After Aurora shooting, a nerd braces for impact
Signs for "Dark Knight" are removed in Paris, France. The movie's French premiere was cancelled in the wake of the attack.
July 20th, 2012
07:26 PM ET

After Aurora shooting, a nerd braces for impact

A man opened fire in a crowded theater during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, killing 12 people and wounding 59. Along with the alleged shooter’s family and the NRA, I expect nerds and other outcasts will get some unwanted attention today.

My stomach dropped when I heard news of the mass shooting for the same reasons everyone else's did.

But as a nerd and CNN's resident expert on geeky subcultures, I readied myself for pointed questions which I expected to get from outside the geek community: "Why 'Batman'?" "Is the shooter a nerd?" "Why is it always the loner?"

There's a precedent for labeling people considered nerds or geeks or outsiders as potentially dangerous individuals who might snap. After the Columbine shootings, Goths were given a wider berth than usual. Post school shootings, video gamers get to field a slew of weapons-related questions. Now my gut tells me comic book fans and movie geeks might face closer scrutiny even though there's no evidence the alleged shooter was either.

CNN: Debunking the myths of Columbine, 10 years later

But if the public shooting incidents of the last twenty years  - Columbine, Virginia Tech, D.C. sniper, Gabby Giffords - have taught us anything, it's that people who decide to kill innocents are many things. They are students, veterans, children, parents, jilted lovers, video game enthusiasts and rock music fans.

CNN: Professor: Virginia Tech shooter’s writing dripped with anger

Suspected Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes was a PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado Denver who was in the process of leaving the graduate program. Though little is known about the alleged killer, he has been labeled a "nerd" by an uncle who spoke to the press. A  neighbor pegged him a loner. And already a former FBI profiler speculated he might be a "dark, Trekkie-like person."

Whether the Colorado shooter or any other killer considers himself a nerd, mass murderers are, above all else, mentally imbalanced. It is not normal human behavior to conduct a shooting rampage.

We nerds are also considered "not normal" by our peers, and are often stereotyped as socially awkward. Many of us are, indeed, awkward. And it's not unusual for highly intelligent people to have emotional problems. The stereotype of an anxious, obsessive, type-A nerd or even the dismissive, controlling, know-it-all comic book nerd exists because there are plenty of people who prove the rule.

CNN: The psychology of a Jared Loughner

But the nerd community is not hiding berzerkers. There is no secret handshake that lets you know, “This person is a fan of 'Portal' and is really good at math. Hey, he must be dangerous.”

Commentators and observers are sure to ask, "Why Batman?" today, likely because the comic book portrays maniacal villains who are chaotically destructive and murder people. Holmes told arresting officers that he was The Joker.

Fans of the comic book do, in fact, gravitate toward iconic villains like The Joker or Bane. But the artistic point of such villainy is to prove - through depraved acts and through the motivation of the hero, Batman - that harming other people is evil. That crimes have repercussions that reach far and wide, and it's never just about one victim.

Why did the shooter choose a theater showing a midnight premier of "The Dark Knight Rises"? No reasoning has yet emerged. But from a practical standpoint, the location allowed the shooter to easily wound and kill dozens of innocent people. It was dark and crowded. There were children in the audience. An action movie may have been more likely to mask the noise of gunshots.

Is it easier to wrestle reason from this tragedy by those facts? What would it mean if this happened in an adjacent theater which was showing "Ice Age: Continental Drift" or "Katy Perry: Part of me"?

CNN: Experts on youth violence: Intervene early or pay dearly later

"Is the shooter a nerd?" No one knows for sure, but I don't think it will explain much if that's the case. In my experience, nerds are generally sensitive souls. They suffer the loneliness of being cast as outsiders. They long for acceptance and to be valued for their abilities. Nerds may be pushed to the margins of society, but we know the difference between right and wrong. This is a deplorable tragedy – anyone, outcast or not, would agree. There is no excuse, ever, for a crime like this.

Less significantly, this horrendous act could besmirch a franchise that comic book fans and movie geeks hold dear. Batman/Bruce Wayne is a vigilante. He embodies a base, emotional cry for justice. He catches the bad guys because a bad guy killed his parents, right in front of him. The audience that reads "Batman" comic books and goes to see "Batman" movies finds catharsis from this story line. They do not arm themselves and seek revenge for their grievances.

This crime has wounded the country. As we try to make sense of this tragedy, we will turn to the news and watch as the facts unveil. We may have to deal with the fact that the only reason someone chooses to open fire in a crowded Colorado theater is because he or she feels like it. But after documenting nerdy subcultures for years, I can offer this much: this isn't what being a nerd is about.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ann Hoevel.

Posted by
Filed under: Comic Longbox • Fandom
soundoff (152 Responses)
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  16. reithena

    I don't think we will know the answers to these questions for a while. However, even once we know the answers we will feel the effects. As someone who works in Emergency Management, there are already the rumblings of stepping up security for not only movie showings, but 'nerd type conventions'. These events which were already big to-dos already are now going to be way more involved with security because these nerds can out smart the rest of us. I just hope eventually people can act like humans rather than crazed animals.

    July 25, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  17. John Caelan

    "Mostly, we are terrified of terror without cause. It feeds no agenda, it supports no doctrine, its takes no side. The pitiful attempt to assign it purpose reveals our darkest fears—that sometimes evil has no design. Sometimes, it has no rhyme or reason."

    Aurora: No Rhyme or Reason...What We Really Fear

    July 24, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  18. Robert the Robot

    Glad this guy wasn't on Bath Salts!

    July 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  19. American2013

    He was not a nerd. He was a psychotic gun lover.

    July 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  20. jimdog33

    More drivel.

