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Men and violence

[ 78 ] December 17, 2012 |

Mass murderers are almost invariably men, which is merely the end point of a statistical pattern that dictates the more violent an act is, the more likely it is that a man committed it.

This is one of those facts that paradoxically tend to become invisible to us because they’re so obvious. And because the fact that violence is gendered male is obvious and in a sense invisible, it tends to get thought of as part of the order of “nature” — which is always a dangerous word when thinking about social policy, or anything else for that matter.


Comments (78)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like you’re profiling.

    So, is it OK now to profile Middle Eastern men when it comes to blowing up planes?

    • Jon says:

      Assuming a level of good faith that is, I’m sure, totally warranted, if you’re trying to claim that terrorism is almost exclusively committed by Middle Eastern people, I believe the IRA, ETA, the Tamil Tigers, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, and Scott Roeder would like to have a word with you.

      • Speak Truth says:

        …you’re trying to claim that terrorism is almost exclusively committed by Middle Eastern people…

        Please re-read and see if you can see the phrase “blowing up planes”. It’s just not that hard.

        So, how many planes have been bombed by people that are *not* middle eastern men between 17 and 45?

        It’s a tough reality. Say it ain’t true.

        • Chet Manly says:

          So, how many planes have been bombed by people that are *not* middle eastern men between 17 and 45?

          Well, the very first site I checked listed 13 them out of a list of a few dozen airline bombings.

          But why let a thirty-second google search get in the way of smearing a billion people with bigoted nonsense.

    • Matt Stevens says:

      Was he saying we should pull over every car driven by a man, and search for guns?

      Was he saying we should frisk every man who tries to board a plane?

      No? Then he’s not talking about profiling.

    • DrDick says:

      How about conservative white men? They have committed more terrorist acts on US soil than everybody else combined.

  2. Bitter Scribe says:

    So, is it now OK to make asinine leaps of logic?

  3. wengler says:

    Those that play CoD religiously are almost all boys.

    • Speak Truth says:

      I had no idea that CoD was linked to mass murderers.

      • wengler says:

        It’s not. Only because it teaches you that knives are more lethal than guns.

      • Brandon C. says:

        Ya to be fair here too, there are a lot of girls who play cod. Its really younger kids that play it religiously, and thats because they have the time to do so.

        • Stan Gable says:

          Interestingly, time is the reason that I started playing a lot of CoD as an adult with small kids. I play while riding a stationary bike.

          In the version of CoD I have, you can be online and playing in like a minute. No goofy intros, menus load fast and the game will drop you into active sessions without waiting for the last one to conclude.

      • Scott de B. says:

        I have found the earlier installments of the CoD series quite disturbing. Some of the missions (like the gunship mission in COD2) are very creepy, but there are worse elements of the series, particularly in their glorification of torture and the requirement in the campaign missions for the player-protagonist to engage in war crimes.

        • Brandon C. says:

          At least they let you opt out of the war crimes missions. I never thought about this, but of the major games in that genre, COD is really far more twisted than any of the others in that regard.

          And also massively more popular. Although thats also probably because the learning curve is the shallowest.

    • arguingwithsignposts says:

      I was wondering if there are any female soldier characters in any of the war game series?

      • Craigo says:

        Not that I recall, which is probably due to the fact that there aren’t a lot of female soldiers (the timeframe of the MW games are a little hazy, but they appear to take place in the present or very near future).

        I distinctly remember a female chopper pilot in the first Modern Warfare, though – which I’m pretty sure was a reference to the female drop pilot in Aliens.

      • Murc says:

        There’s only room for two lady soldiers, and unfortunately those slots are occupied by Samus Aran and one-half of Commander Shepard.

  4. Uncle Kvetch says:

    the more violent an act is, the more likely it is that a man committed it

    Yes, but if I recall my wingnut logic correctly, the rage of the mass-murdering male can be traced directly to the emasculating humiliation suffered by boys at the hand of PC feminazis. I trust Dr. Mrs. Ol’ Perfesser to explain it all for you any day now, unless Althouse gets there first.

    • Leeds man says:

      So Jack the Ripper was expressing his humiliation in anticipation of the formation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies nine years later. Wimminz reach back in time to emasculate us!

    • Malaclypse says:

      Women have to watch out when they go to fraternity parties, because the men are all trying to up their status among one another and there is all this testosterone. And then some girl will snag them. And that’s it. It’s over for them. They get married and they’re under the control of their wives forever. You hear these women all the time, on, like, Ricki Lake, saying, “You know, I have two children, but actually I have three children” about the husband, and it’s true: The husband becomes a child again. Even when men are doing their share, taking out the garbage, doing the mopping, whatever, women are still running the household. They are in control and the men become subordinate again. So that’s what the feminists are so worried about? Men who are subordinated by their mothers and then by their wives? Men are looking for maternal solace in women, and that’s the nature of heterosexuality. Now you tell me, who really has all the power? – Camille Paglia.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        Perfect, Mal. That’s it in a nutshell.

