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Why young men become shooters Alienated outcasts face a deadly status game

Guns for show. At the NRA conference. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty

Guns for show. At the NRA conference. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty


May 30, 2022   6 mins

Rampage shooters tend to be losers. The archetype of the modern school shooter, Eric Harris, frequently wrote in his diary about his feelings of alienation and resentment over his lack of social success. “I just want to be surrounded by the flesh of a woman,” begins an entry dated five months before the Columbine shooting, which later devolved into psychopathic fantasies of torture and mutilation. But in an entry from five days later, written after purchasing his first guns, Harris is exuberant. “I am fucking armed. I feel more confident, stronger, more God-like.”

Elliot Rodger, the 2014 Isla Vista shooter whose “manifesto” was a laundry list of complaints about his loneliness and sexual rejection, felt particularly resentful toward his female classmates, whom he saw as “mean, cruel, and heartless creatures that took pleasure from my suffering”. Unable to attract a girlfriend, he settled on revenge. “If I cannot rise above them,” he wrote, “I will destroy them.” When Rodger finally buys a handgun, he is happy for the first time since childhood. “I brought it back to my room and felt a new sense of power. I was now armed. Who’s the alpha male now, bitches?”

We don’t know yet what motivated Salvador Ramos, the teenage gunman who killed 21 people in Uvalde, Texas, last week, but we do know that like most shooters, he was a misfit and social outcast. Early reporting suggests that he spent recent months harassing teen girls on social media, “repeating girls’ names until they paid attention to him”, and expressing to them his desire to get his “name out there” like the Canadian murderer Luka Rocco Magnotta. The Buffalo shooter, Payton Gendron, was also an oddball with a history of making threats, although his immediate motives seem to have been more ideological than social or sexual. Even so, in the course of his white supremacist diatribe, he blamed “weak” “European men” for the degeneracy of the West and concluded that “strong men are needed to fix it”.

Whatever the nominal motivations behind them, rampage shootings are nearly always a product of wounded masculinity. “They are the most masculine of crimes,” says Ralph Larkin, a criminologist at John Jay College who has studied mass shootings for decades. “Can you think of more than four or five female mass shooters? There aren’t any.” Shooters, Larkin says, are “marginal males who feel they have been wronged by society, and so they pick up a gun. There is always a sense of violated entitlement, and I don’t care whether it’s school shootings or racist shootings.”

Modern mass shootings, according to Larkin, began in 1966, when Charles Whitman, a former Marine with an undiagnosed brain tumour, murdered his wife and mother before climbing to the top of a tower in downtown Austin, Texas, and shooting 14 people to death. Larkin speculates that the sudden rise in these shootings was a reaction to the sexual liberation of the Sixties and the corresponding rise in the status of women — a point on which some of the more historically minded murderers would no doubt agree. “We’re talking about toxic masculinity here.”

Toxic masculinity, of course, is a somewhat slippery concept. Colloquially, it refers to the elements of traditional masculinity — competition, stoicism, aggressiveness, physical strength, a willingness to resort to violence — that fit awkwardly or not at all into modern liberal culture. A 2019 explainer in the New York Times defined it as “a set of behaviours and beliefs” that men are socialised into from a young age, including “suppressing emotions or masking distress”, “maintaining an appearance of hardness”, and “violence as an indicator of power”. More than a few articles have flagged toxic masculinity, combined with Americans’ easy access to guns, as one of the causes of mass shootings.

These elements of masculinity can no doubt be “toxic” in the wrong circumstances — the problem is with the assumption that they are purely a product of cultural scripts, rather than reflections of something inherent in men. Francis McAndrew, a psychologist who has studied mass shootings, told me that while socialisation plays a role in encouraging some forms of male violence, it does not create it out of thin air. This is particularly true for young men, who are ultra-sensitive to status competition, which historically would have determined their ability to attract women and form alliances with other men. Young men, McAndrew says, have been selected to regard adolescent social hierarchies as a matter of life and death.

“Today, you can go to college or move to a new city,” McAndrew says. “But when we were evolving, whatever happened during adolescence was a life sentence. And if you established yourself as a bad dude that nobody messed with, that could work to your advantage. Our minds are still stuck in that past of needing to be paid attention to. And the guys who don’t get that experience all kinds of dark emotions. They feel left out, they feel like losers, they feel desperate, and they need to make a statement.”

For these alienated young men, guns and violence can be intoxicating. According to the “challenge hypothesis”, male testosterone and aggressive behaviour surge in response to “situational cues that represent either a threat to a male’s status or a signal that competition with other males is imminent”. Handling a gun acts as one such cue, especially for men who are not used to them. “If you pick a powerful weapon and you perceive that combat is imminent, you get a spike in your testosterone levels,” McAndrew says. Given that marginal males tend to have low testosterone, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, this spike can be euphoric, as shooters like Harris and Rodger attest. “The solution,” McAndrew says, half-joking, “is that everyone should be allowed to own high-powered weapons except for men under the age of 40.”

Mass killings are also, themselves, a way to achieve status and notoriety. McAndrew notes that for ideological spree killings, like the Buffalo shooting or jihadist attacks, the ideology “organises and channels” the killers’ rage, providing them with a community, an audience, and a sense that they are contributing to some important cause — in other words, status and a measure of celebrity for people who feel they are invisible. And status and celebrity, even of the worst kind, have their benefits. According to a 2018 story from the Florida Sun-Sentinel, Nikolas Cruz, the far-Right loner who murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was inundated with fan mail from female admirers after being arrested for his killing spree.

This should not come as too great of a shock. According to the sociologist Nathalie Paton, rampage shootings represent a perverse expression of some of our culture’s dominant values, including self-expression, autonomy, and authenticity. “Nowadays the social norm is to ask each and every person to pursue individuation, to become autonomous,” she says. “But it’s a paradox — when you ask everyone to be original not everyone can be, so they have to go to extremes like violence. It becomes a form of empowerment, a way to pull away from social norms that are imposed.” As she wrote in an article from 2017: “The very project of a mass shooting not only allows the reversal of social roles, but ultimately it becomes the guarantee of subjective liberation.”

The shooters, Paton argues, highlight another contradiction in the dominant ideology. Everyone is supposed to be an individual, and all individuals are respected equally. Yet beneath this injunction and guarantee are all the typical modes of conformity and hierarchy we would expect of a human society. The beautiful, the talented, the athletic, the funny, and the interesting rise above the ugly, the clumsy, the anxious, the introverted, the boring, and the resentful.

These relative statuses, for the losers, are all the more painful for being nothing other than a reflection of who and what they actually are. “Individuality” is wonderful when your true self is a tall and handsome swimmer with an unexpected love of classical cello, or a beautiful girl who likes to go backpacking with her friends. But who, really, is someone like Salvador Ramos, an odd-looking boy who disturbs nearly everyone he talks to, whose hobbies include shooting people with BB guns and throwing dead cats at strangers’ houses? Does anyone, really, want someone like that to be himself? I doubt it.

