20 July, 2024


Las Vegas Mass Shooting, Social Narcissism & Crisis In Humanity

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

It was a lone gunman, white American, Steven Paddock, 64 years of age, who had opened fire from a hotel room of Mandalay Bay Resort and shot and killed 59 and wounded 527 who were attending a country music festival in Las Vegas. This is undoubtedly terrorism in the method and execution but different to many other terrorist attacks and acts happening in the Western world in recent times, even different to Manchester suicide bombing at a similar pop concert in May this year.

For the Manchester terrorist attack there was a clear political motive that could be identified with Islamic terrorism or IS (Islamic State). But in the present case there is no clear political or social motive that can easily be identified. Although the IS has claimed that Paddock was converted to Islam a month ago, the FBI has dismissed it as mere propaganda. There was no difference between him and the target group in terms of race, religion or ethnicity. He didn’t have any known ‘enemy’ there in the over 22 thousand concert participants. He himself was a fan of pop music in the past, as reported. Therefore, there was no any apparent anger against the music event, except he was aging and most of the concert goers are young, with a generational gap between him and them.

The Killer: Steven Paddock

His brother, Eric Paddock, said that there was no indication whatsoever that he was going to do or capable of doing such a thing. ‘There is nothing, he had a job and he was content. It is like killing my own children.’ He was a wealthy man with couple of properties. 

Steven Paddock

There had been several individual violent attacks or mass shootings in the past particularly in America without political motives and those were largely attributed to mental illnesses or psychological motives. However, there is no past record of any mental illness in Steven Paddock’s case and only report is that his farther, Benjamin Paddock, was identified as a criminal and a ‘psychopath’ with even suicidal tendencies. He had died in 1998. His mother aged 90 is still living with his brother. It is true that Paddock killed himself after the shooting, but it does not appear as it was a simple outrage, before committing suicide.

This was planned well ahead and Paddock booked into the hotel on 28 September even submitting his girlfriend, Marilou Danley’s ID. That was how the Australian woman became a ‘person of interest’ for a while in the shooting. But she was away in Japan by this time and no apparent involvement whatsoever although she might throw some light onto Paddock’s psychological background when questioned. It is reported that he was a professional gambler but no report as a drug addict. With so much of careful planning and premeditation, he does not appear mentally ill in the normal sense. Then how come, and why it happened? 

Right to Bear Arms?

Free availability of arms and ammunition without restriction is one background to this incident. There were 16 fire arms, mostly automatic rifles, found in his hotel room from where he was shooting. In his home, where he was living, the police has found 24 other fire arms and explosives and electronic devices. He has another country home which is not yet inspected. It appears that the accumulation of arms and ammunition, and playing with them, was one of his hobbies like most of the national leaders or countries are doing today. Most prominent are North Korea, America, Russia, Syria and the so-called ‘Islamic State.’

The US Constitution, or in other words the ‘fundamental rights’ chapter says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is quite a dangerous proposition tody. Apart from the US, such an absurd ‘human right’ is there only in Mexico and Guatemala, yet with some restrictions. Previously, many countries in Latin America also had this ‘right’ emulating the United States. The anomaly clearly shows that customarily claimed rights in any country should not be considered as valid human rights, just because of that custom or history.

More to the point is the fact that free availability of arms and ammunition is a major reason for this carnage in Las Vegas. This was the case before in many mass shootings in America which brought to the discussion again and again the issue of necessary gun control. Barak Obama during his final term was inclined to impose a gun control, but the famous right-wing ‘gun lobby’ prevented it from implementation which probably required a constitutional amendment. When Donald Trump contested for the presidential election, the ‘gun lobby’ was openly behind him, and still he strongly believes that it is not necessary. He however named Steven Paddock an ‘evil man.’

The proliferation of arms among citizens is same as the proliferation of arms among nations. Both signify a crisis in humanity. Only difference is that nations have acquired even nuclear weapons, and no one knows when those weapons might end up in wrong people’s hands. Arms industry is one of the most profitable industries in the world, manufactured even by allegedly most peaceful countries.

The total disarmament may appear as too idealistic, but strict ‘gun control’ in all societies and nuclear disarmament internationally at least might help control the situation. Although there are strong restrictions in acquiring and bearing arms in Sri Lanka, the proliferation of small arms among citizens have led to increased crime, robbery and killings.

