The Mt. Rainier Shooting and PTSD: How the Media Got It Wrong

Big Don

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[h=1]The Mt. Rainier Shooting and PTSD: How the Media Got It Wrong[/h] January 6, 2012 by Alex Horton
VA BLOGS EXCERPT: (emphasis added)

The massacre at Ft. Hood two years ago stunned the nation in its cold-blooded calculation. The high body count was just as shocking as the fact soldiers were killed not in combat, but on the grounds of a military installation. Before the slain soldiers were buried, many in the media speculated on a link between combat stress and the shooting, the correlation being that war trauma had driven a soldier to commit those crimes.

When news reports finally explained that Nidal Hasan hadnt deployed during his Army career, the narrative shifted to secondary PTSD. The thought was that his work as a psychiatrist could have caused it. The reality, however, was that Hasans personal beliefs about the United States and the military were among the chief motivations behind the killings. Taken together, the prevailing narrative from those early reportsintentional or notwas this: Post-traumatic stress is a strong factor in violent crimes, and anyone who has deployed to a combat zone is capable of the same.
That narrativefairly common since John Rambo hit movie screens in 1982bubbled to the surface once again with the killing of Park Ranger Margaret Anderson on January 1st by Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24 year-old Iraq Veteran. Within hours of the Rainier shooting, journalists and writers clamored to mention Barnes war record, combat stress, and even his duty station in a dizzying effort to find a connection:

The problem? It wasnt true.

As more information became available on Barnes, it grew clear that his troubles had little to do with his service in Iraq or his assignment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. According to The Seattle Times, Barnes was apparently disturbed before he entered the Armyhaving been expelled from school as a teenager. Additionally, military records show Barnes served in a headquarters communications job in Iraq. A spokesman at Lewis-McChord told the Times there was no record of Barnes having received a Combat Action Badge, indicating he probably never came under fire in Iraq.
While violence is undoubtedly a potential consequence of war-related trauma, highly publicized crimes by active duty members and Veterans cast the overwhelming majority of law abiding Vets in a horrifyingand typically unfairlight. As one Army officer pointed out recently, sensational stories devoid of context (like those about Barnes) inhibit the ability for people to assess likelihood and frequency in a given population. He cites the availability heuristic, which says people predict the frequency of an event, or a proportion within a population, based on how easily an example can be brought to mind.
When I asked her today, VA clinical psychologist Dr. Sonja Batten said that despite this image in pop culture of the dangerous, unstable Veteran, there is no direct, causal link between combat-related PTSD and the type of violence shown at Mt. Rainier. Although PTSD is associated with increased anger and irritability in some individualswhether civilians or Veteransthis sort of negative portrayal of Veterans is unfair and does a disservice to those individuals who have served our country. We work every day in VA to dispel these negative and inaccurate stereotypes.
In other words, the misguided and incorrect correlation between military service and violent crimes like murder can lead to damaging stereotypes that can inhibit the success of Vets once they leave the military. The Texas Veterans Commission says some employers have reservations about hiring Veterans because they may show signs of post-traumatic signs in the workplace. Hiring managers may think theyre getting a Travis Bickle instead of a Sully Sullenberger.

In an MSNBC article about the Mt. Rainier shooting, reporter Alex Johnson connected Barnes to the deeply troubled base of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. While he later walked the piece back, his original reporting joined the media-constructed narrative that JBLM is in crisis without offering a valid explanation why. There were no mentions of inadequate mental health services or of a distinct culture of the base that would indicate a trend of violenceonly some data showing that violent incidents happen there and in the surrounding communities.

But Johnson made no mention that those who murder are overwhelmingly men between 15-30 years old, and that men make up 92 percent of the U.S. Veteran population. If you accept that folks in the military represent a cross section of society, it will always attract the best and the worst our nation has to offer, from Sal Giunta to Benjamin Barnes.
That simple reality didnt jive with Johnson, whose angle wasnt helped by the fact that, despite problems with violence around the base, Veterans in general are incarcerated at half the rate. of non-Vets.
END EXCERPT
The truth isn't always exciting.
 

granfire

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OH M GEE, the media got it wrong....

