Although I occasionally make exceptions, I tend to shy away from writing about tragedies like the one in Newtown. One notable exception was the massacre in Seal Beach in 2011. I wrote about that because I live in southern California near where it occurred. I was hoping to eventually collect enough evidence to discuss the mentality of Scott De Kraai (the shooter) and present a hypothesis to explain his actions and perhaps some of the others like him who commit spree killings.
Alas, the press quickly dropped the story and Scott De Kraai has been all but forgotten. I never did find anything new after the first couple of weeks had passed. So when the massacre at Newtown happened, I followed it a bit, but have otherwise remained rather silent (I did post a couple of comments on other blogs). It is now time to speak up.
Unlike the De Kraai case, where very little was reported that could help a person understand what might have driven Scott De Kraai to murder, there is a bit more to explain why Adam Lanza murdered his mother and a bunch of school children and their teachers. But one still has to dig deep. What passes for investigative reporting these days is to simply parrot whatever tripe the police spew out during their press conferences. So a person can read a dozen different articles about the killings and they will all look alike. I’ve read nearly three times that amount in my attempt to understand. So what is known about Adam?
Press reports indicate that Adam did not complete high school, but did obtain a GED. He apparently enrolled in college, but dropped out. He didn’t have a job. His mother owned several guns, including the ones he used to commit the killings. One source reports that he liked violent video games. He apparently suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism that can be associated with angry outbursts. He may have suffered from another mental disorder as well. He may have wanted to join the Marines, but was prevented from doing so by his mother because she believed he couldn’t handle it. His mother was said to have been concerned about his deteriorating mental health. He is also said to have been very introverted, socially awkward, and repressed which are other characteristics of Asperger’s.
Adam’s family was very upper middle class. His father is a corporate executive who supported Adam and his mother even after the divorce. She got the family home and he provided income sufficient to allow her to never have to work. His father remained involved with Adam until he remarried and Adam severed ties with his dad over the remarriage. He hadn’t seen his father in two years. His mother frequented one or more local bars a couple nights a week. She was generous and bought drinks for other patrons and typically had more than one herself. She was a survivalist, stocking away supplies for Armageddon, including several guns. She taught Adam to shoot and it was her guns that Adam used to commit his crimes. He had an older brother who lived in Manhattan, but they had little contact.
After perusing nearly three dozen articles, the preceding two paragraphs appear to be the extent of the reliable information concerning Adam Lanza. But this has not stopped the parade of so-called gender experts like Hugo Schwyzer and Michael Kimmel, and other writers such as Jamie Peck, Christy Wampole, and politicians, from speculating on the reasons. Of course the speculation is consistent with whatever agenda the speculator wants to push and there is little to no evidence to support any of it. Most of this speculation is filled with racism, sexism, and other hateful bigotry.
One of the most hateful statements was made by Michael Kimmel, a professor at SUNY Stony Brook. Professor Kimmel seems to think that it is the “norm” for men to commit such heinous crimes. In writing about this type of shooting he states:
In a sense, they weren’t deviants, but over-conformists to norms of masculinity that prescribe violence as a solution. Like real men, they didn’t just get mad, they got even. Until we transform that definition of manhood, this terrible equation of masculinity and violence will continue to produce such horrific sums.
Wampole and Peck agree, blaming a loss of white, male privilege for the violence. Schwyzer points to a gun advertisement that equates gun ownership to manhood then, like Kimmel, blames a culture of violent masculinity for the violence. Schwyzer was advocating gun control. Peck was spewing racist tripe, blaming whitey, while Wampole was simply being sexist in her bigotry. The former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee made perhaps the stupidest (but least bigoted) statement about the incident: “we have systematically removed God from our schools, should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”
Kimmel begins his analysis by discounting the existing evidence in order to introduce his agenda:
We still know nothing about his motives, only the devastating carnage he wrought. And yet we’ve already heard from experts who talk about mental illness, Asperger’s syndrome, depression, and autism. The chorus of gun boosters has defensively chimed in about how gun control would not have prevented this… All the while, we continue to miss other crucial variables — even though they are staring right back at us when we look at that photograph. Adam Lanza was a middle class white guy.