In his novel Whatever, in which he first advances his idea that sexual liberalism is a system of social hierarchy no less cruel than economic liberalism — now a cornerstone of “incel” ideology — Michel Houellebecq introduces us to the character of Raphael Tisserand, a man so stupendously ugly that despite his good salary and desperate efforts, he is still a virgin at 28. One evening, after Tisserand has spent hours at a club trying to charm a young women only to see her depart with a handsome black man, Houellebecq’s narrator offers Tisserand a knife and urges him to use it on the couple. “When you feel these women trembling at the end of your knife, and begging for their young lives, then you will truly be the master,” he says. But, after following the pair to the beach, Tisserand is unable to follow through on the murder and decides to drive back to Paris. He dies in a car crash that night.

Our society seems to have its own generation of Tisserands. The problem, in America, is that ours have guns.


Park MacDougald is Deputy Literary Editor for Tablet

hpmacd

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Tom Lewis
TL
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

“Toxic masculinity”. I wonder if, maybe, social commentators have picked up the wrong end of the stick and are possibly, inadvertently, making the situation worse ? Maybe, maleness is ‘tribal’ and it needs to have ‘some’ identity’ that, in this day and age, is being taken away, possibly in a mistaken effort to reduce, or indeed eliminate ‘toxic masculinity’. It seems to me, that ‘males’ have increasingly ‘limited’ channels, to be ‘males’. Whether it is single sex schools, the Scouts, work, the military, or even male voice choirs, being able to express and ‘bond’ with other males has been slowly chipped away at, leaving ‘some’ individuals ‘exposed’, with no support, or identity on which to fall back. Maybe even the identity ‘America’ plays a part. Their is a strong, powerful, urge, particularly in males, or male led societies, to not let the ‘side’ down, stiff upper lip, and all that, but if you feel that that ‘group’ identity is not worth being ‘stiff upper lipped’ about then betraying that group is less problematic, indeed, maybe even desirable. Maybe it is no coincidence, that mass shootings, especially nonsensical mass shootings, are becoming more common (?) in a country that seems to be at an identity and values crossroads/intersection ?
Males, I think, need to be part of a group, a group, whether it is as part of a football team/club , a male voice choir, the Scouts, the military, a group that doesn’t put all the onus on individual success, then even failure can be borne with greater stoicism, because it wasn’t an individual failure.
I’m not suggesting men and women should be locked away from each other, just that ‘maybe’ males also need a space to be ‘males’, away from the sexual politics and dynamics of mixed society.
My time in the army, as short a period as it was in my life, and certainly not brave or heroic, or even mildly challenging is, oddly for me, nearly thirty years later, a significant part of my self identity and self worth, and I’m constantly intrigued by the grip it has on the identity of others, who served at around the same time, if FB groups are anything to go by. It is, by no means, my only identity, but it has a ‘strange’ hold, even after all this time. Even my present job, furniture restorer, ‘seems’ to convey a certain dignity and sense of maleness (don’t puncture my bubble), even if I work alone in my own workshop, that notion that it is ‘predominantly’ a ‘respectable’ male occupation plays into my sense of self worth.

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom Lewis
Adam Bartlett
AB
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Good comment. Mathew B Crawford, who often writes for unherd, has written an excellent book on the dignity of work “Shop class as soul craft”. But for how to rearrange society so that work gives more meaning & dignity to the many, it’s hard to beat my Mistress Simone Weil in “The need for roots”.

Richard Parker
RP
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

I think you’re onto something there. It’s certainly the case that men have been expected to lay aside the identities they’ve been brought up with, whilst not being offered any real scope to find replacement(s) for those identities with which they are, themselves, prepared to live.

Risk is outlawed or simply removed, stoicism, male assertiveness and the like are pathologised and so we find ourselves inhabiting a world increasingly unaccepting of us as we are. That strains of stoicism, assertiveness, etc., often seem to get boosted with a “you go girl!” when displayed by the other half of the population simply confuses us further.

Of course, if you raise such opinions – or indeed any opinions which don’t fit with the agenda of the social media jury du jour, you get called names like “incel” (which admittedly just makes a happily coupled father of two like me smile sadly at the fatuity of it all), or “misogynist” (which makes me switch off, especially as it’s an accusation usually leveled by someone who’s been slagging off men wholesale for the preceding half hour).

Possibly worst of all, this emerging world is so colourless, insipid and, well, so very boring. No wonder teens are bummed out: I would be, too.

Seraphina Emerson
SE
Seraphina Emerson
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

Richard Parker, I wouldn’t say that teens are bummed out. Perhaps this generation of what you might call bummed out males is an awkward transition from generations of men previously learning to be assertive, strong and slightly dominating, to men of the future who will not have been brought up this way but in a light that doesn’t expect of them to have what we now perceive as masculine traits. Perhaps this masculinity is human nature but that is not to say that we can’t overcome this on a larger scale. Things like racism are born of human nature as we are naturally tribal animals but it is widely agreed that racism is simply unacceptable in our modern society. As for the bummed out teens , I’m sure the whole female half of that generalisation are thoroughly enjoying their modern freedom and ability to express themselves in a harmless manner.

0 0
0
0 0
1 year ago

People are intrinsically tribal and xenophobic. We trust people we are close to and distrust people we aren’t close to. That hasn’t gone anywhere and isn’t going to change. But people are not intrinsically racist. Racist is the formal ideological justification of prejudice on the basis that biological inferiority inheres in certain types of people. That is entirely historical.

It is the same way with masculinity. Some social conventions, that men should be the dominant providers of the domestic single-income household, are obviously more contingent. But some more basic characteristics, the tendency to work better with objects, the imperative for men to prove themselves to women, the need of men come to some kind of constructive terms with their comparative physical strength and aggression, are probably not so contingent.

Last edited 1 year ago by 0 0
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

You should be thankful that your progenitors were toxically male. Otherwise you would not be alive today to make that comment.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

You might be on to something. I left academia because I felt it was becoming womanly. There was an ever-increasing burden to ‘care’ about my students rather than just teach them.

Michael Jankanish
MJ
Michael Jankanish
1 year ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

In the 50s and early 60s when I was in k-12 from 4th grade on the vast majority of my teachers were men. When I started teaching high school in 1973 the split was 55%-45% men. Now, at all levels 75% of the teaching force are women. I have just now retired and over the last few years I noticed a huge difference in enabling decision making; falling discipline. Consider: Not stated in the current analysis of school shootings is the huge increase in the divorce rate. Increasingly young men are being raised by women in dysfunctional homes. Boys without healthy male role models get their anger enabled in schools full of “nurturing” women who simply are contributing to their disfunction. Your point about our colleges and universities is equally valid. I blame men for this as well. More and more are just walking away from their families, not being responsible adults regarding their children. Control guns all you want, but we will not turn things around until we begin to restore the importance of the two parent family in our society.

