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Violence Geeks

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Violence Geek Blog

Below is a blog that I wrote on MySpace (8/08) about a social phenomenon that I call "Violence Geeks."  Obviously this term doesn't appear in the DSM IV. Despite that, there exists a strong sub-culture of dysfunctional people who are dangerously obsessed on violence.  

Not only that, but as you will see, there also a large market that panders to and reinforces this obsession. In short, this market not only arms and trains these individuals, but actively encourages them to commit violence.

The subject of this blog should be of particular interest to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, employers, school administrators, teachers and other educators. Such people are most likely to run across these people.

As this is a blog, the writing style is more casual (and in some instances, crass) than other pages on this site.

I show my age when I tell people that I remember when the term 'geek' meant a guy, who bit the heads off chickens, in a carnival freak show. Even back then, such a person wasn't considered well socialized enough to fit in society. Over the decades, I watched the word geek develop into the myriad of meanings it has today.

Before we get too far into the particulars of 'Violence Geeks,' let's look at the baseline of the modern definition of 'geekdom.' Julie Smith in the New Orleans Beat defined a geek: a bright young man turned inward, poorly socialized, who felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to the ones invented by his favorite authors, who thought of that secret, dreamy place his computer took him to as cyberspace -- somewhere exciting, a place more real than his own life, a land he could conquer, not a drab teenager's room in his parents' house.

Smith really hit the nail on the head with this description. Of special interest is this part of a sentence '… felt so little kinship with his own planet that he routinely traveled to…" Keep that in mind, because it is integral to the next part of this essay.

The term 'fan' is a shortening of the word 'fanatic.' It's used as a means to describe someone who has an obsession or fixation on something beyond a theoretical norm. Now many fans are not so obsessed that it is considered unhealthy or antisocial. In fact, being a fan of something is often acceptable and very much part of social networks and the fabric of society.

Take American football, for example. Half the fun of watching the game is being with your friends, whether in the living room or tailgating it. (Want to know the best time to do your shopping? Go during the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday. You'll feel like you've walked onto the set of I Am Legend.) This is a communal sense of fandom, one that brings people together and doesn't interfere with their normal functions in society.

Geeks, however, tend to be fanatics (whether it be science fiction, gaming, electronics, computers, comics or something else). More than that, they are obsessed and fixated on something to the point of exclusion. They use their obsession to turn away from society and not to be part of it. And that is where Ms. Smith's summation comes into play. But here I'm going to add more to it: pain. And in a bit, we're going to add something else: confusion. Their obsession is a way to run away from both emotions.

But let's start with pain. Not fitting in hurts. While one can say that geeks are constantly bombarded with weird looks, uncomfortable reactions and fast changes of subject, realize that adults are a whole lot nicer to someone who is different than kids. Much of a geek's pain is based on memory of, rather than current misbehavior of, others. Yes, there is incredible pain in being poorly socialized. But instead of helping them overcome the past and adjust to the present, a geek's obsession promotes continuation of that pain.

And that's where Smith's observation about geeks being 'turned inward' becomes important. On the surface, it's a paradox. How can you be turned inward when you're obsessed with something outward? One answer is that when you're obsessed with something, you never have to look at yourself.

Second, despite its seemingly outward focus, an obsession is based on internal orientation. If you understand a physics analogy, an implosion is usually followed by an explosion. The obsession is like the explosion that follows the implosion. You don't get to the point of obsession until you've been turned inward for a very long time.

It looks like a weird paradox,  being inwardly oriented while being obsessed on something external. However, realize that a big problem about being inwardly oriented is that you run the risk of running into things about yourself you don't like while you're there. And this is where we encounter the coping mechanism of the geek. You take all your extra energy and fixate on whatever the obsession is so you DON'T have to see those parts of you. The obsession takes up all your time and energy so you don't have to see yourself. But at the same time, those paradigms that create, promote and sustain a lifetime of pain and confusion still drive you.