    July 23, 2012 at 3:09 pm |

    "even though there's no evidence the alleged shooter was either (a comic fan or movie geek)." WAKE UP!!!! He called himself "The Joker" to police. This era where being a "nerd" is something cool and "geeky" means you're really into something and should be treated differently because of it is ignorant! Now society thinks its O.K. to let pop culture tell us how to treat each other, raise our kids and become successful. The abandonment of personal responsibility and addiction to "groupthink" in this era amazes me. Rope the Joker.

    July 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm |

    "even though there's no evidence the alleged shooter was either." WAKE UP!!!!

    July 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  23. John

    It may just be an Anyurism pressure on the Brain causing some kind of malfunction in his behavior. This has happened to people in the past. Mental illness. I worked with people with Mental Disabilities, some where brilliant people with voices in their Heads. Scary and free to wander our Streets.

    July 23, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  24. Douglas in Socal

    Had anyone considered if he was taking prescription medication for depression – some of these psych drugs have black box warnings with regards to discontinuing use of them – warnings that include suicidal tendencies.

    July 23, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  25. blessedgeek

    What had been the psyche of a certain James Holmes who performed such a rampage?

    Indeed it might have been a performance that he had planned for a long time. Since childhood, as soon as he's had sufficient resources – to destroy Batman.

    For almost every Christmas morning or Halloween he was surrounded by kids in Batman and Robin costumes. For some reason, or other, he preferred the Joker. Soon he could not stand those who took Batman as a role model., because the Joker is the real and actual mover and shaker of Gotham city. Batman was just a decoy of the actual gospel of Gotham City – and the world needs to know about it. That the actual person to be worshipped is not Batman but the Joker.

    All along he has planned how to destroy Batman. And he realised he had the mental and intellectual ability to carry out such a jihad against Batman. He needed to find a place where his actions would reverberate, especially one that could provide a strong historical rebound. He could have gone to Boston or Chicago if he needed a stronger school in Neuroscience. But he chose Denver, near Columbine.

    And destroy Batman he did for this whole big season. It would be difficult of movie producers to pick the Batman pieces up again not for the next 10 years and by that time, his intellect has calculated that nobody would be interested in Batman anymore. He now feels justified to have transmitted his version of the gospel of Gotham City.

    July 22, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Kenny

      I like this explanation. Good insight.

      July 23, 2012 at 2:06 am |
    • Southerner01

      Seek help! Now!

      July 23, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • sonofgadfly

      Um, so how did graduate school figure into all of this? Do you really think anyone would endure the grind of a PhD program if the goal was simply to destroy a comic book character? I'm more inclined to think that the stress of his academic endeavors was his undoing.

      July 23, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  26. San Diego Todd

    I am sure they will find a Metallica, Ozzy or Judas Priest CD or MP3 amongst all the crap he has and eventually blame it on Heavy Metal. I am also sure they will find Call of Duty or Battlefield series games and allude that he used them to 'train'. Just like this article was dumbed down to 5th grade reading comprehension all of this will be sifted and filtered so all of the 'sheeple' can understand and feel good. Easily obtaining assault weapons and ammunition over the internet will not be considered a major factor, thanks to the power of the NRA.

    July 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Zee

      Whether or not he obtained his weapons legally, or legally via the internet matters not. It is even easier to obtain weapons illegally – no background check, no waiting period, no forms to fill out. People who don't regard the law do not regard gun laws. Only law abiding people follow the law. More gun control only means more control of the people who were already obeying the law. The criminals and crazies will continue obtaining their weapons through the usual, illegal routes, while the rest of us are gun-controlled out of the ability to defend ourselves against the only armed people left: criminals.

      July 23, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Kyle S

      As far as i know, none of the guns he was carying were illegal in the US. The AR15 is a civilian model.

      Beyond that, complaining about how heavy metal music or videogames will be blamed, and moving on to say its gun laws that should be blamed, doesnt really fix the problem. Guns dont kill people, people kill people. I'm not a supporter of the NRA, and I dont even own a gun. But this article had the right tone. Its not that he was a nerd, or played videogames, or even owned guns that caused this to happen.

      It was the shooter himself that needs to take the blame.

      July 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm |

    My heart goes out to the grieved families of Aurora victims. May Allah bless the souls of the departed and give patience and courage to families to bear the loss and grief.

    It is important for everyone of us to keep a a good lookout on such elements of the society. These are sick people who need to be identified and helped before they commit such a terrible crime.

    July 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
  28. Nicole

    My first thought wasn't that this guy is a geek, but that shootings seem to happen a lot in Colorado (Columbine anyone? And then there was the one in Colorado Springs). I looked it up and Colorado has the most shooting sprees per capita; Virginia and Texas have about as many, but Virginia has about twice the population of Colorado and Texas is five times as many people). Basically, you are most likely to die in a mass shooting if you live in Colorado. The CDC says 1 out of every 9700 deaths in Colorado were the result of being shot.

    Makes me question my desire to apply to University Colorado – Boulder for graduate school.....

    July 22, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Humbly

      I'm a Colorado native...actually a native of Aurora and I can assure you that Colorado is still safe. Though I have to agree that there does seems to be quite a bit of shooting sprees here. One thing the press hasn't really jumped on – and I am surprised by this – is they haven't really brought up the Chuck E. Cheese Massacre, or at least not that I have seen. The Chuck E. Cheese Massacre happened also in Aurora, just miles from this theater (which is why I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned). It happened in 93 or 94...I was in high school. Basically, a disgruntled employee walked into the restaurant and hid in the bathroom until it closed. Then he came out and shot all the workers. He killed four of them (three were in high school) and one survived, though he was shot in the face. It was quite devastating.

      Still, I do feel safe in Colorado and if you are considering CU, I went there as well. Boulder is honestly about as tame as you can get (yes, even with the Jon Benet murder). People in Boulder are about a thousand times more likely to be armed with pot pipes than pistols.