Michael Askew
MA
Michael Askew
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Dr Samuel Johnson said “Every man thinks less of himself for not having been a soldier.”

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

“or having served at sea”.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Thanks for this very interesting comment. The social change that we have all been going through has certainly led to a real hostility toward, and a diminishment of the sense of the value of masculinity.
Feminism is a wonderful thing. Many of us are glad to see the women in our lives (family, friends, lovers, mates) put an end to that shrinking lack of self-assertion, that made life so un-necessarily difficult for all of us. And so many of our social interactions, at work and school etc, are just more interesting with the inclusion of more women.
BUT too much of the rhetoric has involved a real hostility toward masculine behaviours and attitudes. Women, it turns out, don’t understand men any better than men do women.
Most of us, especially those with a few extra years, can find a way to deal with this (for me it was carpentry, pitching, big muddy dogs…) I’m just glad that I’m not growing up in 2022.

William Simonds
William Simonds
1 year ago

“Women, it turns out, don’t understand men any better than men do women.” Wonderful observation!
Ah, but here’s the rub: They think they do. Men know and most readily admit they do not understand women. Women, however, are convinced that they have insight into what makes a man a man…and thinking that is the real danger.

sarah parker
SP
sarah parker
1 year ago

A data fed male killing 19 9 year olds has NOTHING to do with women.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

We’ll stated.
I also wonder if modern feminism would think of the masculinity of big horned sheep and elk as being toxic, when they duel to the death, in some cases, for the privilege to mate. For all the rants about humans just being another animal on the planet, they sure do have conflicting expectations for men. Therefore, the confusion.

sarah parker
SP
sarah parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Rubbish

Forrest Lindsey
FL
Forrest Lindsey
1 year ago

This article gets close to the heart of the problem of young males going on murder sprees but daintily avoids some major factors:

  • The effects of missing/deserting parents during part of their lives when they were needed most during their formation. This is a horrific effect of the destruction of stable families.
  • The erasure of religion with its stability for developing discipline and moral structure in young people’s lives – and its built in socialization component.
  • The huge upsurge and ease of availability of pornography with its false message of easy sex and indifference to the actual identity and personalities of women.
  • The effects of the fake world of violent video games where “killing” is the whole point of winning and young weak men become submerged in them.
  • Even military service which used to be a vehicle for young men to “prove themselves” (validate their manhood) – an essential step to most males – has been changed to include young women. This change has not only demonstrated that “anyone can” succeed in combat and placed young men in competition for the attention of the females, erasing the bonds that used to exist with their fellow servicemen and further isolating marginal males.
  • There is no discussion at all of the carnage among young black males – as always – and the forces that form them to turn to violence.

We need to discuss these issues too, if we’re to approach this topic with honesty.

Algo Rhythm
Algo Rhythm
1 year ago

Good point on the military. A woke military is a weak military

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Algo Rhythm

It’s barely a military at all.

Stephen Williams
SW
Stephen Williams
1 year ago

I agree with all of these points, except the one about the availability of pornography, which needs to be much more nuanced, because, as the founder of the UK Samaritans, Chad Varah, discovered, some availability can be very helpful.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Nail on the head there.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

The study of the perpetrators of ‘mass shootings’ – the shooting or killing, definitions vary, of 4 or more people at about the same time – is an important area for study. But it’s also a deflection from the much bigger problem. There were 702 people killed in mass shootings in the US in 2021; there were 800 killed in Chicago alone over the same period. The young men involved in the vast majority of these, as in Philadelphia, Baltimore, LA, NYC, and many more, come from the same groups and the same cultures. But studying ‘mass’ shootings is ‘safe’; you can ascribe them to ‘white supremacy’, ‘toxic masculinity’, to the individuals and their cultures and affiliations. You have to ascribe the others to vague notions of ‘poverty’, ‘disadvantage’, and of course ‘racism’, anything but the real causes. The almost 19,000 other murder victims in the US don’t make the headlines, or merit the analysis.

R K
R K
1 year ago

“We’re talking about toxic masculinity here.”

The minute this tired old pony is trotted out by supposedly intelligent people, the collective eye-roll of a nation realigns the magnetic pole by several degrees.

To quote the prophet Joseph, “C’mon, Man!”

Masculinity is only a societal problem to the degree that man-haters (of either gender) try to feminize everything.

Warren Trees
WT
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  R K

Maybe we need to teach all unattractive boys to play the guitar, bass or drums. That seemed to have worked for thousands of rockers over the years to find women.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

I’ve made the following points over and over again and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. In this case, the trigger words were (among others) “violated entitlement.” Michael Kimmel earned his fame (or infamy) as a sociologist for his theory that many young men are motivated to behave brutally (or condone others for behaving that way) by a sense of “aggrieved entitlement.”
I agree that young men–and they are no different from all other people in this respect–have a sense of entitlement. But entitlement to what? According to Kimmel, they feel entitled to something unearned and therefore illegitimate or even sinister (what the wokers like to call “privilege.”) That’s where I disagree with Kimmel and many others who, either explicitly or implicitly, make the same argument. I think that all people really are entitled to a healthy identity, both personal and collective. For young men, that includes a healthy collective identity specifically as men. It’s human nature, not “privilege.” And resenting its absence is natural, not tantamount to either insanity or misogyny. If it leads to violence, of course, then something really is terribly wrong.
What to do about this problem is of great importance, not only for young men but also for society as a whole. I suggest that our society prevents young men from forming a healthy personal and collective identity (to which the most unstable among them react violently). To have a healthy collective identity means being able to make at least one contribution to society that is (a) distinctive, (b) necessary and (c) publicly valued. In the past, men found that accessible in several ways, notably as “providers, protectors and progenitors.” Today, women can do two of those things (if not by themselves then with help from agencies of the state). Only the third remains but in a very tenuous state.
Many have come to believe that fathers and mothers are interchangeable and that single mothers are as likely to be effective as mothers and fathers. Others have come to believe that fatherhood amounts to assistant motherhood or walking wallets at best and to potential abusers and molesters at worst–which makes fathers luxuries at best and liabilities at worst. Family courts routinely grant mothers sole custody of their children and assume that fathers will become “deadbeat dads.” Abortion is said to be a matter for only a woman “and her doctor.” Ridiculing fathers in popular culture is the counterpart of glorifying mothers.
But what if fathers and mothers have very different functions within the family? What if each has a particular message for children (and if one parent giving both leads to the confusion of double messages)? And what about the significant correlation between fatherless boys and young men who are at a far greater risk than others of every psychological and social pathology?
Too many of them end up by abandoning a society that has no room for them, let alone respect for them. Some drop out of school and turn to drugs or criminal gangs. Others turn to suicide. A few turn to mass murder.
I live in Canada, where gun control is not a political fault line, so I won’t advise Americans on that problem. But the problem of how to integrate men into society knows no border. It’s an ancient problem and remains a universal one. And if earlier solutions are no longer accessible or tolerable, then we need new ones. The process used to involve extensive training, which culminated in initiation rites. But that was before “coming of age” came to mean nothing more than a first sexual encounter.
My point here is what many other mentioned in their comments. We need to stop thinking that only girls and women are worth taking seriously. Boys and men, too, need help.

David B
David B
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Excellent points, well made. Thanks.

Narcissa Smith-Harris
Narcissa Smith-Harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

See here you just perpetuate entitlement because you confuse “having a healthy identity” with specific roles. If it was about the loss of those roles then all young men would turn to violence (and they don’t). If it is about general identity then young women who have been alienated, bullied etc. would turn to violence (and they don’t).
This idea that men and boys need help too is such a tired screed. Nobody doubts it. When there are not enough girls in science people find excuses for it from choice to oh it isn’t in our genes. When boys fall behind in school nobody suggests boys are just less intelligent, or making choices that do this. Nope school MUST be against them. Even though the school system was devised when only boys went.
Indeed, when help is offered people like you say it isn’t respecting their manliness because too you a man can only have one need–to be a man in a stereotypical sense. To be father can only be to be a provider not to be a parent with all the responsibilities ALL parents have. Nope that makes him a woman which makes him nothing. How can I be a real father if I have to change the kids diaper and drive him to soccer practice. C’mon dude.
And that is the entitlement these men have. The sense they are owed a status position over women– and owed women–as if we are a public utility. (A view advanced in how you see how right’s should go down in abortion)
These young men don’t think they have to earn female approval (a law of nature generally). They don’t have to take their chances in the dating world(as women know in the reverse) or learn change themselves one iota (as girls and women do all the time). Nope. It should be handed to them because they are male. And if not, well, of course they’ll make the peons suffer. They deserve to do that.
So men like you talking about masculinity in this way as if men are a special, and elevated class of people who don’t have to feel, do, be part of the community (or as one commentator professor said care about his students) as what others do, are exactly part of the problem. You are the problem in fact.

sarah parker
SP
sarah parker
1 year ago

AMEN!

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

It’s probably too late by now (4 October 2022) for anyone to read what follows, but I’ll submit a response to your screed, Narcissa, for the sake of intellectual and moral integrity.
“People like you” say that offering boys and men help “isn’t respecting their manliness … in some stereotypical sense.” How can you possibly know what “people like me” would say, unless you’re relying on a stereotype of your own? I’m gay, Narcissa, and have learned a lot about masculine stereotypes by not conforming to them and paying the price in hostility from both sexes.
Putting that aside, though, I’m definitely not among those who think that “provider” or “protector” are the only sources of masculine identity. Being a father is another matter, because fatherhood and motherhood are not the same thing. And the difference has nothing to do with household chores, playtime or money. Scoff if you like, but all children need mothers who give them unconditional love (I’ll always love you, no matter what you say or do) and fathers who give them earned love (I’ll respect you if you learn to behave honorably and effectively). Maybe mothers and fathers could exchange those contributions, it’s true, but it would take a major cultural effort to modify biological givens.
By the way, many people (including you despite your caveat) do indeed deny, directly or indirectly, that boys and men need help. And many people (including you despite your caveat) do indeed say, directly or indirectly, that boys are less intelligent than girls because schools were “devised when only boys went.”
To conclude, my point was not hard to miss, but you succeeded in missing it nonetheless. I neither said nor implied anything about privilege, entitlement, status, gender or any other political distinction. On the contrary, I commented on a universal human need. Everyone needs to be needed.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul Nathanson
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

As I have commented before, most of the shootings seem to done by troubled young men under 25 – in other words before impulse control and some maturity has bedded in. Permitting such men to have lethal weapons and access to ammunition seems unwise even if the US wants to continue their 2nd Amendment rights.
The other modern trend is the high value placed on fame. The young want to be famous – it matters not for what. Killing a large number provides easy and instant fame. They don’t care if that fame is notoriety. It is still fame.
The names of the shooters appear in the papers and on TV. The author comments on the Soviet policy of not giving publicity to mass murderers as it might damage the Soviet image. Might such shootings not also be reduced by insisting on public anonymity for the shooter just as we give anonymity to certain criminals for their protection should the US not insist on anonymity for shooters for the protection of the public. If your name were to be expunged from the record there would be much less incentive to make your mark by shooting.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Europeans should think twice about commenting on our 2nd amendment, given the history of brutal dictatorships that have flourished on your continent by banning gun ownership, and being responsible for a lot more mass killings than a few teens over here.

sarah parker
sarah parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes. Exactly this.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Yet the US is not the only society with troubled youths (within a culture of individuality if that is a factor), who have access to guns.
I do think the US should try to tighten up their access to guns, but they cannot dispense with them. Besides the second amendment, there are too many of them already in circulation and for sure criminals and determined people always find access to guns, leaving others defenceless. I would certainly not give mine up.
Maybe it is the constant march towards the woke left, away from traditional values and yes, towards ‘self actualisation’ that has become so extreme that one can pick a different gender off the shelf every day?
Toxic capitalism and materialism? Beware socialism and the control of the press. As an extreme example I remember the Soviet Union who simply shut down any notion of a violent serial killer (no serial killers in communist society) and allowed him to continue murdering countless unsuspecting people. Citizen X.
Social media has also surely got a substantial part to play in many respects, but again that is not unique to the US.
So what combination is causing this and what is the solution, because removing guns is not the answer.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Yup, plenty of other ways for the dangerous loner to kill without guns. E.g. bombing or truck rampages. The solution has to be a return to social inclusion right down the status hierarchy.

sarah parker
SP
sarah parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

But building a bomb and carrying out a plan takes much more effort and planning than just walking into a store and buying and assault rifle don’t you think? This most recent POS who killed all those kids did it on impulse. He crashed his car and then shot 2 people outside the post office, before going after the 9 year old kids in the school. This was clearly an impulsive act by some looser that would not have happened if he didn’t have access to an AR15.

Billy Bob
BB
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Americas gun problems long predate all the trans, social media and culture war nonsense so I’m not sure how much they are connected

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I don’t have all the answers, but I was responding to the points brought up in the article. Bottom line is stopping selling guns in the US won’t stop people getting guns… (in South Africa you can buy one down at the taxi rank). Besides I’m more curious about what people in the US have to say about what is driving this and what the solution could be.

David B
DB
David B
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

But they don’t predate the 1960s when many dramatic and ultimately deleterious social changes occurred. @Forrest Lindsay has it about right, and all his bullet points began around that time.

Indeed, the article itself marks the outset as in 1960s Texas.