That’s right, according to Kimmel, the Asperger’s, the mental illness, and other factors concerning Adam’s life don’t matter. All that matters is that he was a “middle class white guy.” How much more racist, sexist, and bigoted can you get? To support his argument, Kimmel points to a statement contained in a report from the National Academy of Sciences “Male criminal participation in serious crimes at any age greatly exceeds that of females, regardless of source of data, crime type, level of involvement, or measure of participation” which is likely true when considering violence outside the context of intimate relationships (women commit as much IPV as men and more child abuse). He also mentions statements from the 400 men he interviewed for his book, and then blames fathers, the media, and male culture for teaching boys to become violent.
Of course the only truth in Kimmel’s assessment is that Adam Lanza was a middle class white guy. But pointing that out isn’t helpful. There are millions of middle class white guys living in America who don’t and won’t ever commit that kind of violence. I’m willing to bet that none of the 400 men interviewed by Kimmel for his book had or would give serious consideration to committing mass murder. What made Adam Lanza violent are the unique features of Adam Lanza, not the features he has in common with millions of non-violent people. What turned Adam Lanza into a violent spree killer were the very features Kimmel dismisses.
Schwyzer blames “fragile masculinity” and the “frustrated entitlement” of “privileged, white American men” who “imagine that they are entitled to foist their pain onto others.” He states that “In killing others before dying on his own terms, Lanza, like so many rampage killers before him, lived out a perverse male fantasy of total control.” Unlike Kimmel, Schwyzer provides absolutely zero evidence to support his outrageously misandric statements.
Wampole begins by reeling off the names of other spree killers, then notes they are all male, states that many women suffer the same conditions as these men, adds that women “rarely turn a weapon on others,” and is left wondering about the men. Then she proceeds to blame such violence on the decline of young men and easy access to guns. She tosses in a heavy dose of racism. She asks:
Can you imagine being in the shoes of the one who feels his power slipping away? Who can find nothing stable to believe in? Who feels himself becoming unnecessary? That powerlessness and fear ties a dark knot in his stomach. As this knot thickens, a centripetal hatred moves inward toward the self as a centrifugal hatred is cast outward at others: his parents, his girlfriend, his boss, his classmates, society, life.
Wampole’s solution is to become more empathetic as a society to the anger of the angry white man who is losing his privilege. Like Kimmel, she dismisses the actual evidence in the case and prefers to blame a culture and demonize an entire demographic, even if she advocates sympathizing with those demons. Why a prestigious publication like the New York Times would publish the opinion of a French professor (even if she is from Princeton) who is admittedly relying on anecdotal evidence to support her opinion instead of social science is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the Michael Kimmels and Hugo Schwyzers were all too busy publishing in lesser publications and no self-respecting sociology professor was willing to espouse the hateful, sexist, racist bigotry required of the position.
While Wampole’s lunacy was not apparent to the editors at the New York Times, it was apparent to a writer named Jamie Peck at The Gloss. Unfortunately, Peck either misses or (more likely) ignored her lack of credentials, possibly because Peck lacks any credentials. But as with Wampole, credentials aren’t seen as necessary. Peck’s most recent articles include such serious matters as the top 10 Photoshop disasters of 2012, reasons no one wants to date Victoria Beckham, the nice guys of okCupid, how to make a Christmas salad, Kim Kardashian’s and Britney Spears’ bangs, and why it’s fun to be a Jew on Christmas. So what motivated Peck to speak out on a more serious matter? From his article, one can only imagine that it is Jamie Peck’s heartfelt desire to spew anti-white, anti-male, sexist, racist bigotry. Jamie Peck does not disagree with Wampole’s desire to blame white, male privilege for the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School, what Jamie Peck disagrees with is her assertion that white men deserve any sort of empathy whatsoever. Peck asserts that white men only succeeded “at the expense of women, minorities, queer people, trans people, and anyone else who was not white, male, straight, cisgendered, and able bodied.” Peck believes that white males are now and have always been evil oppressors. Peck further asserts
But while the angry black man was angry about things like, I don’t know, the way white people kidnapped a million of his ancestors from Africa and enslaved them, then freed them but made them live in an environment of widespread racism, poverty and oppression, the angry white man is angry about whatever marginal gains people who are not him have made in the past 50 years or so.