      July 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  29. annevincent

    This sad story is not about nerds, or evilness, or specific types of weapons, or motives. This sad story is about brain disease that we call severe mental illness. (Schizophrenia and Bi-polar disorder) This type of disease typically presents with obvious symptoms in young adults (early 20's), and can occur in smart people, as well as less smart people. The inability to think in a normal fashion causes severe disruptions in an effected person's life, and can render them suicidal or, sadly, homicidal. Usually mentally ill individuals are not violent, but sometimes, obviously, this can occur. Most psychotic individuals who loose touch with reality are not able to function enough to carry out such a complex scheme. But on occasion, especially in people with superior intellect, even though they have very disordered thinking, they can manage to inflict great harm. This person would have never posed any danger to others if he had received adequate medical intervention. That is the bottom line. The question is, why didn't he receive that help? That is what we need to change.

    July 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  30. MomWiz

    Nerds are no more likely to open fire on the unsuspecting than postal workers, who were the focus of such behavior in earlier decades. Thus the phrase "going postal". It's always dangerous when society forms another witch hunt to label and punish people prior to their crimes. I hope this doesn't turn out to be one of those times!

    July 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  31. Blutracker

    STOP trying to figure this creep out. Just give him the electric chair!

    July 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • 10018

      It is a mistake to shut down and not try to understand why. Why is important . It helps us identify root causes and to take steps in preventing similar acts in the future.

      July 23, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  32. Ric

    I rarely read CNN new but wanted to stop by today to see a complete picture of news coverage for the Aurora shooting and this is what I find. Now I know why I rarely read CNN. Is THIS was passes for journalism at CNN? What a joke! How can anyone be so self-absorbed as to write this piece of drivel and try to pass it off as information? As a “nerd” are you so starved for attention that you’ll say anything to get it…even if it’s negative attention? Here’s a suggestion, if you can’t find something meaningful to say please just stick to writing about your I-phone. Nobody will care about that either but at least you won’t look so foolish.

    July 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • PJ

      Thank you...this guy needs to get over himself. He's getting defensive about something that hasn't even happened (probably just to have something to write about). And if it does, who cares? At least he wasn't shot up by a psycho in a movie theatre.

      It's pretty shameful that he would make this about him and his fellow "nerds" as though they are the victims.

      July 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
      • PJ

        and by "he" I mean "she" points the same

        July 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
      • Moka

        Aw come onMy five year old loves this epsoide. Kids! Helping Batman!It makes sense to have a kids-helping-Batman epsoide because Batman was, at the end of the day, a kids cartoon. It was such a great kids cartoon that we forget this. But it's right there on the rating: ages 7+.And if you're going to have a kids-helping-Batman cartoon, who'll be the villain? It can't be J. Random Gangster, because that's not cool. Has to be a name villain. But it can't be the Joker or someone like that, because those guys are really dangerous and kind of scary. So, we need a Batman villain who's not scary. That's a short list, and the Penguin is at the top of it. Given those premises, the rest of the epsoide follows pretty naturally.I'm not saying it's a great epsoide. But it's like when the wedding band does a slow song and the old folks get up to dance. This one was for the kiddies. The rest of us are rolling our eyes, but the first grader is all: #@%$ yeah!Doug M.

        October 15, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • Peter

      CNN = Irresponsible news reporting, it has been doing this for years, I think the reporters get an award for the worst reported news story. Victims of this sicko will be in my thoughts and prayers.

      July 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Sarah

      Geek Out is part of the CNN website, but it's a blog. A geek blog. That's why the article is written the way it is. It's not a news article, it's a blog post. If you want a news article, you're going to have to look elsewhere on CNN.

      July 23, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  33. BlogMediator

    Something is wrong with the way our society 'thinks' and it's not do to gun ownership! It is the mind, nerdy or not, operating the gun that does the killing! This moron would have used explosives, which he obiously made, if he didn't have the guns. Maybe we need to critique the phoney, but all too graphic violence and immoral behavior, portrayed by Hollywood and video manufactures (who employ thousands of geeks), before we jump the 'gun' against the NRA and our sovereign right to bear arms in this country !

    July 22, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • JaySF

      But if the person with the mind operating the gun had not had easy access to guns, twelve people in Colorado would be alive and well today. I already know the response to that comment: There are plenty of other ways to kill people, so you still can't blame guns. But how many people could he have killed with a knife, or his fists, or a baseball bat? The answer is many, many fewer - probably just one before people could have reacted, could have fought back, could have at least run. That's why guns have a special place in this kind of argument. There's no defense. If a person wants to kill a lot of people, it's a done deal with such easy access to guns in this country.

      July 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
      • NoGOP

        You ask how many people could he kill without the guns. Timothy Mcveigh killed 168 without a gun. This guy could have done the same. My prayers go out to the victims and their families.

        July 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
      • JaySF

        NoGOP: You are obviously right. He could have taken out the entire theater with a bomb. But here's another problem with easy access to guns. How many people get killed by stray bombs versus stray bullets? A little girl got shot in Oakland yesterday just walking down the street with her mother. People get hit by stray bullets just sitting at home watching TV on their sofas. Sure, bombs can also be used for mass killing, but guns are causing a lot more carnage in this country than bombs are. Too many people have guns, and it's just too easy to use them.
        gllj: I'm not sure what children and TVs have to do with it. Having children and owning TVs don't kill people, at least not that I'm aware of. Just because one thing is rationed doesn't mean that everything else will be, so let's face it: your response is pretty vacuous.

        July 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • gllj

      Jay, he purchased the guns legally over a period of time. So do you want to control or ration the number of guns a person owns? Why stop there lets ration hte number of children a person can have, or the number of tvs a person can have.

      July 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
      • tmissis

        If a person were to purchase (legally) poison that transaction would be tracked. Buying a vehicle would be tracked. I can't see any reason to not track purchasing firearms, can you?

