Friday, December 28, 2012

Thoughts on Spree Shootings

A while ago, I wrote an essay about the age of the post-hero. This ties closely in with what I plan to ramble about today.

There's been a lot of finger pointing about the nature of the shooting in Newtown. And just like always, there's a rush to blame everything but the actual sources of the problem themselves: Easy access to guns and the culture that we have.

I think, to some degree - and this is all just personal conjecture, so take this whole thing with a huge grain of salt - that the push for equality is one of the things playing a factor in this. Before you pelt me and accuse me of making a hard right turn, know that I'm not saying we need to stop pushing - if anything, that it's factor means we need to push it harder. By definition, fixing inequality in society means we have to expose that inequality. One of the greatest gulfs of inequality is the gender inequality that divides our society, and the series of double standards that we set for ourselves. These double standards - in particular, the double standards surrounding masculinity, especially in an age when what is and isn't "masculine", are coming under fire. Feminism is pushing these double standards aside (rightly so) and even working hard to cast them aside (as they should've been a long time ago). As we expose the intrinsic inequality in our society, we lay bare these open sores for all to see. However, there's always the reactionaries - rather than to help these sores heal, they work to pick at them and make them worse that we can see them. They work to try and shove dirt back over them. In the process, these sores lie open, untreated, and eventually develop infections.

Infections like Adam Lanza.

It's a pretty well known fact that most of the shooters in these cases are almost always white men. White men, the segment of society that have had the upper hand in society for a long time. That time is more and more coming to end; equality inches painfully forward, and the days when being white and being male was a guarantee for anything is rapidly falling aside. It used to be that you were guaranteed a wife out of school, practically, and a job, and you knew your place since it was dictated by the gender order of the day, skewed as it was. You're not guaranteed anything anymore; not a job, not a wife, not even a position in society. The world is flipping upside down, and we're seeing people who are refusing to adapt.

They attach themselves to toxic images of masculinity, which is pedaled by the reactionaries. A mild form of this attitude is the rampant misogyny that is spewed across the Internet like a bile of half-shit half-vomit. This idea that men are getting screwed in the deal (and they are, to a degree, but they're hurting themselves more by pushing back than pushing forward), that they're losing everything, that privilege is a zero sum game. This is white anger; these spree shooters are the embodiment of white anger. The disenfranchised nature of these young men, who feel like failures; they didn't live up to the idea of masculinity as culture presents it. They didn't live up to it at all, so they seethe with anger and rage and eventually it boils over. Eventually, it spills out.

While the whole of society is racist, whether you see it or not, there is a segment of the white population who are sexist, racist, and working backwards against the society that flipped them on their heads and then left them there. And rather than getting up and trying to find a place in this new world, they instead push back and try to go back to what they had before, which they never really had to begin with. Eventually, you realize that. You realize you're fighting back for nothing, and that sort of nihilism - because by that point you're too deep in and there's no way out - can be overwhelming. That white rage boils over, and you grab yourself a gun. People do stupid things in the throes of passion.

What if these crimes are the same thing? They came home and found society cheating on them. Society had left them behind, and now they're lashing back out against society, trying to reclaim some of what they felt had been stolen from them?

I don't buy into the argument "they did this, therefore they're mentally ill." That seems way to convenient. The only type of mental illness I can think of that would breed something like this might be ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), or in vanishingly rare cases, paranoid schizophrenia, but even then, mentally ill people are not forces of nature. They have reasons for acting like they (yes, even people who have paranoid schizophrenia can have a reason for doing what they do - believing that your hallucinations are commanding your actions may not be rational, but it's a reason, unlike a tornado or hurricane, which acts without rhyme or reason). They have reasons, damn it. Reasons. And instead of seeing that, "mentally ill" gets branded around like a term that explains everything, carrying the same weight with society that "Goddidit" carries with creationists.  What's more, people can do horrible things and otherwise be neurotypical: Nazi Germany is a good example. Not the leaders of the party themselves, but the people of Germany. The entire country was not mentally ill. They had a reason for doing what they did - it was every bit as individual as the German involved, some did it because they legitimately felt like they were helping their country, others because they were bitter and mad, and still others because they were under the throes of Hitler's rhetoric. Sometimes it can just be raw hate. Hatred is not a mental illness; there's nothing genetic about hate. That's a purely learned behavior. And then you ask "why do they hate?" And you start digging deeper from there.

How many Americans are neurotypical? Would you guess at least half of the population? How many give a thought to the fact that we've killed more children over the course of the variety of wars that we've been involved in, than have been shot by spree killers? Americans don't bat an eyelash about that. Even the otherwise neurotypical ones. "It's a byproduct of war."

