The Sociology of White Male Shooters

Originally published on

“Sick,” “twisted,” “disturbed,” “psychotic,” “mentally ill,” “psychopath,” “acted alone.” These words are familiar to anyone who pays attention to news accounts of mass shootings carried out by white males over the last three decades. Trouble is, none of these guys–Eliot Rodger, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Anders Breivik in Norway, among others–really acted alone. While news accounts typically frame mass shootings by white males as the work of deranged individuals, the actions of these men and boys are expressive of widely held patriarchal and white supremacist beliefs. They are the manifestation of a sick society.

The shooters who have left digital trails have made it clear that their actions were prompted by their perceived loss of power and status in society. They are slighted by women who do not obey them and their desires, by people of color and queer folks who have fought for, earned, and defend their civil rights, and by a society that doesn’t afford them the respect they believe they deserve by virtue of their maleness. They are the product of a changed and ever-changing social context in which historic forms of power and domination are being slowly but loudly destabilized, and of a society that socializes them to believe that this is wrong, and that they deserve to be in positions of power.

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