Putting that in plain English, it gives you a way to cope with the pain of how you think, without having to change ... how you think.

Whatever their particular obsession, geeks use them as a way to escape the chronic pain of being social misfits. They escape from this world into whatever they fixate upon. Their fixation takes them away from the problems of having to deal with unacceptable thoughts, feelings and emotions. Safely ensconced in their obsession, the pain of being an outcast dwindles. But more than that, their obsession takes them away from the confusion and anger that the cement airplane they call 'reality' doesn't fly.

In the Crime and Poverty, Part 2 blog I discussed the willful choices people make that further trap them into a particular world view (way of thinking). We're talking about the same thing here, but not in a criminal or poverty context. There is a lot invested (via time, energy and emotion) into even the most dysfunctional world view. People actively reject information that is contrary to how they think the world should behave.

And along with that comes a LOTof anger. Anger that the world doesn't behave the way it's supposed to. (Doesn't the territory know it's supposed to conform to the map that I've drawn? Not the other way around!) This is common in all kinds of people. And some act on it, while some don't. Geeks, who are generally extremely passive, are NOT necessarily 'mellow.' In fact, if you scratch the surface, you'll often find a bubbling cauldron of generalized anger at people and the world. (If you don't know how to handle it, it can be rather unnerving when the mouse roars.)

Remember that cement airplane analogy? A lot of the anger comes from the fact that their version of reality doesn't fly very well. (Or 'the territory refuses to behave the way the map says it should'  is another analogy). But instead of running diagnostics and repairing dysfunctional paradigms, thought processes and developing social skills, the geek does two things.

First, he fixates on something that he believes is controllable. This can be something where the 'rules' are not only clearly defined, but also are consistent and fixed (e.g., computers and electronics). OR it can be something where the parameters are established by others, but -- whatever happens -- those rules remain consistent within that narrow framework (e.g., gaming, science fiction, fantasy, role playing, etc.) What these 'other worlds' have in common is that they are consistent and understandable even if the rules are made up. This is where the geek retreats from the outside world.

Second, he makes the choice to move into a 'world' populated with people similar to himself (i.e., social misfits). Together they create a self-isolating subculture. And this subculture serves as both a refuge from society AND reinforces the geeks' dysfunctional paradigms. You don't have to 'change' if -- where you hang out – that kind of thinking is 'normal.'

You may ask yourself, "If that's the norm, then isn't it okay?" The problem with this logic is: Alcoholics in a bar are still alcoholics; even if the group they surround themselves with condone and support their alcoholism. Same difference here, except the dysfunction isn't alcoholism. Just because the geek surrounds himself with a small group of like-minded people doesn't mean he isn't still dysfunctional. He remains incapable of interfacing with society as a whole. But now, he has found an excuse not to do anything about it.

A geek's obsession can become more real than reality. In fact, the time spent 'out in society' often becomes 'less real' to such a person. Think of things like jobs, social interaction, family and other trappings of society as something the geek has to endure between the times of engaging his obsession. Generally speaking, he's only 'half there' during such times. (BTW, did you just see another coping mechanism sneak by?) In a very real sense, the geek only 'comes alive' while engaging in his obsession and related fantasies(1). It is there, in the ethers of fantasy, that his cement airplane can fly.

So, by now you should be catching on that geeks come in many different flavors. Most of them are harmless, poorly socialized, obsessed people trapped in their own heads. They are confused about how to interface with the rest of the world and in a lot of pain because of a lifetime of lacking effective coping skills.

In that sense, there's a lot to feel sorry about these guys. They really are lost in a confusing world that they don't understand. Personally I am a big fan of developing 'geek wrangling' skills. You show these people some kindness -- WITH boundaries -- and you'll have someone who will move mountains for you (Writers, there's a tip for your character to have a supplier of gadgets and gizmos). There's a lot of emotional pain, repression and anger in being a geek. But most of them spend their time safely pouring all their energy into whatever subculture they have gravitated to. However, before we get into thinking of them as lost puppies, there's a special breed of geek, the Violence Geek.

