He is, subject to the findings of a jury that he is guilty, or of a judge that he is certifiably insane, a mass murderer, a demented college dropout who walked into a movie theater near Denver recently, armed to the teeth and armor-protected all over his body, and opened fire, committing one of the greatest killing sprees in modern American history.
He is, by anyone’s estimation, a real creep, appearing in court for his first post-shooting appearance with a shock of carrot-red dyed hair and an attitude of profound, blank-stare indifference.
And James Holmes, “one of the most hated men in America” in the words of the New York Daily New, is, in the view of some demented young women, a sex symbol.
“Hot,” according to some Twitter users.
Holmes, the Daily News reported last week, is apparently a “heartthrob” to some, his visage on TV prompting “a flood of tweets” that described his as the object of female ardor. “Kinda cute,” wrote one. “Kinda hot,” wrote another.
The “Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome” explains the phenomenon of these people, who are disproportionately young, presumably impressionable and definitely devoid of a functioning moral code. Killers, especially high visibility ones, it turns out, often attract female admirers.
This isn’t just a phenomenon here.
Yigal Amir, the self-described Orthodox Jew who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 to forestall the Middle East peace process, also had his following, his own groupies.
“The right-wing law student,” the Los Angeles Times reported a year after Rabin’s murder, “has stolen the hearts of a circle of teenage girls at a state-funded religious school.” According to the article, “Rabin Killer Is Object of Girls’ Desire,” some girls from the school attended his trial and then started a Yigal Amir Fan Club. “My dream is to marry Yigal Amir,” one student said. “It was a hormonal attraction,” said another.
Rabin’s widow, Leah, feared that Amir might have “a huge following,” JTA reported.
Such girls are not normal, but the reality of females – admittedly a small number of them – who find themselves attracted to an individual whom most people would find repugnant is statistically normal.
Some women, who have a dark, violent side that they sublimate or manage to keep hidden from view, express this tendency by expressing romantic feelings for a man who has acted out in an extreme, violent, anti-social manner, says Isaac Herschkopf a prominent Manhattan psychiatrist. It happens in the case of almost “every” high-visibility killer; and in the case of prosaic, less-prominent killers, he says.
A decade after Amir, who is serving a life sentence, took Rabin’s life, he underwent a proxy marriage with a haredi immigrant from the former Soviet Union. They had corresponded by mail and telephone. A Jerusalem beit din validated the marriage.
The aftermath of James Holmes’ conscienceless rampage, an aftermath characterized mostly by outrage at the perpetrator and sympathy for the victims, but also by a minority of young girls with hideously horrible taste, shows that our open society allows people with deep-set problems to make public fools of themselves. And the reaction to the assassination of an Israeli leader nearly two decades ago reminds us that poor judgment in extremis knows no religious or national boundaries.