Ah sh..

Sad but true fact the times the media gets it right (or even put inteligable information out) have become rare.
 

Makalakumu

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There is no official diagnosis in this article, only assumptions. This doesn't show anything but bias confirmation.

People who have troubled pasts often join the military hoping they will get their lives straightened out. Then they go to war and the stress tips them over the edge. That happens and we don't know if it actually happened in this case, but it's a reasonable internet assumption.

Lastly, it's not just the people kicking down doors and terrifying families in the night who are experiencing combat in the ME. Anyone driving around could be a victim of an IED, or snipers, or suicide bombers, everyone there is a target. I know a guy who has a desk job and was attacked enroute from one base to another in Iraq. That happens all of the time. His words, "extreme boredom punctuated by terror with an underlying stress that gnaws, because you don't know when it's going to come." You don't even need to be attacked in this environment to develop PTSD.

Take a guy with a checkered past and throw them in a pressure cooker, what do you think will happen?
 
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Makalakumu

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While violence is undoubtedly a potential consequence of war-related trauma, highly publicized crimes by active duty members and Veterans cast the overwhelming majority of law abiding Vets in a horrifying—and typically unfair—light. As one Army officer pointed out recently, sensational stories devoid of context (like those about Barnes) inhibit the ability for people to assess likelihood and frequency in a given population. He cites the availability heuristic, which says people “predict the frequency of an event, or a proportion within a population, based on how easily an example can be brought to mind.”

When I asked her today, VA clinical psychologist Dr. Sonja Batten said that “despite this image in pop culture of the dangerous, unstable Veteran, there is no direct, causal link between combat-related PTSD and the type of violence shown at Mt. Rainier. Although PTSD is associated with increased anger and irritability in some individuals—whether civilians or Veterans—this sort of negative portrayal of Veterans is unfair and does a disservice to those individuals who have served our country. We work every day in VA to dispel these negative and inaccurate stereotypes.”

In other words, the misguided and incorrect correlation between military service and violent crimes like murder can lead to damaging stereotypes that can inhibit the success of Vets once they leave the military. The Texas Veterans Commission says some employers have reservations about hiring Veterans because they may show signs of post-traumatic signs in the workplace. Hiring managers may think they’re getting a Travis Bickle instead of a “Sully” Sullenberger.

PTSD is statistically correlated to all kinds of violence.

http://ptsd.about.com/od/infoforfriendsfamily/a/PTSDViolence.htm

Several studies have been conducted in an attempt to better understand what may lead people with a history of trauma or PTSD to engage in aggressive and violent behaviors. In studies of U.S. veterans, it has found that depression played a role in aggression among people with PTSD. People who have both depression and PTSD may experience more feelings of anger and, therefore, may have greater difficulties controlling it.


In line with this, a couple of studies have found that violent and aggressive behavior, especially among men, may be used as a way of attempting to manage unpleasant feelings. Aggressive behavior may be a way of releasing tension associated with other unpleasant emotions stemming from a traumatic event, such as shame, guilt, or anxiety. While aggressive and hostile behavior may temporarily reduce tension, it, of course, is ineffective in the long-run -- both in regard to relationships and dealing with unpleasant emotions.

A certain segment of the population wants to pretend like this doesn't exist so we can keep sending people off to fight unjust wars and expect the people to come home heroically clean. That doesn't happen. There is a toll American's are going to pay for its ten years of war down the road for this. It's happened before and it will happen again.
 
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Big Don

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There is no official diagnosis in this article, only assumptions.
Oh, kinda like the following?
This doesn't show anything but bias confirmation.

