Saturday, February 17, 2018

SPLC on How Alt-Right Is Killing People: "Young, White, Middle Class, Heterosexual Males Commit Mass Murder at a Disproportionately High Rate"

Southern Poverty Law Center published this valuable essay by Keegan Hankes and Alex Amend entitled "The Alt-Right Is Killing People" on 5 February. On 14 February, Nikolas Cruz, aged 19, took an assault rifle and murdered 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Here is an excerpt from the SPLC's "The Alt-Right Is Killing People":

According to Dr. Eric Madfis, author of a 2014 paper on the intersectional identities of American mass murderers, young, white, middle class, heterosexual males commit mass murder at a disproportionately high rate relative to their population size in the United States. 
The rate of mass murders spiked in the 1970s and 1990s. Between 1966 and 1999, there were 95 cases of mass public shootings. Between 1976 and 2008, mass murders occurred roughly twice per month, claiming an average of 125 deaths each month. A more recent study published by Mother Jones identifies 95 mass shootings in the United States since 1982. Of those, 55 (59%) were committed by white men. 
FBI crime data suggests that ages 16 to 24 are peak time for violent crime. According to Dr. Pete Simi, Director of the Earl Babbie Research Center at Chapman University, "This is a period of substantial transition in an individual's life, when they're less likely to have significant attachments in their life that deter them from criminal violence." 
Madfis’s 2014 paper from the University of Washington investigates the role of intersectional identities in mass murder incidents and argues that young, white males' unique downward social mobility, relative to his expectations, accounts for their overrepresentation as perpetrators of mass murder. 
"Today's typical mass murderer is not simply a white man with all the trappings of pride and privilege granted within the context of gender and race relations in the United States. His privileged white racial identity does not necessarily save him from the diminished socioeconomic status of downward mobility, nor does his privileged male gender guarantee the dominance of hegemonic masculinity over others. In fact, it is the very entitlements of his race and gender which make any subsequent life-course struggles and failures all the more unexpected, and thus all the more painful and humiliating." 
Madfis also points out that privileged white males are often the least equipped to deal with unexpected setbacks in life. A lack of experience with failure due to relative privilege leaves young, white, middle class males uniquely unprepared to cope with difficulty or loss in life. 
Only one in five mass murderers are "likely psychotic or delusional," however, according to Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at Columbia University. 
Many are "wound collectors," a term coined by former FBI agent Joe Navarro to describe, "individuals who go out of their way to collect social slights, historical grievances, injustices, unfair or disparate treatment or wrongs— whether real or imagined." 
"They wallow in the actual or often perceived transgressions of others and they allow sentiments of animosity and vengeance to percolate and froth at the surface by their constant and attentive nurturing of those perceived wounds," Navarro explains. "As you can imagine, in an imperfect world where there are real injustices, where people make mistakes, and stupid things are said and done, the wound collector never has to go far to feel victimized." 
J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist who has worked with the FBI, uses a similar term: “injustice collectors” — noting that these cumulative grievances are often blamed on one person or a group. “If you have this paranoid streak, this vigilance, this sense that other have been persecuting you for years, there’s an accumulation of maltreatment and an intense urge to stop that persecution” Meloy told the New York Times
A 2001 study conducted by Meloy examining 34 adolescent perpetrators of mass murder found that 59% were the direct result of a triggering event. That rate jumped to 90% among adult mass murders. 
Dr. Elliott Leyton, an expert on serial homicide, argues that contemporary mass murderers often target the perceived source of lost financial stability or class prestige. The alt-right, which couches its mission in terms of surviving literal extinction, routinely laments so-called reverse racism and affirmative action as well as immigration in all its forms. 
The grievances collected by those motivated by the white nationalist ideology at the heart of the alt-right often do not begin with racist propaganda, but rather in the toxic communities of the men's rights movement. While driven by distinct ideologies, the style of grievances nursed by the men's rights and white nationalist communities are similarly constructed around a privileged group threatened by the visible social mobility of those that were formerly oppressed (women and minorities, respectively). The continued rise of social media has only inflamed this tension.

Here's CNN reporting today (with a video clip attached) on what its journalists have learned Nikolas Cruz and other young men connected to him have said in discussions on a private instagram chat group:

Racism was a constant theme in the chat group, which was called "Murica (American flag emoji) (eagle emoji) great" -- a name it was given by Cruz. 
The hatred he and others in the group espoused met little resistance from its active members. In one part of the group chat, Cruz wrote that he hated, "jews, ni**ers, immigrants." 
He talked about killing Mexicans, keeping black people in chains and cutting their necks. The statements were not made in jest. 
There are hundreds of racist messages, racist memes and racist Instagram videos posted in the group. 
One member even joked about Cruz's particular venomousness, saying that although he hated black people, too, he didn't "to a point I wanna kill the (sic) like nick." 
Cruz said he hated black people simply because they were black; Cruz hated Jews because he believed they wanted to destroy the world. 
After one member expressed hatred for gay people, Cruz agreed, saying, "Shoot them in the back of head." 
White women drew Cruz's hatred as well, specifically those in interracial relationships, whom he referred to repeatedly as traitors.

At the head of the posting is a clip showing Cruz several months before his act of mass murder shooting a BB gun in his back yard wearing a "Make America Great Again" cap on his head.

Here's Nate Pyle musing on Twitter about what seems . . . off . . . about this whole story and our current national cultural and political fixations:

Here's a very privileged young heterosexual white Catholic man who happens to edit a prestigious right-wing Catholic "intellectual" journal called First Things disagreeing today with another very privileged young heterosexual white Catholic man who writes for New York Times about the issue of gun control, and suggesting that shooting and killing things with one's father is a rite of passage for men who expect to lead healthy macho-man heterosexual lives:

The thread of tweets responding to the privileged young white heterosexual Catholic man editing First Things is interesting. I recommend it to you. Here's my own response, which I have shared with my Facebook circle but not on Twitter: 

Schmitz edits the ultra-right Catholic "intellectual" journal First Things. His tweet speaks volumes about the gendered (and heterosexist and misogynistic) concerns that drive that journal and Catholics of his ilk, concenrs that are all about asserting some magical biological difference between males and females that grounds male superiority and explains why females should be subordinated to males. 
The implication that one becomes a man by learning to hunt, to kill things? 
That taking away one's gun is a kind of castration that emasculates a real man? 
That boys are harmed when their fathers don't pass on hyper-masculinity to them by teaching them to hunt and shoot — to kill? 
The implication that while the big men go out and shoot and kill things, the little women are waiting at home, frying pan in hand, to cook up a mess of victuals their men have dragged home? 
The smarmy nostalgia for a past in which men were men and women were women, and men took their guns out and bonded over killing things? 
Give me a break. 

It's a rather dismal commentary on contemporary American Catholicism that this is what our best and brightest "intellectuals" have to offer in response to the horrific phenomenon SPLC is describing for us, isn't it — when we just saw that phenomenon manifesting itself in real time in Parkland, Florida?

(Please see this subsequent posting linking to the one above.)

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