Not Random Violence, but the Consequence of Ideas

Saturday, we saw a number of news reports on the interwebs about the murder of Delbert Belton, who fought at Okinawa, allegedly by two teenaged thugs.

From these reports, we learned that robbery is bad, murder is bad, elderly combat vets from WWII are good, and if President Obama had a son then that child would look like the teenagers who allegedly murdered one of the good guys.

However, I want to focus on a different aspect of this event based upon an Associated Press report, which the Washington Post published with the title “Veteran of battle for Okinawa in World War II beaten to death in random Spokane attack.”  The report includes the sentence, “Police believe the two 16-year-old boys approached Belton in his car at random Wednesday night outside an Eagles Lodge as he was waiting for a friend.”  Further, “Such random attacks are rare in Spokane …,” according to the police chief.  Random, really?

Let us look at what random means based upon a selection of definitions from The Free Dictionary’s page for random:

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

1. Having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective: random movements. See Synonyms at chance.

3. Of or relating to an event in which all outcomes are equally likely, as in the testing of a blood sample for the presence of a substance.

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged

1. lacking any definite plan or prearranged order; haphazard a random selection

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary

1. occurring or done without definite aim, reason, or pattern: random examples.

2. Statistics. of or characterizing a process of selection in which each item of a set has an equal probability of being chosen.


1. lacking any definite plan or order or purpose; governed by or depending on chance; “a random choice”; “bombs fell at random”; “random movements”

Random?  Let us look at some of the facts from the Associated Press report and see if we can recognize a pattern and some cause-and-effect in this reported randomness:

  • The suspects are teenaged (16 years old) males.
  • The victim was elderly (88 years old) and physically small (5 foot).
  • The victim was alone at night in a publicly accessible place.
  • The attack was a beating (not gun).
  • Both suspects have past convictions for assault.
  • The police chief thinks the motive was robbery, but does not really care about the ideas that motivated the attackers.

Really, with those set of facts, the police chief considers this event to be random?  Perhaps, if Spokane’s Police Chief Frank Straub had a little bit of intellectual curiosity, then he could see patterns, purposes, and objectives to demonstrate that this outcome was not equally likely with all other possible outcomes.  Further, given that the police chief claims that such attacks are rare, then how do he and the prosecutor’s office account for the fact that these young suspects have been previously convicted for assault and were on the streets again allegedly robbing an old man?  Is their answer really randomness?

What is the idea that these suspects hold that can bring order to the alleged randomness?  Violence is practical.  In this conclusion, these teenagers have been exceptionally attentive students to the example provided by our public schools, public officials, and the popular opinion of our culture.

These teenagers learned that they were subject to force compelling them to attend school under the dictates of a public officer, aka teacher, in a setting resembling a pre-prison program.  Our President proposes that the law should be changed to compel students to remain in school until 18 years old for their own good; or, is that for the benefit of unionized teachers?  Either way, the lesson is clear that others are to decide what is good for the teenagers, or someone else, and that that imposed judgment is to be implemented with threats, extortions, and force.

Through the subordination of civil society institutions and private property to the control of politicians and bureaucrats, these teenagers have learned that force is how adults deal with one another.  You will not willing self-sacrifice your interests to the will of the majority?  No problem, the government will force you to comply.

Very easily and correctly we condemn these alleged murderers for their actions and the consequences of those actions.  Are they just bad seeds?  Were they not hugged enough by their fathers?  Or, are they acting on the ideas they were taught by their teachers, their politicians, and their community?  How many times was the victim robbed by his neighbors through governmental action before he was murdered allegedly by two boys?

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