Last edited 1 year ago by David B
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
1 year ago

To add to your points I would add medication
Americans are phenomenally medicated compared to Europeans. I have lived/worked with Americans over many years* and it never ceases to amaze me how the average American has a plethora of tablets on hand to deal with a range of afflictions both physical and (more importantly) phycological.
I’m not talking a paracetamol here or some hayfever pills there – I mean behaviour-altering prescription (and over the counter) drugs that are not that common here.
(* I have by and large really liked the vast majority of Americans I have worked with, for what it’s worth. So they’re doing something right)

Last edited 1 year ago by A Spetzari
Lesley van Reenen
LV
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Yes, over-medicated and a tendency not to eat well.

Lana Hunneyball
Lana Hunneyball
1 year ago

Yes to what you said, but why do people always seem to think that having better gun control equals getting rid of them? It’s really not hard to make some laws that say, sure you can have a gun, but let’s not make it so easy to walk into a shop and buy one, no questions asked, just because you’re having a bad day. For God’s sake, that is just as pathological as the one who does the shooting, if you ask me, because it’s saying, you know what, we can make laws to fix this, but we really just don’t care.

kontrary1
kontrary1
1 year ago

Making it harder to buy guns isn’t going to really fix anything. Australia had a big program to reduce gun availability – mass killers just switched to arson. Or you just get more Oklahoma City bombers like Timothy McVeigh.

Narcissa Smith-Harris
Narcissa Smith-Harris
1 year ago
Reply to  kontrary1

That’s actually not true. The arsonists in Australia. And certain fertilizers are regulated.

Algo Rhythm
AR
Algo Rhythm
1 year ago

All of us are reflecting on the tragedy of school shootings of late. Without doing a deep dive into intellectual word salads , to me it comes down to simple points. One of the major factors is that a percentage of these shooters had no Father in the home. And you are kidding yourself if you don’t think that matters. Also when you use the term “ Toxic Masculinity “ you automatically put half the population into a defensive posture. The traditional family is nearly extinct, and we are now seeing the results of that. We have had now a couple of Generations of men who grew up without a Father and also Fathers who grew up without a Father and have no idea what it means to be a Father. And the result is a kids who have never known stability. Just look at the shooting statistics in Chicago on any given weekend. Not to mention media, the entertainment industry and pop culture now make being a male automatically flawed. So in order to bring women up the social hierarchy men need to be ostracized and alienated. Than compound that with being a social outcasts playing video games where killing is the objective and roles of the traditional family all but confused, what do you expect ? Guns were around when I was a kid many years ago but we didn’t have this problem. We went to the baseball field duke it out and whoever was left standing won and that was the end of it. What changed between now and then ? Easy answer, when womens lib came into being that was the beginning of the damning of men and the beginning of the end of the stable family unit I dare say Gloria Steinem is a demon not a hero. Me than combine that with social media and violent video games as well as a lack of morality and you start churning out these killers . We not only have a gun problem we have a moral problems. Mass shooter’s are a symptom of our larger moral problem. And as God gets smaller in American life it is no coincidence that the problems are getting bigger

sarah parker
sarah parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Algo Rhythm

You are a pig. Get with the times. You can’t blame women on what this pathetic excuse for a human being did. And back in your day people did not have access to military grade assault weapons you dinosaur. A lot of talk about blaming absent fathers and Unengaged mothers? Let’s see how much parenting you can do when you are holding down 3 jobs. Men need to “man” up. Deadbeat Dads are not limited to poor people. There are plenty of rich white guy deadbeat Dads. Also women are more than capable of having kids without a man and that makes guys like you insecure and mad adding to this “toxic masculinity”

Ian Gribbin
IG
Ian Gribbin
1 year ago
Reply to  sarah parker

Stupid feminist misandry as ever. When women pay 50% of tax revenue and take out 50% of expenditures then you can make your grand conjectures.

Right now all men pay for all women: we pay 80% of tax and you take out 80%.

The fact you’re able to write on a technological device is all down to us.

The cultural feminization of the west is a disaster of epic proportions. We have elevated female characteristics- especially neuroticism, to the highest levels. Hysteria is now common place. Covid is the evidence.

Mynameis Luca
ML
Mynameis Luca
1 year ago

As soon as the author said Ramos was a white supremacist, I stopped reading. I knew it would not be a real article. Please don’t insult our intelligence with DNC-corporate media talking points.

brian wilson
brian wilson
1 year ago

The ultimate problem with any mass murderer is a lack of empathy for others according to Dr Robert Hare, author of the diagnostic checklist for criminal psychopathy. Where does a child learn empathy for others? Via modeling of empathy by loving caring parents. Fathers provide a model of strength and controlled aggression, channeled into appropriate activities, and contexts. They also model responsibility toward others, sacrificing self wants for the good of the family. Mothers counterbalance that with nurturing love, civility, social graces, and teach children patience, kindness and how to appropriately relate to others. Both contribute to a well adjusted child.

Studies have shown that fatherless homes produce children – especially boys – that are 279 times more likely to engage in violence, experiment with or deal in drugs, display bullying behavior, and lack of empathy toward others. Combine that with disinterested mothers and you have the groundwork for a young man incapable of relating to others in an acceptable manner, or extending empathy. They as Dr Hare points out, tend to see others as merely resources to get what they want or obstacles to that end that need to be removed. The key issue is the destruction of the nuclear family. Example:

Blacks represent just 13% of the population but 56% of murder victims, 86% st the hand of other blacks. They account for 60% of all violent crime arrests. Blacks have a 70% single parent birth rate, and 60% of those children grow up with no father in the home.

Ramos was no exception: Broken home, drug addict mother, raised by grandparents. Mental health issues, displayed animal abuse behaviors at a young age, socially awkward, a bully. Think there is a connection?

The million dollar question is: “Why are politicians laser focused on taking away out Constitution rights but won’t touch the single mother pandemic with a ten foot pole? Why do they NEVER address root causes and always go for the simple but ineffective bandaid?

Ian Gribbin
Ian Gribbin
1 year ago
Reply to  brian wilson

Misandry and feminism are your answers.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I don’t think the motivation for these killings is specific to a particular society or epoch, so as to be attributed to the “rise of individualism”. The desire to be respected is a very strong human need – no doubt arising from our origins as social primates – and a feeling that we do not have the respect that we deserve produces resentment (rassentiment as Nietzsche would have it). It is the same formula which leads young men into jihadism.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

True – but what maybe is specific to our contemporary society is the lack of inclusion & compensatory cultural tendencies for the “losers” at the bottom of the status hierarcy. In older times Virginity was considered by many a holy state. Many of the last could expect to eventually be the first (Matt 19:30). Everyone had their place in the ‘great chain of being’ and could feel included in grand narratives.

Back in the 80s & 90s I remember social gatherings often being highly mixed on the status dimension. And the social super stars would often reach out the shy to make them feel included & wanted. Something like that used to happen even on early internet in web 1.0 forums. But not now with social media, and real life social gatherings seem much more of a type, where the social superstars typically just socialise with each other.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

Yes, I agree: in my childhood, there was more of an effort made to draw in the socially reticent and try to find common ground. Bullying and pile-ons happened, but even when the group failed to assert common decency (though it usually did so), there was typically someone willing to play Sir Galahad and stick up for fair play. Your comment just helped crystallise that for me, for which I thank you: I’d had a vague sense of what you pointed out but couldn’t quite pin it down before.

