Accounting for Accountability Accounts

I lost count of the number of times that Jeffrey Dahmer and his father Lionel say 'accountable' during the MSNBC interview below (top video).

Unemotional Jeffrey Dahmer and his repressed father are interviewed by Stone Phillips. Dahmer says of his murdering young men, "My relatives had no knowledge of what I was doing."
Dahmer avoids explaining his killing young men and boys (during blackouts) by answering a question concerning any abuse (violent arguments in the home) that Dahmer might have suffered by stating, "I wonder about those things, but as far as I'm concerned they are all excuses. . . they didn't know I was doing it, so they are not accountable for what I did." (Not knowing about someone's actions does not equate to total lack of responsibility.)

Jeffrey describes becoming accountable for his behaviors after his father sent him creation "science" material that convinced Jeffrey that he was accountable to God. "Evolution cheapens "life" because we die."

Lies in Genesis can usually be relied upon for more stupidity than the juxtaposition of dinosaurs and hominids. Here's their contribution to 'discussion', a quotation that they probably fondly imagine says it all:

‘If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behaviour to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…’ Jeffrey Dahmer, in an interview with Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC, Nov. 29, 1994.
What rot! Death makes life all the more precious because death is permanent. Jeffrey's parents 'disciplined him' and he felt accountable to them, but sought control of his own life once he had left home. Once free of observation, he set about his cannibalistic spree. Father, Lionel, whom Jeffrey has verbally exhonerated of accountability, says that he "feels guilty".

How very moving (to nausea) when Jeffrey and his father say that they came back to God after the events and Jeffrey's imprisonment.

The religionist fundamentalists will no doubt interpret this interview as a sign that only religious belief can confer a sense of moral . . . accountability.

Let's take a look at the likeliest mechanisms at play when Jeffrey repeatedly "woke up" beside the dead bodies of boys and young men he had killed. When Jeffrey says that he woke up to events for which he was amnesic, he was describing dissociation. Most serial killers come from severely abusive childhoods, typically suffering physical/sexual/emotional abuse in the home or extended family. This man was not merely a conscience-deficient sociopath, Dahmer admits to losing time during which he was dissociated and not in executive control of his actions.

Why? Young children cope with repeated traumas by repressing conscious memory of the events, but the experiences dramatically affect their psychological development. Ultimately, traumatized elements of the dissociative personality system emerge to reenact the sexual/physical activities that generated those aspects of the personality. The chief personality may not be consciously aware of the activities that culminate the sequence initiated under the influence of uncontrollable urges.

Considering the fact that Jeffrey Dahmer's pattern fits the typical profile, it struck me that he was evasively providing a well rehearsed account of his supposedly God-found accountability. What a fecolith that is! It's was so convenient to claim to obey God once he'd been imprisoned.

Contrary to what creationists on Creation 'Science' Evangelism may want to believe, the fact is that a boy from a family in which his "disciplinary" parents 'lost religion' around Dahmer's crimes, suggests that they were religious while Dahmer was growing up. And look at the result!

"Here's what makes that really funny: Dahmer's father is a creationist who has lectured widely on creationism and raised him as a creationist. Oops." Ed Brayton

Exposure to religion during his childhood (whether or not Jeffrey ever accepted the fact of biological evolution or was merely lying about this too) did not leave Jeffrey acting accountably. Religion failed. Creationism after the fact is merely pandering to the interviewer, and probably to prison authorities, and probably to God so that he can avoid Eternal Damnation. Dahmer was beaten to death in prison on November 28, 1994.

"The FBI gave the standard profile of a serial killer, He is a person with few friends. He became much more religious just before he started murdering people. After reading all the available studies I could find and studying all the articles in the newspapers for over 30 years, I find what is most outstanding is Serial killers were sexually inhibited by their strong religious upbringing. Nearly all serial killers are very devout men who were raised by members of Pentecostal sects, fundamentalist Catholics or were 'hard-shell' Baptists and Methodists." Studies after study show serial killers are a product of this environment, not genetics. You can find much information on serial killers being sexually inhibited and there views on sex and religion at" P.O. Brian, Serial Killers

Elsewhere Jeffrey Dahmer: "Darwin made me do it." : Dumbest Anti-Evolution Screed Ever? : Jeffrey Dahmer and Answers [Lies] in Genesis . 'Creation Science' Makes a Difference (indeed it does, Dahmer was raised by a creationist).

Theidiotic comments: That Darwin made serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer do it : Can America Survive Evolutionary Humanism? :

On Conversions : Captive Conversions :

Google videos on Dahmer : YouTube videos on Dahmer :

* From the Lies in Genesis website, in a typical fallacious argumentum ad verecundiam: "Some modern scientists who have accepted the biblical account of creation: Dr. Lionel Dahmer, Analytical Chemist

, , , , DID, , , Jeffrey Dahmer,


Mana, Master of Mischief said...

Great post. I started writing a reply that turned into a post of its own. I found some evidence that Dahmer used Christian rhetoric through his criminal career so his claim that the theory of evolution cheapens life was just more smoke-screen rhetoric. Here's the post where I expand on this.

salient said...

