Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Murder as an Almighty Fuck-up

Many people believe that the legal definition of murder includes a deliberate intent to kill. This is wrong. All that is required is an intent to cause serious harm, with death resulting. Contrary to the portrayal of murder in the popular culture and media as being a Machiavellian act, deliberate and instrumental, the reality is far different. The overwhelming majority of murders result from emotional and psychological 'blown fuses' - outbursts of anger, jealousy, rage, hate, love, fear or panic. They are 'moments of madness1 and conscious deliberate thought doesn't enter into it. They tend to be an almighty fuck-up and not intended events. These, though, are dull murders. No TV series could be based on the reality of most murders. And so our culture highlights the tiny minority, the serial killers and the conscious plotters. But in doing so, people are led to believe that these people comprise the bulk of the murdering-classes. And this distortion of the reality in the name of entertainment may go a long way to explain why the criminal justice debate is so warped, so out of touch with reality. Sound debate and sound policy flow from an appreciation of things as they really are, rather than the reality offered by the mass media.


  1. Ben, I will accept what you say on the motives (or lack thereof) behind murder, on faith that you have nothing to gain by distorting the facts (if there are such facts/statistics). But, what I can not accept is that this is any basis to change the criminal justice system and its treatment of murderers. Who can tell whether or not those people who murder, whatever their motive or circumstances, have something inside them that makes them fundamentally different to the majority and thus capable of such terrible acts? Surely we have to assume they do, otherwise we are saying that everyone is fundamentally capable of murder?

  2. "otherwise we are saying that everyone is fundamentally capable of murder"

    And you think that we aren't, given the right (or wrong) situation? A little naieve I feel.

  3. Doesn't the whole history of human conflict show us that we are all capable of killing? The "banality of evil" is sadly true.

  4. i would argue that the criminal system is not out of touch with reality. Of course everyone is fundamentially capable of given they r placed in a position that triggers them.

    The alternative in sentencing murders???? Yet again no solution in the post just a stab that the system is wrong. Maybe all murderers shouldnt recieve such large sentences because they never meant to stab so hard perhaps?

    Althought yes perhaps there should be a few more media potrayals of how things get out of hand.