        People like Paglia make heterosexuality sound like such an absolute soul-crushing horror that I want to open the window wide and belt out a couple verses of “Glad to Be Gay.”

        • ajay says:

          People like Paglia make heterosexuality sound like such an absolute soul-crushing horror that I want to open the window wide and belt out a couple verses of “Glad to Be Gay.”

          Just to reassure you, being straight doesn’t actually mean you have to sleep with, spend any time with, agree with or even be aware of the existence of Camille Paglia. Or if it does then a) the memo hasn’t reached me yet and b) I may be joining you there at the window shortly.

  5. Only female kindergarten teachers should be armed.

  6. FMguru says:

    I’m sure it’s a total coincidence that all seven of the adults this guy killed were women. 12/8 girl/boy ratio for the kids, too.

    • wengler says:

      It probably is a coincidence. Elementary school teachers are nearly all women.

      • greylocks says:

        However, it is entirely posisble that this made the target more attractive to the killer. Would he have been as likely to shoot up a school with more male teachers and principals? We have no way of knowing in this particular instance of course, but generally speaking, an awful lot of violence against women is ultimately because they are women, not because they just happen to be statistically predominant among likely targets.

        • wengler says:

          Considering he made sure that the children he shot were dead, I think the point he was trying to make was to kill as many children as possible. He almost certainly chose the elementary school because it had children in it.

          His goal was to inflict as much pain as possible.

          • greylocks says:

            Agreed. My point is that the lack of male adults may have influenced his choice of schools, or even had him pick a school over some other location with lots of children around (i.e., a playground, a Sunday school). I’m just saying it’s possible, not that it was necessarily the case here.

    • Linnaeus says:

      It may not be a coincidence, though (at least in the case of the adult victims), it may be a function of elementary education being a predominantly female field.

    • Stan Gable says:

      I don’t recall ever seeing any males in either of my elementary school kids offices. That goes for employees, fellow parents, etc.

      The girl/boy ratio is likely to be an artifact of classroom distribution.

      • Linnaeus says:

        When I was in elementary school, we did have a few male faculty, all of whom taught upper (5th and 6th) grade classes. My school’s principal was also a man, as was the custodian. All of the other staff and faculty were women.

        • Stan Gable says:

          I think I always had male principals, all the way through high school. My point was that no men were killed likely indicates that no men were present.

          • Richard says:

            Almost assuredly the case. Although there are male elementary school teachers. My brother, who just retired, was one for twenty years.

            • John F says:

              The only male I’ve seen at my kid’s elementary school (other than parents) is the schools’ social worker… When I was in Elementary School the men included the music teacher, 2 of the phys ed teachers, 2 of the 6th grade teachers, the principal and I think 1-2 janitors, every single other adult in the building was female… come to think of it, my kid’s elementary school is even more overwhelmingly female now than mine was 35 years ago

  7. Njorl says:

    There was no “Sylvia Seegrist” on that list of “Rampage Killers” on wikipedia which your Salon Article cites. Admittedly, woman spree killers are nearly non-existant, but not entirely so, as that list would imply.

    • Keaaukane says:

      Don’t forget Brenda Spencer, the “I don’t like Mondays” shooter.

    • Speak Truth says:

      They do it slowly over a 30-50 year marriage.

    • wengler says:

      Looking back through that list, I have to wonder why any of those rampages weren’t stopped by our wonderful gun culture.

      Just like conservative ideology can never fail, it can only be failed, our permissive tote-your-gun everywhere culture hasn’t produced anyone heroically putting down a rampage killer in mid-massacre, but just you wait and stock up on more guns.

      • CaptBackslap says:

        I think that, to some people, carrying a gun is like buying a lottery ticket.

        Except the prize, instead of cash, is the glory that society has so long and so unjustly denied to them.

        • JKTHs says:

          Well there was that thing at the Empire State Building in August I think. Wasn’t that a case where the guy was killed but also a lot of other people were hit by accident?

          • CaptBackslap says:

            That was the cops, though. As I recall, they managed to wound nine other people in the process of taking down the shooter (who had a specific target, and didn’t shoot anyone else).

            • JKTHs says:

              That was kinda my point. Not to bash the cops or anything, but it’s pretty easy to hit other people in the process of trying to take someone down, depending on the circumstances.

      • Brandon C. says:

        O no. They find them. Doesn’t matter that its not a mass murder. They find the one dude idiot enough to try and hold up a gun store and get shot to death before he takes five steps in, and bam there is your proof. Nevermind the other 99% of times it doesn’t work out that way.