        I can't understand you trying to relate buying tvs or having children to this discussion.

        Please be wise and realistic in your response.

        July 23, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  34. Dan Ari

    He was psychotic, not just a nerd.

    The media outlets do us a disservice by not addressing the mixture of delusions and guns, and by not explaining the difference between delusional and creative. Dressing as the Joker is nerdy. Thinking you are the joker is delusional.

    July 22, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  35. Morgan

    THIS? This is considered a worthy contribution on behalf of geeks and nerds on such a horrific topic? Oh, man. Sister, you not only need to quit your day job, you need to just admit that you're a hipster and leave us actual outcasts out of it.

    July 22, 2012 at 2:44 am |
  36. The Real Bat

    Nerds are not mainstream. It's people like you who make us mainstream. Leave us alone.

    July 22, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  37. Michael

    I've never used this expression before in my life – You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    July 22, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  38. sockpuppet1984

    WOW! Way to take a horrible tragedy and make it all about YOU.

    July 22, 2012 at 12:01 am |
  39. kamana

    I'm from the 'old school' and don't know nothing 'bout nerds or geeks. Back in the good ol' days all we had was treachery, deceit, cowardice, violence and murder. One thing that always troubled me, though: Why is it that the white man's hero's are always wearing masks and capes? The Lone Ranger, Captain Marvel, Captain America, Batman and Robin, Spiderman, the Joker. They always wearing masks and/or capes?

    July 21, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • magnus

      virtually all superheros wear masks and capes. it has nothing to do with bein black or white. remember that SPAWN is a black man and he wears a mask and cape.

      July 21, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
      • albert

        The Joker does not wear a mask or cape sorry.

        July 22, 2012 at 12:53 am |
      • intheruins


        Joker = not a hero.

        At least not to most people.

        July 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  40. Lola

    Definitely too soon.
    "I expect nerds and other outcasts will get some unwanted attention today."
    Who the "eff" cares? Instead of worrying about "nerds" getting a bad rap, why don't you consider that our country is mourning for the innocent victims and their families. Get over yourself and be a little more sensitive. Of course this isn't what "being a nerd is about." Are you serious? You should be ashamed of yourself. Great job making a national tragedy about you. In fact, CNN should be ashamed of this.

    July 21, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  41. Sean

    Christ! What a horrible artical. Too soon.

    July 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • Rahma

      Wow great colour sneectiols Caitlin! I'm really excited to see it finished, I haven't had the balls to start a project of that magnitude in a while myself too much school at the moment.

      October 12, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  42. Peter

    Entropy and obfuscation are easier to identify with than peace and acceptance. This violent episode will happen again. Records like the death toll will be kept, debated and broken.

    July 21, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  43. Carver Crisis

    Wow, this article is awful. I can't believe you thought posting this was a good idea. Fire Ann. A person who has no ability to process whether an article is appropriate to post has no place in "news".

    July 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • sam

      Well then it's a good thing this wasn't posted in "news". Perhaps you should pay attention to what you click before crying about what you read.

      July 22, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  44. hank

    He may have chosen the Batman Movie midnight release showing for maximum impact and publicity. He knew he would have a full house, a captive audience and an event that was already getting a lot of attention and hype. Had he chosen to commit this act at another time, he might have just as likely picked the midnight debut of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games or Twilight.

    July 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  45. winfreyr

    The Arguments that Don't Square: The Case for Gun Rights and Voter ID laws. My thoughts here:

    July 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  46. cornerdemon

    I find this an interesting take on it, because it was the exact opposite of my reaction. I felt (as a card-carrying geek) that geeks were the victims here. That this was some weird lashing out at Geek Culture. The rise of superhero movies, the fad of grown-up versions of the things some people look down on as being "childish". The idea that the man identified himself as the Joker while sporting a dye job that was miles away from even the Joker's color scheme solidified that for me. Just another take on it.

    July 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • VOR

      Unless you were one of the dozens shot then you are not a victim in any way, shape or form. To state otherwise is completely ridiculous and insulting to the real victims.

      July 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
      • sam

        Until you learn how to read, you might want to stay away from your keyboard. The letters on the keys might confuse you.

        July 22, 2012 at 10:47 am |
      • Vera

        Why stop there what about counselor? I know some of my ceaetficrits state that I am an attorney-at-law and a counselor-at-law. I believe NJ now has a court rule that states that the position of counselor-at-law has been abolished.

        November 16, 2012 at 2:13 am |
  47. KJ

    CNN: The Most Trusted Name in Nonsense

    July 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  48. Mike R

    I wouldn't be surprised if he suffered some sort of "Watchmen Complex" where he believes that the "sacrifice" of a few will bring "peace" onto the greater population. Some psychopaths believe that, when there is a very positive outlook on a person or group of people (geeks and nerds), there has to be a polar opposite to bring some sort of "balance" into society. True nerds would know that this is a very dangerous concept to practice based of what history has shown us (ex: Christianity vs Devil worshipers).
    God bless us all and especially the family, friends, and victims of this mindless act..

    July 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  49. G123

    This guy is a psychopath, no doubt about it.

    It explains all his characteristic traits exactly.

    …social predators who charm, manipulate and ruthlessly plow their way through life … Completely lacking in conscience and feeling for others, they selfishly take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without the slightest sense of guilt or regret.

    From the responses that they collated, Mullins-Sweatt and her colleagues found that the successful psychopath matched the unsuccessful one in all respects but one, namely, conscientiousness. Thus, it appears that the key difference between unsuccessful and successful psychopaths is that the one behaves impulsively and irresponsibly, whereas the other is able to inhibit, restrain, and even transform those destructive tendencies to build for the future. And this, no doubt, is no small part of genius.

    July 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • G123

      Sounds like Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, type stuff. Serial Killer. I don't see the terrorist parallel, or other issues, just a psychopath.

