The specter of the marauding serial killer has become a relatively common feature on the American landscape. Reactions to these modern-day monsters range from revulsion to morbid fascination-fascination that is either fed by, or a product of, the saturation coverage provided by print and broadcast media, along with a dizzying array of books, documentary films, websites, and "Movies of the Week". The prevalence in Western culture of images of serial killers (and mass murderers) has created in the public mind a consensus view of what a serial killer is. Most people are aware, to some degree, of the classic serial killer 'profile.' But what if there is a much different 'profile'-one that has not received much media attention? In Programmed to Kill, acclaimed and always controversial author David McGowan takes a fresh look at the lives of many of America's most notorious accused murderers, focusing on the largely hidden patterns that suggest that there may be more to the average serial killer story than meets the eye. Think you know everything there is to know about serial killers? Or is it possible that sometimes what everyone 'knows' to be true isn't really true at all?
David McGowan is the author of Derailing Democracy: The America the Media Don't Want You to See (Common Courage Press, 2000) and Understanding the F-Word: American Fascism and the Politics of Illusion (Writers Club Press, 2001), as well as the webmaster at the Center for an Informed America (www.davesweb.cnchost.com)
I bought this book several years ago and, while it is not a light read, it connects threads that link several of the most notorious serial killers in the US. Curiously, the serial killer "epidemic" seems to have originated in the summer of love, 1967, Haight Asbury, when LSD was being fed to thousands of hippies ready to tune in to the new alternative reality. What struck me about the book was the strange ties between killers operating in different parts of the country. Many of the killers grew up in military families and had been in the "care" of military-appointed psychiatrists. McGowan's analysis is spot-on, and it is staggering that law enforcement officials were apparently unable to connect the dots in the way McGowan has. Another strange aspect of this story is the apparent "randomness" of the killings. Young girls apparently selected at random by a lone nut...or perhaps not. In amongst the victims are some rather high-profile individuals capable of causing trouble to some. It's a dark story, though fascinating, delving into the sewer of humanity and its most base operations, including trauma-based mind control, brutal murders, and more than a few patsies thrown in for good measure.