Among the thousands of documents generated by the police investigation into the Sandy Hook Massacre is one noting that Adam Lanza adopted the username Smiggles on an online forum favored by fans of mass-shooting videos.
In one of his postings on ShockedBeyondBelief.com, Smiggles announced that he had called into a radio talk show in Oregon. He even posted a link to an archived recording of his on-air chat with radio host John Zerzan.
Thanks to blogger Reed Coleman, who first tracked it down, and to the New York Daily News for confirming it was indeed Lanza, we can listen to the killer’s voice and get a measure of a madness that was all the more horrifying because he was remarkably articulate and seemingly logical.
Babbling and raving would have been less disturbing than hearing Lanza calmly explain why Travis the chimp attacked his trainers not because of his feral nature, but because he was raised much in the way of a human child.
“His attack can be seen entirely parallel to the attacks and random acts of violence that you bring up on your show every week, committed by humans, which the mainstream also has no explanation for,” Lanza said. “I just don’t think it would be such a stretch to say that he very well could have been a teenage mall shooter or something like that.”
But Lanza himself was not just another mall shooter, or school shooter.
What made Lanza different was that he targeted young kids. You can listen to that tape a hundred times and it will still not tell you why.
But there are hints in some of the other Smiggles postings. A Dec. 20, 2011, exchange between Smiggles and two other posters, with the usernames Gluth and Ivan, jumped out at me.
Smiggles: “Literature is simply another coping mechanism for children who’ve been mindfucked by culturapists. They’re carried to other worlds in the stream of semen.”
Gluth: “Doesn’t anybody else notice that Smiggles sometimes sends huge ‘I AM A PEDOPHILE’ signals?”
Gluth is implying that this is not the first time. He goes on.
Gluth: “No offense buddy but children in a semen stream? What the hell did you smoke?”
Smiggles responds with only a smiley face.
Ivan: “I like Smiggles, he talks about children in a sexual way and is a cool guy.”
Ivan is also suggesting that this is not the first time. I have to wonder if there are other such exchanges among the many that Lanza deleted from the forum just prior to embarking on the massacre in which he would murder 20 children and six adults.
The reason that I took note to this surviving exchange with Gluth and Ivan goes back to when the Connecticut State Police released their report. I had until then figured that Lanza was likely bullied at the school and that he might have felt it more keenly because he was a new kid whose family had just moved to Connecticut from New Hampshire.
But the state police report suggested that he harbored no particular anger toward Sandy Hook Elementary or its students.
“The shooter indicated that he loved the school and liked to go there,” the report said.
The report further suggested that Lanza’s motive may remain a mystery.
“Unfortunately, that question may never be answered conclusively, despite the collection of extensive background information on the shooter through a multitude of interviews and other sources,” the state police allowed. “The evidence clearly shows that the shooter planned his actions, including the taking of his own life, but there is no clear indication why he did so, or why he targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School.”
I had been writing about gun violence for 30 years and I had covered literally hundreds of murders involving young victims. I had covered Columbine and Virginia Tech. But I had never encountered anything like the massacre at Sandy Hook and it seemed to me unacceptable not to try to at least understand how this could have possibly happened.
I then saw in the state police report that among the items detectives found in Lanza’s room were “materials regarding the topic of pedophilia and advocating for rights for pedophiles.” There was also a “screenplay or script” titled Lovebound “describing a relationship between a 10-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.”
I had always felt there had to be a sexual component to the fascination with guns and I had noted that Lanza himself called it a “fetish.” I commenced to write a piece suggesting that the Sandy Hook killer may have been acting out of some kind of homicidal pedophilia. I sought to make clear from the first sentence that I was engaging in speculation.
“So maybe 20-year-old Adam Lanza was a kind of pedophile whose idea of having sex with kids was to shoot them,” I wrote.
I then settled back into reporting on the contents of the report. I described the remarkable courage of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis when Lanza’s gun jammed. Lewis used a moment when he could have saved himself to call to a group of classmates.
“Run!” he said.
Some time after the article was posted, I received a call from a woman who identified herself as a media liaison for the families of the murdered children, presumably including Jesse Lewis. She informed me that the families had been deeply offended and greatly distressed by what I had written.
I assured the woman that, other than the families themselves, nobody could feel worse than I did that I had caused them any added pain. She asked why I had written such a thing. I could only think to say that I had gone from killing to killing to killing for year after year after year and I had I had felt compelled to address another why, that being the one the state police seemed to have taken pains to avoid.
I told woman I would write the families a letter, but afterward I decided it would be better to offer a more public explanation. I did so in an article about the first anniversary of the shooting and what the Founding Fathers might think about the massacre of 20 school kids.
The explanation did not make me feel any better about having distressed the families. I did not mind that even people at The Daily Beast had objected to my speculation as to Lanza’s motive. The Columbia Journalism Review, which did not even manage to spell my name correctly, charged that I had been unethical.
As I said in an email to the CJR writer, “I am not saying I am always close to right. But I always make an entirely honest effort.”
Even with Smiggles, I am not close to certain that Lanza was indeed a kind of homicidal pedophile. I do believe his postings confirm there are legitimate grounds for considering it.
But I still do not think that anything I might have written was worth adding hurt to those who have already been hurt beyond imagining.