I think that, as we have been tutored in being more “inclusive”, we’ve arguably become less so. It’s a common enough paradox I suppose, and has plenty of parallels. Common to all of them, of course, is the fetid reek of social engineering and the background snuffle of “orthodoxy sniffing” (with thanks to George Orwell).

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

Yes, I’ve often found that those who harp on about ‘inclusivity’ tend to be intolerant exclusionists.

Narcissa Smith-Harris
Narcissa Smith-Harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

Not my experience as a kid or a mother now. My kids tell me that a lot of the teen dramas of cliques are just irrelevant. A lot of the laughing at people seen on TV is just false. Nobody would care.

AC Harper
AH
AC Harper
1 year ago

I suspect that the ready availability of guns is a major part of the problem, but as the article suggests guns are not the initiating factor only an enabler.
Young men in particular are trying to make their way in the world, establishing their status and attracting mates. It’s a drive established by evolutionary processes. But modern society is presently caught up in ‘addressing the wrongs’ of the past. To a young man women being offered status jobs, minorities receiving a lot of equality attention, the reduction in manufacturing jobs, are all reducing the opportunities for young men to establish themselves.
Most young men manage to get over these perceived slights. But some ruminate on them, become obsessed about them, allow their feelings to turn toxic. How should we treat these feelings?
Perhaps a great deal of violent crime (mostly carried out by young men) arises from similar causes. But guns enable the extremes of reaction.

Linda Hutchinson
LH
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

So why kill children? Not exactly a way to status enhancement, and I can’t see a potential mate thinking “oh yes, a man who kills kids, just what I want to be the father of my children”. Whatever is going on it’s not that simple – extreme mental health problems and easy access to weapons of large destruction are most likely the problem.

AC Harper
AH
AC Harper
1 year ago

I don’t know the answer – but I wonder if it is not the children being killed (in the mind of the shooter) but the school. The school where others excelled and so demeaned the shooter.
Just as people ‘going Postal’ encapsulates extreme workplace rage and violence against the workplace.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

An astute point; you could well be right.

ben
BC
ben
1 year ago

Revenge against the innocent for having what they no longer have. Children are an unbearable reminder of a loss that can never in their minds be regained.

Lori Wagner
LW
Lori Wagner
1 year ago

Right, I think he was just completely deranged. Maybe some of the shooters are explained by the article but not the ones that kill children. They are just sick sadists. Things can’t always be explained.

Adam Bartlett
AB
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Excellent article. I’d reccomend the interested reader to google ‘Joker: A Review by John David Ebert’ for more on why the dangerous loner as become such a prominent type in our modern age.

Juffin Hully
JH
Juffin Hully
1 year ago

Great article, very relatable. The reference to “Whatever” is very well placed.
You talk about “toxic masculinity” in relation to the shooting, which is understandable, as the shooter was a man, and almost all shooters are. However, the current world order affects everyone. The promise is that as long as you are an “individuality” and “true to yourself” your “voice will be heard” and you will be “happy”. For the sizeable chunk of the population the promise is never fulfilled. And it’s not just men, I think the young girls with eating disorders caused by self-image issues aggravated by social media are the flip side of the same coin.

P Lamp
P Lamp
1 year ago

How much of the current epidemic is due to the mythologizing sprouting up around guns? For generations guns were seen as merely tools, useful but also recognized as a potential cause of harm. Now they are demonized, viewed as evil in and of themselves. This imbues them with an almost satanic power in the eyes of individuals who view themselves as outcasts, weak and impotent.
Perhaps the answer lies in an idea that seems contradictory- make guns feel more commonplace, remove their mystery. Introduce gun safety courses in high schools. Familiarize young people with common sense gun handling. And maybe identify those troubled youths with an unhealthy obsession with firearms, and get them the guidance they need. Might divert a few shooters from their downward spiral.

Cody Knotts
CK
Cody Knotts
1 year ago

Crime Classification Manual and Behavioral Studies Unit at FBI. Read John Douglas and Dr. Robert Resselers books. It’s not all this political bs. It’s severe emotional abuse during formative years. These men are sometimes like the Texas tower shooter successful with women. Why not learn about the subject not from pure academics be but the world’s best? The studies by FBI and University of Pennsylvania were conducted decades ago. Disappointed in the article as it’s not focused on the root and known causes but instead political bs.

Bendigo M
BC
Bendigo M
1 year ago

Thank you toBrian Wilson for reorienting commentary back to facts. Obviously if easy access to powerful weapons was the primary cause then everyone would be killing each other on a daily basis. The sweetest most well adjusted young person would suddenly feel on handling a gun an overpowering urge to murder. But they don’t. It’s damaged psyche plus gun plus access to victims = carnage. But dealing with the psychological cause is even harder than gun law reform in America (and that’s saying something!) because it means addressing the family and social dysfunction that undoubtedly is the cause of this cause. Love, acceptance and esteem comes from loving parents and involved adults. And yes good fathers are integral. I agree with previous commenters that there is a sense of lost entitlement at play – not some male or white thing but the expectation we all have that we should be loved, that we are worthy of love, and yet… didn’t get enough of it. School shooters have a lost innocence and they know it, so they take revenge on innocence – and that’s why they shoot kids not bankers. On the point of low social status, this is surely a factor, but kids avoid and exclude (not necessarily cruel in intent but cruel in effect) unloved kids. The high status kids are the well adjusted, and are winning a game they don’t even know they’re playing. Imagine a kid acutely aware of social status and you are imagining an outcast. The ultimate solution is prevention of psychological damage caused by love impoverishment, but that is hard to address especially short term so it’ll be a raft of measures including modest gun law reform and fortress style schools, if anything. Anyway that’s my two cents.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bendigo M
Narcissa Smith-Harris
NS
Narcissa Smith-Harris
1 year ago

I get frustrated when we import ideas in this case the phrase low-status male and high status, and import of the infamous Alpha and Beta males as if they are fixed categories or personalities. And then evolution is mentioned. Because in natural terms, this isn’t so. In nature being high status is a temporary position, and young males are NEVER high status. And contrary to what is asserted in this article they always have to move to find mates, nor is it a cinch. Whether it be Lions of Bower birds the state of being male is one of searching for mates and failing, and even if one has found them, then losing them to someone else.
In primates this is often true as well, though the (temporary) Alpha males are as likely to lose out to their fallen foes by stealth. In Bonobos it is different but then everything is.
In the human world, where society has not decided to parcel out women but actually permits them a choice, it is in fact much easier to find someone because what she finds attractive varies from individual to individual. If who you are isn’t appealing to one, well then it will be to another eventually. (Which doesn’t happen in the reverse. Men are much more limited in their preferences)
So I think the researchers need to give this a rethink. This is about the perception of how the world works not what is happening.