      • John F says:

        I had actually asked that question on another site- has any one ever heard about a mass killer being gunned down mid-spree by a private citizen- and as far as I could tell people came up with exactly ONE example- which took place in Israel… where you have a good chunk of the citizenry armed and prepped for random terrorism incidents…

        I’m sure it’s happened here, at least once… oh who am I kidding, if it EVER happened the NRA would be trumpeting it for the next 50 years.

        • wengler says:

          The only case I can come up with citizens even shooting back at a rampage killer was the University of Texas tower massacre back in 1966. And that was just because they had time to get their rifles.

    • actor212 says:

      Spree killers are very different from rampage killers, tho. The very definition of spree killing includes a time horizon of more than one event, which is why spree killers are also called serial killers.

      • John F says:

        actually I’m pretty sure that you have that wrong- spree killers = rampage killers more or less, not spree killers = serial killers

        any way, what does that matter?

  8. Peter says:

    This is the thing I keep coming up against when people say “…this is a mental health issue.”

    Well, ok, it’s the second thing I keep coming up against. The first is when they say “This isn’t a gun control issue, this is a mental health issue,” apparently on the supposition that social phenomena cannot have multiple causes.

    But I think pegging this as a mental health issue conceals more than it reveals. What we seem to have here is a privilege issue. We seem to accept it as natural that when a dominant group feels threatened in some way, violence is a “natural” response. Opponents of legal abortion wage a twenty-odd year campaign of terrorist violence, and we’re assured that these are outliers entirely unrelated to the normal processes of politics. Opponents of desegregation responded the same way, and we’re now assured that the “states’ rights” mantra of the modern conservative has nothing at all to do with the historical function of “states’ rights” rhetoric.

    In short, we go really far to overlook the extent to which a lot of people employ casual threats of violence in everyday life. If you’re a white guy, especially a relatively affluent one, people are willing to ignore a surprising amount of psychopathy.

    • daveNYC says:

      I’m not even sure what their point is with that. Say you hook this person up with the best mental health care he could want (assuming he actually needed it, there’s been nothing confirmed yet); does that mean that he should then be granted to all the weaponry he can afford?

      • Peter says:

        It seems like we currently lack the vocabulary to articulate crazy (as in compromised thought processes due to known malfunctions of the brain, as determined by about a dozen different medical fields) vs. crazy (as in has terrible ideas and is likely to do terrible things with them). I suspect that there a lot of people with some fucking terrible ideas that aren’t “mentally ill” in the slightest, beyond the biases and blind spots that seem to be endemic to human thought. Bad brains vs. bad memes, so to speak.

    • Stan Gable says:

      In short, we go really far to overlook the extent to which a lot of people employ casual threats of violence in everyday life

      In the context of a spree killer though, then so what? He wasn’t trying to coerce anyone, nor were any of the other shooters. Violence was the sole objective.

      I think it’s important to recognize that there’s a gulf between spree killers whose actions are disconnected from reality and someone like Jovan Belcher, where the violence is directly connected to intimidation.

      • Peter says:

        Point taken. I had some unstated assumptions I should probably state.

        One of the more frustrating aspects of the Conversation we all have every time this happens is the idea that our only concern should be massacres of the type we are currently mourning, and nothing else. Spree killers are (thankfully) rare, as far as their portion of the killing-people-enthusiasts demographic group, and they’re among the hardest to stop. (Ok, a sensible gun policy could lower the kill counts dramatically, but I don’t think the problem has been “solved” if we get averages down to fewer than five dead people per event.) Because people who don’t care whether they live or die are understandably difficult to compel or deter, we are encouraged to throw our hands in the air, chalk it up to original sin, and wait for the next one.

        My point was more about gun violence in general. I don’t believe the issues are entirely unrelated; whenever someone says that “criminals can always get guns,” I wonder where they think the criminals find them. Do they think that criminals have secret factories where they build their own guns from raw materials? Wouldn’t they be a hell of a lot easier to find than, say, a grow house?

        Similarly, I doubt that people who murder other people in large numbers with no concern for their own survival are healthy, well-adjusted people until the moment they decide, ex nihilio, that they’d like to shoot a bunch of people.

        Which is a very long-winded way of saying that, yeah, you’re right.

  9. LeeEsq says:

    Interesting related Jewish minutiae, but many Jewish scholars think that one of the goals of the Talmud was to socially engineer men, at least Jewish men, into being non-violent and gentle. In other words to create the nice Jewish boy stereotype.

    When discussing what a Jewish person is allowed to carry on the Shabbat, the Talmud allows people to carry appropriate accessories like jewelry for women. One Rabbi held that weapons are an appropriate accessory for men to carry on the Shabbat but he was shouted down by other Rabbis who argued that carrying a weapon on Shabbat is as ridiculous as carrying a lamp in broad daylight because Shabbat was an aspirational time and people should aspire to peace, not violence.


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