Can we have this discussion? Because I really think we need to, and we would be having it, non-stop, if any group other than white men were responsible for the majority of mass shootings.
Don’t believe me? Then go look at the discussions that took place when the shooter wasn’t white. Virginia Tech gave us the Tiger Mom culture discussion, Fort Hood – Muslims, but when the shooter is a white male then it’s always mental illness.
So, I’ll ask again. Can we have this discussion?
This article draws a line:
But the Washington Post published a profile last week of Jesse Osborn, who survived his attempt to become a nationally famous school shooter on Feb. 14, 2016, when he was tackled by a voluntary fireman after Osborn’s gun jammed during his attempted mass murder at an elementary school. He was 14 years old at the time. His rampage left two people injured and two others dead — his father and a six-year-old boy. Osborn himself is alive and on trial for murder.
This means, as Washington Post reporter John Woodrow Cox writes, that Osborn offers “extraordinary insight into the mind of an American school shooter.” Those who have studied him report that Osborn shows little to no signs of remorse, and in fact seems proud of the will to dominate that led him to his crimes. He “considered himself the victim of an unfair world,” Cox writes, and tried to manipulate psychologists by faking autism and schizophrenia, unsuccessfully, and claiming, again unsuccessfully, to be a victim of bullies.
But what struck me is how much Osborn — like many other mass shooters, including Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in Parkland, Florida — reminds me of the army of right-wing trolls that has grown online: The ones who call themselves “edgelords,” who decorate their profiles with Pepe the Frog and who call Donald Trump their “god emperor.” Like mass shooters, alt-right trolls are predominantly white men of various ages, but leaning young, fueled mainly by a belief in their own superiority and resentment that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to respect it.
They are unapologetic in their sadism, relishing the pain and trauma they attempt to inflict on “libtards” and “snowflakes.” Mass shooters get competitive about their body counts, and online trolls treat harassment like a game, where they “win” by maximizing the amount of abuse they dish out. Like Osborn, online trolls often play manipulative games, using things like sock-puppet accounts or fake identities to sow chaos.
If you are online (blogs, twitter, FB, Instagram, newspaper comment sections – anywhere where people comment) you’ve encountered this group in varying degrees. If you’re a women, odds are you’ve experienced them more. Because MRAs (Men’s Rights Activists), and their sub-groups, are in this toxic mix with a vengeance. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that a history of domestic abuse goes hand in hand with many shootings.
David Futrelle’s article entitled “Men’s Rights Activism Is The Gateway Drug For The Alt-Right“ is necessary reading.
Christopher Cantwell, who became the alt-right spokesman for the Charlottesville torch wielders and murder of Heather Heyer, has his roots in the MRA movement.
During 2014 and 2015, Cantwell posted regular men’s-rights screeds to his blog on subjects ranging from Elliot Rodger’s murder spree to the reasons why men and women “are not, cannot, and should not be equals.” In one particularly overwrought post on “rape accusation culture” that was later republished on the then-popular men’s-rights site A Voice for Men, he warned fellow men of the alleged dangers of false accusations from vengeful women.
Cantwell is hardly the only alt-rightist with a past as a men’s-rights activist. Media gadfly, “sick Hillary” conspiracy theorist, and self-help guru Mike Cernovich was known for his men’s-rights talk before he turned to Trump and the alt-right — though he now claims to have broken with the movement. Canadian YouTube “philosopher” Stefan Molyneux declared himself an MRA long before he became a darling of the alt-right (and he recently conducted an interview with the author of that notorious Google memo, James Damore). Peter Tefft, a young man with a fashy hairdo who was famously disowned by his family after being outed as one of the torch-carrying marchers in Charlottesville, went through a men’s-rights phase before declaring himself a fascist, according to his nephew in an interview with CNN.
These men, and countless others on their websites, understood Elliot Rodgers. They excused his behavior, and quoted from his manifesto. Things like he would “wage a war against all women and the men they are attracted to [and] slaughter them like the animals they are.” Rodgers became a hero. His actions justified, because he was “pushed” to take action?
There are good reasons why men’s-rights activism has served for so many as a gateway drug to the alt-right: Both movements appeal to men with fantasies of violent, sometimes apocalyptic redemption — and, like Cantwell, a tendency to express these fantasies in bombastic prose. And both movements are based on a bizarro-world ideology in which those with the most power in contemporary society are the true victims of oppression.
In other words, if you can convince yourself that men are the primary victims of sexism, it’s not hard to convince yourself that whites are the primary victims of racism. And it’s similarly easy for members of both movements to see white men as the most oppressed snowflakes of all.
We are seeing this behavior everyday, an not just online. FOX and conservatives are using this language. They are feeding the resentment daily.
That we have seen an apparent surge in sadism, rooted in white male entitlement, is troubling enough. What makes the situation worse is the way the larger conservative movement has, almost habitually, run interference for not just alt-right trolls but, to some extent, the mass shooters who represent the most extreme expression of the same problem.
In both cases, conservative pundits play a manipulative game, where they swear up and down that while they disapprove of the actions in question — whether it’s bigoted harassment or mass murder — their supposed commitment to principles like “free speech” or “right to bear arms” prevents them from supporting even mild, common-sense efforts to rein in the bad behavior in question.
Or they chalk everything up to mental illness and video games and call it a day.
I do not have the answer to this problem. What I do know is that we’ll never find an answer unless we address the situation – one, in which, we try and understand why white, males are the vast majority of mass shooters. Why every boy/man that shoots up the place, or plans to, feels so familiar, like we already know him. Why we know the narrative surrounding the boy/man before it’s even spoken.
Can we discuss this? It’s time to do something to help and change what’s going on. We can’t afford to keep ignoring the symptoms… and the outcome.