Under The Joshua Tree Lurked a Psychotic Stalker
Part 2 by David Chirko
Affiliate Member, American Psychological Association
(Continued from Part 1 of the article)
A few reasons, based on the presence of mainly psychotic mechanisms, can be crystallized as to why Robert Bardo shot to death actress Rebecca Schaeffer July 18th, 1989 in West Hollywood, Los Angeles and what relevance the music of U2 had.
Although Bardo was cognizant of right from wrong and therefore not insane, he was psychotic. Bipolar disorder, earlier diagnosed, has been ruled out. He was then diagnosed, from the DSM-III, as paranoid schizophrenic and today, via DSM-V (minus subtypes), would be classified as a schizophrenic (though there are still paranoid facets in his personality). He experienced auditory hallucinations and his thought processes, through letter writings, were sometimes disorganized, reflecting a derailment. Most importantly, not having an integrated personality, he was also plagued by ambivalence with its dichotomous contradictory impulses, that motivated him beyond his awareness and regulation of. He idealized Schaeffer as pure at one juncture, but at another turn, devalued her as salacious and corrupt, wherein he had to take action to punish her. This would demonstrate that he could not be held totally responsible for his act. I would concur with forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz that his reaction to her rejection was spontaneous, guided by unconscious forces and that he did not lie in wait. Otherwise, he would have murdered Schaeffer on his first visit to her home.
Bardo had grandiose delusions and was seeking validation that tragically went unfulfilled. After all of his expenditure of money and time in tracking Schaeffer down to make contact with her, he felt entitled, but she rejected him. He was devastated over his selfhood being bruised. Consequently, mortally assailing a celebrity he obsessed over, and may have wanted to eliminate anyway, would narcissistically garner him--a non entity--a status he desired.
Bardo felt alienated, like the lead character and model Holden Caulfield (who loathed phonies), from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye novel. He identified with other models like Mark Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon (and, to a minor degree, Lennon himself), as well as President Reagan's attempted assassin, John Hinckley. Chapman and Hinckley both read Catcher and felt alienated. However, Catcher was not integral to the etiology of Bardo's illness. Books, with their sundry characters, like Catcher, don`t force people, including Bardo, to perpetrate heinous acts. Although many miscreants perused the book, tens of millions of law-abiding people also read it, unscathed. Bardo was searching for an identity to surmount conflict, as well as to defeat a perceived phoniness pertaining to purity in Schaeffer, which would have made him feel much less alienated.
"Exit" describes murderer Gary Gilmore, who led a life of tumult. He was the fifth and last model Bardo identified, or overidentified, with, whether or not he personally knew of him or, for that matter, Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, whose writings affectively inspired Bono to write the song. Gilmore was looking for "love," but was ireful after being shunned by a woman and displaced his aggression on two fellows, whom he shot to death. Bardo wanted to show Schaeffer that the CD's music pertained to him and her--all integral to his delusion of reference--and that this might purvey protection and reconciliation, wherein he could save her from the nefarious character in the opus and assuage himself. When he was rejected by her, it was tantamount to being denied love and value, so he displaced his pent up hostility, stemming from childhood traumas, on Schaeffer and, like the stalker on the CD, resorted to killing her with a firearm. Psychiatrist Park Dietz mentioned how the song and character emboldened Bardo. Nevertheless, it wasn't a causative factor leading someone like him to shoot Schaeffer. Otherwise, the millions of normal people who listened to the piece would have gone out and committed the same crime as Bardo. It was a facet of his motivation, reflecting an already developed mental disorder and, moreover, there were many other songs that could have influenced him. He, Dietz affirms, chose his models, but could not handle their impact upon him in reality. Finally, Bono and U2 certainly can't be, and weren't, held responsible for the actions of Bardo (whom they never heard of before his murder of Schaeffer), or his choice to assume the persona of the killer depicted in their song.
Because of Bardo's stalking and murder of Rebecca Schaeffer, in 1990 the inaugural California antistalking law was ratified (Hoffmann & Meloy, 2008, p. 171).