A violence geek is someone whose fantasy world isn't about reading the adventures of others. In his fantasy world, HE is Conan the Destroyer … about to unleash carnage and death on the evil world that hurt him. What makes violence geeks scary is that they are practicing and training for that day. In fact, he's looking forward to it. All he needs is the right opportunity to give himself permission to go on a rampage.

Remember that anger, pain and confusion? While other kinds of geeks safely channel it into their obsession, this kind of geek's fixation IS violence. Unlike most geeks, these folks are actively looking to direct all that anger, pain and confusion outward. They've equipped themselves to do it and they're just itchin' to find an excuse to come uncorked.

I'm on a mailing list for people who teach cops. Recently someone sent a link about a gadget called " THE WASP ". This doohickey is a violence geek's wet dream. It's not only a Rambo-style knife, but the handle holds a CO2 cartridge. Not only do you get to stab someone, but you release a fatal burst of freezing gas into his system. (Suuuuuure that's a useful feature). Needless to say this item is of interest to law enforcement.

One of the guys on the list responded to the news of the Wasp by responding -- that as a 'tactical knife instructor' (a term that violence geeks get sexually excited about) -- he preferred the 'simple elegance of plain steel.'

I nearly gagged.

First off, realize a knife is a tool. Can it be used as an improvised weapon? Sure. But, as a weapon, it generally sucks except in VERY specialized circumstances. And the modifications, that make a knife an effective weapon, render it useless as a tool. Ye Olde Tool aspect is about what 99 percent of knife use. So unless you're a ninja assassin, odds are your knife use is going to be tool oriented (And even ninjas have to cut the food on their plate. So figure three meals a day, means you have to assassinate at least four people a day to make sure the statistical use remains overwhelmingly on the weapon side).

Second and third. Second: studmuffin's response missed the point that this item was designed not for survival, but to attract violence geeks. Third: it revealed a lot about him. Namely that this is one of the guys giving 'facials' to violence geeks.

Yes, that is a crude and crass porn reference. But it also describes a dynamic common to violence geeks and those who equip them. Violence geeks live in a fantasy world. But their suppliers not only supply equipment to people of questionable mental stability, but they further the violence geek's fantasies via so-called 'training.' Google 'Reality Based Self-Defense' or 'knife fighting' and then read what comes up. It will make you REAL nervous.

What bugs me, ISN'T that the training is dangerous to the geek (it is). What really makes my teeth it is the danger it poses to anyone the violence geek encounters. Basically what they are selling is the idea that: If someone scares you, you can go absolutely monkey-poo on them using our super killer, commando, kung fu, ninja, street proven deadly, ultimate fighting system!. And you can fold spindle, maul and carve this evil person because it's ALLself-defense!

Obviously they don't say it this way, but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and floats like a duck ... it ain't a peacock. No matter WHAT anyone says.

Also understand that violence geeks, like geeks everywhere, spend lots of money on their obsessions. So there's a hell of a market in supplying them. Both in gadgets like the WASP and  training. Say for instance ... tactical knife instructions. Where you train the geek to turn into a weedwhacker of death on someone. So you have a symbiotic relationship based on fantasy going on here. (That tacky porn reference beginning to make more sense now?).

My first instinct was to mention the fact that an overwhelming majority of people, who refer to themselves as 'tactical knife instructors,' have about as much real life experience using knives on other human beings as Mother Theresa had with being a prostitute. Self-control and diplomacy, however, got the better of me. Instead I responded with:

There is a phenomenon out there that I call "Violence Geeks." They are a group of individuals who are fixated on the 'idea' of violence.' At the same time, they are terrified of being victims of actual violence. They are an ugly blend of anger, aggressiveness, self-loathing, fear and paranoia. On the plus side, their fear keeps them in check. On the negative side, they are a case of mens rea addressed "To whom it may concern."

