On 20 December 2011, Adam Lanza called in to a talk radio program, AnarchyRadio, broadcasted on KWVA 88.1 FM out of the University of Oregon. The show is hosted by John Zerzan, a writer described by The Atlantic as “an intellectual leader of the anarcho-primitivist movement, an ideology that regards technology as a destroyer of human communities.” The reason for Lanza’s interest in Zerzan’s writings is plainly evident in the call itself; Lanza calls to share a story about “Travis the Chimp,” a domesticated chimpanzee that in 2009 “snapped,” and viciously attacked 55-year-old Charla Nash, a friend of the chimp’s owner. The attack was seemingly random, nearly cost the victim her life, and ended when the chimp was shot by police. Lanza outlines how the chimp’s violent episode can be explained by his upbringing “as if he were a [human] child,” and argues that Travis’s “civilized” upbringing was what led to his attack.
LANZA: Because, uh, he brings up questions about this whole process of child-raising.
LANZA: Civilization isn’t something which just happens to gently exist without us having to do anything, because every newborn child — human child — is born in a chimp-like state, and civilization is only sustained by conditioning them for years on end, so that they’ll accept it for what it is, and since we’ve gone through this conditioning, we can observe a human family raising a human child –and I’m sure that even you have trouble intuitively seeing it as something unnatural– but when we see a chimp in that position, we immediately know that there’s something profoundly wrong with the situation. And it’s easy to say there’s something wrong with it simply because it’s a chimp, but what’s the real difference between us and our closest relatives?
Travis wasn’t an untamed monster at all. Um, he wasn’t just feigning domestication, he was civilized. Um, he was able to integrate into society, he was a chimp actor when he was younger, and his owner drove him around the city frequently in association with her towing business, where he met many different people, and got along with everyone. If Travis had been some nasty monster all his life, it would have been widely reported. But, to the contrary, it seems like everyone who knew him said how shocked they were that Travis had been so savage, because they knew him as a sweet child, and… there were two isolated incidents early in his life where he acted aggressively, but… summarizing them would take too long, so basically I’ll just say that he didn’t really any differently than a human child would, and the people who would use that as an indictment against having chimps live as humans do wouldn’t apply the same thing to humans, so it’s just kind of irrelevant.
LANZA: But anyway, look what civilization did to him: it had the same exact effect on him as it has on humans. He was profoundly sick, in every sense of the term, and he had to resort to these surrogate activities like watching baseball, and looking at pictures on a computer screen, and taking Xanax. He was a complete mess.
LANZA: And his attack wasn’t simply because he was a senselessly violent, impulsive chimp. Uhm, which was how his behavior was universally portrayed. Um, immediately before the attack, he had desperately been wanting his owner to drive him somewhere, and the best reason I can think of for why he would want that, looking at his entire life, would be that… some little thing he experienced was the last straw, and he was overwhelmed at the life that he had, and he wanted to get out of it by changing his environment, and the best way that he knew how to deal with that was getting his owner to drive him somewhere else.
LANZA: And when his owner’s… owner’s friend, arrived, he knew that she was trying to coax him back into his place of domestication, and he couldn’t handle that, so he attacked her, and anyone else who approached them. And dismissing his attack as simply being the senseless violence and impulsiveness of a chimp, instead of a human, is wishful thinking at best.
LANZA: His attack can be seen entirely parallel to the attacks and random acts of violence that you bring up on your show every week, committed by humans, which the mainstream also has no explanation for-and-
LANZA: –and, actual humans… I just- just don’t think it would be such a stretch to say that he very well could have been a teenage mall shooter or something like that.
HOST: Yeah. Yeah.
HOST: Wow. Thank you, Greg.
HOST: That’s quite a story. That’s, uh, really apropos, isn’t it? Travis the chimp.
LANZA: It’s just that I’m a little surprised that I haven’t heard you bring it up all because… (laughs) maybe I’m just seeing connections where there aren’t any, but—
HOST: Not at, I uh, think not. No, I just… I didn’t catch that one. I didn’t uh… maybe I was out of the country or something, I don’t know, but I missed that it. Thanks very much, man.
LANZA: Thank you. Bye.
HOST: Take care.
(Lanza hangs up)