The Beaver County Times (1991, October 29) reported that Bardo "...was convicted of murder after failing to convince a judge he was insane" (p. 38). Judge Dino Fulgoni (who "...specialized in psychiatric cases...." [Deutsch, 1991, September 25]), also remarked that a schizophrenic like Bardo could lie in wait and premeditate their deed, and have the intention to kill. DeGroot (2019, November 26) explains that Defense Lawyer Stephen Galindo argued, unsuccessfully, that Bardo, who was victimized by parental abuse and a mental health system that fell short of purveying proper treatment for him, was mentally ill and thus could not plausibly plan the murder of Schaeffer.
Bardo was sentenced to life without parole by Fulgoni on Dec. 20, 1991. Eyes flashing with demonic piercing, Bardo told the judge: "The idea I killed her for fame is...ridiculous. I...realize...what I've done. I don't think it needs to be compounded by...lies because she's an actress" (Robert John Bardo, Murderpedia, n.d.). He is presently at Avenal State Prison in California (CDCR Inmate Locator, 2021).
The United States Congress passed the Driver's Privacy Protection Act in 1994 ("Driver's Privacy Protection Act," n.d.). This precluded anyone from obtaining anybody's personal information from the Department of Motor Vehicles, et al, without their prior permission. Bardo had acquired Schaeffer's address from that source through a private investigator.
In 2007, a prison inmate plunged a knife into Bardo 11 times, but he survived ("Robert John Bardo," n.d.).
On ABC's 20/20 (Muir & Robach, 2019), Bardo, from prison via telephone, expressed how he thinks of Schaeffer every day, but did not allude to U2, The Joshua Tree CD, or the song "Exit." He now states, that back then "...I was blaming others...." including Schaeffer. And, further, "...I was insecure and frustrated...." He added that he learned much from the surviving Schaeffers' interviews regarding his murder of their daughter, and admitted his responsibility for, and guilt over, it. DeGroot (2019, November 26) reminds us that he now draws portraits of celebrities, including Schaeffer's, which are offered for sale.
1. Different sources utilize various dates U2 was formed. What I quoted is the earliest. Hawksley (1998, p. 326) uses 1977, as does Wilson (1996, p. 925) and Durchholz (1996, p. 703) employs 1978.
2. U2 started out under other monikers. For instance, Hawksley (1998, p. 326) avers that U2 began as a band called Feedback. Rees & Crampton (1991, p. 539) explain that they started out as Feedback, then changed their title to the The Hype, thereafter becoming known as U2. McGee (2008, p. 14) states that they became U2 in March of 1978.
3. "Bono Vox," shortened to "Bono," derived his soubriquet from a suggestion by musical comrade Gavin Friday. Bonovox, in Latin, means good voice, and Bono Vox was also the name of a store peddling hearing aids in his neighborhood (Radio X, 2020).
4. "The Edge" is a stage name for David Evans ("The Edge," n.d.).
5. Bipolar disorder would not be accurate as a diagnosis of Robert Bardo because he wasn't known to have mood swings and probably couldn't have excelled scholastically if he had such a disorder. Mayo Clinic (n.d.) asseverates that one would have to be: distractible, overly upbeat, very energetic or agitated, extremely confident and felicitous, loquacious, a risky decision maker, one who eschews sleep, and has thoughts that "race." Overall, that just wasn't Bardo's psychological profile. See note 6 for further clarification.
6. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, or DSM-5 (2013), by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), now defines the illness a schizophrenic suffers from under one rubric, minus subtypes (like paranoid), as a heterogeneous condition (unlike the DSM-III , earlier employed to diagnose Bardo), characterized by some of the new criteria. Please see: APA, Highlights of Changes from DSM-IV-TR to DSM-5 (2013, pp. 2-3).