With their fascination with violence, they are always looking for a guaranteed / ultimate / never-fail technique/tool / combat secret. They seek that one single item or fighting system that will stop the fantasy berserk, 350-pound biker on meth whom they fear will attack them some day. This imaginary bogey man is the excuse to equip themselves with a variety of lethal objects. The WASP -- which has no functional purpose outside their own heads -- is exactly the kind of item that attracts their dysfunctional attention.

Having been an outdoorsman and a diver, those excursions emphasized my contention that knives are tools. You need that tool for many things, but not as a weapon. The kinds of dangers you'll face in either environment are not going to be successfully dealt with using a knife ... or at least not before the predators in those surroundings kill you. The Wasp is solely designed to be sold to individuals who are fixated on using it on humans.

This comment not only went out to the list, it also was posted at More than that, it's been whipped around the Internet in several other places. (Still I promised I'd write more about it so here I is, doing just that).

Oddly enough, Captain Tactical Knife didn't respond. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, did anyone ask him permission to repost his sage wisdom. Hmmm ...

But let's look at this WASP-thingy-bob. Despite the fact it's marketed as a diving/outdoor defense 'against predators,' the Wasp's real market is violence geeks. It's too damned expensive for anyone else. This is exhibited especially in light of its total uselessness for what it's supposedly designed for! And yes, as a person with both free-diving and outdoor experience, I can tell you that the answer to any predator large enough to pose a danger involves gunpowder. The more the merrier. You want it to start dying as FAR away from you as possible. That's because anything that damned big ALSO means it's too damned fast to handle up close. If it's close enough to stab, it's in the process of killing you.

This is why my summation of "The Wasp"(2) is simple: It's an item designed for killing people. Specifically, it is designed for murder. If you want to get technical, murdering unsuspecting people.

However, when homicide is mentioned, both violence geeks and the manufacturers of the Wasp, will start squealing that this item is for 'defensive purposes only!'  Yeah riiiiight. And I'm supposed to believe this because the advertising says so? There's a reliable source.

Four points support this contention that this sucker is about anything BUT self-defense:

First, to most people the idea of killing someone is related to the word 'weapon.' It was Terry Pratchett, however, who summed up an important – but often misunderstood -- concept in The Fifth Elephant. When encountering the equivalent of a 'shark stick' in the hands of an assassin, Commander Vimes had the following conversation:
"This is not weapon. This is for killing people," he (Vimes) said. "Uh … most weapons are," said Inigo. "No they're not. They're so you don't have to kill people. They're for … for having. For being seen. For warning. This isn't one of those. It's for hiding away until you bring it out and kill people in the dark."

Never thought about it that way did ya?

Second, I often tell people, "I am negotiating until I pull the trigger." That means until the very last moment, I am trying to do my best to avoid violence. The Wasp is NOT a negotiate tool – or even an item to threaten. The added danger is hidden. Yet, it still has the limitations (specifically range) of a normal knife. And due to the construction modification, probably some limitations that make it useless as a tool. That means this blade is for walking up, ramming it in someone's back and assassinating him.

Third, I have a particularly high standard for a 'defensive item' – especially when it comes to close quarter combat. Guns are fine for distance; the bullet has time to take effect and mess up his ability to counter attack. But the closer someone is, the more I want something in my hand that I can use to deflect or absorb his attack! Yes, this is a real life problem in close quarter combat. If he's in range, so are you!

Call me fussy about this, but, up close and personal, a defensive item REALLY needs to be able to function for defense. By that I mean protection, NOT just creating fatal damage. I mean it also keeps it from happening to you.The problem with the WASP is that while you are using its 'super-sekret,' extra deadly component, you cannot use it to fend off an incoming attack.

Which, surprise, surprise, is when you are legally justified to use lethal force.

Fourth, and in support of point Number 3 (and writers take note) it is NOT pain or even fatal damage that stops a committed attacker. It's either shutting down his nervous system or causing enough structural damage to incapacitate him and leave him UNABLE TO FUNCTION! (Did I emphasize that enough?).