People who have troubled pasts often join the military hoping they will get their lives straightened out. Then they go to war and the stress tips them over the edge. That happens and we don't know if it actually happened in this case, but it's a reasonable internet assumption.

Lastly, it's not just the people kicking down doors and terrifying families in the night who are experiencing combat in the ME. Anyone driving around could be a victim of an IED, or snipers, or suicide bombers, everyone there is a target. I know a guy who has a desk job and was attacked enroute from one base to another in Iraq. That happens all of the time. His words, "extreme boredom punctuated by terror with an underlying stress that gnaws, because you don't know when it's going to come." You don't even need to be attacked in this environment to develop PTSD.

Take a guy with a checkered past and throw them in a pressure cooker, what do you think will happen?

Yep, no bias on your part at all either... No facts, but, surely no bias...
 

Makalakumu

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We actually don't know if PTSD was a factor or not. We'll never know. We should be talking about this issue though, because its something that gets brushed under the rug and forgotten in the name of patriotism.

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Again -- I have less than zero sympathy for Barnes. The ******* murdered a park ranger & mother, and let's not forget the victims in the shooting he was already wanted for. Everything suggests that he was a screw-up before the military, and a screw-up in the military until they kicked him out. He died because he was a dumbass, and ran while being totally unprepared.

PTSD is an important issue, and worthy of discussion. But not when you try to give this ******* an excuse with it.
 

Makalakumu

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Again -- I have less than zero sympathy for Barnes. The ******* murdered a park ranger & mother, and let's not forget the victims in the shooting he was already wanted for. Everything suggests that he was a screw-up before the military, and a screw-up in the military until they kicked him out. He died because he was a dumbass, and ran while being totally unprepared.

PTSD is an important issue, and worthy of discussion. But not when you try to give this ******* an excuse with it.

Was he killing people before his service? What happens when PTSD pushes a guy with a checkered past over the edge? Lots of people handle it without resorting to violence. It's a fact that some people can't handle it without resorting to violence. They need help.

PTSD isn't an excuse for the behavior. It's a possible explanation. We can have a broader discussion about the effects of war and hold criminals responsible at the same time.
 

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We actually don't know if PTSD was a factor or not.

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Correct so stop saying it was and making barnes a martyr for your antiwar political views. Politics have nothing to do with barnes being a punk murdering thug.
 

Makalakumu

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Isn't it great how pointing out the horrible effects of war and linking them to social events offends so many people? Some people are allergic to any point of view counter to popular narrative. "We can fight these wars, send people multiple tours of combat and expect no social costs. People who snap under pressure were all flawed beforehand because real heroes don't do that."

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ballen0351

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Isn't it great how pointing out the horrible effects of war and linking them to social events offends so many people? Some people are allergic to any point of view counter to popular narrative. "We can fight these wars, send people multiple tours of combat and expect no social costs. People who snap under pressure were all flawed beforehand because real heroes don't do that."

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I dont disagree with your thoughts about treating PTSD. I do not agree with making this guy your poster child. There are 10s of thousands of troops suffering from PTSD as well as many more thousand police, Fire and EMS in the US. This guy was NOT one of them. By all accounts he was born a thug, lived as a thug, and died a coward running for his life.
There are far better examples you can find to further your cause and dont need to rely in a murderer.
 

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margaret-anderson.jpg


RIP Margaret Anderson
 

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Isn't it great how pointing out the horrible effects of war and linking them to social events offends so many people? Some people are allergic to any point of view counter to popular narrative. "We can fight these wars, send people multiple tours of combat and expect no social costs. People who snap under pressure were all flawed beforehand because real heroes don't do that."

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I don't think that anyone has said that; you're interpreting it. What I've said, and what I read ballen (among others) as saying is that, quite simply, PTSD does not justify what Barnes did.

