Mass shooters in the US are not the hollow men of TS Eliot’s poem. Eliot’s men were hollow because they afraid to carry out their violence. But there are plenty of potential hollow men in the US – neo-nazis, white supremacists, anti-abortionists, militia militants and other extremists trying to work up to it.
But the mass shooters in the US can be considered hollow men as people, as emotionally stunted and (mostly) white males. The writer linked and quoted below has an excellent argument for the abundance of white male shooters. It is primarily about the US, but applies equally well to mass shooters in other countries (e.g. Marc Lepine, Thomas Hamilton, Martin Bryant).
I’m quoting mostly his summary at the end:
In the last 18 years, we Americans have experienced too many of these shootings. And I want to share a few of my thoughts on why I think they keep happening.
By the way, this isn’t a political post about guns, or the media. It’s a post about men, and their emotional health.
Over the past few years, I’ve found myself in the mental health space. I’ve learned a lot. Particularly that men in the United States REALLY struggle in this realm, and have very little social or emotional support. This affects men of every race and socioeconomic background.
I don’t know much about the Vegas shooter. Maybe he was an evil psychopath (like Eric Harris). Maybe he had a psychotic break from pharmaceutical drugs.
Whatever the case, these factors about mass shooters are often true:
- They are deeply lonely. They have no significant friendships to rely on, and very few quality people to confide in.
- They experienced ongoing play deprivation. Their innate ability was crippled, and they struggle to maintain a healthy emotional connection with themselves and others.
- They are deeply ashamed. They experienced extreme ridicule, rejection, or humiliation.
Are there other factors at play here?
Absolutely. Mass shootings are complex, and so are people. They don’t fit perfectly into our narratives.
Do the above three factors always lead to murderous behavior?
Of course not. But over time, they destroy an individual’s emotional health. And that’s the point.
We’ve created a culture where the first two factors — loneliness and play deprivation — affect everyone. And because friendship struggles to take root in this environment, we are more likely to be struck by the third factor — shame.
Even though we’re in the safest period in the history of civilization, these shootings will keep happening in America. They happen every single day. Guns are a part of the problem, and so is the media. But there is a bigger problem:
We are a culture that continually neglects the emotional health of our boys, and our men.
While his argument doesn’t explain everything, it certainly fits what we know about many shooters – Elliot Rodger, George Sodini, Kip Kinkel – that they were raised in a culture of toxic masculinity and unhealthy families. This even applies to Joseph Hall, the 10 year old who killed his neo-nazi father, who raised him in an abusive home.
The most noticeable difference between the UK and Australia’s handling and the US’s mishandling of mass shooters is the governments: both the UK (John Major) and Australia (John Howard) had right wing Prime Ministers and ruling Conservative parties at the time, and both enacted strict gun control laws. Where was their “librul agenda” and “anti-freedumb” movement coming from?
The NRA is paying feeble lip service to gun control since the Las Vegas shooting, but that’s all it is – lip service, damage control. Unless they go anti-gun and disband after a complete gun ban, I will continue to sneer at them.