Side trip here: If you've ever seen someone (or an animal) shot by a rifle, you will see him collapse or stumble in a specific manner. Whether this collapse is temporary or permanent, you'll see the effect on the nervous system as either a collapse or a stumble. (Oh yeah, in case you haven't guessed it, they also don't fly backwards through the air like in the movies.)

What is happening is that their RAS (reticulating activating system) is shocked by the hydrostatic effect of the rifle bullet. This creates a 'surge' that causes a temporary overload of the nervous system. Putting that into layman terms, it's a shock wave within the body (think of throwing a rock in a pool). This causes the nervous system to either brown or black out. Kind of like a computer that loses power, the nervous system either flickers or shuts down. This overload and shut down of the nervous system is what causes the collapse or stumble, NOT the force of the bullet.

Now mind you, I'm talking about rifle bullets, which have a whole lot more energy than bullets from a handgun ( 3). What you need to realize is -- without this shock to the RAS to shut him down -- a fatally wounded person can remain functional for as long as two minutes! And if he's on the attack that means you still have problems! Among shooters, this is referred to as the 'dead man's 10,' as in 10 seconds.

Knives, even with compressed gas canisters, do NOT create the same immediate and overwhelming shock to the RAS as a rifle bullet. That means if the person is in the middle of trying to split your skull with a cleaver or is pointing a gun at you, he is still going to be able to finish the job. The same issues that make this particular knife ineffective for defending yourself against large predators also make it useless for 'self-defense' against a human.

Okay, we're back from the side trip. But it was necessary to understand that so you'll understand my next statement. That means if you're relying on the Wasp to do all the work, it's going to be a double kill!


But violence geeks don't want to believe that. They are looking for that 'one, ultimate thing that is guaranteed to stop an attacker.'  Here's the real hitch: And does it BEFORE the attacker can hurt them. In their fantasies, they come out of Ragnoraak unscathed, and not only without PTSD, but basking in afterglow. (Yes, that was another sexual reference, maybe one day I'll blog about the effects of violence on the sex drive). The geek not only believes such a thing exists, but is looking for that one ultimate thing that kills, cripples or knocks out the 'bad guy' before he can hurt the geek.

 The raw truth is, it's not any gadget, dim mak death touch or ultimate fighting system that will keep you safe when facing a weapon. I talk about the necessary components for surviving a dangerous assault elsewhere (author's take note if you want realistic action). What I can tell you here, the answer ISN'T a gadget. But  this fantasy is what drives the violence geek in his eternal quest for that "one thing" that will give him an immediate and safe victory.

And anyone who claims to offer that 'one thing' is going to get violence geeks' money. Whether what they are offering is so-called tactical training or some kind of gadget that will drop a charging water buffalo in its tracks, the violence geeks are going to squirm like a porno starlet getting a facial. Except, unlike in the porn flick, geeks aren't faking their excitement! That's because in their minds, their fantasies are being fulfilled. They now have that one thing that they've been looking for … and now they're ready!

For what you might ask?

The problem with violence geeks is -- as much as they go on about 'self-defense, and no matter how much they fantasize about heroic combat against hordes of slavering bad guys -- what they are looking for is revenge. After a lifetime of feeling inferior, a lifetime of backing down and a nearly pathological hatred of the idea that they are not ALPHA MALES, they're looking for payback. More specifically, they're looking for an excuse to 'go off' on someone.

That's what I meant by 'a case of mens rea ( guilty mind ) addressed to 'whom it may concern." While the guys who actually bullied them in school are long gone, they'll settle for anyone who even vaguely resembles their past tormentors.

After a lifetime of being bullied and belittled (or feeling that they were), these guys are just itchin' to unleash a dump truck load of hate, anger and frustration on someone. And that's what makes them dangerous. While they imagine that this orgasmic climax of violence will be on a dangerous criminal -- who traps them (and leaves them no choice but to explode into a berserk rage of violence in order to survive) -- the reality is a whole lot different.