Black anger is justifiable. White anger (if it exists) isn’t. Period. Jamie Peck should probably stick to writing about meaningless drivel like celebrities, dating, and fashion.
What Schwyzer and the others all seem to have missed is that Adam Lanza apparently did not own any guns. The guns were owned by Adam’s mother. Adam’s mother piqued his interest. Adam’s mother taught him how to use them. Adam’s mother kept them in a place where her allegedly autistic son could have access to them. The guns were not in the house because of some sense of male entitlement, fragile masculinity, or white male privilege. They were there and they were accessible to Adam because a woman bought them. A woman enjoyed them, and because a woman left them where her mentally ill son could get to them. Kimmel, Schwyzer, Peck, and Wampole have each conveniently ignored this fact. They have also ignored that there has yet to be any indication that Adam Lanza’s shooting spree had anything to do with his being white, middle class, or male.
So what should an analysis of Adam Lanza look like. It’s hard to say given what little we actually know. We do know that spree killers tend to be white, male, and middle class. But this actually tells us very little. People from other ethnic groups and cultures also commit heinous, violent crimes. We know that this type of crime is typically planned out in advance. Shooting sprees are not usually spontaneous events, according to former FBI profiler, William Tafoya (now a professor at New Haven University). Such sprees are typically the result of well-planned missions and may be the result of “resentment.” The shooters “tend to be reclusive, highly intelligent and inflexible, and they don’t accept criticism very well.” Tafoya adds that “[Lanza’s] actions demonstrate an individual incapable of shame, guilt or remorse.” I might disagree with this last statement.
Comparing Tafoya’s analysis to what is known about Lanza and you get a pretty good match. Lanza is described as quite, introverted, and socially awkward. One former classmate stated that Adam appeared to be afraid of people. These characteristics are frequently associated with those who are bullied and picked on. To further support this hypothesis, there is some indication that Lanza’s mother took him out of school because she thought the school was an inappropriate social setting. Add in the oddities typical of those with Asperger’s and Adam Lanza begins to appear as a likely target of school bullies. This may have led to the possible resentment mentioned by Tafoya.
The Asperger’s syndrome may have played another part. It is associated with frustration and angry outbursts. Asperger’s sufferers rarely pose a significant threat to others, but violent outbursts are not unusual. Combine this explosive temper with another mental illness and one explosive outburst could have triggered those deep seeded resentments and resulted in Adam carrying out a well-developed fantasy of revenge. This, of course, is speculation. But there is a basis for it in his mental history.
There is also a report that his mother had taken him to see a psychiatrist days before the shooting and may have been planning on having him committed. A neighbor stated that Adam was upset by this and believed that his mother cared more for the school children than she did for him. If this were the case, it would provide clear motive for Adam’s anger. It would also blow the angry white male loss of male privilege theories of Kimmel, Schwyzer, Wampole, and Peck right out of the water. It would explain the anger towards his mother that led him to shoot her multiple times as well as the jealous rage that brought him to the school where she sometimes taught. Instead of a loss of white male privilege, it would have been feelings of rejection and abandonment by his mother, the only person left in his life.
The timing of his spree is also interesting. His mother has been described as a survivalist who stockpiled provisions (including guns) in preparation for Armageddon. Is it a coincidence that Adam’s shooting spree occurred just one week prior to the end of the Mayan calendar? Could Adam have been influenced by this? I’ve seen nothing to suggest it. But it’s an interesting question. One that I haven’t seen asked.
So what led Adam Lanza to go on a shooting spree? We may never know. but it almost certainly had nothing to do with white, male privilege, some sort of toxic masculinity, or any of the tripe spewed from the mouths of feminists and other racist, sexist bigots like Kimmel, Schwyzer, Wampole, and Peck who have political and ideological axes to grind and who find some sort of perverse enjoyment in demonizing men and masculinity. It is far more likely that the cause can be explained by examining Adam Lanza as an individual.
Kimmel: Masculinity, mental illness and guns: A lethal equation?
Peck: Do Angry Young White Men Deserve ‘Empathy’ For Their Gradual Loss Of Privilege?
Schwyzer: Defending masculinity with guns
Wampole: Guns and the Decline of the Young Man