Social Narcissism

The whole episode is about human destructiveness, which is spreading like a disease in many societies including Sri Lanka. Although this is violence, this particular violence cannot possibly be explained through the typical frustration-aggression theory or any other prominent social theory. There was no apparent social or economic reason for Steven Paddock to frustrate about. As mentioned before, he was a graduate, a retired accountant and a rich man with many properties. There must be some ‘psychological’ reason why he was angry about the society or others. One of the best explanations can be through what is increasingly understood as Narcissism.

Narcissism can simply be defined or understood as ‘behaviour characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for self-admiration and particularly a lack of respect or empathy for others.’ This is based on what Sigmund Freud explained in his ‘Introduction to Narcissism’ (1914). The basic form of this drive also was part of what the Buddha analysed as ‘self’ or ‘ego’ (Mamathvaya). Many of the neighbours of Paddock have said that while his girlfriend, Marilou, was social, the Man was recluse and mysterious. Some have said he was aggressive. It is possible that many such stories come up after the event, and Las Vegas mayor called him a ‘lunatic.’

The local police and the FBI are now frantically looking for clues to identify a ‘motive.’ He must have had or not had a motive in the normal sense, other than killing and destruction. The destructive narcissism does not need a clear motive, in the normal sense, to achieve a particular objective, an outcome or to take a revenge. It can simply be destructiveness. He has not left any suicide note or any other warning/statement. But he has collected a large number of arms and ammunition for some time, before the event, for a solitary war.

Erich Fromm made a distinction between individual narcissism and social narcissism in 1964. The first can easily overflow into the second. That appears to be what happened in Las Vegas in Steven Paddock’s case. It can happen anywhere, if the chances are available for destructive personalities or groups. Or otherwise it can get mixed up with other movements such as religious, nationalist, student, trade union or even leftist movements.

A prevention in the former case of individual destructive narcissism is to have law and order, vigilance and not make arms available freely. A proper ‘gun control’ and laws even could have prevented destructive ‘Las Vegas.’ Law and order and gun control also necessary in preventing social destructive narcissism but at the same time there should be proper opportunities for peaceful protests and education to prevent such groupings and feelings.

In a country like Sri Lanka, the dismantling of the social-security and welfare systems, the promotion of competitive economic rat-race and breakdown of the family institution can propel both individual and social narcissism. The consequential social alienation as a result of the above factors can lead to both individual and social narcissism.

In America, the spread of narcissism is a well-studied subject for a while now, although the decision makers or policy brokers have not absorbed the necessary lessons. It was sometime back (first in 1979) that Christopher Lasch analysed ‘The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Diminishing Expectations.’ He was not talking about diminishing expectations as a ‘nation,’ but as individuals and as a society. The importance to emphasise the difference is that as Wilber Caldwell later revealed (2006), the other side of the narcissistic dilemma in America is the myth of nationalist superiority (American Narcissism: The Myth of National Superiority). In the case of Sri Lanka, however, this may be more in the form of ‘national exclusiveness’ than ‘superiority.’                       

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Latest comments

  • 1

    It is too early to make a comment on this crime. However, there are reports that ISIL stated Stephen Paddock was converted to Islam a few months ago. ISIL also referred Paddock by the nom de guerre Abu Abd al-Barr al-Amriki and had answered a call to arms by its leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi. But it offered no proof to back its claim. However, it appears to be a lone wolf terrorist attack. Moreover, there is a reported news item that his father Benjamin H.Paddock was a career bank robber who was on the FBI’s Top Most Wanted list. Against such a background it is also not clear how he amassed his huge arsenal of weapon in the room unnoticed. There is also suspicion that a when a global terrorist group have issued a warning that Muslims in America, Europe and Russia to avoid public places. Perhaps these are places of targets of soldiers of the caliphate. However, it has to be scrutinized and had to wait for the development until the law enforcing authorities issue a statement as to the motive of Stephen Paddock..

    • 3

      “America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilisation in between.” — O. Wilde

      There is something brutally honest about America. Which no one understands ………… and most certainly not the Americans.

      It’s a place where you come face to face with the true nature of man.

