A Post-incident Analysis

Also on The Policy Think Site at –

By Jay B Gaskill

Yesterday, Alexander Alexis, a 34 year old male with a spotty history of anger outbursts, entered a secure naval facility (the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters) in Washington, DC.  He murdered thirteen people before he was himself killed.

Leaving aside the obvious security questions (Alexis passed “a background check and …received a secret clearance from the Defense Department”), there are at least four key elements of a deeper investigation into the “How could this happen and why?” questions. So…I propose the following starting point:

  1. The Alexis incident will be another example of the “malogenic” infection process (see my discussion below) of an unstable, vulnerable personality.
  2. This incident reveals a “moral firewall” failure, all too typical of the postmodern culture, exposing the limits of the therapeutic, mediation models.
  3. Investigators, having presumably eliminated the terrorist associations and influences, now need to follow the mental inputs, looking for malogenic ‘tells’.
  4. Expect to find a toxic “noetic” trail in the Alexander’s three computers.

“Mr. Alexis, according to a Seattle police report, had been arrested for shooting the right and left rear tires of another man’s vehicle with a .45-caliber pistol before firing a shot into the air. Mr. Alexis described the incident to detectives as an anger-fueled “blackout,” according to the report.

“Mr. Alexis had also been arrested in Fort Worth in 2010 for discharging a firearm after an upstairs neighbor said he had confronted her in the parking lot about making too much noise, according to a Fort Worth police report.

“In 2008, he had been arrested outside Atlanta for disorderly conduct related to a dispute inside a nightclub, according to a police report from Dekalb County. No weapon was involved in that incident, according to the police.”

Predictably (in my view), an “official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation, said that the gunman, Aaron Alexis, had been exhibiting symptoms of mental illness since at least his early 20s, before he joined the naval reserve and then went on to be a military contractor. The official said Mr. Alexis has been described by people who knew him as paranoid and delusional.

“He had complained of hearing voices and ringing of the ears,” the law enforcement official said about Mr. Alexis, although it is not clear whether Mr. Alexis had sought medical treatment.”

Credit all of the foregoing quotes to today’s (September 17, 2013) New York Times piece –

MALOGENS – Our Dangerous Cultural Toxins


The term, malogens (malevolent moral/mental pathogens) originated from an article of mine, Malogens – A Case Study: Evil Influence & Evil Outcome. It was an analysis of a satanic murder in the Bay Area during which I discovered several insights, among them that –

“Children and young ‘adults’ are subjected to a seductive torrent of bizarre, unfiltered material, both emotionally and morally disturbing; it seethes through the culture and the adolescent sub-cultures like a computer virus. This toxic material is relatively harmless to those who are well rooted in the deep ethical traditions that have upheld humanity, but it is highly contagious to New Age addled juvenile minds.  These are the malogens, the information-carried toxins (really they are moral pathogens); they saturate the internet; they are carried by computers, cell phones and personal contact wherever “modern” juveniles congregate.

“Why are these toxins able to propagate so freely? There is no effective resistance. The New Age fog has disabled the faculty of critical intelligence among thousands of Northern Californians. These are the putative adults for whom the traditions of integrity and courage that animated the ‘Greatest Generation’ have long been forgotten.

“We inhabit a culture that is paralyzed by moral ambivalence and remains apparently unable – like the characters in Harry Potter who couldn’t utter the name of Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort – to actually recognize and name evil, even when it makes one of its blatant appearances.”

In that Satanic killing case, I noted that the killer “was effectively disconnected from the great moral/ethical traditions that have sustained civil society, yet was strongly connected to an amoral and anti-moral subculture.”

{Reference –}

In a later article, addressing the Aurora, Colorado killings, I added these observations:

“Grave wickedness, especially when it takes the form of real Evil is a deep puzzle for all the sophisticated modern and postmodern minds among us because it exposes the naked vulnerability of a weakened moral immune system.  When the ‘can’t we all get along?’” models just don’t cut it; when ‘that nice young man’ executes a bloodbath; when that ancient most ancient enemy of humanity surfaces – the bland face of intelligent malevolence – our modern sensibilities prompt us to seek refuge in the medical, therapeutic models.  We tend to do this because we are clinging to a monumental lie: that all human-on-human ‘badness’ is psychosis, or a cry for help, the result of oppressive social conditions, or of neurological wiring issues.

“None of these social, physiological or psychological conditions belong to the moral category.  That category is Evil, which is a topic about which I have often been asked to share my insights. As a criminal defense attorney, a careful observer of the human condition, my experiences in New York City near ground zero on 9-11-01 led to some reflection, then to a panel discussion in the Bar Area.  As a result, I arrived at some fresh (and old fashioned) insights. The elevator version: Evil with a capital “E” is real; it is an overused and underappreciated term; in my moral universe it a narrow and very dangerous moral category.  When encountered in the real world, Evil is that which entails a robust, intelligent – even ruthless – moral response among the morally aware. But Evil presents difficulties for modern minds, because for many of these misguided souls, Evil does not even exist.” From “The Futility of ‘Shrinking’ Evil -And Other Lessons from the Aurora ‘Dark Knight’ Massacre

{Reference –}

Not all “troubled youth”, not all schizophrenics, not all (in my former clients’ eloquent epithet) sick f***s, end up as bloody minded nihilists who leave a trail of dead bodies before they are apprehended or killed.  The therapeutic model has its merits but cases like this one expose its severe limits.




The moral order, the essential foundational social architecture on which any civilization worthy of the name depends, is formed of the union of reason, moral intelligence, real world experience and valuable tradition.  It is our only firewall against the evil and nihilistic influences that inhabit the postmodern culture and (thinking of the three electricity hungry computers that occupied Mr. Alexis for countless hours) have deeply infiltrated the information swamp that saturates modern life.

The moral order is not ultimatelysustainable by mere feelings of good will or by some vague, oceanic compassion. As valuable as those attitudes and orientations can be, they do not of themselves stay the evil minds who acquire deadly weapons, nor do they prevent the malogenic infections of the vulnerable personalities among us.

Our vitally necessary moral firewall requires moral principles, implementing rules and the underlying confidence in their ultimate truth that only comes from deep tradition and the abiding belief that there is much more to human life than mere “stuff.”

there are more like this one


This is no idle, academic matter.  Terrorist ideologies readily attach themselves to the vulnerable minds that have been compromised by the malogenic influences that seethe through the culture. But if it’s not the work of jihad or Satan, it can just be nihilistic violence.

The moral order does not automatically perpetuate itself. There is nothing wrong with traditional morality, especially with its essential components, the biblical injunctions against mendacity, theft and murder, except its seeming rejection by over-sophisticated intellectuals who have promoted over-reliance on the therapeutic model.

I’ve addressed this on the philosophical level ( ), but for most of us that is an unnecessary exercise.

We simply need to wake up to the fact that principle and rule-based moral teaching, grounded in faith and / or philosophy / and honored tradition, is no longer favored or taught as widely or with the conviction as it once was.

Alexis and others are providing us with more than horrific news stories.  They are the early warning signs of a decaying moral culture.

Watch closely over the next few weeks.

Will anyone seriously attempt to identify and unpack the moral toxins embedded is Mr. Alexis’s hard drives?

Will it matter?

Will we learn from it?



Copyright 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

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Jay B Gaskill is a California attorney who served as the 7th chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda, California.


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