7. Notwithstanding, J.D. Salinger was aghast at how his The Catcher in the Rye novel affected Mark Chapman, John Hinckley and Robert Bardo. In fact, "Salinger...a pacifist...disliked violence and controversy. He didn't want...celebrity...." Nashe (n.d.). The book's main character, Holden Caulfield, was Salinger's alter ego which he created while fighting internal strifes and the enemy in World War II. His book was "...a catharsis...confession, purging, prayer, and enlightenment, in a voice so distinct that it would alter American culture" (Slawenski, 2011).
8. Two of eight stages of epigenetic development adumbrated by Erik Erikson (1977) apply to Robert Bardo (Stages Five and Six), and one to Holden Caulfield (Stage Five).
Five. - Puberty and Adolescence (12-18 years) - Identity versus Role Diffusion, and peer relations, to eschew conflict, brings fidelity; and Six. - Young Adulthood (18-40 years) - Intimacy versus Isolation, and Love Relations, avoiding conflict, brings love.
9. Eugen Bleuler, according to psychologist Gary R. VandenBos (2015), was the one who first provided a psychological definition for the term "ambivalence" (p. 44), originally terming it "affective ambivalence." VandenBos explains that Bleuler also coined the term "schizophrenia" (p. 938).
10. Psychologist Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. (1989), states that psychiatrist Park Dietz examined 5,000 letters by delusional people, noticing that 800 of those individuals who wrote them endeavored to personally approach the celebrity. The average is around one in eight who write letters make such an approach. A quarter of those stalking one public entity pursue another person in the public eye.
11. Prosecutor Marcia Clark may have harbored tendentiousness toward psychiatrist Park Dietz when she cross examined him. After all, Clark has no qualms about speaking of her 1980 involvement with The Church of Scientology (Galloway, 2016), known to be antagonistic toward psychiatrists.
12. A reaction formation, according to psychiatrists and psychoanalysts Elizabeth L. Auchincloss and Eslee Samberg (2012), is a psychological defense mechanism, where "...content is turned into its opposite so as to transform intolerable thoughts, feelings, or impulses into more acceptable or desirable ones...." (p. 217). They add that it can obscure aggression and develop one's conscience. This was prevalent in the personality of Bono.
13. Norman Mailer declared that the reason he cultivated such a fascination for Gary Gilmore was "...because he embodied...themes I've been living with...." (Merrill, 1992, p. 141).
14. Lyrics to "Exit" from Kokkoris (2017) were expurgated, therefore I employed those listed from Genius (2019) and Song Meanings (2002), deciding, via personal listening, who had the most accurate reading of any line. Commentary from Kokkoris, in my words, is included under each stanza, but I analyzed the last four stanzas and the lines "At the howling wind" (X 2), which she didn't list, and therefore didn't comment on.
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The Executioner's Song. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Executioner's_Song
The Joshua Tree. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Joshua_Tree
TheLipTV. (2013, March 27). Pornography, Insanity and Violence with Criminologust Park Dietz. Crime Time [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VDLrlihjlc
The Mojo on The Mojave (Blog). (2014, July 7). I Love the U2 Album 'The Joshua Tree', Do U2? https://www.desertusa.com/dusablog/love-u2-album-joshua-tree-u2-lets-krek-accross-mojave.html
The Moody Blues. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moody_Blues
Timeline - World History Documentaries. (2018, February 6). The Man Who Shot John Lennon (The Documentary)|Timeline [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkmaGvdJIZU
U2. (1987). "Exit" [Song]. On The Joshua Tree. Island Records.
VandenBos, Gary R. (EIC). (2015). APA Dictionary of Psychology Second Edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Waters, Robert A. (2010, April 7). Stalkers. Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem. Blog. https://kidnappingmurderandmayhem.blogspot.com/2010/04/stalkers.html
West, Louis Jolyon. (July, 1990). Psychiatry and Scientology (pp. 13, 15-16) from Southern California Psychiatrist. Los Angeles: Southern California Psychiatric Society. http://www.xenu- directory.net/news/images/thecompiler-1990-22.pdf
Wilson, Hugh, (1996). U2 in Rock the Rough Guide. Jonathan Buckley, & Mark Ellingham. (Eds.). London, UK: Rough Guides Ltd.
See David Chirko's website
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