Very bluntly, I KNOW that I've got a bit of PTSD, from multiple incidents in my career, including seeing the lieutenant who hired me crippled in a motorcycle wreck. From posts he's made, I suspect that ballen probably has some too. PTSD is NOT a binary condition; it's a spectrum. You might have significant issues, or very minor ones. (Me? Among them, I had trouble watching some training videos for a while because of the similarity in events.) An event that flips one person over completely might barely faze another. But, in general, any violent aftermath of PTSD is directed at the victim, or perhaps immediate family. In this case, I'll grant the possibility that the Seattle shooting could have had a relationship to any possible PTSD for Barnes, though I'd say it's more likely, based on his history as reported in the press, to be general impulse control issues that long predated his involuntarily truncated military service. But killing Ranger Anderson? Nope. That was a direct, premeditated action, as part of a course of events. He's not a poster boy for the evils of wartime military service. He's a poster boy for dumbass murderers. Fortunately, there won't be the expense and stress on the family of a trial.
 
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ballen0351

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I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2005 by 2 different doctors and was told If I wanted to I could medically retire. I personally dont think there is anything wrong with me with the things Ive seen and done a few bad dreams and sleepless nights every now and then are to be expected. I think PTSD is the hot new fad for docs to throw out to make more money "Treating" you. I think there are real cases of PTSD but I also thing is way over diagnosed kinda like how every boy 4 to 10 years old thats a little hyper is now ADHD and need medication.
I think by focusing on people like Barnes only makes it harder to have a real conversation about real cases of PTSD. Every military member now days that gets accused of a crime of violence or drug related at some point during the trial PTSD is floated out there as an excuse for sympathetic jury members to latch on to and get a hung jury or not guilty.

You want a real conversation about PTSD and its effects on US troops find a real person suffering and in need of help and we can talk. Barnes was not it.
 

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Again I ask, was he killing before his service? Could PTSD push someone with a checkered past over the edge?

This guy isn't a poster child. He's an opportunity to ask some uncomfortable questions. Maybe Margaret didn't have to die had we made different political decisions.

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Big Don

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Again I ask, was he killing before his service?
Yes, again you ask a stupid question. No, he didn't kill anyone before his service or he would NOT have been allowed to serve. I take offense at the way you continue to insinuate his service drove him over an edge.
Could PTSD push someone with a checkered past over the edge?
Maybe it could, the ENTIRE POINT OF THE ARTICLE WAS THAT THE "DIAGNOSIS" WAS DONE BY THE MEDIA, NOT DOCTORS
This guy isn't a poster child. He's an opportunity to ask some uncomfortable questions. Maybe Margaret didn't have to die had we made different political decisions.
*$&#)$&!

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Makalakumu

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Isn't the media saying that PTSD wasn't a possible factor? According to the source you posted, aren't they saying he was a bad seed beforehand? Isn't that a diagnosis?

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Again I ask, was he killing before his service? Could PTSD push someone with a checkered past over the edge?
Nope I dont believe PTSD will turn someone into a murderer. A murderer is a murderer. Make all the excuses you want when he deliberately and with forethought murdered a Law enforcement officer because he was on the run after shooting 4 others the day prior. All the rangers wanted to do was see if he had snow chains thats it.

This guy isn't a poster child. He's an opportunity to ask some uncomfortable questions. Maybe Margaret didn't have to die had we made different political decisions.
Shame on you for trying to turn the death of an 11 year member of law enforcement and more importantly a mother of 2 and wife into a political argument because you don't think the US should have gone to war.
 

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According to the source you posted, aren't they saying he was a bad seed beforehand? Isn't that a diagnosis?

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So now your saying he had PTSD before he went to war?
They are saying he was a piece of crap prior to and long after his short and uneventful time in the military before he was kicked out.
 

Makalakumu

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So now your saying he had PTSD before he went to war?
They are saying he was a piece of crap prior to and long after his short and uneventful time in the military before he was kicked out.

Saying he was a peice of crap before the war and that PTSD played no part is a clinical assertion.

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