4: Yeah. So Adia Victoria is known for her brand of gothic blues , which is a style that's really cemented in the American South. Her voice is just incredible. It's powerful and nuanced , and sonically , she runs the gamut from folk to blues in the country and soul. And she recently put out a full length album called A Southern Gothic. That was last fall. Produced by T-Bone BURNETT with supporting appearances from Matt Berninger from the national Margo Price. Jason Isbell and the albums about her complicated relationship with the West , the South as a black woman. She lives in Tennessee and she was also raised in the south. And she she's recently just started releasing a few new singles , including this one called Ain't Killed Me. Yes , indeed.
UU: The jukebox came to me just about now. I don't think. Now a.
S1: She performed at the Casbah Sunday at 8:30 p.m.. For details on these and more arts events or to sign up for Julian's weekly KPBS Arts newsletter. Go to KPBS Saugus Arts. I've been speaking with KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Julia , thank you.
S4: Thank you , Jane. Have a good weekend.

The United States remains on edge after its latest high-profile mass shooting on July 4th in Highland Park, Illinois, which resulted in the killing of 7 people, leaving many more injured. Stories like these beg the question - what are the motivations for these acts of violence? Plus, at least two immigrant detainees have been held in solitary confinement for about a week at the for-profit private facility where they are locked up in Bakersfield. The men and their attorney's say it's retaliation for supporting a peaceful labor strike. This weekend in the arts: Southern gothic blues at the Casbah, a last chance to see improv hip hop at The Old Globe and the Barrio Art Crawl.