      July 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • shm

      i am going between sociopath and acute mental illness, such as schizophrenia. in the bigger picture, over the past year he seemed to be unraveling. there are clear signs of delusion and paranoia, and he is the textbook age and gender for onset of psychosis. however, that he premeditated so elaborately...and stated, "will you see me in prison," attests to the fact that he very much knew how wrong he was. and showed no remorse. that's sociopathic. but we may never really know.

      July 22, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  50. lindaluttrell

    I keep seeing one thing: Holmes was a PhD candidate and was LEAVING the program. Why? He'd gone this far to quit now. Why was he leaving versus graduating??? Could this have triggered his attack? Did he and his professors have a disagreement over his research/thesis? So...he took his anger out on innocent theatre goers?

    July 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • brian

      Yes but I think it goes deeper than that. He entered the Phd program when he couldn't get a job with the degree he already had. Phd programs are much too difficult for someone who is there because they didn't have an alternative.

      July 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • doctorategrad

      Actually, many people who start Ph.D. programs don't finish, for a variety of reasons. There's nothing in that that indicates an imbalanced personality. Some decide that, having finished qualifying exams, they don't want to write the dissertation. They may understand that it will be a huge strain on their family and life. They might decide that they don't want to go into the academy after all, and pursue other options with the new skills that the coursework has given them. I nearly dropped out of my program twice because I was also working full time and had a newborn, and the dissertation was taking away from both my work and family life. Let's not paint the guy as imbalanced just because he didn't finish a degree that an incredibly small number of people ever even start!

      July 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
      • doctorategrad

        Which doesn't mean, of course, that he isn't imbalanced. I just think that it is silly to make such a big deal over the doctorate alone.

        July 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
      • Phil in Wisconsin

        Amen, bro. Nothing wrong with trying to understand Holmes, without in any way justifying what he did. Right now it seems plausible that the crisis which put him over the edge was his failure in grad school, after his academic success in secondary and undergraduate. Forget geek: he sounds like so many who define themselves as "the smartest guy in the room," and then confront the reality sooner or later, more often in undergrad but in grad school as well, that they're not. All that said, his reaction to that discovery seems definitely psychotic. But there's nothing wrong, just as after Columbine, with trying to get something positive out of this tragedy. And re the Holmes situation, maybe - and here please don't think this means I'm making excuses for him - maybe grad schools need to pay more attention to psychological issues of grad students, such as issues of how they respond to failure, emotional maturity, and social isolation. My own experience is that virtually none of that happens now.

        July 22, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • BaltoPaul

      Schizophrenia often takes a serious turn for the worse in the early to mid 20s.

      Good chance this guy had it.

      July 22, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
      • Sanaa

        While I enjoyed Inception I've seen it twice I woldun't call it the Greatest SF Film EVAR. It's not even my favorite Christopher Nolan film, which honor goes to The Dark Knight. Still, it is, as you say, a very good flick, definitely much smarter than your standard film fare.I'm apparently a much bigger Nolan fan than you are. Even when he's not as his best, the guy puts out movies get me excited about going to the movies. I gotta tell ya, that's a vanishingly rare quality.Oh, and you should really see Memento sometime.

        October 12, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  51. Just Say It

    Once the author kept using the terms "Suspected Aurora, Colorado, shooter James Holmes..." and "the alleged killer" , I stopped reading. He is NOT 'suspected'... he IS the shooter. He surrendered. He told the police what to expect in his apartment. He's NOT an 'alleged' killer.. he IS a killer, a murderer.

    Caught in the act criminals are not 'suspects' nor alleged. We aren't fookin stupid. Dont tell me about the judicial system and the 'until proven guilty in court' crap. That's for real citizens with a real possibility of innocence.

    what double sucks about this massacre is the state will be paying for his 'defense' and accomodations for life. Just shoot him now.

    "suspected" and "alleged" my azz.

    July 21, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Brett

      I think in crimes like this, the victims and their families should decide his fate, not some jury. this to me would give them true closer.

      July 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
      • eva redding

        I agree with you 100% give this case to the famillies to deceide a jury will believe it was insanity this guy premedtated
        this shooting plug in the electric chair sooner the better.

        July 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • lindaluttrell

      And you nailed it:! The Fourth Estate has become overly PC, I believe, to avoid any libel/slander law suits. He's the culprit. We just have to wait only for the courts to finally tally all the charges against him.

      July 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • MarkU

      Hey, don't be mean to Ann. She is only the alleged author of the article. Until proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law, she did not write this article. In fact, that there is an article is merely suspected at this point.

      July 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Dan I

      Until he's actually convicted of the crime he legally has to be referred to as "alleged." Otherwise CNN opens itself up to liability issues. It isn't a matter of PC, it's a matter of liability and likely a policy that is simply enforced in ALL cases rather than on a case by case basis. Grow up.

      July 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  52. Jack

    Actually. After Columbine happened I got left the hell alone and could go to school without getting the s*** kicked out of me everyday. I wore a trench coat to school the very next day. Was pretty tough to hate them after that.

    July 21, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • otakualert

      I hate to say it but after columbine people also left me alone as well. We may not like the actions of some but they do lead to change. Things like civil rights movement as well as our own nation rose from violence. However this man will be punished for his crimes and for what changed that may come only time will tell.

      July 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  53. Peter

    And those rich enough to afford guns and time to plan the violence need peace the most.

    July 21, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Bill Gander

      I'm glad we agree that the Crips and Bloods should all be arrested.

      July 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  54. Peter

    To be blissfully ignorant is better. The dead seem to have this quality. From the voiceless poor Irish indentured servants pressed into military service at Gettysburg, to the new poor who pay the same price all over the world. We need one thing, peace

    July 21, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  55. vijay

    Why does everyone avoid the point that this person had a gun. That is the only stereotyping that is relevant and maybe what needs to be discussed.

