As events unfolded in the Connecticut shootings, many people took to Facebook to express their horror at what had happened. Some of it was surely the same attention getting grief that we saw with Steve Jobs, but it’s clear that no one found any pleasure in any of these events, to say the least. However, this supposed grief didn’t stop anyone from politicizing the issue from whatever angle they could. Gun advocates said teachers need to be armed. Gun-control advocates said we need better laws. Others said we need to move beyond all that for just a moment. Still others said this is the time to discuss these issues. I tend to agree with that last one. We might call that politicization, but we can’t just ignore what’s happening; I don’t find those sort of discussions offensive. What I do find offensive is illogical, sexist attacks:
Through history, there have been a lot of suggestions as to the cause of mass shootings. In the 60s, it was the permissive culture. In subsequent decades, it’s been the teaching of evolution, working mothers, birth control pills, and “evangelical jockocracies.” The interesting thing about all of these suggestions is that they may point indirectly at a much more plausible explanation. To begin with, we must ask who is offering these explanations in the first place. Overwhelmingly, the answer is white males. Most likely not coincidental is the fact that since 1982, one very specific type of mass shootings has been almost entirely perpetrated by white males.
Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel (2010) proposed a mechanism that might well explain why white males are routinely going crazy and killing people. It’s called “aggrieved entitlement.” According to the authors, it is “a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back. And its gender is masculine.” This feeling was clearly articulated by [the Columbine shooters], the perpetrators of the Columbine Massacre. [One of them] said, “People constantly make fun of my face, my hair, my shirts…” A group of girls asked him, “Why are you doing this?” He replied, “We’ve always wanted to do this. This is payback… This is for all the sh*t you put us through. This is what you deserve.”
This is ugly in is stupid simplicity. From a response I saw on Facebook:
That’s all very interesting but this theory fails to account for the Asian kid at Virginia Tech. The Fort Hood Shooter. The D.C. Sniper and his accomplice. Race is incidental in these crimes. Why should it be any different with white men?
And what about mental illness? What about emotional instability? What about the specific experiences of these shooters? This isn’t some black and white issue (no pun intended). To pretend that it is is nothing more than an awful, disgusting excuse to pursue one’s pet agenda.
Let’s point to our gun culture. Let’s point to the way our media glorifies these shootings*. Let’s point to our mental healthcare apparatus. And let’s not make our points mutually exclusive with one another. There’s a lot going on here.
*I have edited out specific names of shooters. They don’t deserve the personalized attention we give them; CNN has noticed this and, though they are far from perfect, they’ve made an effort to only utter this most recent shooter’s name once per broadcast. For more, watch this: