The Newtown massacre is prompting a lot of reflecting on the causes of mass murder, from the availability of guns and ammunition to our failure to acknowledge and effectively treat mental illness. There’s also another theory emerging to help explain these unthinkable acts: white male privilege.
Pasadena City College professor of history and gender studies Hugo Schwyzer tells National Review Online that he believes many crimes, dating back to John Hinckley’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, are caused in part by “frustrated white male privilege.” In recent years, according to Schwyzer, mass murders have increasingly been committed by “white males from bucolic suburban settings” who may be experiencing a form of cognitive dissonance; having been told “the world is supposed to be your oyster,” these young men are “miserable in the midst of abundance” and feel “powerless compared to everyone else around them.”
Pointing to the example of Nidal Hasan, whose interest in Islamic extremism and contact with terrorist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was cited as the motive for his attack on the Fort Hood army base, Schwyzer laments that a similar linkage between culture and violence isn’t made when white males commit mass murder.
Schwyzer, who let loose a series of profane pro-gun control tweets in the wake of events in Newtown, defends his actions. “There is a time and place for the public use of profanity,” he says.
In the wake of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., Schwyzer wrote, “Every killer makes his pain another’s problem. But only those who’ve marinated in privilege can conclude that their private pain is the entire world’s problem with which to deal. This is why, while men of all races and classes murder their intimate partners, it is privileged young white dudes who are by far the likeliest to shoot up schools and movie theaters.”
And Shwyzer is not alone. A 2010 paper by SUNY sociology professors Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel argues that “the culture of hegemonic masculinity in the U.S. creates a sense of aggrieved entitlement conducive to violence.”
Look for this theory’s stock to rise on college campuses in the weeks and months ahead.