Saul D
SD
Saul D
1 year ago

Social media driven narcissism?

Sam McGowan
SM
Sam McGowan
1 year ago

Every time there’s a “mass shooting,” which isn’t that often, the pundits come out and settle on “toxic masculinity.” But writers such as this one leave out the most important factor – after Columbine, the FBI did a study and found that the single common denominator was that the shooters had been bullied (we called it “picked on”) throughout their childhood. In short, they may be losers but their fellow classmates made them that way. Children are depicted as innocents but they are actually quite cruel to each other, forming little cliques and calling those they don’t like names. It was true at Columbine, it was true at Sandy Hook, it was true at Parkland, it was true at Santa Fe and it’s true at Uvalde. By the way, Columbine was 23 years ago, Sandy Hook was almost ten years and Parkland and Santa Fe were four years ago. Another fact – the shooters at Columbine and Santa Fe used shotguns, not “assault” rifles. In short, while there are frequent shootings on campuses, and have been since the US was founded and before, mass school shootings are infrequent. The author mentioned Charles Whitman, who was married and was found to have a brain tumor, whose rampage was a half-century ago. There is one thing the author says that is very true – weapons, regardless of what kind, elicit a sense of power. Why? Because they are powerful. After all, gunpowder is considered to the most important invention in human history.

Narcissa Smith-Harris
Narcissa Smith-Harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam McGowan

Is it your contention that girls are not picked on? Because the were and are. And in addition to young men, middle aged men are the most common shooters in workplaces.

pola rosan
PR
pola rosan
1 year ago

Although interesting with good points including the importance of understanding what being male entails, male-ness is not toxic — whatever that means beyond current use to denigrate competition, etc.— even in the loner/loser and the shooters you describe are vastly different. The Buffalo shooter is clearly diagnosable with a psychotic disorder, the one with a brain tumor was deranged in all or part due to his brain tumor, and Ramos is obviously a psychopath (the cats give him away). Of course the underlying reasons for these problems include genetics, brain, and psychosocial elements.

Craig Swenson
CS
Craig Swenson
1 year ago

Guns don’t kill. People kill. NRA was founded in 1871 by Civil War Union retired officers to improve civilian markmanship. It made a difference in the following wars to have civilian hunters become soldiers where markmanship mattered. NRA was very active in gun safety and competitions in the 1960s to 1980s. Gun competitions were common as school events and rifles were mounted in pickup truck rear windows. WHAT IS DIFFERENT NOW is the disrespectful paparazzi media inflaming issues with false and/or bias information and violent realistic digital video games. These mediums get angry young people closer to reality and allow for them to take out their frustrations. Some take their frustrations out in physical action, unfortunately. Many of these kids are getting lost and the resources for help are too strained to catch every case. Broken families have always caused problems. Nullification of church lessons and counseling has acerbated the problem also. There needs to be varied release avenues for pent-up energy in young men. That is actually one reason that organized sports competitive games and programs were developed when the 2nd industrial revolution allowed for more free time in the late-1800s.

Terry Wood
TW
Terry Wood
1 year ago

In the end according to this author it all boils down to “guns”. None of this would happen if we were a “gun free” society. That’s absurd.

Charles Manning
Charles Manning
1 year ago

Guns are the cheapest and most effective way of killing of people who don’t deserve to live. That’s why they’re indispensable in wars. The other means of killing people aren’t as cheap and as easy to use as guns. The guns used in the Uvalde shootings are the most modern and efficient war guns.
   In some people, the psychological effect of any gun is horrendous. This is an essential aspect of mass shootings. Mass shooters have lost, or never even understood, the moral principle that killing other people isn’t acceptable unless the other people threaten to kill others, if capture and incarceration isn’t sufficient to stop the killing. This justifies self-defense and protecting other humans from being murdered or seriously injured. The moral principle can even justify sacrificing one’s own life to save the lives of other humans who don’t deserve to die.
   Mass shooters have no understanding of this moral principle, often because of the psychological effect of guns. We need to determine who doesn’t understand this and deny them right to possess guns unless and until they recognize the horrendous psychological effect that guns can have on them. Age has a lot to do with this. But not all mass shooters are less than 21 years old.
   It won’t be easy to determine who should be denied possession of guns because of the loss, or even lack of understanding, of the aforementioned moral principle. But all of us, especially educators, politicians, and religious leaders, should understand the role of the moral principle and teach that to others.

rick stubbs
RS
rick stubbs
1 year ago

The 1966 Texas tower shooting is an exception to our current mass shooting spectacle. A married ex-Marine with a brain tumor is hardly a low testosterone adolescent incel. He may have simply been driven mad by his physical malady and therefore is not the leading edge of this phenomenon.
In Houellebecq’s Whatever, Tissarand is a sad 27 year old afflicted with doubts, sadness and disability that never become pathological even upon peer pressure. This may be the more typical case of fatal despair.
Is the toxic masculinity described here induced by toxic cultural expectations that metastasize in the fevered dreams of internet chat groups, Facebook disappointments, movie violence, gamer cults and porn? IDK but it seems likely because these guys are basically armed up LARPers settling scores with real weapons. They are one upping the performative violence witnessed on twitter, etc daily. If gang violence is downstream from cultural, than why not school shootings? Are these guys just seeking their personal “Justice” in some particularity aberrant and violent manner? They certainly see themselves as victims but in that they are not alone.
The 1966 Texas tower shooting is an exception to our current mass shooting spectacle. A married ex-Marine with a brain tumor is hardly a low testosterone adolescent incel. He may have simply been driven mad by his physical malady and therefore is not the leading edge of this phenomenon.
In Houellebecq’s Whatever, Tissarand is a sad 27 year old afflicted with doubts, sadness and disability that never become pathological even upon peer pressure. This may be the more typical case of fatal despair.

Is the toxic masculinity described here induced by toxic cultural expectations that metastasize in the fevered dreams of internet chat groups, Facebook disappointments, movie violence, gamer cults and porn? IDK but it seems likely because these guys are basically armed up LARPers settling scores with real weapons. They are one upping the performative violence witnessed on twitter, etc daily. If gang violence is downstream from cultural, than why not school shootings? Are these guys just seeking their personal “Justice” in some particularity aberrant and violent manner? They certainly see themselves as victims but in that they are not alone.