  • 3

    The key role of USA the “God bless” democracy.. by gun ………….. Killing is nothing new to USA Democracy?
    It is part and parcel of their values of democracy? But my worry is about innocent people are leaving this world do not harming any one else ? That the tragedy of incident ……

  • 2

    This is common among the society that lives promoting the INDIVIDUAL, in other words “I, MINE,” concept is very strong. That is why they live in the fast lane, they get mental stress, get depression, so feel immigrents are doing it for them, rich people responsible for it. this killing of people is mostly by uneducated people. ———–But, buddhists are not involved in it, as they know the reality. In the western society which has build on christian religious dogma, they are scared to die. They think they never die They don’t even like to remind it, insted they talk only the happy things of the dead, never hoe he suffered.

    • 1

      Dim Jim,
      You seem to know him well.
      Was Mr. Paddock a customer at your public toilet?

    • 4

      Jimsofty the dimwit

      Listen to Trevor Noah
      Daily Show’s Trevor Noah gets real about guns after Las Vegas shooting



      By the way

      Three T-56 weapons recovered in Gampaha
      2017-10-02 18:42:56

      The Gampaha Police have recovered three T-56 weapons from a vehicle parked near the Gampaha Hospital, Police said.

      They said they found the weapons following a tip off about a suspicious vehicle.

      No suspects were arrested in this connection and the Gampaha police are conducting further investigations. (Tony Karunanayake)



      Those guns were found in motor vehicle however no suspect was arrested. I am not sure who is mentally stressed up or got depression, is it the vehicle owner or the police that found the weapons.

  • 2


    IN America there are 600 million guns and 300 million people !!

    More gun shops than Starbucks coffee shops !!

    So what else do you expect other than gun violence??.

    It is so easy to acquire any automatic weapon. No background checks or census as to who owns guns.

    Live by the gun and die by the gun !!!

  • 1

    Dr. Laksiri Fernando

    “Therefore, there was no any apparent anger against the music event, except he was aging and most of the concert goers are young, with a generational gap between him and them.”

    “the past particularly in America without political motives and those were largely attributed to mental illnesses or psychological motives. “

    “This was planned well ahead and Paddock booked into the hotel on 28 September even submitting his girlfriend, Marilou Danley’s ID.”

    “It is reported that he was a professional gambler but no report as a drug addict. With so much of careful planning and premeditation, he does not appear mentally ill in the normal sense. Then how come, and why it happened?

    We all have empathy for the victims of this tragedy, and those who died, let them rest in peace.

    Is it the Devil, Satan, Iblis, Mara that is behind as the devil’s agents like to kill?

    Examples are:

    Satan-Iblis following Wahhabi-Salafis, ISIS and their clones. ( Ask the Shia, Sufis, Ahmedias, Christians, Yazdis etc)

    Satan-Mara following Para-Sinhala “Buddhists” and their clones, Para-Sinhala Ravya etc. ( Ask the Tamils, Muslim, Hindu and Christians)

    Do you have a better answer? At least this cannot be directly linked to ISIS and Para-Sinhala Buddhists., but perhaps indirectly through Satan and Mara.

    Satan: Definition: Satan (Hebrew: שָּׂטָן‎‎ satan, meaning “enemy” or “adversary”; Arabic: شيطان‎‎ shaitan, meaning; “astray”, “distant”, or sometimes “devil”) is a figure appearing in the texts of the Abrahamic religions who brings evil and temptation, and is known as the deceiver who leads humanity astray.

    Mara (Sanskrit: मार, Māra; Chinese: 天魔; pinyin: Tiānmó; Tibetan Wylie: bdud; Khmer: មារ; Burmese: မာရ်နတ်; Thai: มาร; Sinhalese: මාරයා), in Buddhism, is the demon that tempted Gautama Buddha by trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said to be Mara’s daughters.

    • 2

      Devil, Satan, Iblis and Mara are within you and appear in different forms depending on your religious and cultural background. It appears that all of them have appeared before Steven Paddock!

      • 1

        Laksiri Fernando,

        Yes., Devil, Satan, Iblis and Mara are within the person or persons. It is like some of the horror movies where a special creature comes out of the body to create havoc. Some of these creatures are activated by the politicians, monks, priests and ulama. and others with their own self-interest.


        The Birth Of Body Horror.