Basically these guys have an amazing (dare we say almost magical?) ability to avoid actual situations where this kind of force would be needed -- much less justified. In other words, you're not going to find them in a war zone. Nor will you find them in such fun-filled professions as bounty hunting, bouncing or police work. Most of them have jobs that are incredibly nonviolent. A fact that keeps them safe from violence. They want to believe that obsessing, training and equipping themselves is the same as doing it. But they steadfastly avoid confronting people who do it for real.

Basically these guys are 'high centered' between their obsession with the idea violence and their pants wetting panic of actually facing it. The sad thing is they are fixated on the juvenile  concept that a "REAL man" has to be violent. Despite all their attention to the subject, everything is basically framed in the concept of a high school fight on steroids. They are best understood as a bunch of betas, pretending to be alphas -- but having no clue as to what it takes to be an alpha/leader.

So understanding this, realize you're not likely to find them alone on a subway platform at 1 a.m.. Where you are likely to encounter them is on the same subway platform during your commute to and from work. And, if you get in some kind of conflict with them (e.g., say there's a bump and a drink is spilled), all of a sudden – in the violence geek's mind – YOU become that deadly threat he has prepared to battle. During the conflict, he's busy fingering whatever Wasp-like equivalent he has squirreled away. And gawd help you if you make a move that triggers him.

The good news is that most people are socially adept enough not to let their emotions get the better of them in a conflict. There are some folks, however, who like to give themselves permission to become as emotional and obnoxious as possible. And they do this while expecting others to exercise self-control. These sort of people refuse to believe that they are  being violent. (Of course, their definition of 'violence' seems to be "any level of force beyond what I am comfortable using to get what I want." Their yelling, screaming, poking and prodding isn't violent. The other guy who slugs them for acting that way IS). These kinds of people and violence geeks DO NOT mix well.

A by-product of this self-rationalizing hissy-fit throwing behavior is that such people don't realize they are sending out the signals that usually precede a physical assault. Maybe not on their little planet, but in the rest of the world, if you get that emotionally upset it means you're cranking yourself up to physically assault someone. They aren't thinking this way, but those are the signals they are throwing out.

The meeting of a violence geek and someone who is engaged in an ' emotional hijacking:'  is … to say the least … bad. Or at least wet and messy. Since both parties' limbic systems are all a'flutter, this is the most likely behavior to spur the violence geek into action.

Realize that -- if the very sight of a real bad ass didn't cause the violence geek to flee or freeze -- a truly dangerous person would kill the VG outright. That's not the issue here. The issue is the person having an angry outburst LOOKS like an uber bad ass to the violence geek. And that is what is going to set him off on you. Robert A Hienlien summed up violence geeks best: Never scare a little man ... he'll kill you.

So, while most geeks are harmless, some of them aren't. Now when you see these guys -- and believe me, you will see them glaring out at you from behind their little dysfunctional eyes -- know that they are people to watch. More specifically, people to watch from as big of a distance as possible.



1) The big question about this obsession is 'does it make them a consumer or a producer?' I have met electronics and computer geeks whose skills in their fields are awe inspiring. You give these people direction, and they will develop or build amazing things. Those people are producers. Unfortunately, most geeks are consumers. They spend an inordinate amount of money on their obsessions. Return to Text

2) Oh yeah, something else about this stuff made for the violence geek market … for some reason they insist on using the word "The" in the name. It's not just Wasp, it's THE Wasp. It's not just a stinger, it's THE Stinger. This takes it from being just a name into being a title. And in the violence geeks little brain, titles are always presented with a dramatic drum roll and crash of thunder. Insert your own sound effects and melodramatic tones around this title … THE WASP! Return to Text

3) Writers, if you want to get more information on this subject I recommend Handgun Stopping Power: The Definitive Study by Marshall and Sanow. The information about how various bullets perform is taken from police reports of actual shootings, instead of lab tests …This makes the study very controversial. Return to Text

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