Last edited 1 year ago by rick stubbs
James Vernier
James Vernier
1 year ago

One minor point of correction. I believe that Charles Whitman was on a tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Not that it makes any difference. It was still deadly

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

I think the author is on to something when he talks about ‘individualism’. The problem is that perhaps nothing is more fundamental to America. America doesn’t really have, and never really has had, a historical culture like say, Japan, France, or even Russia. It has muddled along as a collection of people who are tied together by little other than their common notion of individual freedom to an extreme degree. Americans are and have been dissidents, nonconformists, rebels, refugees, immigrants, and individualists fleeing from and standing against older and more restrictive cultures. Take the individualism out of America, and really, what else is there? From the founding fathers, to the pioneers of the frontier, to the gunslingers of the wild west, to the climbers of the corporate ladder, there’s nothing else that ties America together like its collective embrace of the notion that any ‘individual’ can be anything they want if they have talent and the ethic to work hard, but it’s not like we can tease out the desirable things about individualism from the undesirable. As the saying goes, you have to take the lumps with the good. There’s little more than we can do but grieve, move on, and remember that our level of individual freedom comes at a high price, and we don’t always get to choose who has to pay. Trying to suppress individualism in America would probably cost a lot more.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Jolly
Herbert Archer
Herbert Archer
1 year ago

Good article and comments.  
About 40 years ago, I spent a life-changing year in Africa. Universally, across my experience there, I found rural Africans to be kind-hearted and profoundly generous. Yet, even then, there were certain isolated regions one was well-advised to avoid.
At that time, “coming-of-age” rites for young men entailed sitting with the elders, learning the old traditions, and proving oneself. This would represent a strong form of adolescent training and male shaping towards a healthy relationship with the tribe. For most tribes, such training also counseled respect for and hospitality towards others. But in some cases where dwindling resources were causing mass migration, leading to flash points of friction and hostility, where there was a sense of outrage and victimhood, where the outsiders were perceived as oppressors, this training could easily veer into stoking historic hatreds and perceived injustices. Such became the seeds of horrific brutalities – the Rwandan genocide of Tutsi being one of many.
One might take comfort that this particular example was1990’s Africa… but is this not the 2022 experience in America as well?

Last edited 1 year ago by Herbert Archer
david tucker
DT
david tucker
1 year ago

Much theory, but the essential factor is mental illness. Well adjusted people don’t commit mass murder. Mental illness amplifies these otherwise normal adolescent insecurities.

douglas nusbaum
DN
douglas nusbaum
1 year ago

NOT even WRONG!!

Warren Trees
WT
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Maybe we need to teach all unattractive boys to play the guitar, bass or drums. That seemed to have worked for thousands of rockers over the years to find women.

Rick Abrams
RA
Rick Abrams
1 year ago

Dividing people into subgroups and then having the subgroup blame evil outsiders for their problems makes money. The most successful monetizers of hate and fear are the Dems and the GOP.
https://bit.ly/3fUBy1z      April 8, 2021, CityWatch, Hate Money Stalks America

If they remained self-help groups or mroe like a sewing bee sharing common interests, they would not turn violent. But, where the money and power is cooperation and empathy? Not to worry. Soon the Dems or the GOP will come along to co-opt the subgroup and teach it to hate some outsiders. the GOP have gone so insanely far right wing that they now oppose the inalienable right of Liberty and claim that the constitution’s purpose to promote the general welfare is unconstitutional. A mandate to wear mask to protect others has been compared to Nazi Germany.

Michael Rettig
Michael Rettig
1 year ago

Just back from my 50 year college reunion. Old photo shows 11 of us guys in a small dorm room enjoying self generated Christmas party. Classic male bonding. Mix of blue collar and upper middle class guys in our men only dorm. A number of these guys still my best friends. Now same dorm is coed. Gatherings probably much more ‘civilized’ I’m sure.
Justice by acclimation. One fellow borrowed money from fellow dorm member and didn’t pay it back. So we jacked up his car. Put it on cement blocks and hid the wheels. He payed up, we gave him some jokes while he put the wheels back on by himself and it was the end of it. This in no way diminished him from the group. Just a lesson learned, by him and everyone else, Keep your word. Can’t imagine the fallout if this was done today
Because a number of the residents hunted in season, firearms were part of the dorm landscape. There simply was not a remote thought that they should be unlimbered for disputes. I agree with other comments, culture is important.
My 21year old grandson dresses like Harry Potter and likes if others congratulate him on looking like the character. He worships Marvel superhero movies. All traditional male behavior is watching it. Not being it. His mother wants him to never leave home. She is succeeding so far. Where are the mothers who used to help prepare their sons for manhood?

Last edited 1 year ago by Michael Rettig
Nick Marsh
NM
Nick Marsh
1 year ago

I’m baffled that people need to study such things as ‘toxic masculinity’. Every male knows what masculinity is, and how (like almost all human/animal traits) it is at odds with modern society, especially when taken to extreme. In the past, we quelled our basic instincts with religion; in the last century or so, we established institutions to socialise people (particularly the young) and thereby reduce conflict. But in recent decades we have set about destroying these organisations, or at least corrupting them with political correctness. Now, it seems, academics must study humans as if they were an alien species – I wonder if being an academic means learning never to reflect on one’s own experiences?
Learning to suppress our basic instincts is difficult, but remains an essential compromise for living in a safe, industrialised society. However, some females are still attracted to masculine males (some males are even attracted to feminine females) and masculinity can still have advantages in the workplace. Like all human traits, it can never be destroyed (genetic engineering allowing), but it can be honed or controlled. Unfortunately, the world of sport is really the only place a boy might still express his masculinity, or at least one aspect of it. Society needs to re-read the likes of Baden Powell, and also, perhaps, learn to reflect on our own experiences of childhood.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nick Marsh
joe dalton
JD
joe dalton
1 year ago

Where were their Fathers? How many grew up not seeing a relationship at home between a man and a woman that was normal. That’s how you learn to treat girls, and it works. Orban in Hungary is absolutely right, the family is the core of society.

Ian Gribbin
IG
Ian Gribbin
1 year ago

Legalise prostitution. Watch shooters buy sex not bullets

Iris C
IC
Iris C
1 year ago

It may be impossible to ban handguns in the USA but machine guns?

Algo Rhythm
Algo Rhythm
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris C

It’s not the guns Iris , the problem is our culture

kontrary1
KT
kontrary1
1 year ago

“Shooters, Larkin says, are “marginal males who feel they have been wronged by society, and so they pick up a gun. There is always a sense of violated entitlement”
Throughout history, the male half of the population were entitled simply as a result of being males. Removing the entitlement derived from being male is essential to prevent half the population for being denied their own opportunities for success. People are always more aware of loss than gain; so there was always going to be stronger objections from males about losing status than there was from females about entitlements they didn’t have in the past.

Algo Rhythm
AR
Algo Rhythm
1 year ago
Reply to  kontrary1

You are wrong on every point

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
1 year ago

You Americans keep saying ‘we have guns’ but fail to appreciate that your so-called ‘founding fathers’ (please note there were people before them who’d already done the ‘founding’) concept of ‘gun’ was a civilised method of dealing death. The ‘guns’ used by these appalling objects beneath contempt are capable of mass slaughter. The NRA is determined to paint the bucolic picture of deer, not humans, ripped to shreds by its AK45’s.

Juffin Hully
Juffin Hully
1 year ago
Reply to  Marcia McGrail

It’s AK47