    July 21, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Paulse

      I'm not a psychology expert or anything, but I think the answer to your question is fairly simple: It's obvious that the shooter had a gun (several, in fact) and constantly repeating that fact is sort of pointless.

      July 21, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  56. Greg

    Why Batman? It probably is true that he was some mentally ill Batman fan. Lets not forget a few days ago there was the whole deal with death threats for critics who didnt like the film. Go to any comment section regarding Batman and the fanboys get into a rage defending how great he is and that all of the Nolan Batman movies are perfect cinema masterpieces. Heck, when Avengers was getting rave reviews and setting all sorts of records these fans couldnt even enjoy that movie because the idea it might be "better" (obviously completely subjective) than Batman was something they couldnt stand. They had to make comments like "yeah it was good but just an action movie, Dark Knight will be the better FILM".
    Most extreme Batman fanboys just seem overly defensive and insecure, but it certainly is not surprising that there would be at least one that could be degranged enough to commit this horrible act. I will not be surprised in the least if it comes out that the shooter was one of those fanboys constantly on internet discussion boards fanatical about a fictional character and his movies.

    July 21, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • intheruins

      Wait a minute. The Batman fanboy gets revenge by... killing Batman fans? I think you missed a step on the stairs, there, bud.

      July 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  57. Mabel

    To be fair, I've already heard people talking about obsessive fan crap, long before this article was published. However, most of them agreed that games, comics, etc. don't CAUSE this type of behavior. So I think the writer needs to give us credit for having some common sense.

    The shooter (I refuse to glorify him by using his name) chose a venue where he knew there would be a lot of people, and the premier of a highly anticipated film that would give him the attention he was seeking. What will inspire copycats is NOT Batman or Bane or Joker, but the media's continued attention on this guy. They really need to learn to stop doing that.

    This article is way more useful. Pass this one around instead.

    July 21, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  58. Deenie

    Well written and thought out! I don't find this "cold" in anyway but certainly factual.

    July 21, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  59. Adrian

    I know alot will disagree with the blogger but if you seen MSNBC this morning the guy Clint Van Zandt pratically blame on dark Trekkie type people

    July 21, 2012 at 3:22 am |
  60. Dorian

    I'm a nerd. All of my friends are nerd. While I would have liked to have dressed up at the midnight premier, all I did was festive Batman-inspired eye-makeup, although most of my friends who I spotted there were dressed up in costume. A friend who was dressed up as the Red Hood (Jason Tod, one of the Robins) had a sash of large bullets thrown around his chest.

    I understood this article. It focuses on one possible outcome of the shooting. I didn't take it as insensitive to the families, because it still talks about how horrible this incident was.

    This article is perfectly relevant to me because I am not a violent person, none of the folks who I parade around with in costume are violent people. We would never wish this on anyone, and we're deeply hurt by this. We don't want another decade of "We're going to judge you as violent and dangerous because you listen to Marilyn Manson and play violent video games", and we don't want this heinous creature connected to us. What he did to these people, these families and loved ones does not represent what nerds are or believe in.

    This article is necessary to protect us. I am so utterly saddened by what's happened to the innocent people in Colorado. I'm sickened by it. But now I especially fear what it could mean for our future.

    July 21, 2012 at 3:19 am |
  61. bob

    People keep calling this ignorant. I do not think that word means what you think it means. Oh well, the dumber the person the easier to outrage and offend.

    July 21, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • FrstWrldPrblms

      Probably the best summation. The people berating this article are literally falling apart over innocent deaths... Innocent children die daily in America and overseas from hunger and abuse. I wonder how many of these bandwagon mourners donate money to those innocent victims. Maybe he chose a midnight showing because no children should be out watching an adult's movie at midnight.

      July 22, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  62. kathysage

    This is quite relevant. I just watched a series of videos at NBC where the commentator was interviewing people who knew this guy. He asked them over and over whether he was a quiet person, a loner, did he have friends, etc. Honestly, at least 25 times, maybe 50. If you think about Jared Loughton (sp?) who shot Rep Giffords, yes he was a loner. But mainly he had schizophrenia. He was a loner because he has schizophrenia. He didn\'t have schizophrenia because he was a loner or nerdy. I\'d say most people with schizophrenia are probably loners and kind of strange.

    There are plenty of shy people in the world (about 10%). Plenty of brainy nerdy people who have made great discoveries, like Einstein was an unusual child, for instance. My guess is that this guy in Colorado had schizophrenia. For one thing, he was studying it. Smart enough to realize he needed more info, but the disease is terrible and hits people in their late teens and early 20\'s. My guess is that he got caught up in some bizzarre batman fantasy that seemed real to him or something like that because he had a brain disorder called schizophrenia.

    Oh, Ted Bundy, a creepy serial killer was a very charming man. Lots of really bad people are very charming. No one ever asks about that, though. No one makes charm into a stereotype. Perhaps they should.

    I thought that this was a timely post. Every time there is one of these incidents, the loner meme comes out. Like the interviewer lacks imagination to ask penetrating questions. We need better interviewers, ones that don't just go on easy stereotypes.

    July 21, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • Elizabeth

      The interviewer doesn't lack imagination, but education.
      How do they get those high-paying jobs anyway, by studying history, psychology, meteorology, sports history? No, by talking glibly and looking nice in expensive suits.

      However, speaking of history, there is an unfortunate parallel between this incident and a time in history when people were reading Jacobian plays and the first horror novels; it was a turbulent time, and it could be argued that the fiction came before the fact.

      July 21, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  63. kathysage

    This is quite relevant. I just watched a series of videos at NBC where the commentator was interviewing people who knew this guy. He asked them over and over whether he was a quiet person, a loner, did he have friends, etc. Honestly, at least 25 times, maybe 50. If you think about Jared Loughton (sp?) who shot Rep Giffords, yes he was a loner. But mainly he had schizophrenia. He was a loner because he has schizophrenia. He didn't have schizophrenia because he was a loner or nerdy. I'd say most people with schizophrenia are loners and kind of strange.