  • 4

    it is simple and basic theory ..
    if you do harm to any one it will come back to you..
    all religions and human conscience tell you that..
    even before you die you will taste it..
    what happened to Hitler
    what happened to Sadam
    what happened pharoch of Egypt?
    what happened to any one who done mass murder they will taste the consequence of it..
    do not think Burmese Buddhists who killed innocent people or
    ISIS who killed innocent will get away with it ..
    all will taste punishment before death.
    so; US with it power and mighty weapons…killed
    millions in Vietnam
    millions in Afghnditan and Iraq and now in Syria..
    they all need to pay back for this?.
    It will.come to them one way or another..
    so this is nothing but divine punishment for what they wanted by their own conviction.
    they have been supporting mass murderers of Jewish..for 70 years.
    all cursing of innocent people come upon them…
    so ..i think this is a Karuma nothing else .
    you harm someone and harm comes to you .
    western man does not believe in it ..
    he blind in his heart about it
    but we in east believe in that..

    • 1

      Lankan No 1,,

      “western man does not believe in it ..
      he blind in his heart about it
      but we in east believe in that..”

      Newton’s Third Law of Mechanics, says:

      For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

      Is this one version of the Law of Karma? Sodom and Gomorrah?

      Sodom and Gomorrah (/ˈsɒdəm/; /ɡəˈmɔːrə/) were cities mentioned in the Book of Genesis and throughout the Hebrew Bible,the New Testament and in the deuterocanonical books, as well as in the Quran and the hadith.

      Divine judgment by God was passed upon Sodom and Gomorrah and two neighboring cities, which were completely consumed by fire and brimstone. Neighboring Zoar (Bela) was the only city to be spared. In Abrahamic religions, Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of divine retribution.[Jude 1:7] Sodom and Gomorrah have been used as metaphors for vice and homosexuality which is viewed as a deviation.[by whom?] The story has therefore given rise to words in several languages. These include the English word sodomy, which is used in sodomy laws to describe sexual “crimes against nature”, namely anal or oral sex (particularly homosexual), or bestiality. Some Islamic societies incorporate punishments associated with Sodom and Gomorrah into sharia.

  • 2

    Too early to make any conclusions. This man does not have a social media presence. We will have to wait and see. As for the guns debate, it is also not the time to talk about it and definitely those living outside the USA will not be able to fathom the passion people have for guns. So yes with over 300million guns, only a few use t hem in an evil way. Sure our Second amendment was written when guns only fired a ball from a single loader musket. Yet there is no going back now. No action could have prevented this shooting and the insanity with existing gun laws and available weapons. The city I live in mandates houses carry a weapon. It is in fact city law. It was one of the first in the nation to have such a law after a violent Breaking and Entering situation. No one goes around shooting up people in the city I live in. Fact of life. Guns are as American as Apple Pie. A Rice and curry eater will not understand this.

    • 5

      Micah Goldstein,
      Do you think a ‘rice and curry eater’ should not have a concern about when 586 ‘apple pie’ eaters are shot at and 59 are killed? You talk about the passion that American people have for guns. Is it the same passion that your leaders like Donald Trump have for WMDs and nuclear weapons?

  • 2

    People, People, there is a lot of fake news being spread mostly by rightwing so called news sites. These same despicable people said the Sandy Hook massacre was fake and was a government plot. Mr/Dr. Fernando, I used an article in the NYTIMES about this in my classes today. We generated some exciting discussion. It is hard to make issues black and white. But I told all of them how the racist Birther movement was based on fake news. A lie oft repeated in the social media era becomes truth because of that. Once again the trolls are out their from mostly rightwing sites about this mad man. YET, I prefer to wait until more facts are known. A little while ago, CNN revealed that he had wired $100,000 to Philippines where his girlfriend was. She is coming back tomorrow. We may never know what triggered him. Rumours abound. We cannot go by those. Hateful website exist to promote propaganda as fact . We had a lovely heated discussion where some of the boys were talking big about guns(yes now guns are allowed on campus in carry concealed). It is scary but all we can do is hope the next incident is not directed at oneself. This is too soon for the anti-gun people to shout about. Guns are meant to kill but it still needs a human to do the shooting. Interesting times we live in.

  • 2

    Good People Everywhere

    This is yet another sad event for the good people of the US of America to bear.