I'll put my reply here too:

In response to Mana's post:

I agree that Dahmer displayed sociopathic traits, but I think that there is more to his urges than mere lack of feeling for other people. Sociopaths are often charming, social, and manipulative, but their lack of conscience does not typically include boyhood fantasies of lying next to unconscious men or of sexual fantasies involving killing. I think he said “men”, not “boys”, which is weird considering that he targetted younger boys when older.

If you watch the video of his boyhood again, note the weird body language when he’s swanning around the garden at about age 7 in what appear to be pink pajamas. He moves like a girl, yet he appears very masculine in other clips. His father said that he was a fairly normal kid until they moved to Ohio. I wonder what really happened to twist him.

There is also the fact that he mentions losing somethink like six hours of time and being disoriented when the police arrived and found one of the bodies. Since he was already convicted, that claim was not part of an insanity plea. Quite a lot of what I watched seemed like DID gone horribly wrong, and that was clearly the case with Canada’s serial killers (Paul Bernardo and Carla Homolka). Lest I give DID an undeservedly bad name, I should point out that it is quite common (2-6% depending on the study) and that most patients with DID do not commit horrendous crimes. (Females tend to self-abuse and wind up in therapy, whereas males are more likely to be violent and to end up in jail.) Because different personalities play different roles, they can be very persuasive.

I definitely agree with you that his conversion to God was probably as fake as a lot of his presentation of self. Even if he’d been a believer throughout his life, nothing short of incarceration would have stopped him from killing those boys and young men.

salient said...

I'm putting another response here too:

I agree that psychiatric diagnosis is much more difficult than medical diagnosis because individuals can exhibit symptoms from several categories. However, if you read the DSM-IV description of DID, you will see that dissociative amnesic episodes that Jeffrey described are conditio sine qua non for the diagnosis of DID. I emphasized DID because Dahmer clearly describes dissociative episodes (third video) and because DID arises *only* through severe, early, prolonged childhood physical or sexual abuse. In other words, Jeffrey's adult behavior indicates that matters were far worse in Jeff's childhood (probably in the home) than the videos indicate.

There has to *be* an explanation for Jeffrey's inclinations, whether it is genetic or environmental or a combination of those. He was murdered in jail, so we'll never know more. However, his behavior and background fit to a pattern that has been described by other serial killers, so I'd say that childhood abuse remains the likeliest stimulus to his perversion.

I agree that the anti-evolution pitch was some kind of ploy. I have read elsewhere that Lionel was a creationist throughout Jeffrey's life, so I suspect that his father influenced (or convinced) Jeffrey to feed that line to Stone Phillips in the interview. You might wonder how I could consider the father such a powerful influence over toeing the creationist line despite probably having been Jeff's abuser, but continued obedience, and ironically love, is common in the victim-perpetrator relationship. Think of it as lifelong Stockholm syndrome.

Thanks for the information on that study, which certainly makes sense and probably partly explains why there are a disproportionate number of believers in American jails. Ironically, since many or most males with DID run afoul of the law, there are presumably also a disproportionate number of DIDs in the nation's prisons.

The phenomenon that Maruna et al describe can precede prison, though. I have 'met' alter personalities who are devoutly religious. That is, even though the host (chief) personality is not religious, one alter personality may carry all of the religious 'hopes' for the personality system. The religion-of-choice may not be the religion in which the child was raised -- I once met an alter who called herself 'Totem' and practiced native spirituality despite the fact that the host was a nonpracticing Jew. Personality systems also typically include workers, reporters, helpers, protectors, sluts, etc. I suspect that Maruna et al were merely seeing the more frequent emergence and personality-consensus adoption of religious 'hope' bargaining.

I suspect that the alarming frequency of pedophilic priests reflected a similar phenomenon -- devout Catholics with no interest in adult women might well have hoped that entering the priesthood would 'cure' them of their unwelcome urges.

A very high percentage of my patients were raised and abused in highly religious families -- several were the daughters of Bishops. Several have told me that when, as children, they told their mothers that they were being abused, their mothers merely prayed over them or instructed them to pray.

I suspect that jail 'conversions', religious alters, pedophilic priests, praying look-the-other-way mothers, and televangelists reflect the fact that we have inherited both the intergenerational impact of difficult lives and the empty promises that religionists have repeated about "remedies" that cannot help.


Mana, Master of Mischief said...

Salient, thanks for explaining DID in further detail. Not sure why your reply didn't get posted on my blog. I didn't find it under "waiting for moderation"...

I agree DID is a possible explanation but I can't comment on it, or any other diagnosis. I think the symptoms are there and yes, it's important to discover what was at the source of his behavior and hope to find better treatments for such cases.

Abuse for the purpose of inflicting religious teachings is a tough one to debate. I mean atheists seem to agree (and agree with Dawkins) that teaching religion to young kids can be abusive. But how do you analyze it without running the risk of "offending" religious sensitivities? I wrote a few posts on the abusiveness of religion.

Mana, Master of Mischief said...

I found the "missing" comment. It was in the akismet spam box. Sorry about that... It's been loaded up now if you want to check it out.

salient said...

Thanks, Mana

There were probably too many links in it. I'm not suggesting that you alter your settings, it's just that the spamguards seem to react to any comment with several links.