So no, the men behind this do not need to be mentally ill. They can be completely neurotypical, and denying that fact is dangerous, since it keeps us ignorant and in the dark, disabling us from acting against another spree shooting. We do need more mental illness safety needs in society, and we do need to work to remove the stigma surrounding it but guess what? Brandishing the term around as a cause for this sort of thing doesn't help that. 

Let me go back to that line, "it's a byproduct of war." Our country is a society that glorifies and has a fetish for military. We have a fetish for war, and we believe that the whole notion of war fuels masculinity. It's the ultimate masculine virtue to go to war and fight for your country. Not everyone does, since the military can afford to be choosy about the people it takes in. But our movies, our video games, our society - glorifies violence. Not real life violence, but cartoon violence. Over the top violence that don't display the end results on either the victim or the perpetrator. Cartoon violence. The Expendables was full of cartoon violence. Rambo was full of cartoon violence. The Halo series is full of cartoon violence. Manhunt is nothing but a long love letter to cartoon violence. We build shrines to violence in our culture, likely because we're so sexually repressed it's not funny, but that's beside the point. This fake violence; exerting this fake violence is part of what being a man is about. This hypermasculinization present in these films and games that underscores our very culture. Am I calling for censorship? Fuck no. Am I saying we need to redress this in our culture and stop and wonder why that is? Absolutely.

I'm inclined to blame this hypermasculinization on the reactionaries. The people who are pushing back against social change, forcing social change to stagnant to such a degree that people can no longer be sure where they're at, socially speaking. For spreading lies, making privilege seem zero-sum, or painting it like it's something that people are responsible for. For turning social change into a blame game. People like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Mark Driscoll, Rush Limbaugh - FOX News, WhirledNutDaily, One News Daily, Focus on the Family, American Fuckhead Association, The ALCJ - these are the faces behind the shootings. These shootings are their faults, indirectly. They have lied about change, they have spread this false notion of what is and isn't masculine. They routinely undermine what's been change and spread confusion further. Every single problem in society can be laid at their feet.They spread the virus; it's important to know what the virus is, however, in order to begin treating it. The virus is their ideology. It's the scope of their ideology, their words, their actions. The treatment for this virus is to quarantine and minimize. It's to step around, and shove aside, and cast out of society, the people behind it. They are one of the many, many roots for the hypermasculinziation that leads to these shootings.

Being conservative is one thing. Being a conservative means taking small, baby steps towards an eventual goal. The men above are not conservatives. They're reactionaries. And they've stagnated the waters long enough for hypermasculinzation to develop, appealing to these lost and angry young white men who have been lied to their entire lives, believing that they deserve everything by our media and then getting none of that and being told it's their fault for not living up to these ideals. These young men are in a near constant state of war against themselves and eventually, against the society that they feel betrayed them.

Do you blink an eye when you learn that children were killed in an airstrike that caused a great deal of pain to the enemy? "Oh, that's so terrible. That's so sad, but it had to be done, because it's making the world a better place; they're going to have freedom, you know."

Tell me again these people are mentally ill.

Easy access to guns is just one of the many ways in which this acts itself out, but the easy access to guns makes it easier for them to act it out. It makes it easier for them to go to war, and carry out their attacks against the society that they've come to view as the enemy. It makes it easier to carry this stuff out without putting a lot of thought into it. Making guns harder to get would likely drastically cut down on the spree shootings, and it's something we need to do anyway since, really, I can't go into a theater and scream "fire", because the First Amendment is regulated. I can't say what I want about anyone, because that's either libel or slander. The Second Amendment needs the same regulations and right now, it has none. It won't, however, deal with the actual problem itself: that the reactionaries are pushing back.

So we need to push harder. We need more people, we need more weight, we need more justice. We need to push harder than they are. We need to shove them out of the way, pushing the reactionaries into the dustbin of irrelevance, where they belong. That these spree shootings are happening is showing that the reactionaries have succeeded in stagnating progress. They're leaving these wounds untreated, and they're staring to fester.

So c'mon, let's start the push back. Let's show society it's not a zero sum game, and the privileges can be shared between everyone rather than taken away from the few that have it now. Let's shove these reactionaries out of the way, and take our spots in the bright future - without them, if need be. Let's prove the reactionaries wrong by showing the victims of these shootings, and their families, their loved ones did not die in vain. Let's work to fix the work that the reactionaries have undone, and finish the job. And most importantly, let's change ourselves - because until we change the culture, anyone can be a spree killer.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Loose change?

    So that's what's rattling in your head.

    Get the FUCK out of my comments, Mabus.

  3. Damn Skippy. Then again, I'm British, and we don't even have handguns, much less spree killings. Not that everything's perfect. I still fear to go out at night, and hypermasculinisation drives the young of Britain to drink and self-medicate with narcotics and the like.

    But I never bought into that. I only hope that Britain is pushing hard against reactionary forces.