    There are plenty of shy people in the world (about 10%). Plenty of brainy nerdy people who have made great discoveries, like Einstein was an unusual child, for instance. My guess is that this guy had schizophrenia because he was studying it. Smart enough to realize he needed more info, but the disease is terrible and hits people in their late teens and early 20's. My guess is that he got caught up in some bizzarre batman fantasy that seemed real to him or something like that because he had a brain disorder called schizophrenia.

    Oh, Ted Bundy, a creepy serial killer was a very charming man. Lots of really bad people are very charming. No one ever asks about that, though. No one makes charm into a stereotype. Perhaps they should.

    I thought that this was a timely post. Every time there is one of these incidents, the loner meme comes out. Like the interviewer lacks imagination to ask penetrating questions.

    July 21, 2012 at 12:30 am |
  64. CraigJ

    Couldn't agree more piningforsubstance, one of the most disgusting self absorbed articles I have seen in a very long time.

    July 21, 2012 at 12:16 am |
  65. piningforsubstance

    This is the worst "article" I have ever read on CNN. Op-ed, blog or what-have-you, get a clue and self edit. Hmm should I post up a weakly related spin on how the shooting is impacting ME or not? Not would be the answer, Ann. The fact that you didn't know that to begin with suggests it's time to get out of media, where it is too easy to make a fool of yourself and then amplify it with coverage. And CNN- where the heck are your editors?!

    July 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  66. Mattie

    Still sticking with the slurs, CNN? What else needs to happen before you stop insulting people?

    July 20, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
  67. Pedo mellon a minno

    I get all the commentary that says this article is narcissistic and self-obsessive and insensitive to suffering families. It is. But that masks the point. The headline and byline for this story currently reads "'Like hunting season' Source: Suspect said he was the Joker".

    By the end of the weekend there will be tracts upon tracts of op ed pieces and talking heads opining that reading "The Dark Knight" and similar graphic novels turns good little boys into killers. This article is intended as a pre-emptive reb-uttal this theme.

    July 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  68. Craig Allen

    This has to be the stupidest, most self indulgent and offensive thing I've ever read on How can anyone take CNN seriously any more? Is an intern in charge tonight?

    July 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  69. Well..

    I've never heard of this myth/stereotype that "nerds" are potentially dangerous. Obviosuly CNN's trying to start one up though.

    July 20, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  70. Tom O

    i realize that people try to identify with these situations. People will think that as a comic book fan or a "nerd" this has a deeper impact on them then anyone else. It's a way of forcing the attention of somethink horrific onto them. I don't think it's done intentionally most of the time, it's just a flaw in some people's psyche.

    However, I would expect CNN to be more sensitive then to post this. And for a columnist to be smart enough to know that this tragedy is not about them. If you want to show support – give it to the families of the victims, not to some nerd culture who is desperatly seeking attention.

    July 20, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Darthlawsuit

      Hitler liked German Sheppards. So does that mean everyone that likes German Sheppard's is a mass murdering Jew hater?

      July 20, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • ________

      It has nothing to do with the status of nerd. 21 years later, people still try to call me nerd and tired old nicknames from high school. I just ignore it since I am not captive to a school where I would have to see them everyday.

      Those who turn to gun violence have a deeper problem, psychologically at least. Even the cool dude could be a shooter, if he is adamant about shooting people. It has nothing only to do with being a nerd or not.

      July 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
  71. M.E.

    I understand what you're saying. I've lived in the Denver metro my whole life, I remember watching Columbine on TV and the knee-jerk reaction against goths. When I was in high school trench coats were banned even when the weather called for them. The dress code also banned spikes, chains, and pretty much everything in the gothic wardrobe short of velvet and pointy boots. Little thought was put into the actual problem (bullying) because the easiest reaction was just to ban the crap out of anyone who looked like the completely made-up "Trenchcoat Mafia."

    Now Denver theaters are moving to ban costumes since the guy was supposedly dressed like the Joker. Of course the ban will do absolutely nothing other than punish movie fans for the sins of one lunatic. It won't increase security obviously. But it's a way for theaters to "fix" something that was never broken in the first place and there was never any way of preventing. It's merely an example of "security theater."

    There is a very real danger if it turns out he was a nerd because suddenly all nerd culture from Firefly to Minecraft will be tarred with the same brush, outlawed and stigmatized. Of course, out of millions of nerds the world over, there will be at least one psychopath amongst the mass of totally normal people. You could take an equally large random sample of people across the world and you'd still find a psychopath or two. Being a window licker has nothing to do with being a nerd or being in any other subculture. Unfortunately, that logic doesn't tend to see much light.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • muri

      Just wait for the TSA contract to get spun up. Someone's getting elected on the back of this.

      July 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • otakualert

      I need to correct you on one thing. He was not dressed as the joker. By the gear described beforehand we was dressed closer to a SWAT outfit. He only claimed to be the joker afterwards. Seeing as he came in thru a backdoor he most likely didn't know which movie he would actually enter. Though since it was a midnight premier most of the rooms would have had Batman in it. He was nothing more than a madman trying to see how far he could go but if you must pick a villain to compare him to I would say he was the riddler.

      July 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
      • Humbly

        Actually the papers here (in Colorado) are reporting that he did buy a ticket for the Batman movie. He went inside and sat down, and then he left through a back door, propped it open, went to his car, got on all his gear and weapons, and then came back in through the open back door. From my understanding he was dressed normally when he entered the theater originally (though his hair was dyed orangish/red). Then he dressed in swat gear for his reentry. So, he was aware that it was a Batman movie.