    The truth is that we humans are wired such that most are a hairs breadth between sanity and insanity. This is why it is possible for someone to ‘flip’ and beat or murder a spouse of many years ( or some close or beloved).

    What were these man’s intentions? Was it pre-meditated? Was it a spur of the moment action? Whatever the reason, it has died with him.

    The truth is that because of the wide availability of guns and ammunition in the US, the probability is there will be many, many more shootings in the years ahead.

    • 1

      Spring Koha ,

      “This is yet another sad event for the good people of the US of America to bear.”

      The proposed Great Wall of USA across the border with Mexico to keep the illegal Mexican and drug dealers would not have stopped the Las Vega carnage but will certainly reduce the one -on -one carnage in the streets,

      The Gun lobby and the associated politicians will still allow the people have guns, so thjat some will repeat the carnage at future dates.

      In Sri Lanka they have a lobby of crooks, thieves and criminals, instead of the gun lobby.

      • 0


        You have made some good relevant points.

        In the US, we have the powerful NRA gun lobby in a deathly embrace with the mainly Republican politicians – no one can let go! By extension the day is coming when every American with a gun will shoot every American who has or hasn’t a gun. What a way to go!

        Here in Sri Lanka, we have the Sangha in a deathly embrace with our Sinhala politicians. Now, even the ‘psuedo-sangha’ organisations like the BBS have political ‘priests’ who have become more powerful than the Mahanayake’s. So, in this way crooks, thieves and criminals can become very powerful politicians. Gnanasara has become the new Rasputin.

  • 1

    Racism and color differences are basic of USA Democracy? Killing is nothing else that key valued are accepts by that New USA society ,it is part and parcel of their moral Democracy!
    The problem is killing since 9/11 has lost many life citizens of USA, but it has come to absolutely normalized for the democracy of USA. Las Vegas is one of that.

  • 2

    This may be an individual who may have lost his equilibrium and went on a killing spree. But how do you define countries who go to war on imaginary fears saying there are weapons of mass destruction . But the weapons were never discovered. and no apology was made. Not that apology is going to brig back the dead. It is said that the subjects invariably follow the KING.
    Let us hope the action of this individual will give food for thought.

    • 0

      “how do you define countries who go to war on imaginary fears”

      “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” — A Bierce

  • 2

    The writer as usual has quoted many other learned individual and academics to hide the real intent. . The title says it all ;”Las Vegas Mass Shooting, Social Narcissism & Crisis In Humanity”. What a pathetic conclusion and he did not miss a chance (as expected) to link this Sri Lankan society. I wonder why he has not done similar investigation about ISIS.
    Wow , a remnant of Portuguese in Sri Lanka has come to a conclusion the day after the tragedy that struck in Las Vegas. Most likely, this free lance adviser of J.R. and Ranil.
    Portuguese colonial masters were driven by a passionate desire to spread Christianity. They and their collaborators were of the opinion that Christians are far superior to that of any other religion. In other words they were narcissists.
    The Portuguese unleashed many cruelties against the people of Asia, Africa and South America. They committed a number of atrocities in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) They vandalized the religious buildings and looted the wealth. They tortured the Sinhala Buddhists and forced them to renounce Buddhism. The General Azavedu is still remembered as a symbol of a bloodthirsty villain who ordered the Portuguese Army to launched heavy cruelty against the Sinhala Buddhists. They killed infants, raped women and burnt books. The people were subjected to torture, massacre, and starvation.

    So I leave readers to judge the contradictory observations by this writer whose ancestry can be traced back to the masters of narcissism lived in Sri Lanka.

  • 0

    USA is /was the pioneer of politics of gun culture is major part played and had been an embodied into their democracy last 72 years of immediate after End of Second World WAR…..1945 ?
    The order of the US politics has embodied into of that “Democracy” is Rule by GUN!!@
    USA ruling class no know-knowledge about or that has nothing do with peaceful environments of society is NOT their very foundation of Democracy .
    Its democracy counts by that $$$$$$$ and Gun?
    USA democracy bless by God Bless America? Killing as usual ,time to Presidents of USA give lame excuses to citizens the wise men and women accepts as key to Democracy?
    That is how USA run by STATE of Monopolies classes vital Interest .
    These professor/elites who write many theses in large number of high reputed Universities they are blind on REAL & ugly side USA political of that by Gun-Rule of democracy?

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