        July 22, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  72. Rick

    "A dark trekkie-like person"
    This makes me laugh, yes Star Trek fans are evil. Gimme a break.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Dude

      I am old enough to remember watching Star Trek when it first aired. Many people at that time felt that it was just a matter of time before a nuclear exchange was going to wipe out the human race.

      Star Trek was popular mostly because it had to optimism to show a human race that survived the nuclear stand off and went on to great things. Star Trek fans were, and still are, amongst the most optimistic people around.

      So we need to look for dark brooding optimists who are dreading a great and enlightened future.

      July 21, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • DAT

      Yeah, Rick, that line left me scratching my head, too.

      July 21, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  73. Atomandfrood

    Wow. This is the worst kind of self obsessed, ego driven bile one could imagine. This is your response to this tragedy?What a confused faux statement of concern concealing your clear desire to sell your Geek culture brand. Go away. Youre concerned about how this will impact our conception of batman? This is not geek culture, you represent the psychotic media oversaturation, hypnotic consumerism masked as counter culture expression that is robbing our generation of any genuine sympathy or creativity. You can only see things as it effects your little cliche and apparently persecuted culture when children have died and are dying. It feels so priveledged and sheltered. You are not automatically interesting or special becauseyou like certain movies or graphic novels, you are just a narcissist. Yeah, um, brace yourself...while people are dying, you dare use language like that. Brace yourself? I am so ashamed to be part of generation narcissist.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • muri

      Bit angsty aren't we? For someone railing against an agenda you sure have an angle carved out pretty deep.

      Looking in mirrors and such...

      July 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  74. Bob Zanis

    Close comments please.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Mr Duck Juice
      July 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
      • Agustin

        I just saw inception today (because of the ralseee differences worldwide). On my way home I thought of Batman and remembered this same episode. I was little back then ( 7 or 8), but I remembered the key points. Very similar theme. It's a nice coincidence that Nolan also directs the new Batman movie franchise.I made a search for this, but the only result I found was this. I can't believe no one else has posted something on this topic.

        October 15, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  75. jdoe

    This "nerd" label is just a media-driven depiction. Back in high school, there were many, many kids who excelled at both studies and extracurricular activities like sports. In real life smart people tend to be good at many things, while the slackers tend to be good at nothing. The problem is that too many people buy into the media's cultural message.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  76. For Real

    I've been a loyal reader for over a decade, and this is the dumbest thing I've ever read on the site. Kudos to Ann Hoevel for taking a national tragedy and finding a way to make it about herself. There are so many valid angles to this horrific story, but Ms. Hoevel chooses to concoct some sort of backlash to put herself in the spotlight. For shame, CNN, you're better than this.

    I sincerely hope that Ann Hoevel is a freelancer. If not, someone needs to explain why she draws a regular paycheck.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • muri

      The fact that you don't understand a very simple point tells us all we need to know about you.

      The grown ups are having a discussion. Your table is that way ->

      July 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  77. Heather

    Aside from the horrible tragedy this was a well written article as a whole.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
  78. Joe Shmoe

    Yeah, this article is stupid. Really? You just HAD to jump and the chance to preempt negativity towards nerds? Not a single person in any comments section, on FB, Twitter or anywhere has even hinted at the possibility this was a nerd related incident. Please, this article is beyond grasping for attention.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  79. goodonedick

    Ah... too soon.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  80. John H

    Seriously?! this has got nothing to do with anything. You just branded yourself a nerd because that is how you feel. You are a complete attention-seeker. What do you think is going to happen? All the "nerds" will be quarantined, segregated, discriminated against? This honestly makes no sense. This is what "news" has become. Watch the show "the newsroom" on HBO-you will understand what I am talking about. What happened was very sad and left me speechless and stunned... so please CNN stop allowing such nonsensical garbage from being posted.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  81. CSD

    Meanwhile, all of the blacks and muslims in this country are breathing a collective sigh of relief.

    July 20, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  82. Dave

    Get a grip. The Batman movie had as much to do with this shooting as McDonald's did for one at their lobby.

    Crazy guy with a military weapon and body armor.

    That's the equation here. The theater was just his choice of hunting grounds.

    July 20, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • decredico

      Hey fool, he told Police he was 'the joker.'

      July 20, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
      • Brad

        He also dyed his hair red, while the jokers hair is green.

        July 21, 2012 at 3:18 am |
      • Alex

        Weren't the victims "nerds" too?

        July 21, 2012 at 11:39 am |
      • Alex

        Sorry, not meant as a reply

        July 21, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  83. Joe Blizzow

    Please remove this garbage editorial. Who at CNN decides to put this rubbish on the front page of links?

    July 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • sam

      Heaven forbid! An editorial you don't agree with! Burn down CNN!

      July 22, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • blessedgeek

      Please remove this reader. Who gave him any authority to make such a judgment.

      July 22, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  84. Hailey E. Denver, CO

    This, no joke, has got to be the most ignorant "story" about this tragedy! wow!

    July 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Kyle S

      When Columbine happened I was in highschool, and played alot of videogames. My mom took me aside and ascked me point blank if i ever wanted to shoot people at school.

      Ignorance is everywhere and it comes from multiple sides. Being a nerd, and a gamer, and a movie buff, I found value in this article. Just because you dont, doesn't make it poorly writen or ignorant. Its his point of view on a blog. Its my point of view, and its probably several millions others points of view.

      Its ignorant to think your opinion on how someone should deal with tragedy is the right one.

      July 23, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  85. Alix in MV

    I find it especially poignant, reading your post and considering how mainstream media may try to paint all nerds or geeks in the same light, or try to derive some greater meaning into why 'The Dark Knight Rises' was his chosen venue, when a line from that very movie has Batman saying "no guns". Will that aspect of the film and the shooting's backdrop be lost in the trite, treadworn "geeks as outsiders" babble?

    July 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm |